More Thoughts on Setting a Date

It’s only been a little over a week since I posted about (maybe) setting a date to end therapy with E. It already feels like a long time ago, however, and in the intervening days, I have already changed my mind half a dozen times about how often I want to have therapy and how soon I want to make a change.

I just now re-read my original post, along with the kind comments some of you left for me, and I realized I left out a piece of the story, a piece that complicates everything for me a bit.

Two weeks ago, during one of our sessions in her lovely garden, E said to me, “I remember when I asked you how you felt about my message saying that I was going to take a lot more time off, some this year, and a great deal more next year, you said you wished I had told you in person, rather than just sent you the same email I sent out to all my clients.”

“Right,” I said. “I mean, I can see why it would be simpler for you to just send out the one email. But since you asked me how it felt to me and what I would have preferred, I would have preferred to hear about it directly from you. Our relationship is deep and complex and personal, so it’s nice to feel that any potential changes to it get dealt with personally.”

“I get that,” she told me. “And that’s why I am telling you now, in person, that I have changed my plans a bit. I am still taking all that same time off. But before I said I would probably keep on practicing on a smaller scale for the rest of my life. I’ve changed my mind; I’m not going to do that. I’m going to completely close my practice at the end of 2022.”

“This was a hard decision for me,” she went on, “But I feel it’s the right one.” She explained that she wants to make sure she protects a lot of time for family and projects, and she decided that the little bit she will continue to work will be limited to providing supervision to other therapists.

“You are the first client I am telling,” she said. “Please don’t tell anyone else, as I’ll have to figure out when and how I’m telling others. But I wanted to respect what you told me earlier and make sure I brought it up here where we would have time and space to talk through it.”

I really appreciate that she heard me and cared that I had been put off by the generic email she sent to all her clients. I was glad she told me in person and early enough in the session that we had time to talk about it.

And my surprise, the news did not provoke immediate anger, hurt or fear. Mostly, my initial reaction was, “Okay, well, I’ll have stopped before then anyway.”

Now that the news has had time to sink in a bit more, I realize that one way it impacts me is that it makes it a little harder for me to set an end date. You see, before I used to think, “I can come to therapy less often, or I can stop, and then if I want to come back in a year (or whenever), I can do that too. After all, E said she’d probably never give up her practice. And she said that even if she filled my Wednesday slot with someone else, she’d still find time for me.”

But now that’s not true anymore. There’s a real, final end date, and after that, there’s no return. I won’t have the option to come back, even if it’s just to get some reassurance and some gentle reminders. Even if she wanted to be nice to me, she wouldn’t be able to see me anymore, because she will give up her not only her relationship to insurance companies, but also she will stop paying her own professional malpractice insurance or whatever it is she has to be pay to be able to practice legally.

So I can still waver, for now, if I want. I can stop this summer and go back in the winter, something like that. But that’s not really the same as carrying the knowledge that I can go back in two years or in five years. If I stop and then go back, all I’m really doing is setting myself up for TWO goodbye sessions in the span of just 18 months. No thank you! If I am going to leave, one goodbye session will be hard enough. I won’t want to do it again!

A few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what my end date should be, but I felt I was getting close to it. I kept finding bits of evidence that I interpreted as signs I was about done. I kept discovering that I could manage my stress or my challenges without her.

Now, I’m second-guessing myself. It’s not just the finality of it all, though that is certainly a factor. It’s also that I’m feeling uncertain about whether I’m making a mistake by continuing to stay in contact with Renee, my son’s ex-girlfriend. There’s a longer backstory there, too much to explain right now, but perhaps I’ll write another post about it. For now, just know that it feels a little messy, and this is probably a good time to get a therapist’s insights. Also, honestly, I’m feeling a little off-balance from abruptly going off two psychiatric medications at the same time. I expect I’ll either regain my balance or restart the meds in some way, but it all feels uncertain at the moment, and I feel crazier than I have got quite a while.

A voice in my head, some part of me, is speaking up: You feel a little off-balance, a little crazy right now. And who is to say there won’t be other things to make you crazy in September, or November, or next spring? Maybe you AREN’T actually ready to reduce the frequency of your sessions, much less stop them entirely.

Then, of course, there is another part challenging the my first voice. It says things like: Oh, how interesting that just as you start thinking you might stop seeing E this summer, you suddenly encounter confusing boundary questions. And you suddenly stop all our meds cold-turkey, with no real plan. Very interesting indeed. One might almost suspect you were trying to provoke a mini crisis and give yourself reasons to stay with E a bit longer.

It’s three in the morning as I’m typing these thoughts. I should be sleeping (but I can’t). Writing all of this at this time of night is not really going to help me make a decision, is it?

It must be time for a little self-reassurance. Time for the wise part of myself to notice, validate, and accept the uncertainty.

I see you. I see that you don’t know yet what you want to do about ending therapy. You know you are moving in that direction, but you’re entirely sure about the next step. And that feels a little unsettling. It’s okay, though. It’s not at all surprising that changing or ending this therapeutic relationship would be difficult. Even if your dopamine and serotonin and norepinephrine levels weren’t all taking a nose dive at the same time, it would be normal to have conflicting emotions about this.

You can tolerate this confusion. It won’t last forever, and while it does last, it won’t break you down. It just provides you one more opportunity to practice accepting uncertainty. It’s an important practice, because the truth is that life is nothing but uncertainly.

If you find it painful or disturbing at times, you can talk to your wise neighbor, or write about it some more, or even process it in a therapy session with E. You can tell your husband about it. He doesn’t know what it’s like, but he is always interested to know what is going on for you. The important thing is this: you don’t have to be alone with it.

I know you have felt so alone for much of your life, but you aren’t anymore. alone. You aren’t a terrified child, expecting and fearing imminent abandonment. You are sufficiently resourced. You have skills. You have people who love you. You know how to tap into that inner wisdom we all carry inside of us. These gifts will help you prepare for and eventually implement your separation from E. That separation might come soon or it might not come for months yet. You’ll know when the time is right, and it will be hard to say goodbye, but you will okay. And I, your instinctive inner wisdom, will be with you every step of the way.

10 comments

  1. Your inner wisdom is so solid Q! Even despite coming off the meds. I can imagine that session with E would bring up a load of stuff. I have this romantic idea that one day I won’t need therapy anymore but A will always be there for check ins and occasional tune ups. Having that taken off the table (like the ending with Em) changes the complexion of things a bit. I guess the thing I’d say is keep doing what you’re doing – and by that I mean listening to yourself and working with what comes up. There’s no wrong way to do this ending – you’ll come out the other side solid and strong however you approach it because you are already so solid and strong (even if it feels wobbly sometimes). 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s interesting you say “there’s no wrong way to do this ending…” I think I feel there might be a wrong way, or at least a very unsatisfying way that leaves me yearning. Thank heavens she isn’t retiring in a month or two! At least I have time to think about what might feel better.

      I think I don’t really NEED her anymore, but the connection from having needed her for so long is strong and hard to let go of.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What I meant is there’s no wrong way to do it if how you do it follows what you think and feel at the time. Ie you trust your gut on whatever it says and you listen to your heart. You might change your mind over time or regret how you handle it later – we’re human – but if you honour yourself and your feelings you’ll have done what was best in that moment for you. It’s hard when there are so many parts in play but you have the wisdom to try and get the best ending you can.

        You can’t account for E at all. So yes ending can be impacted by her part and that could leave things feeling unsatisfying.

        The good thing is you have time, like you say. I hope E is going to think very carefully about how to achieve the best possible end with you, too. I think the fact she listened to you about not being told by email is a good start.
        X

        Liked by 1 person

      • I knew what you meant, actually. I think it’s just a fear I’m carrying around: “I’ll do this wrong and make everything worse.” But you are so right, if I honor myself and my feelings, I will also be able to deal with whatever comes up for me. You’re so smart.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. that’s a kick in the gut! Might be time to get some referrals from her and test the waters. You need to take care of you, and lining someone up before she is done would be good.
    Where or where is the fantasy therapist who is forever there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do have someone else I sometimes see for brainspotting and art therapy. She’s good, and I like her approach, but she doesn’t know me like E does. No one will ever know me like E does because I have gone on such an emotional journey with her. I won’t (don’t need to) go on that journey again, so I won’t be building that connection in the same way to anyone else. I suppose that’s some of what is hard about saying goodbye. I am saying goodbye not only to her but to ever having that kind of connection with anyone.

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  3. Ah! Yes, that does throw a completely different light on it. Now it all makes much more perfect sense. I wonder if sometimes we begin to take steps towards making a decision but then it looks like the decision is being made for us, which makes us want to suddenly dig our heels in because it’s not feeling in our control the same way? Maybe we’d have happily gone down that route and now we’re less certain. Might be that’s completely off target, but it’s the first thing that came to me as I was reading.
    Another thing, about the ex-girlfriend. It worries me that you and your son feel sorry for her to the extent that you entertain communicating with her, it feels like she’s a spider setting a trap and i fee protective over you and your son’s safety! I know you don’t need me to feel like that, but it strikes me that she should be somebody else’s problem. I mean, your son had to go to seek medical treatment after one of their beatings, did he not? You have an amazing ability to see past peoples’ faults and hope for their future when they may not, but I do worry that the kindness that you and your son clearly possess, could be turned back and used against you with this woman. Like RBCG rightly said, your inner wisdom is solid, you’ve proved that here time and time again, so I hope my fears will be unfounded, especially as you’ll carefully consider each step. I wonder also though whether your son could fee if Mum can manage some contact then so can I, and I hope for his sake he never does again. So glad he’s doing better right now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, you are right LS. There is a way in which E deciding to retire feels like she has taken away from me some of the control about how we end things. And having the control on my side felt easier and less painful.

      Sigh.

      Whatever. I know I’m not thinking straight this week (thank you Cymbalta Withdrawal), so I will try not to spend too much time dwelling on this. When I feel okay, I trust I will be able to figure out something I can accept, even if I don’t love it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • P.S. Yeah, the ex-girlfriend thing is complicated, maybe dangerous… I’ll have to post on that later. Thank you for your concern. I hadn’t really thought that if I am in communication with her, he might decide it’s safe to do the same, when it’s not.

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      • Reading your comments here, and what you said about the connection of being known to that level, is touching. Whether you choose to stop in your time or in hers, it will be a huge loss to you. Even if it (endings) is something you were always thinking of starting to look at anyway. It reminds me of that thing where people sometimes ask if you knew someone was dying, like the ability to see it coming somehow lessens the loss (it doesn’t). Even if you know someone’s dying and they take a very long time to die, with you constantly at their bedside for weeks or months, it’s still a huge grief the day they’re gone. Some people are glad it’s all over and happy the person no longer suffers, as in, it’s the ‘right’ course of events and they don’t want it dragging on for the dying person or themselves as they’re watch, but the pain of grief is just as much. So what I’m saying is, almost it makes no difference to how it ends, whether it’s your timeline or hers, it’s still understandably a huge loss. Loss of such intimacy and knowing. It’s a beautiful gift to give someone the knowledge you hold of them.

        Anyway, I don’t say any of this to make you dwell any further on it, but just to say I know this will be painful you I like what you said about trusting you will figure out the way forward for you. 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

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