I’ve complained on this blog, a lot, about therapist vacations. How dare they make themselves so important in our lives and then disappear for one, two, three weeks at a time?!?
Of course I know that everyone needs a break from their job, and maybe this is all the more true for the care-taking professions. It’s not that I truly begrudge E her time away to rest and refresh herself. I’m glad, honestly, that she practices the self-care that she preaches.
And yet, when she gives me advance notice that in a few months she’ll be gone for a couple of weeks, my inner voice starts up with its primal scream: Noooooooo!
I’ve known this current vacation was coming for a long time. She must have told me in late May or June (and I do appreciate knowing a long time ahead). For a while I could float around in denial, “well, it’s still a long way off.” But by the last week of July, I was acutely aware of what was coming. Sure, she was going to be gone for “only” two weeks. But a camping trip in mid August meant that we could only meet once that week, and the week after she was taking off on Wednesday, so that was another week of a single session, and the week she comes back there will also only be one session… so in my mind, I built it up: from August 16 until September 18, no twice a week sessions, so we’ll completely lose the momentum and focus. And of course I’ll have to deal with everything by myself.
Except you know what, that isn’t true. It might have been true during past therapy vacations. But I’m just living in the same emotional space I used to occupy.
It is true, of course, that we’ll miss four weeks of twice-weekly sessions. And it’s also true that the more frequent sessions, something we just started in January, has made a big difference in my willingness to talk through challenging topics, and it’s reassured me that this work is important to both of us. But I don’t feel it’s true that I’ll lose all momentum. Instead I feel as though we have built something up that is still there even when she’s gone. I’m not doubting that I’ll still be able to trust her when she comes back. And while I’m not arranging for daily meet-ups with my inner demons, I also don’t feel I’ve buried them so deeply that I won’t be able to relocate them when she comes back.
Something else that’s changed over the past year or so: I’ve greatly expanded my support network. At some point I said to myself, if I’m going to carry around this depression for a lot of my life, I need a lot of people and activities and supports to prop me up so I don’t keep falling over. So now I see C (mind-body therapist) once or twice a month for craniosacral therapy and/or reminders about mindfulness, meditation and ways to soothe my mind using my body. Of course I have Tabitha (psych nurse) and check in with her every two, maybe three, weeks. I get a massage every two weeks, which serves as self-care and an opportunity to practice mindfulness focused on my body. I have recommitted myself to yoga (more on that in a future post!) and have even rejoined the gym so I can swim and go to water fitness classes. When emotions are confusing, I have been creating collages that play around with ideas I can’t always describe in words. I tell my husband well, not everything, but much more than I used to. Oh, I can go have a cuddle with Selena, if that’s what I need.
This is miles away from my old approach of “I shouldn’t be so needy,” or “what’s my problem, other people aren’t so weak,” or “it’s too expensive and time-consuming, and I should just ignore it and work harder.”
E and I talked about her vacation ahead of time. What could I do while she was gone? She told me about a colleague of hers who would be on call. I could call her if I needed to. But the idea of talking to a stranger wasn’t’ appealing. “No, thanks,” I said. “I’d rather talk to someone who knows me. I can call C, or Tabitha, and I’d rather do that.”
(I should note that I don’t have equally deep relationships with everyone. C knows I have a history of abuse with some traumatic experiences I am working on with E. I tell her if I’m feeling better or worse, if I’m not sleeping or can’t concentrate, but we never talk about the specifics of my past. Tabitha and I have similar conversations, though we address them from a medication and diet perspective, rather than from therapeutic body work. I appreciate that I can talk about symptoms with them but don’t have to provide the details that can be so hard to talk about.)
So instead of enlisting E’s colleague, I made an appointment with C for the midpoint of E’s absence. I also made another appointment with Selena, just to love up my inner child one day. My yoga intensive started last weekend, which guaranteed I’d be in an environment promoting mindfulness and health.
And I’m doing well. It helped a lot that I entered into this therapy break in a good frame of mind. August was the least depressed month I’ve had in, hm, at least two and a half years. Maybe longer. And I’m staying in that good space, for the most part.
I did waver a bit on Friday, equivocating between, “I miss E a lot; I can’t wait until she’s back,” and “Why did she go for so long? I know she’s forgotten all about me. This therapy relationship is the pits–I hate that I miss her and she doesn’t miss me! I don’t even want to be close to her anymore!” And then, magically, on Saturday morning, I received a card in the mail. E had written it the day she left, and she must have asked someone to mail it for her a week into her absence.
The front has a butterfly and reads, “Make Art, Not War.” Text around the butterfly says: write a poem, throw a pot, tell a story, sing, dance your magic, compose a song, knit a sweater, plant a garden you love, doodle, answer your inner calling, gaze out at the world’s beauty.
Inside, she wrote,
This card reminds me of your talents for making beautiful and creative things, even out of torn and tattered pieces. I’ve seen you do this with collage, writing, art pieces and with your very life.
I love your investment in making art, and not war with the various parts of yourself.
It is an honor to witness, guide and admire your journey toward wholeness and the expression of your true self.
I wish you peaceful days until I return from my vacation.
Anxiety, the one who was saying, “This therapy relationship is the pits–I hate that I miss her and she doesn’t miss me! I don’t even want to be close to her anymore!” melted when she read the card. It was perhaps the last prop I needed to keep me upright and strong during this therapy break. I’m grateful to E–and very ready for her return next Wednesday.