My job ends next week. It isn’t a surprise. I knew it was possible for over a year, probable for months, and I got my formal lay off notice 11 weeks ago. So I’ve been looking for work slowly. I’ve applied for a few jobs. The first job I applied for in May, I felt really good about the interview and was turned down very positively by the manager because I lacked experience. Since then I haven’t had any responses to my application.
Before I spent years in therapy discussing my life and getting in touch with my emotions I appeared to be a fairly competent and confident person. I might have been racked with anxiety and fear or sadness or I might have battled nightmares and flashbacks all night but when I got to work I was fine. I could count on the fact that when I needed to I could get things done. When I was in graduate school I had to give regular talks and presentations. I hated it. I couldn’t sleep or eat for days before and it didn’t matter how well prepared I was or how many successful talks I had given each one seemed impossible before I started. I used to pace in halls outside of the room I had to speak in because I couldn’t stand still and watch people sit down without feeling like I had to run or hide or be sick. When I started talking I was completely different. I was calm, and spoke calmly and clearly, I answered questions and interacted with people like I was having a great time (I often did). People who saw me prepare and anxious would comment on how I seemed like a different person.
That calm, competent person used to show up when I needed to get things done, or be in a job interview, or be entertaining in a group of people. That person was almost always there. I thought I was that person. The person who couldn’t sleep, was anxious or sad, who stayed home and hid from everyone seemed like an interloper. I thought when I grew up, or got married, or lost weight, or started therapy, or whatever magical thing I thought would fix me, happened then I would only be the confident, functional, successful person.
The problem is that I can’t count on the competent person showing up anymore. Sometimes she does show up, like she did in my interview in May. Other times I just can’t do what I should be doing. I learned how to say no to requests and how to judge myself less harshly when I need a break or to take a step back. That was a good thing in my life generally but now I feel like I need the person who could be “on” when she had to and I can’t find her all the time. I’m afraid I’m losing access to the competent me and will end up becoming only the person who hides from the world.
i hate how I feel right now. There is nothing wrong but there is also nothing that feels okay. I went into my session with M today and thought about the last few days and didn’t want to tell M any of it. I didn’t want to talk about my birthday and how I felt bad all day. I didn’t want to tell him about the huge fight with my eldest daughter where I completely lost my shit and swore at her. I apologized but I don’t think it matters. I’ve already damaged my children in ways I can’t repair.
M asked me how I was feeling about therapy and I told him I hadn’t been thinking about it. He wondered if I still felt it was hopeless. I said sure but if I don’t think about it then I am not upset. He asked if I wanted to talk about how to end therapy and I didn’t. I’ve lost any feeling about wanting to end in a good way or looking for a new T to try working with in a different way. I don’t think things can change. I don’t know when I’m going to quit therapy. It still feels terrible to stop seeing M but it also feels pretty bad to see him and actively not want to talk to him anymore. I keep hoping it will become clear to me it is time to quit but so far it just continues to be excruciating and hopeless.
M talked about how I felt he didn’t care because he didn’t act in a way that I expected him to when I was in pain. I said I realized that he cared and that is why I had made the distinction between caring and comforting. He said we should talk about what I wish he would do to comfort and what he felt able to do. I think we already have talked about it. He said it would be difficult to recognize what else could be comforting if I was only thinking about what I thought would be comforting and couldn’t get. I agreed with him. I don’t know how he thinks I can change and be more open to being comforted in different ways. I don’t like feeling hopeless. I am not choosing feeling like there is no to talking about anything. I wish I felt like talking to him even if I just wanted to tell him how hurt I am by him constantly suggesting that I’m refusing him comforting me like I’m doing it on purpose.
At the end of the session I was talking about feeling like therapy couldn’t change. M asked me if there wasn’t a part of me that felt like it was possible for things to change. He is always trying to help me see that I have conflicting feelings about things and that my feelings aren’t all or nothing like they feel to me. Usually he just tells me that in a statement like “part of you feels like therapy can’t change and another part of you does think change is possible.” Today he asked me and I sat for a bit trying to listen to myself and then I told him I didn’t know but it felt like there was no part of me that thought things could change. If that part exists it is hiding pretty deep right now.
Tonight in therapy I started to cry over the things that I can’t have. I can’t have parents who care about who I am and how I feel. I live with an almost unrelenting fear of rejection and the less someone needs me the more I expect they will leave. I wish I could blame M for how alone and broken I feel but the truth is I have felt that way for a lot longer than I have known M. I kept hoping there would be some magic in therapy, that if M cared about me and was willing to show it that would change how I feel about myself. Right now, in the dark, I have to admit getting angry that M doesn’t tell me he cares about me and how much pain I’m in is a distraction from the bigger pain, the feeling that there is something irrevocably broken in me. The certainty that I have that there is something wrong with me which means even if someone says they care about me I can’t take it in. I find ways to discount it because they don’t really know me or they are trying to be kind. I try so hard to look for evidence that I matter but I don’t believe it anyway.