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.