Anger with M

During my last session I read M a letter that I had written when I was very angry. It was difficult to read it aloud because my anger was no longer burning. It came out sounding sad I think. I told him I was angry that he wouldn’t comfort me physically with or emotionally by saying something supportive. I told him I was angry that we’ve been doing therapy for so long and we keep having this same discussion. I think he should have helped through this before.  I also said that I wanted to feel “okay” in therapy which is some poorly defined sense of knowing that he is there and we are working together.

Being okay led to an interesting discussion where he said he could accept whatever feelings I was having but if I was having painful feelings acceptance doesn’t mean he is okay with me being in pain. I told him I thought he was okay with me being in pain and it didn’t matter to him which is why I felt like he didn’t care. Then he pointed out (again) that I believed there were things he could do to alleviate my pain and so when it was clear I was in pain and he didn’t do anything then I felt like he didn’t care. He said he did care that I was in pain but he couldn’t see anything that could alleviate the pain in the moment.

I understand and agree with him. I experience him sitting in silence with me and asking a few questions as not doing anything to help particularly because I don’t understand what his questions are supposed to do. They usually leave me feeling confused and alone. I don’t think that because he has explained this dynamic that I am going to stop wanting him to say something comforting and feeling terrible when he asks questions. I am not sure that I want to stop feeling that way and expecting me to would be another way of telling me how I feel is wrong and shouldn’t be. Ideally I would like him to say something comforting but he won’t even if I ask him to. I wonder what is the dividing line between asking for what you want and trying to control the other person. I suspect I’ve been trying to control how M resonds to me or am I just asking him to respond differently

T and I hit the same wall again

I’ve been avoiding writing and responding to comments on my last post because I have been struggling in my relationship with my daughter. I love her and I’m scared for her and I’m hurt by her and I love her. It is tiring. I’ve been talking to M about it and that has helped.

Then two weeks ago something happened that triggered me badly. I was on a short trip to the French-speaking part of Canada and I only speak English. The first day while I was shopping an employee of the store asked me if I would like to get together with him while I was there. I said No but was upset by the whole thing. He was younger than I was (mid 30’s) and quite average/normal looking. He said I was attractive (I am actually morbidly obese in my mid 40s) and I realized that I completely believe I am unattractive, repulsive even. In my world no one should ever try to pick me up. I would be less surprised if gravity broke and things kept floating off ground. There are a lot of different things this experience triggered in me and one of the most difficult ones was that I immediately assumed that this man was completely messed up to find me attractive because I am so clearly not and pretty quickly that graduated to my husband must also be deeply mentally/emotionally disturbed as well. I felt ashamed and disgusting and was avoiding my husband.

After I came back from the trip I managed to tell M what happened and what had come up for me. We’ve discussed my feeling repulsive in the past and the worries I have about my safety if I lose weight. It was still difficult and incredibly painful and it took a couple of sessions. There was some relief in talking to M about it and it helped me talk to my husband as well so he knew what I was struggling with and could support me. Then the next session things got more difficult. I didn’t know what else to say and M clearly wanted me to talk more and asked me questions. I shut down and cried a lot. I tried to tell him I was starting to feel hopeless and I didn’t know what to do but it didn’t help. Then last night it reached the point where I was saying the same things, you might care but you can’t help me, all you say is “that is so painful” when I tell you things, therapy is hopeless. M responded with his go to answer, therapy works if you keep talking, therapy is like self-destructive, unhelpful ruminating when you shut down and won’t talk anymore. I said I can’t talk because I feel like there is no point and you can’t do anything anyway. He said there is a point and you need to talk, this is your fault if you kept talking eventually therapy would have worked. Okay I admit M didn’t say that exactly but that is what it sounded like to me.

So I came home and realized we were in the same place where he blames me because I shut down and stopped talking to him. I feel like it is hopeless and eventually he is going to give up so I want to quit right now before it gets really ugly. I even think the hope I have that therapy can help me is dangerous because it keeps me going to therapy.

Where do I go wrong? or why do I get stuck?

I am feeling frustrated in therapy again. I feel like therapy helps when I am able to talk about things with M, particularly the first time I discuss something. I’m not sure what is supposed to happen next but what usually happens is I stop talking, feel like M isn’t understanding how difficult it is for me, I get angry at M and at therapy, and then the rupture. So if I try to describe it I am hoping someone will tell me where I go wrong. Is is that I give up talking about it too soon? Is it that I have unrealistic expectations about what therapy can do so I’m always disappointed by it? or something else.

The trigger:

I have an infected tooth that is going to required a root canal and crown. I have had several of these before and I always go to the same specialist for the root canal. During my appointment he asks me why I haven’t had a different tooth extracted (which was his recommendation). I tell him that the oral surgeon wouldn’t extract the tooth unless I was willing to start the long and expensive process of getting an implant (9 months and between $5000 and $6000). I say I can’t afford that. He asks about my insurance and I explain that it has an annual limit of $1500). He says he understands and tells me he will write the surgeon saying I need the tooth extracted even if I do not get an implant. He then examines the current tooth and tells me it needs a root canal. He walks me to his business officer so I can book an appointment and says something to her I don’t hear. The business officer tells me that the root canal costs $1535 total but the dentist is waiving his exam fee today of $150. I get very upset and start crying. I find it very upsetting when someone gives me money or a discount on a fee like this. I feel like I owe them and that is really bad. I don’t mind borrowing money or negotiating a lower fee or when someone says if you buy two of those I will give you 10% off the price. It is being given things that upsets me. I’ve stopped seeing professionals after they have done that for me because I find it so difficult to face them again. I know I have a problem with this.

Last week – session 1:
I tell M about what happened at the dentist and how I started crying in front of the business officer. I tell him how awful I feel. M asks me if I can discuss my feelings with my dentist and tell him I would like to pay the full fee (which I am not sure is what I want, … really I want to stop feeling bad about it.) M suggests I don’t feel worthy and I would have been uncomfortable about any gesture the dentist made that was more than I expected. I said no, it is about the money. In the past, this same dentist has called me at home in the evening after a difficult appointment, left his cell phone number, answered my call while he was out to dinner, and another time gave me his number so I could contact him over a holiday weekend if I needed him. At the time I appreciated his concern.

After the session:
I thought more about the issue and started to feel really bad that I was okay with the dentist giving me his personal numbers or that I called him when he was at dinner. I feel guilty. I think about other times I’ve been uncomfortable with people buying me something or giving me a gift even with friends. I also start thinking about a couple of awkward situations that involve money and M that I’ve never discussed with him but have bothered me.

Session 2:
I tell M about my realizations about feeling uncomfortable with a lot of things but how money is especially triggering. We discuss how it relates to my childhood. When I was a child my brother paid me in quarters and candy for sex acts (at least I remember him promising me them I don’t remember him paying me). I express frustration because I understand that makes the issue of payment complicated for me but I also understand that I professional giving me a discount is not expecting sex or a friend paying for my coffee is not going to say “now you have to do something for me.” I still feel really bad though. M says that understanding doesn’t make the feelings disappear. I want to know what will and he says continuing to talk about it. I tell him about one of the awkward situations involving him and money. Several years ago (about 5), I showed M some pictures of me on my iPad. M came and sat beside me on the couch while I did and then went back to his chair. At the end of the session, I found some change on the couch and said this probably fell out of my purse. I scooped it up and put it in my wallet without really looking at it or counting it. All of a sudden I remembered he had been sitting on the couch and it was more likely change that fell out of his pockets and I said so. He reached into his pocket and said probably. I start to take out my wallet saying I’m not sure how much it was and he says forget it. M says he remembers the pictures but not the change. I say “of course not you aren’t crazy” M tells me I’m not crazy I have reasons to be hyper-vigilant.

When it first happened I couldn’t forget about it. I obsessed about it. How much money was it? (a handful of change but we have dollar and two dollar coins so $3) Does he think I took his money on purpose? How could I return it? Should I leave it in his outer office? what if someone else takes it? what if he doesn’t realize it is from me and that I’ve returned his change? should I try to do it to his face? After my first session last week I was right back to obsessing over it. After the session I send M and email telling him about my obsessive thoughts.

This week – session 1:
M asks me more about my obsessive thoughts about the change incident but I have difficulty telling him more. He doesn’t seem to understand why I am so bothered by it. I wonder if he thinks I should give him some money for the change (like he suggested I pay the dentist). I don’t know what I am expecting but I feel like I am not really getting a response from him about this issue. I also have no idea how embarrassing myself by telling him about this is going to help me resolve my feelings around the issue of money and gifts. I start to get frustrated with M. He seems to be saying that this is how I feel and I can’t change how I feel. He says I need to have some compassion for myself. I feel like I do but that doesn’t help. Nothing helps, I told him something that has bothered me in the past and it didn’t make a difference except I feel stupid and that he knows how stupid I am again. I feel like therapy isn’t working because M isn’t doing anything. By the end of the session I am saying very little and feelings upset.

After the session
I realize that once again, I wanted M to do something to make me feel better but he didn’t because that isn’t what therapy is about. He doesn’t try to make me feel better. He doesn’t say anything about the change because it isn’t an issue to him. He won’t say I am not worried about the money or you aren’t worthless or anything I can interpret as him caring because he never does. I’m just angry because I want him to but I know he won’t so it is just wasted anger. I leave him a message telling him I feel sad that I feel this way and that I do have some compassion for myself that this is so difficult and painful for me but nothing changes and I still feel sad.

Session 2 (tonight):
M asks me if he understood my message and if his email response made sense to me. I don’t say much. He asks me how I feel. I don’t feel much. I tell him I don’t want to talk and I think it is because I don’t want to get upset. He asks me if I think I get upset because I talk to him about things or if I get upset anyway. I am frustrated because I understand I get upset by things other than therapy, the triggering event had nothing to do with therapy. Eventually I tell him talking about upsetting things leads to me being upset at him, that I get angry that all he can do is tell me that I feel the way I feel and I can’t change it so I must have compassion for myself. I think he should do something but even while I’m angry I know it isn’t his fault so why talk about the anger. So I feel stuck and I don’t want to talk about this anymore, which leads to me not wanting to talk about any of the other potentially stuck issues in my life, which means we are sitting in silence again and I’m crying. M says I keep hearing that my feelings can’t change but that isn’t what he says. He says if I keep talking about my feelings and my experience that will make a difference. I say I can’t do that . He says I did do it before. I leave and now I’m wondering what am I supposed to do.

Anxiety

I am feeling very anxious. I’m avoiding calling my parents house because I’m afraid of calling when my mother is out. I am also regretting canceling call display on my home phone because I’m afraid he will call me again. My father won’t talk to me if my mother is there. I’m not sure I want to talk to him at all but I haven’t decided what to do.

I’m also in a lot of pain because I have a tooth abscess. I’m taking antibiotics for the infection but I’m going to have to have a root canal followed by a crown. This kind of dental work isn’t new to me. I’ve had a lot of root canals and crowns over the last 15 years. They’ve all been done by a specialist and most of them have been successful but I had an infection in one of them about 18 months ago. He performed a very painful gum surgery which wasn’t successful. I was supposed to have the tooth extracted but the oral surgeon I was referred to didn’t want to extract it if I wasn’t going to have an implant put in its place. An implant costs between five and six thousand and my insurance will only cover a small part of the cost. I decided I couldn’t afford it so I asked the oral surgeon to just extract the tooth and he suggested waiting.

During the examination of latest infected tooth, my specialist asked me why I hadn’t had my other tooth extracted. I explained why I hadn’t. He said he understood that the oral surgeon wanted to give me the best possible care but if it wasn’t possible for me to pay for the implant then I should still have the tooth extracted because of the danger of future infections. He said he would write the oral surgeon asking him to do the extraction. Then he walked me to his business officer to arrange my next appointment. The business officer told me that my root canal would cost just over $1500 and the dentist had waived 10% of his fee. I burst into tears surprising the business officer. I was so ashamed but I couldn’t stop crying. It was awful.

I tried to talk to M about it today. I’ve had this reaction before. Six months ago I saw a chiropodist a couple of times and the last time the chiropodist didn’t charge me for the appointment because he said he didn’t do anything for me. I argued that he gave me his appointment time but he didn’t change his mind. I didn’t start crying until I left his office but I haven’t gone back to him. I know rationally that in both cases the professionals involved chose to give me a discount but it feels so wrong to me. I didn’t tell my dentist I couldn’t afford the implant because I couldn’t pay his fee. M tried to ask me if I felt like I was beholden to him because of his discount and I said not rationally.

M told me many people are uncomfortable with people giving them things or doing favours for them. He asked if it made the relationship seem personal instead of professional. I said no, it is really about the money. This same dentist has called me at home on the evening after a previous root canal to check up on me and when he didn’t get to talk to me he left a number for me to call him when I got home. I called him and he was in a restaurant having dinner. Another time he gave me a card with his cell phone number and told me to call him if I needed to talk to him. Neither of these things made me feel uncomfortable. I appreciated his concern. This discount makes me so uncomfortable I want to cancel my appointment and never go back. I hate how irrational I am.

Sleep

I have never enjoyed sleeping. As a young child (before 6) my sleep was plagued with nightmares. I remember being running though the basement of our house trying to escape a man who always stood in the shadows. Whenever I thought I was going to get away I would suddenly be back where are started in the back corner farthest from the stairs. Over and over I would have the dream and wake up as the man walked closer to me and into the light. I can only remember one time when the light hit the man’s face and it was my father. I remember shaking and crying in my bed after I woke up. I used to dream that there were snakes writhing under the blankets. When I woke up I could only leave the room if the closet door was closed (and I always closed it before I went to bed). Sometimes (it feels like usually) I would wake up and discover the door was half-open and I would strain my eyes to see if there was anyone or anything in there. If I wanted to get to my parents I would have to run by the open closets. I never called out for them. I don’t know if that is because I thought they wouldn’t respond or if I was afraid that it would make whatever was in the closet come out. Often if I did make a run to my parents they would tell me I was having a dream and I should go back to bed. I would sit in the corner of their bedroom afraid to try another run by the closet. Sometimes I didn’t even run I just watched the closet.

As I grew older I learned how to direct my dreams at times. I remember having dreams where I was being chased and I pretended to be dead or hid to save my life. It worked although I felt guilty that I was a coward even though nobody but me knew it. As an adult I didn’t seem to dream very often but when I did the dreams were always about being sexually assaulted. I have had dreams about being attacked in my home, at work, on the street outside of M’s office, at my son’s Karate dojo, in our neighbourhood park. The list is endless. The dreams have a common theme in that even though I can see people they don’t help me. Sometimes I am yelling for help and they walk by me like I am invisible. Other times I know they can’t help so I don’t even yell but they are always within sight and they can’t or won’t do anything to help me. After I had kids I started having nightmares about them being in danger and I can’t save them. It is awful and luckily it doesn’t happen very often. I used to call myself a night owl. I said I needed very little sleep. I could stay up into the early hours of the morning reading or studying and then get up after 4 or 5 hours and feel completely rested. I never had any trouble falling asleep but I never got into bed until I was exhausted. Then I had children and got older and things changed.

Now I’m in my mid-40’s and I am always tired. I still can’t fall asleep before the early hours of the morning however. If I get into bed at 11pm or midnight, I can’t seem to fall asleep. My thoughts are racing, I toss and turn, I can’t get comfortable, I watch the clock or read something for hours. I have discovered something over the last couple of years. If I get into bed anytime between noon and early evening I can fall asleep easily. I usually don’t let myself because I don’t want a nap to interfere with my ability to sleep at night. Everything feels different then. My bed feels warm and soft and comforting. I like to curl up in the blankets and just feel comforted by being in bed. My bed feels safe. Lately I’ve been wondering why my bed never feels that way at night. I’m not actually feeling scared at night while I wait to go to sleep but I always feel tense and wound up. I fall asleep at night like I’ve been hit over the head. One moment I’m thinking I’m never going to be able to sleep and the next I’m waking up. During the day I lean into rest and relaxation even if I don’t fall asleep. I hate that my bed feels so different at night.

Numbness

I’ve been feeling oddly disconnected from M and therapy. It is so difficult to talk about anything I do and am ashamed of doing. When I talk about things going on in my life that aren’t shameful I feel like I am wasting time. I am working on my marriage in couples therapy. I am a better parent to my children that I used to be and I only talk about parenting when I am dealing with a new issue or situation (which happens semi-regularly since I have three children). After talking about how I wished that M would remember and acknowledge my birthday which I discussed in 10 minute intervals at the end of about six sessions. I still had a list of questions I wanted to ask M. They were questions like “Doesn’t it bother you that I’ve asked you to do something that you don’t usually do?” or “Why didn’t you ask me about what it was like in my family to give or get presents?” and “How come you don’t react when I say things like I don’t believe you can do things differently or I don’t think you are telling the truth?”

Last week I sat in my session holding a piece of paper with about six questions and tried to ask them. When I didn’t then I tried to talk about why it was difficult to ask him questions. I started to feel so stupid because I know that M isn’t going to get angry if I ask questions. Then so much time has passed without me asking the questions I feel like I can’t ask them because he’ll realize how minor the questions are and that I was all twisted up and stuck over nothing. I try to explain that to him saying something like too much time has passed. I’ve made such a big deal about the questions that when I ask them and they aren’t really a big deal it will just be weird. I’ve made a big deal out of them and I didn’t need to. Then I started to cry and the session got worse and worse. I wasn’t completely silent and we talked about one of the questions. “how come M doesn’t get angry if I say I don’t believe him?” I asked him if it was because he thought I was the crazy one in the room so he didn’t have to take what I say seriously. He said no and went into a long explanation including how my feeling that I can’t believe is made up of many different parts, some to do with him, how he speaks, our history, and some to do with my own history and he is focused on my experience and not on what it feels like for him. I didn’t feel a lot better. Days later when I listened to the session I realized that after I said I made the questions into a big deal and asking them now would feel weird, M said yes but what prevents you from backtracking and saying I wanted to ask you…. Hearing it again made me feel awful because I didn’t like M agreeing with me. I thought he was saying “you are making a big deal out of nothing so just ask the questions”. M and I talked about what he really meant during Monday’s session. He told me all my experiences were important and he didn’t mean I was making a big deal out of nothing. I believed him but when he tried to bring up the questions I told him I didn’t care anymore.

I don’t care enough to talk about them. It doesn’t matter that I’m numbing myself because I felt hurt. I really can’t be in the room with him and hear him talk and respond to what he is saying at that moment. Either I don’t realize why I am upset like last week until days after a session or I can’t feel like issues are important enough to discuss. I am disconnected from my feelings and reactions while I sit with M. It is like I am so scared I can’t think and I don’t really understand why because I am not aware of being scared of M. I can’t do therapy without being able to react though. I can’t work through things. I have spent five years in therapy and I still can’t do it.

Why doesn’t therapy help when things get difficult?

Why does therapy suck worse the harder my life is going. My session tonight was terrible. I spent almost all of it hiding under a blanket. I was crying so much I was so ugly I pulled the blanket up to cover my face while I dried my eyes and blew my nose. Right away I felt better. I hate M watching me while I cry. So I kept the blanket up. After a few minutes M asked me if I knew why I felt like hiding. I just cry behind the blanket. He asked me if I felt like a did something wrong? I cry behind the blanket. He asked if my daughter thought I did something wrong? I cry behind the blanket (I think I will shorten that to Icbb). He asked me if I was ashamed. Icbb. Time passes. somewhere in the middle of the session M tells me he would like it if I would rejoin him. I realize I can’t. It feels like if I drop the blanket it will prove how stupid I was to hide behind it in the first place. He will see me and be disgusted. So I’m stuck. At first being behind the blanket was a relief. I felt like I could blow my nose and look ugly and cry and he couldn’t see. Now being behind the blanket feels like I’m in jail. I can’t go backwards. I hid and now I can’t stop hiding without M seeing how stupid and childish I am and me seeing him seeing me and being disgusted. Icbb.

After a while I check the clock behind me and realize there is still 15 minutes left in the session. Why do sessions go so slowly when they are agonizing? Icbb. M sighs a lot, pours tea, shifts in his seat (I can tell because I can hear his chair move). Icbb. It is getting ridiculous because I don’t know how I’m going to leave his office with a blanket over my head. I tell him I want to go home. M can’t hear me and asks me to repeat myself. Icbb. Eventually I say it again. He says if you feel like you need to leave then you can. Icbb. I can’t leave without moving the blanket and there is no way I’m coming out from behind the blanket. M tells me he is sorry I’m in so much pain. I say “I need you not to look at me”. He says okay I won’t look. I can’t be sure if he is looking or not without moving the blanket and I can’t risk that so I fumble around with my hands looking for my purse and recorder and can’t find them. M sees this and says I’ll go over to my desk. I should be relieved but I just feel left alone and now I don’t want to leave. I tell him I’m sorry and I don’t know why I do this. I tell him I can’t come back from this and he doesn’t understand. I say I can’t take off the blanket now that I’m hiding behind it. M says I think you can come back from this. I say no. He says maybe you can write down some of what is going on for you tonight (I think he means email it to him but I’m not sure). Then M says we can talk about it on Monday which means time is up. I say “no I can’t come back from this so I can’t come back”. He says there is nothing here we can’t come back from but he’s wrong. I’m trapped behind this blanket and it is suffocating me. I get up and say “no we can’t come back from this. I hide because I am so ashamed and I hate myself and it is okay with you” He says “it isn’t okay with me, I wish you weren’t in so much pain”. I try to explain he left me behind the blanket for most of the session but he doesn’t understand that it proves he hates me or can’t help me or something. I am so sad.

So that is how terrible my session was tonight. What was so difficult in my life before the session and why did I hope the session would help me? I wrote this post about my daughter telling me one of her friends was being molested. My daughter tried to convince her friend that she should tell a teacher about the abuse and offered to go with her. When that didn’t work she told her friend that she had told me and I said we had to report it. I met with the friend last friday night and talked to her about why I couldn’t keep it a secret. I told her it wasn’t her fault and she deserved to feel safe in her home. I told her she didn’t have to protect her parents. I told her I would help her report it or I would report it and later that night I did. The authorities interviewed the girl and contacted her mother. Then they called me and asked to interview my daughter. I agreed as long as I was present. We are going for the interview tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile my daughter’s friend is angry that my daughter “opened her big mouth”. Her mother doesn’t believe her and thinks she is causing trouble. My heart is breaking for the girl and my daughter. My daughter did the right thing but is getting a lot of grief about it by the girl and the one or two other people who know about the situation. Tomorrow my daughter has to have an official interview with the authorities because she is trying to help her friend and she knows it may not matter if the girl is not willing to tell them what she told us. I feel overwhelmed and then I go to my session and I just feel worse.