Progress…I think

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.

Digging deeper – part 2

I’ve been struggling with writing the second part of this post and I think it is because there is so much confusion for me about what does M think of me? how does he feel about me? why does it matter to me? should it matter?  I tried to address some of that in my second session of the week.

M asked me if I wanted to discuss the dream and I told him that I felt like his email saying that he wanted to hear about my dream made a difference in how I felt about sharing the dream.  I spent time thinking about why it felt so different to me and came up with the following.  During the session M told me he thought it would be helpful for me to discuss the dream which is an opinion that I’m not sure I agree with.  His email felt like he was telling me his feelings which are impossible to disagree with.  I didn’t think that he “wanted” to hear about my dream because he was interested for any personal reason like not being able to stop staring at an accident or wanting to laugh at the freak show in my head.  In the session I didn’t know if he wanted to hear about my dream or if he just thought it would be helpful for me to talk about it.  The other obvious difference is that when I read his email I wasn’t in a room with him and I frequently interpret his emails as much more understanding and committed to therapy with me than how he feels to me during a session.  At times I’ve wondered if someone else writes his emails (not really but maybe someone else reads them).

M told me that he thought the things he said in session and the comment in the email came out of the same feeling which was that he wanted to hear about the dream because he thought it would be helpful.  We talked a little bit about the different emphasis I heard compared to his feeling they were very similar.  Finally I asked him why he wanted to be helpful which seemed to me to be part of what he was expressing and he started laughing.  He answered with “I like being helpful which is true about me and part of the answer” and then he said “another part is that I care about the pain you are in.”  He talked more about how the dream effected me and how he thought it reflected an intense fear or conflict I was having.  By the time he had finished talking I had covered my face and was crying really hard.  I was holding my breath to keep myself from making any noise which is something I do whenever I cry so hard that I’m afraid I’m going to sob

M asked me what was making me so sad and when I calmed down I told him I didn’t really know but what he said didn’t help.  He asked me in what sense didn’t it help,  I didn’t really know why or what I meant and this is where I usually look at the clock and see how many minutes are left in the session.  I end of feeling like it is taking to long for me to figure out what he is asking and then I start feeling bad about how much time I’m wasting so I cry more and then I shut down until the session ends.  Since  knew we were having a 1.5 hour session, I don’t remember even looking at the clock and instead I kept talking even though I didn’t know what I was going to say or if it would make any sense.  I told him that I felt like I was asking him a question and either I couldn’t ask it correctly or I couldn’t understand his answer because I just felt so frustrated and sad about our conversation.  It was like I was looking for some kind of proof and I couldn’t get it and that it felt like what he was saying was kind of unrelated to me.

After a long pause, M said “that I care about the pain you are in seems unrelated to you” in a very interested way and even I could hear how odd that sounds but I told him that was true.  Then I said maybe it didn’t feel  personal because I didn’t understand why he cares.  M asked me if I thought I had to do something for him to care and I didn’t even try to answer.  Then he told me thought I was expressing a very basic feeling that it isn’t enough to be cared about because there is something that fundamentally doubts that I am worthy of being cared about.  That made things feel impossible because I desperately want to be cared about and I can’t be cared about.  It felt terrible and I told M that.  M said he didn’t think I couldn’t be cared about but being cared about came with so much doubt for me and I spent so much time looking for proof or for something to make the caring seem real and understandable and that it sucked that it was so elusive for.  I was covering my face and crying and M voice started to go weird like he was having trouble breathing or talking properly.  Then I dried my tears and told M about the dream.

I left the session feeling exhausted and sad but thinking I had made some progress initially but it didn’t take long for me to feel differently.  I started feeling like I wanted M to say that he cared and he had avoided saying it as usual.  Then I listened to my recording of the session tonight and I think he did say it but I keep forgetting.

Understanding myself better and why it is so painful to be me

I realized tonight how difficult it is for me to ask for some special individual consideration.  Even things that seem reasonable.  M asked me if I knew why I felt that way

Was I afraid of being told No? – I don’t think about people saying no, it feels wrong to ask for something or suggest a different way of doing things unless there is a good reason for it

Do I feel like I don’t deserve the thing? – I don’t think of it as deserve or not deserve.

Do I feel like I’m not entitled? – Isn’t that the same as what you just asked me?

There is a difference between deserving something and being entitled to it. – I can’t see much a difference and I don’t really think about it like that.

So how do you think about it?  What makes it wrong to ask? – long silence while I think about it but I don’t seem to have any answers.  It just feels wrong

Maybe you don’t have to understand why you feel that way, maybe it isn’t a particular issue but rather a generalized feeling. – after what felt like a long silence I said so what happens

I think what comes next is realizing that you don’t have to act like your feelings are real.  Maybe you can ask for things even though it feels wrong. – I don’t know if that is possible for me, sometimes I don’t even want anything until someone else tells me what is allowed

M and I were talking about my therapy sessions.  I’ve had to switch from two sessions/week to one session/week because I got a new job.It is a 6 month contract job so I’ve only been able to see M after business hours and he only works one evening a week.  It has been really difficult.  I was out of work for about a month and didn’t know if or when I would find work so I decreased the number of my sessions then because I was concerned about my finances.  Now I am working again and can afford therapy but don’t have the time.  It led to some difficult conversations because I really want to see M more but I can’t and I felt like M didn’t notice how or care how difficult it was for me.  Whenever I tried to discuss how therapy was changing M would say something general like “there is more than one way to do therapy” and we don’t even know if the schedule has to change, you’ve just started and maybe you will discover that you can shift your work hours to leave early one day a week and have a session at the end of the day.

My new job is completely different that what I used to do.  It is an entry-level administration position where I work assisting everyone else and keep things running smoothly so they want me in the office during regular business hours to support the other staff.  I used to work in a lab doing experiments where I didn’t depend on anybody else’s work and they didn’t depend on mine.  My supervisor allowed me to work flexibly because I could work late or on a weekend to get my job done.  That meant I could do therapy in the middle of the day or take my children to appointments or volunteer to accompany them on a class trip.  The worst part is there isn’t that much work to do in my new job.  It certainly doesn’t fill my day so I spend time at work doing nothing but waiting for more work.  My new supervisor is very nice and told me before the end of the second week that I was too efficient for my current job.  I told her I wasn’t qualified to do anything but an entry-level position because all my education and experience up to this point has been in science.  She took the time to discuss other jobs at the company and encouraged me to take some training courses through my employer and introductory accounting and business courses at night so I’ll be qualified for higher level jobs.

So last week M finally told me that he hoped that we could continue to meet twice a week and that he hoped I could arrange to work longer for four days a week so I could leave early on the fifth day and have a session with him. I was greatly relieved because I had started to worry that he had given up on me and therapy and I was hoping my new schedule and job would stop me from coming during the day and then he would stop working his one night a week and so he could quit on me.  After the session, I sent him an email saying I was worried I couldn’t shift my work hours and I would like to try meeting for 1.5 hour sessions once a week.  I didn’t say anything after he told me he thought ideally we should meet twice a week even though I had been thinking about longer sessions for months and we have even had a couple in the past.  Before the session I wanted to ask him to try that but during the session when he stated his preference for 2 session/week it didn’t even enter my mind.  So I realized that asking by email was easier for me than asking in session.  He responded by saying we could discuss it this week.

Tonight during the session he didn’t mention the 90 minute session and neither did I.  Instead we had the discussion above about why I hadn’t asked my supervisor about shifting my hours so I could leave early once a week.  Part way through the questions I realized that they were parallel situations.  I don’t feel like it is okay to ask my supervisor of one month if I can adjust my schedule, still do the same hours and work but slightly differently and I can’t ask my therapist of seven years if he will see me for longer than his usual session length even though I’ll be paying him for his time.  I don’t know if I’m afraid they will get mad at me, or say no, or if I don’t feel like I deserve what I want.  All I know is that even though rationally I don’t think it is wrong to ask either of them, I can’t seem to do it.  And it absolutely sucks to be so powerless even in your therapist’s office.

I’m trying to keep from panicking

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.

Exhausted and almost numb except for the ache in my chest

Tonight I had an 1.5 hour session with M. He asked me if I could come an hour earlier tonight because he had a cancellation and I agreed and asked if we could have a longer session. I was sure he would say no but he said we could. Instantly I felt anxious, what if it was one of those sessions where I couldn’t speak? How long would it feel? How much crying could I take? I had a lot to talk about.

I saw a webinar by Dr. Janina Fisher on Shame and Self-Loathing in the Treatment of Trauma last week that gave me lots to think about. I had tried to talk to M about it and eventually asked if he would watch it. He suggested we watch it together and then discuss it which felt too difficult. There was a lot of things she suggested in the video that are very different from how M does therapy. I think the approach she discussed would be helpful but it seems wrong to ask M to change how he does things so it felt difficult to watch the video with him. Even so I went tonight with my laptop which has the webinar stored on it in case we decided to watch it. I also spent a couple hours making notes from the 50 minute presentation and summarizing them in an easy to read format so we could discuss what I found interesting. I always prepare for my sessions which doesn’t seem to matter when I sit down and find myself confused and frozen, struggling to say anything at all.

After a difficult start in which I told him I didn’t know if I wanted to watch the video and I didn’t know what to talk about. Finally I asked M what he thought I should talk about which caused him to laugh out loud because there is no shortage of things to talk about and I know he won’t choose a topic for me. Eventually M told me that I have been stuck in the same place for awhile. I can’t seem to talk about anything that is important to me except to mention it. I am frequently frustrated with him, how he responds, or what he does. I keep telling him that therapy is too hard for me, that it is torturous and I need to find a way to make it more manageable. Finally he said what I’ve been dreading even while I’ve been marshaling the arguments to support it. He said if there was something about him, how he thought or spoke, or that he couldn’t give me the support I wanted and needed, then I should find someone else to work with because I shouldn’t be muzzled.

We kept talking. I asked if he had made a decision about stopping therapy and he said NO he hadn’t. I asked him why he asked to watch the video if he was going to talk about me finding a new therapist. He said that this was my agenda and he was talking about it because I had been talking about it or around it for months. He is right I have been but I kept hoping that he would be able to help me through this impasse and being angry at him that he couldn’t. We discussed how much I prepare because I’m trying to do therapy right so he won’t leave me and how scared I am that I’m failing. As gently as he could he told me that I couldn’t actually control what would happen in a session by preparing and planning for it. He said therapy, like life is something that can’t be controlled and that trying to control it and failing left me feeling more vulnerable.

We agreed that when we met next Monday we would talk more about how and why I try to control and contain things (him, my emotions, my speech, my reactions) in therapy. I don’t know if I can and what if I try, really try and still can’t?

Acceptance – is it active or passive?

I’ve continued to talk to M about my intense need for approval and it has been difficult and shame filled for me. When M has talked about the way everyone has needs and that it is part of being human I told him I felt like he is telling me that I’m making a big deal out of nothing and I shouldn’t find it so difficult. So then he told me that I was extremely emotionally neglected and so was taught that my needs were not okay. I said everyone was taught that as children and he said yes to some degree but I had it much worse. He has a way of phrasing things that don’t sound like he empathizing to me. Instead I feel like he is telling me I’m damaged or broken. I’m not sure what he means until we discuss things further usually in another session after I’ve struggled with feeling unsupported. He also has a way of asking questions that confuse and irritate me instead of making statements that I can follow. For example last week he started a session by asking me if there was a way we could continue the discussion without torturing me. At one point when I was struggling with talking freely, he asked if I would be further ahead if I left the session without talking. At the time I heard these questions has an indictment of how I do therapy which made it more difficult to talk. After I left I realized that he was trying to help me and I wrote him an email saying if he was trying to encourage me to talk maybe he could try reminding me that he was trying to help me. I’ve rephrased things before and it seems a futile and possibly insulting request. So I tried something different.

Before my second session last week, I emailed M and asked him if we could try a session where he wouldn’t ask me any questions and he could only make statements. I would try to talk but if I was silent he wouldn’t question me about it. The session felt very different. M realized very quickly that almost everything he wants to say is a question and so had to stop himself from talking often. I realized that if I stopped talking he wasn’t going to ask me the “right” question to allow me to say what I wanted to say. I also didn’t have think about what his “wrong” question really meant or implied so I just thought of what I wanted to say. I also looked at him more than ever before. I can rarely look M in the eyes while I am talking and that was still true but when I wasn’t talking I looked at him. I didn’t realize how much I avoided him because I didn’t want him to see my reaction when he asked me a question.

The main point I struggled to make was about our recent discussion where M pointed out that I spend a lot of time trying to discern his judgement of me and he tries not to hold judgments about me (or any of his clients) because he doesn’t think judging people is helpful. I told him that I understood what he was trying to do and I think it sounded amazing in theory but in practice I found it so difficult that we spent hours of time talking about what he meant/implied/thought of me or my feelings and very little time on the issues that I brought into therapy. I suggested, hesitantly, that maybe I wasn’t capable of functioning in a judgement-free place much like developmentally I don’t think small children can function without a person giving them positive feedback. I was afraid that when I finally expressed this incredible ly brilliant analysis of the impasse we continually reach in therapy (please read the intended sarcasm inherent in this idea) that he would immediately agree with me and talk about ending therapy and me finding a therapist whose personal style would provide more positive approval. It didn’t happen that way.

Instead M suggested that what I (as all people do) needed was an acceptance of where I was and how I was feeling. He agreed I spent a lot of time trying to discern his thoughts and feelings about me because I believe most of the time that he is judging me but is not expressing those judgments clearly and instead they were coming out in his communication style. He thought I spent a lot of time confused about how things were between us; was he angry? frustrated? thinking of quitting? and that I needed to ask him about his feelings so I could be sure of the state of our relationship. I told him I didn’t think I was capable of asking him what he meant by things immediately because I am frequently confused and feel out of sorts but don’t recognize that his question was the start of feeling misunderstood or indicted. I told him I understood that I needed to check my assumptions about his feelings when I realized it but that I thought his acceptance of me could be an active practice for him. That is where we left the discussion so what do you think: is acceptance active or passive for you? do you show people that you accept them or assume they know it unless they ask? how about the people who accept you? do you feel their actions show that acceptance?

….

I can’t imagine what the title of this post should be. I don’t have any idea how to summarize what I am feeling. I’ve got random phrases like my personal black hole, or I’m empty/hollow/, or there is nothing to me except the immense desire to be okay or for someone else to say/show me that they approve of me.

It has been weeks since I posted here and I haven’t managed to read M the list of things I wish he would do to comfort me. I’ve talked about why I am afraid to tell him what I want. In one session I even asked him if I could hold one of his stuffed animals and he gave it to me. I’ve also spent a lot of time during my sessions feeling how much I don’t want to talk to M at particular moments and the variety of reasons I can come up with for not talking. At the same time I don’t want to leave his office and I hate missing sessions. It is like I desperately want to go but I don’t know why or what to do when I get there.

I was sitting in my session today and M and I were dissecting last week’s session that left me feeling confused and frustrated because it seemed like all his questions were designed to prove I was an idiot who was completely illogical and quite possibly insane. I left thinking he must hate me a lot to keep torturing me like this. Since I’ve felt like this before and he has always told me that he didn’t hate me I was able to admit that probably wasn’t true. So I wrote him a long email (which he didn’t get until this morning) talking about how confused I was by what he said during the session.

We’ve had lots of sessions like this. I say when you asked me this I felt like you were judging me. He says I was actually trying to understand or comment. So he explained what he meant by his comments and questions and I listened. Every time he asked me if I had any comments I didn’t. I understood what he was saying. I knew that I interpreted the things he said differently than he intended but that was all there was for me. He tried to talk more about the issue (which I’m not going to get into here because this post is long enough). So he pointed out to me, again, that I seemed to spend a great deal of time trying to discern what he thought of me, if he was judging me or not and that he tried not to express any kind of opinion or judgement about me.

All of a sudden I realized that this is at the heart of what happens in my therapy. I don’t feel safe in a relationship unless there is nearly constant positive feedback. It doesn’t mean someone has to tell me I’m good constantly but it does mean they have to show me something that tells me they are okay with me. All my friends are people I see several times a week even if it is only for a short time. They are people I work with, or parents who pick up their children at the same school as I do, or parents whose kids are on the same team or activity as mine. When things change and I don’t interact with people regularly it takes very little time for me to “forget” them emotionally. I mean I remember them and that we were friends but I don’t miss them or think of calling them to talk or meet. If they call me or arrange a meeting I am happy to see them and immediately feel comfortable with them but that happens because they contact me and so I know they are okay with me.

Therapy is agonizing to me because M doesn’t give me any signals and I haven’t been able to adjust to that. I don’t feel like their is some kind of freedom in therapy because M isn’t judging me. Instead I feel like I have nothing to say until I feel like M is okay with me. I think there is nothing to me and I have nothing to say. The only thing I’m aware of when I am sitting in the silence is how much I want M to give me some positive feedback. Since I left his office I’ve felt hollow and shaky, like there is a painful vibration in my chest that is echoing in the nothingness. I’m afraid my rib cage is going to collapse because there is nothing to me at all. I keep looking for someone to show me that I’m okay.

What I want M to do to comfort me

First I want to apologize for my last post.  I wrote it on the wordpress app on my device and I don’t understand the settings and it seemed like it changed a lot of words and destroyed some of the meaning.  So sorry if you spent time trying to figure it out.

During my session tonight we talked about how I felt like I would stop feeling alone and abandoned if M would sit closer to me or be willing to touch me in a safe and comforting manner.  He talked about how wanting that made sense and how touch was an important way to communicate acceptance and presence in a lot of different relationships including therapy for some therapists but that wasn’t how he felt about it.  He asked me if there was something else I thought he could do that would help me feel less alone.  I couldn’t tell him all the things I think about.  They are too childish, too needy, and so stupid.  When I didn’t answer he suggested that maybe what I could do was tell him when I wanted him to move closer to me or touch me and tell him I was angry or upset that he wouldn’t.  He said then at least he would know what I wanted and then we could explore how and why I was feeling alone.

Later on I told him I didn’t want to tell him what I thought would help because he wouldn’t be willing to do it and getting told NO would be painful.  I didn’t tell him I was too ashamed.  He thought for awhile and then he told me he thought he had been pretty responsive to my requests and so he wondered why I was so sure he would say no.  I told him he was very responsive to the adult me because she’s rational and reasonable and can speak.  I said he wasn’t responsive to the child me because … and then I got confused and said.  It makes sense because I’m an adult now.  M admitted that there are times that he doesn’t have any idea how to reach the child part of me (and the adult too) and then he listed the things he has done to communicate with the child part of me: we’ve sat on the floor together, we’ve played a game and worked on a puzzle together. he’s called me even though we both know that what I am talking about can wait until the next session but I have just wanted to talk to him.  I cringed inside the entire time he talked.  I felt ashamed about asking for things even when he agreed to them.

So here is the list of things I wish M would do:

1) I wish he would give me a stuffed animal to hold when I’m upset

2) I wish he would express that he wanted to comfort me; that he wanted things to be easier for me.

3) I wish we could colour together during sessions

4) I wish he would talk to me more when I feel stuck and can’t talk but not ask me questions or give me a lot of information.  I wish he tell me what he observed about me (you seem to be hiding instead of are you feeling ashamed) or about what he was thinking (I’d like to hear more about how you feel) or that he would talk me through that stuck place like it was a flashback (you are safe int he present;)

 

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

Despair and hopelessness

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.