Mondays I have had my weekly therapy sessions with E. This week, I am determined to go into it and be honest and talk not only about my 14-year-old self’s struggle to admit the degree to which she felt abandoned and betrayed by her mom, but also about my adult self’s inability to fully get over the rupture E and I experienced in July this year.
The session is nothing dramatic. E doesn’t do anything wrong; she is fine. But I don’t leave with the sense of deep emotional security that I’m wishing to get back. Monday night and during Tuesday, I find myself worrying about the relationship again. I am not in desperate, urgent pain the way I was maybe six weeks ago. But there is a voice in me saying that I’m done. I’m done receiving therapy from E, after many years of working together. Just like I am done with my job that worked for me for a long time, I am finished with the therapist who helped me through some extremely painful days.
Is this just my discouragement about how hard it is to trust her all the way? I’m tired, and I don’t want to keep working so hard on something that is supposed to be a support for me? Or maybe the distrust is because I have genuinely recognized that we’ve gone as far as we can go. As far as I can go.
Sometimes E asks me, what do I need in order to feel better, to be able to settle into trust again? I’ve said, I don’t know. I have felt there is something wrong with me, that I can’t do it. I am embarrassed because I am being unfair and unreasonable. She has been patient. What’s wrong with me?
There’s a younger side speaking up tonight, a teenage part of myself. She tells me, “No matter what E says about everything being fine in the relationship, it isn’t true. She is not as warm to you as she used to be. She is trying to be patient, but she is getting exasperated. Yes, in early August she sent me very tender texts and a caring card that we loved. But after that, did you see how much she backed off? She is much more distant now. She doesn’t really care.”
“There is something different about her now. Be honest. You know you feel the absence of her usual warmth. You know you do, and it frightens you. It frightens me, anyway. You know we lost her when we showed her the insecurity and anger that was stirred up when she wanted to reschedule a session. We know it was silly to protest. But we did it anyway, showing her the vulnerability we really felt. This was a mistake.”
I know that the teen is looking for the most negative possible interpretation of everything. I know that she felt her mom abandoned her at a time when she needed a lot of support, and that colors her vision. But maybe she’s not all paranoia and resentment; maybe she’s partly right. And maybe the Self-Loathing was so busy in August because she’s mad we have damaged a relationship that meant so much to us.
“It’s all ruined now,” the teen says, in typical hyperbolic fashion.
E doesn’t think it’s ruined, I tell her.
“Sure, from her side it’s not ruined. If she feels more distant from us, that doesn’t mean it’s ruined for her; that is just her working with a little more distance. She does that with a lot of people anyway, depending on who they are and what they are working on right then. Nothing feels ruined to her because, after all, she doesn’t need anything from you. She has plenty of other clients (many of them are making progress, unlike us, and they are probably not nearly as aggravating). But from our side, it is ruined. I am not talking to her about stuff if I don’t feel attached to her.”
What would make the teen feel attached again? She doesn’t even want to say, but I suspect she wants warm attention and care and comfort, all at a level that E can’t really provide. And because she’s suspicious, it has to last over time. She wants to hear from E that she’s had some terrible experiences but she’s still very lovable and worthwhile. But she doesn’t believe that E thinks she is lovable. I can tell her she’s lovable and valuable myself–but I don’t think the teen is impressed by my opinion.
“Seriously, we should stop going to therapy,” the teen says to me again. “She can’t give us what we need. She can’t or she won’t, whatever. So what is the point? Going to therapy is just painful and humiliating. It doesn’t help anymore. Sometimes we just have to let go. Didn’t you say that yourself?”
(Written Tuesday, 9/13)