How Tender, How Fragile

I’m doing quite well these past few days. I feel more hopeful than I have for weeks, and I’m enjoying the sunshine that’s finally arrived.

I arrive at my Monday evening therapy session with E having done my homework. I mean, really done my homework, spent hours on it, in fact. I carefully dissected a lot of negative messages I often direct at myself (you were complicit, it was your fault, why didn’t you resist, you wanted it, you are disgusting) and dug a lot to get at the underlying emotion and need behind those statements. Then I took those needs and reframed the statements in more realistic and kinder words (you felt you had no alternative, you didn’t know how to resist, you felt helpless…). And then I took those statements and began to draft a letter to my younger self, with the intention of writing separate letters to my selves at different ages.

It’s serious work, hard work, and I’m pleased I’m able to do it. I’m can tackle this now, I believe, because I now have two hours a week with E, instead of only 45 minutes, because we sit on the floor together in a way that feels intimate and personal, and because I am no longer poisoned by an insanely high dose of Effexor. I’m grateful to be in this space and not in the hell I was inhabiting in January, for example. I appreciate the caring space that E has created for me.

Yet I realize tonight how tender and fragile the therapeutic relationship is, even when it’s going well. Towards the end of the session, E says, in a slightly more businesslike voice, “Wednesday, or next week, I’d like us to talk about…”

I know it. I know she is going to say “…about going back to only once a week,” or “…reducing the amount of time you come here.” I prepare myself inwardly, try to set my face so that my hurt won’t show, so I can pretend to be neutral about it.

“…about what you’d like to have happen in the upcoming retreat,” she says.

What?!? I am caught entirely off guard. I know I haven’t yet written about this, but E is leading a self-care retreat for a few clients (sort of a short-term group, in a way) in a couple of weeks, and after a lot of hesitating, I just decided I would go. I’m excited but quite nervous about it. She wants us to talk about how to shape it so that it’s as meaningful for me as possible. I tell her I’ll think about it.

And then I tell her that I was sure she was going to say we needed to talk about reducing my time with her. Not at all, she tells me. She expects I’ll be the one who, after a while, tells her that we can reduce our time together, that I feel strong enough to let go. “The only reason I can imagine bringing this is up is if your insurance starts to object,” she tells me. “Otherwise we can go on for years, if you want.”

I don’t want. When I feel consistently stable, once I know I can feel good for more than a few days at a time, I want to give myself a little more space between sessions and see how it goes. (I think I also feel a bit guilty about taking so much time and want to let go of that guilt.) I don’t want to be unstable for a few more years. I want to go through this intense and challenging process and then exit. Not fixed and healed and whole. Who is ever fixed? I want to be strong, stable, aware of and able to consistently use strategies to cope, to minimize triggers, to deal with being triggered when that happens. I want to have good self-care and generally feel I am living a life where I can grow and develop as my authentic self.

I don’t know how long that will take. Sometimes I think I’m moving that way; other times, I am discouraged. I appreciate that she’s not rushing me along. And I’m aware again, after tonight, how delicate is that sense of being safe and accepted in therapy.


  1. I know you know this (and so does E) but recovery is not linear. You are doing some hardcore work! Good for you! Whether or not to reduce sessions doesn’t seem to be something you have to decide at the moment. I have no doubt that you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it! Xx


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