It’s been a week. I wanted to say “a difficult week” or “an extraordinary week” or “an emotionally devastating week” but in the end none of the adjectives worked. So it’s been a week.
Feeling quite distraught over the weekend, I reached out to E. last Saturday, something I had never done before. She talked to me gently and warmly and invited me to come and see her Sunday afternoon. So the following day, I took a leap of faith and share with E. the secret in the envelope, a dark story in which I don’t come off particularly well. More accurately, I am quite horrible. It’s from a long time ago but that doesn’t erase how bad it is. When I told E., she was clearly shocked, and I read into her words and body language that she strongly disapproved. But maybe it was projection, I don’t know. I texted her that evening (something we also had literally never done before).
Hi. We can keep working together, right?!?!
How are you, oh brave one? Thinking a lot about tonight.
I’m not brave at all. I’m very twisted and sick and ashamed.
Ha, I beg to differ! You are also courageous and hopeful and loving…
All I could really take from that, at the time, was that she wasn’t expelling me from her practice. The rest I think I read as “she’s just trying to calm me down.”
I had my regular weekly session with her on Monday midday, and it was hard. I could scarcely look at her for the shame of it all. She spoke to me in a calm and kind voice, but she continued to have very closed body language and talked about how bad the behavior was but that wasn’t the same as being bad. That’s what she said, but it’s not what I felt from her (intended or not). When I left, she invited me to call or text her if I needed to.
I left feeling deeply shaken. And my guard went up. My resentful teenage self said she couldn’t handle it, it was too much, she was too judgmental. That night, as I already wrote about, I told her I didn’t feel entirely confident that she could handle it, that I had registered her body language and saw how she needed to protect herself from my horribleness.
Oh, dear Q, I’m not going anywhere. I don’t need protection from your horribleness. I adore and respect you. I am not offended, disgusted, or turned off by who you are–truly. I am in awe of your honesty, integrity and drive toward wholeness. If anything, I am more drawn to you, as a result of your vulnerability, than away from you. You can believe it or not, your choice.
This is just fucking scary.
I see that… They don’t call it the dark night of the soul for nothing!
I guess not. I feel lost in this darkness. I can’t tell if there will be anything else to grab onto, or just an eternal void.
Right. Pretty scary. You aren’t alone though, and it won’t be pitch black forever. Talk to the 15-year-old. Tell her you want her to know love. Loving that teenager may be even harder than “believing the girl.” I know, when does it get easy, right??!
I have to say, not feeling too solid on the believing the girl part either. It’s all pretty shake. But yeah, loving that teenager, I don’t know. I can’t think of anyone who loved her.
No, wait, to be fair, my grandparents did, as much as they could, without knowing everything.
Well, no wonder she feels so terrible. t’s hard enough to be a teen, but a teen thin on love can lead to all sorts of bad decisions!
I might need you to tell me repeatedly that you aren’t too disgusted to work with me. It’s a very big fear. I’m sorry, don’t want to be a bother…
I’ll tell you as often as you ask. I DO NOT FIND YOU DISGUSTING. I like you very much. (I’m not yelling, just being playfully emphatic).
And you wouldn’t lie–would you? Do therapists lie for therapeutic reasons? They must.
Is distorting reality ever therapeutic. I think not. I’m sure it’s done by therapists, but I wouldn’t call it good practice. As for me with you, absolutely no lie!
I had two really crummy therapists. One of them blew me off/stood me up when I was very desperate. I’ll never forget that. Anyway, that’s another story. You, on the other hand are a very skilled therapist , truly very helpful, please don’t take my skepticism personally. Thank you, I’ll let you go now. Good night.
You’re kind. Your skepticism is earned (though not by me). It’s sad you were treated badly by others. I’ll keep working on being skilled and helpful. Good night!
It was a strange thing, to have that exchange with her, but it felt good. It calmed me down. I read it several times the next day (Tuesday). All day I told myself I wouldn’t bother her again, but late in the evening I texted her again.
Hi. I’m just checking that you’re still there.
Right here. Still liking you!
Okay, good, phew!
Thank you for being there.
You’re completely welcome.
That was thin, though compared to Monday, and by early Wednesday afternoon, while still at work, I needed to check in again.
I know you are probably with a client now, so I’m not holding my breath for a response. But I like knowing you will still be there. So maybe later you can tell me again.
I swear I won’t keep doing this for very long.
I’m here, not bothered. I care deeply for your recovery of trust. I’ll keep being here.
Then that evening, she initiated the conversation, instead of me.
Still here, in case you’re wondering 🙂
Ha, funny you say that just now. In my head, I had been composing a blog post: 25 reasons not to trust your therapist. Of course all 25 reasons really in one way or another all boil down to the pain and fear of vulnerability.
Those are impediments to trust, not reasons not to. Maybe I should work on my post: 25 ways to convince your client they are lovable!
Sure, you can be a guest on my blog; I’m sure those reading my blog would love that.
Ha. Hope you had a good day.
Thanks for your message, so thoughtful of you. Good night!
I think this one was my favorite though. It popped up from her on Thursday afternoon.
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Poor?” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh. This made me think of you. Hope you are having a good day.
I love this, thank you!
As sweet as that was, five hours later I was texting her from a completely different emotional place.
My mom and stepdad do not care about me at all. The wise woman can reason it’s about them, but the triggered child and teen feel so rejected.
You know what, I’m not sure you can deal with this, with me. It’s just too ugly and sick. Who could deal with it?!? It’s not your fault. Anyone would be repulsed. I am, too. I’m sorry.
Ugh, sorry ignore. I’m just tired and confused.
No matter what you say or do, I believe you are a wonderful, deeply caring, compassionate woman. Period!
I see those kind words, but I’m on the other side of a wall, and they don’t reach me. I’m sorry, I don’t know how to do this.
Just make yourself comfortable on that side of the wall. Be kind and gentle with yourself. That’s all that’s needed now.
I’m going to try to sleep now. Thanks for texting and for the lovely Piglet quotation. I”m sad but… Anyway, thanks. Good night.
You’re fully welcome. Good night.
How many times can I reread a text conversation? And why am I suddenly so needy in a way I can’t remember feeling for many, many years. I don’t even know myself this week. I’m like a child again, checking on my beloved mother who is working in the next room. This morning, it wasn’t 8am before I started up again.
Hi, good morning.
Good, you are still there!
Yup, right here.
Three hours later, at work, I checked in again.
God, how can she stay patient through this? Maybe she’s not. Maybe she is rolling her eyes but texting back reassurance anyway? But she said she wouldn’t lie. A few hours later, still at work, I was at it again.
You don’t want to go away?
Nope. Not in the least.
Even if I’m a horrible monster? God, I am totally regressing.
Still liking you a lot. Regression may be another way of talking about finding new ground.
I am not sure I know what she meant with that last comment. I would ask, but for heaven’s sake, it’s Friday night. I should leave her some time with her family. But some very young, uncertain self still wants to call to her. It’s the strangest thing, and I’m embarrassed by it. But I’ll share it anyway, because I think it’s good for us to share our vulnerabilities and learn from each other that maybe we’re not as crazy as we think we are. Or what do I know? Perhaps you will all think: Thank god I’m not as crazy as Q! But then I suppose I will at least have made you feel better, so it’s worth something.
Wishing you a kind and patient therapist, and a Pooh for your Piglet.