I left my session yesterday feeling like M was avoiding what I wanted to talk about because it involved my feelings about him. As I thought about what happened over the last week I realized it wasn’t quite like that. Instead I could see how this very familiar feeling that M wouldn’t discuss my feelings about him evolved.
It started with M telling me that he thought I had fortitude. It wasn’t the main point of what he was saying and it was actually more off hand which made it clear to me that he believed what he said. It is very unusual for M to express any kind of judgement or assessment of me; even things that could be construed as positive. I’ve been angry about that often and I’ve accused him of refusing to give me any assurance of our working relationship. When he said it, my almost instantaneous response was to feel very uncomfortable and I changed the subject immediately.
Later I thought about why I was uncomfortable. Did I disagree with his belief? Definitely in some areas of my life I have no fortitude. What do I think fortitude is? Do I even know what he means by fortitude? I wrote him a short email telling him I had been uncomfortable with his statement and that I wanted to discuss it further in our next session. I felt like I was finally getting a handle on how to do “therapy” properly. Guess what? I didn’t feel that way very long.
So we started to talk about fortitude; what it was and what it wasn’t. He asked me why I didn’t think I had fortitude and I wouldn’t tell him. Then he gave me an example of something that I did recently which showed fortitude. I admitted that it could look like fortitude but it wasn’t really a very important things in my life. I said he had given the one example that I couldn’t argue with and then he gave me another. That is when I fell into a deep, dark pit. M encouraged me to talk about what I was feeling but I was overwhelmed. Eventually I asked him to stop talking to me and when the session was over I asked him to move to the other side of the office so I could pack up and leave without him looking at me. It has been a long time since I was so ashamed that I couldn’t face him at all or even move while he was watching me. I felt a desperate need to quit not just therapy but life. I kept thinking of ways to kill myself. I know I wasn’t actually going to kill myself but I was obsessed with thinking about doing it, like it is very important to have a plan in case things get to be too much.
I think I fell into the pit because in an instant I realized that even though M thought something positive about me (that I had fortitude) and expressed it to me freely; it didn’t have much impact on how I feel about myself. I am sure that is obvious to most people and even I intellectually understand that you have to like and respect yourself most importantly. But some part of me believed that if I could be sure M liked and respected me then I would finally be able to feel better about myself. I spent my life wanting to be liked. I grew up in a family where no really saw or liked me. For example, my mother got up at her 75th birthday party and announced to about 125 party guests that she had never said anything good about her children while they were growing up because she didn’t want them to think too highly of themselves. She wanted to say on that occasion for the first time that she was proud of us. My own memories would suggest she was consistently and actively critical of me often punishing me for doing things that she had never talked to me about. There was no chance of me feeling conceited. I was desperately trying to figure out what was fundamentally wrong with me and how I could hide it, but I digress.
The next part came when I realized that I’ve spent years feeling like if M would be more expressive, or more supportive, or more there for me it would make a huge difference. I felt needy and vulnerable and desperate for his approval. And it didn’t matter to me anyway. But I still want him to approve of me in some agonizingly childish way which feels even more f*** up than my actual childhood. So I went to my next session (yesterday) to discuss it more and we couldn’t understand each other. I felt like M was avoiding my feelings by cognitively analyzing why I felt like I didn’t have fortitude and why I might feel uncomfortable with him saying I did. Like maybe I was afraid that he wouldn’t think I was in pain anymore and expect me to be better. I’m afraid it is a blur and I left thinking it has happened again and M is avoiding this huge issue because it is about me being needy and wanting something from him. I started to feel like I misunderstood what he said anyway and it probably wasn’t an expression of any positive feeling about me.
Here is the progress (if that is what it is called), I realized that M wasn’t avoiding the topic I was. I wanted to talk about it but I am drowning in shame and self-loathing for feeling the way I do and wishing M would feel and express positive sentiments about me. I feel like it is a pathetic thing to want from a therapist and it is even worse to want it even though I’m not going to believe or accept it. It feels like my personal hell is to want to be cared for and to search endlessly for that caring and then not be able to accept it when it shows up anyway.
I’m not sure what happens next. I’m clear that I’m ashamed of myself and don’t want to tell M how I feel about this but I desperately want him to know all the things I can’t say. I think it would be progress if I could stop being so needy and wanting so much. Instead it had taken less time for me to see the way my mind twists and turns to end up in the place where I’m angry at M and I start thinking if only he would (fill in the blank) then I would feel better.
Today I had a session with M because we had to postpone our Wednesday session. Last night I attended my second trauma group meeting and I felt good afterwards. The group gave me a chance to discuss some of the things that have changed for me since I started therapy and how I made small steps towards those changes. I felt grateful towards M and hopeful that we could work together on what I’m struggling with now thinking about how much he has helped me in the past. I thought of telling him that this morning, explaining that I trusted him and he had helped me so much. I considered talking about sex and the problems my memories were causing in my present day sex life. I considered talking about my health and what I was trying to change and how I felt like I was failing. Instead I went into my session and sat for a bit and realized I didn’t feel that way. When I sit with M at the beginning of every session I don’t trust him. I don’t believe he can help me. While I was considering how awkward and unsafe I felt he started responding to an email I had sent him after my last session.
I told him that he described the changes that occurred after talking in therapy like they were random, chance events that he couldn’t plan for or predict which was part of why I didn’t want to risk talking about difficult things. It will be difficult and there is no way to tell if it will be helpful to me. Then I asked him if he was frustrated that I was continually questioning the usefulness of therapy and what I should discuss because I didn’t know what could be helpful. He told me that he thought talking about things was helpful eventually but he couldn’t be sure if it would be helpful immediately or what might come up for me when we talked about things. He told me he wasn’t frustrated that I questioned things constantly and that he might wish I suffered less with doubts but he accepted that was how it was for me and he didn’t need for it to change. It sounded to me like he agreed with me that I couldn’t change so that therapy worked better or that I was less tortured by my doubts and fears. I felt hopeless and started crying. M asked me if there was something specific I was trying to talk about and what I was feeling. Eventually I watched the time pass and I realized that I didn’t want to stay for the entire session.
M asked me why I felt like leaving the session was what I needed to do and I told him. It started a 25 minute conversation in which I explained that sitting in his office made me feel hopeless and that talking was impossible. I admit that I have been able to talk to M about many difficult things and made a lot of changes in my life because of the those conversations but I have no idea why or how that happened. I feel like it was a bit of magic and M and I might sit around with me crying and feeling hopeless and useless and it might not result in anything helpful. I told him he wasn’t willing to help me and he said he was but he couldn’t help me unless I brought up a subject to discuss. I said the subject I was struggling with was how to talk in therapy, what to talk about, and how to talk in a helpful way and he wouldn’t help me with that even though I’ve asked him over and over. He doesn’t seem to consider my feelings of failure and despair a problem that he can help me with or a subject we can discuss. He disagreed with me, of course.
After the session ended I sent him my usual after the session email expanding on what I had told him during the session. Then I got on a bus with fifty people for a 2.5 hour drive to my daughter’s competition. It was loud and I was tired and had a headache. During the ride I got his email response and I was so upset. It was the same answer I always get when I try to talk about how he responds to my feeling stuck and silent. I feel trapped because I believe he is trying and I’m trying so I don’t want to quit therapy with him but nothing is changing. I used to imagine things improving so much that I would stop therapy because I had talked about my life and understood myself better. Sometimes I would imagine M firing me because he got tired of me and my crises but I don’t think either of those things is going to happen. I wrote him an email saying a lot of things but ending with my fear that the only way I could imagine therapy ending was with me killing myself. Then I got frustrated with the fact he wouldn’t see the email until he was in his office on Monday and I sent it to his home address.
A few hours later I got a response from M where he told me that if I felt like killing myself was the only way out of the situation then I should go to the hospital. He told me he felt like he didn’t understand where the intensity of my feelings was coming from and he couldn’t properly address it by email. Then he asked me if it would be helpful or possible for us to talk. I was horrified. I didn’t mean that I was going to kill myself just that I couldn’t see a positive ending to therapy anymore. I wasn’t trying to scare him or threaten him in any way. We have never had any calls outside of office hours. I wrote him and tried to explain what I meant and told him I appreciated him mentioning a phone call but that wasn’t my intention. I asked him to let me know he got my email and realized I wasn’t suicidal but I’m afraid I’ve gone too far.
M used this phrase tonight to correct or add to my description of my feelings. After a long painful session which I won’t bore you with tonight I finally reached the point where I admitted that I think there is something wrong with me, fundamentally wrong with me, something missing at the very core of me. I don’t want to go to the assessment because I can’t describe what I struggle with or what I do to cope because I’m too ashamed. I don’t think I do those things because of what happened to me as a child, I think I do them because I’m bad. That is why I can’t talk about my biggest problems with M because who would admit how bad they are to anyone. That is why therapy can’t help me because it isn’t about healing something that happened to me. Therapy would have to change me and it can’t do that. After I managed to get some garbled version of that said through the sobs and tears I realized I have discovered this before and I said I keep cycling back to this feeling and that is when M said “you keep working through this feeling”. It sounds a like what Cat said in a comment earlier this week
it’s great to take advantage of a one to one relationship with a therapist to get at all the stuff underneath
in response to this post. I thought that does sound great how do I do that? I feel the same way tonight. How do I work through my feelings? It doesn’t feel like I’m working through them. It feels like I feel them and then I repress them and then I feel them again and then I repress and deny them again. I can’t blame myself for repressing feeling so wrong and bad. It is incredibly painful. It makes me want to bang my head against a brick wall or run in front of the truck that was passing M’s office just as I left my session tonight. Repression doesn’t seem so bad considering the options. I’m drowning tonight in my feelings but at least by writing this out I’m not alone while I drown.
***triggering*** talk of suicide****
I came home from my session with M tonight feeling so incredibly hopeless because I can’t do anything different. I keep thinking that I will and then I don’t. I came home and started looking at the Percocet my husband got from the doctor last weekend. There are 17 5mg pills left in the bottle and I can’t figure out if that is enough to kill me. I often have thoughts of killing myself but one of my biggest fears is that I will try something that doesn’t work and then I’ll have to deal with people knowing I tried to kill myself and failed. I’ll have to deal with strange doctors and then face my husband and my parents. I’ll have to try to explain myself and how I could be so selfish. I don’t want to fuck up dying as much as I fuck up living. So I won’t try. Instead I have a drink and write something here and wish for a sudden brain embolism or fatal car accident. I try to remind myself that I’ve felt this way before and the feeling passes.
ETA: I just found out this is my 125th post on the blog and probably one of my worst. To be clear I`m not going to do anything tonight. I even asked my husband to hide the Percocet in a place I wouldn`t find them. Now he`s decided not to go to sleep.
Friday night my daughter had a school event. It was hot, overcrowded, and lasted over 90 minutes. During the middle I started to cry. I was overwhelmed with despair, feeling like I would never be able to feel that M cared or that I was worthy of his care. I had written M an email discussing how I had started to see things from the point of view of his boundaries or beliefs. He responded by thanking me for the email and saying that maybe he had a better way to explain things. My daughter was only in a small part of the event and I realized that I was feeling some peace and I was afraid if he explained it more I would feel like I was wrong about it being his boundary and it might hurt more. It feels like I will never get through this attachment pain.
When I went to congratulate my daughter her first words to me were “you look awful, something is wrong with your make up”. I got to the mirror to discover that I looked pretty much like usual taking into the effect of sitting in a long overheated room. I burst into tears. It reminds so much of how my mother talked to me. She was always telling me I was dressed wrong, or I should wear more makeup, and endlessly telling me I was too fat. It feels so unfair that I spent the first 20 years being told I wasn’t good enough for my mother and now I’m not good enough for my daughter. I had to leave a few minutes early and sit in the car.
I tried to talk to her the next morning and things got harder to hear. She told me I’m not like the other moms. I don’t dress well. I’m overweight. It reflects badly on her. She thinks I should have more self-control so I can stop crying when it is inappropriate. I tried to tell her she wasn’t responsible for me. I talked a little about how it was growing up in my family and always being told you weren’t good enough. She told me I don’t feel good enough for myself so no one else thinks I’m good enough. I admitted that I cry more now since I’ve been working on things in therapy and when she was younger I cried less and got angry more. She also told me my younger daughter was very angry at me. I told her it was okay if she was angry or sad or whatever and asked her if she wanted to see her own therapist.
Then I talked to my younger daughter (she’s 12). She is more than angry. She doesn’t understand how I could behave that way and is afraid I’m going to ruin more family events. She thinks therapy is the problem and she wouldn’t want to talk to anybody. She also wants me to stop going to therapy and try to handle things on my own.
I have never felt worse about how my mental illness affects my children.
So then I wrote M an email at his away from the office email and he sent me a response telling he thought I was handling things well and it must be difficult. I responded with more info and haven’t heard from him since. I hate that because I know he generally doesn’t allow any contact outside of office hours so I’m being unreasonable but I really to talk to him. I hate it when it is so clear when therapy isn’t enough. Now I feel not good enough for my family, not good enough for my daughters, and not good enough for M to respond to. I’m spending my time crying and trying to find a way to kill myself so that it looks like an accident.
I feel like I’m losing my mind. I swing between such extremes of emotion. About an hour ago I felt fine, a little tired because I didn’t sleep well last night and a little worried because M hadn’t contacted me today even though I had left a couple of voice mails and an email after my session yesterday. Then M called and when I tried to talk about what was so upsetting to me after my session the roller coaster started. I’ve been trying to talk about something that I’m so ashamed of and is so confusing to me. It has to do with intimacy and desire and sexuality and my problems keep changing so I can’t pin down what is wrong. Sometimes it is what I’m thinking sometimes it is memories, sometimes it is a feeling way down to my core that I’m wrong and bad and disgusting. When I try to tell M about it I can’t because I don’t want him to know how bad I am so I hint at it and expose it a little but then I can’t accept what M is saying because he doesn’t know the whole truth.
I stumbled around trying to tell M this and he tried to respond. He told me I didn’t have to tell everything for him to understand. I don’t agree. He said it would come out slowly and we would work with it as it comes up. I said I don’t believe you that is not how it is going to work. He said how do you think it is going to work and I said it won’t because I can’t explain it or maybe it is not understandable. He suggested I just feel it isn’t understandable because what happened to me as a child wasn’t understandable. I was upset because he didn’t believe me and I said that to him. He said I believe you feel that way but I don’t believe it and then we can start with that tomorrow.
After I got off the phone I was so angry I shook with it, my jaw aches from clenching it, my chest hurts like it is going to burst. So I called him back and of course he didn’t answer I’m sure he only answers one phone call a day from me because he hates me. I left a message telling him I’m not coming in tomorrow, that I can’t explain because I’m so bad and trying to convince him of that was tearing me apart and I had to keep hurting myself.
Then twenty minutes after that message I’m overwhelmed with sadness. I’m sorry I lost my temper with M. It is not his fault that I can’t hear him and I get so angry. When he tells me I don’t have to tell him the whole story I think it is because he doesn’t want to listen to it. When he tells me it is going to take time and we can go slowly I think it is because he doesn’t care if I’m like this or how long it lasts or how much I hurt. He shouldn’t have to put up with me being a bitch because I can’t handle things. So I’ve gone from fine to furious to deep grief in the space of an hour. I’m losing myself.
I’ve had a difficult couple of days. I don’t want to go into too much detail but someone I was close to in my childhood went missing this weekend. I haven’t seen her often as adults but I’ve kept in contact with her the usual way (Facebook, mutual friends etc.). The police suspect she is a victim of a homicide. The last person to see her and the primary suspect is a family member. Watching the story unfold from a distance has been painful.
It bring up memories of my childhood. It makes me wonder where the fairness is in life that someone who is successful and happy has her life cut short when someone like me who struggles endlessly with mood and behaviour keeps living. I called M several times today because I wanted to tell him about it but he didn’t answer or return my call.
During my session on Monday I told M that I didn’t think I could talk about the things that I wanted to. I told him how much therapy has helped me in some areas of my life but I’m stuck. He asked me questions, encouraged me to try and develop some tenderness and understanding about the areas of my life I am struggling with, and told me to take a deep breath and continue coming in and talking about things.
I’m not sure what I’m trying to express here because I’m confused. I think I’m feeling alone with things and trying to figure them out here.