Two Questions (and Brownies) at the End of Therapy

In two days–less than that, in 42 hours–I will have my last therapy session with E. I wonder how many I have had over the years? Hundreds. I tried to add up a rough estimate in my head and came up with something like seven hundred. I won’t even try to add up all the money I have spent.

I am not panicking. I am not crying. I am pensive, mostly. I have two things that are taking up most of the space in my head: 1) Is there something I’m leaving unfinished? and 2) What tiny bit of the relationship can I keep after the relationship ends.

The answer to the first question is, of course, yes. There are things that never felt entirely resolved. There are issues I still struggle with. Those don’t even bother me much. The hardest to let go of are the times when I feel E has not entirely understood me or my needs. Some part(s) of me still want to be seen, validated and loved by the one person in the world who has heard my darkest stories. They are frustrated because they think, oh, if we just try to explain one more time why such and such (for example: why touch would be so helpful, why an arm around my shoulder would be so valuable), then she will finally understand it and give me what I want.

She won’t.

My wisest adult self knows that. Some of my younger parts don’t, and they don’t want to give up. But I’m stopping anyway, because allowing them to chase after something they will never get is not healthy. Instead, I’m going to take on the responsibility of caring for them. I’m going to tell them that their longing for tender, loving, maternal touch is entirely valid. I will try to give them positive touch experiences (massage?), and if I find that this need still doesn’t recede, I can always go look for a therapist who will offer it. But I kind of doubt I’ll honestly need to do that. I kind of expect that once I am away from E, that longing will die down. I think it’s very specific to the way she knows me, and the way I have allowed myself to be deeply vulnerable in her presence.

Anyway, even if I did have everything neatly wrapped up with a bow on top, well, that could easily change in a year, or in a month, or in a few days. Life will go on, and it will keep throwing challenges at me. I don’t have to have everything figured out to stop seeing E. I just have to have the confidence that I have the skills to cope and that I value myself enough to keep on using those skills.

The second question, about connection after therapy is over, that’s something she and I talked about a little bit when I first told her that I was ready to end therapy. I said that I’d miss being able to communicate with her, not just about big things, but about little things. I’d miss being able to let her know about a book or share a poem with her.

“You can still do that,” she said. “It’s not like you are not allowed to ever communicate with me again.”

Really? That was a surprise to me.

“You mean I could still text you or email once in a while? Send you a meme or something? Tell you if something big happened?”

“Like if Alejandro [my younger son] and his girlfriend get engaged?” she laughed. We had just talked about how much I hope they get married and start a family.

“Yes, like that. Or maybe I could send you an update once a year, like at the holidays?”

She nodded, “That would be great. I’d like to know how you are doing.”

“If something seemed too much like I was asking you to help me work through an issue, you could ask me if I want to set up an appointment, well, at least until you retire.”

“I can do that, she said. “What I can’t do, much as I like you, is start a friendship with you. That wouldn’t be ethical.”

“I know,” I said, and I did. I hadn’t even thought there was room for any sort of relationship post-therapy.

So this week I have been thinking about this, and I find it a little confusing. E is usually strict about boundaries but these feel a bit hazy to me. And having her tell me she didn’t want me texting her so much was crushing, so I really don’t want to ever repeat that experience.

I decided that I’m going to bring a little questionnaire with me to our final session and see if we can work out some defined boundaries. I might add to it, but here’s the first draft:

I’m also going to bake some brownies and bring them to our last session. We had sort of a running joke (kind of a joke, kind of true) between us. When I was really struggling, she would ask, “How can I help?” And I would say, “Come over, bring some brownies. Watch Netflix with me and brush my hair.” She would always laugh. (Did she know how much I really, really would have loved that?)

She asked a few weeks ago how we could mark my last day. I wanted to tell her to bake me some brownies, but that felt incredibly presumptuous. So I said I would bake some and bring them to our session.

Once again, I find that if your child parts really yearn for something, sometimes you have to provide it yourself.

CREDIT: Photo by Arantxa Aniorte on Unsplash

  

19 comments

  1. Love the questions. I’ve often wanted to make a similar request to my T, to come over and do ‘normal’ things with me like watching TV, or go shopping and for cocktails, or to bake together. I used to think I shouldn’t be picturing or wanting those things, that it meant the relationship wasn’t right, but reading your post has helped bring me to a place of acceptance, that a part inside maybe has that need and its not bad at all xx

    Liked by 4 people

    • Exactly! It is okay for parts to want or need something that your adult self knows is unrealistic. You can long for a closeness and intimacy with your therapist that isn’t part of the professional code, and there is nothing wrong with wanting it. If you HAD it, there would be something wrong, because your therapist would be violating boundaries that are there for a reason, for your own protection actually. But wanting that, it’s fine and even normal for all of us who needed more of it growing up.

      The thing we have to learn is first to accept those wants and needs without shaming ourselves. And second we have to learn to be nice to that part, to say, “Oh, I see how much you long to hang out with your therapist or go shopping with her. Wouldn’t that be fun? I wonder if she would like the same shops that we like? She can’t go with us, it’s not allowed, but we can imagine what it would be like…” or something like that. Something accepting and kind, the same way you would talk to a child who wished to go shopping with a fantasy character or a celebrity or something.

      I think it’s very empowering when we realize that we can accept and love the parts of us that wish for unrealistic relationships. I’ve even found that imagining I have what I wish for can be surprisingly satisfying.

      Liked by 2 people

    • For now I do intend to keep on blogging. Writing helps me think through things in a way I don’t always take the time to do otherwise. And it keeps me connected to this lovely supportive WP community. Thanks for saying you like my writing–it feels good to read that.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the questionnaire. It seemsikeca good thing that you could keep and check yourself on in the future. I’m sad about the friend thing. Some therapists might differ on that. I became friends with an ex therapist after not seeing her for 5 years. I’m so thankful for that opportunity. She is one of my favorite friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you are right; I think another time E said something like three years. That seems like an eternity right now, but it really isn’t. Maybe one day we could have a relationship again. But because that’s far off and I don’t know if it will happen, it still seems like it’s not really an option.

      It’s good to hear that you were able to become friends with an ex-therapist. Does that ever feel weird?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The BACP say that you can be friends but only after a period of time since having therapy and only if you never have therapy with them again. They stress the relationship has to be equal though, which is often a huge adjustment. It might be different across the pond though, or from state to state? I love how thoughtfully you’re navigating this ending. It’s very typical Q. 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like I said to Patty above, I think I can, eventually, become friends with her. But not in any kind of near term. So for the moment, and the next few years at least, I’ll be without E. It’s okay. I’ll be okay. But tonight (the night before the last session), I am feeling sad about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh Q. Of course you will feel sad. I feel sad for you and I haven’t even had a single session with E, much less all those years worth and all the things you’ve experienced in life together 🤗😍♥️

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Not surprised you are feeling sad, you and E have been together awhile. Love your questions. My own therapy has shifted hugely and we have contracted to work in a very different way, she’s kind of my soul parent and there are still boundaries but our relationship is one of mutual care and respect, we walk, meditate, I text her memes and photos. I think one day your relationship will transition. I really hope you don’t disappear from WP. Your stories from the house really helped me to find my own narrative. Sending you love and light Q. Hope your session goes well and you get some answers to those questions xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s so interesting that your therapy has shifted in this way. Does that mean you are feeling well overall? I hope so! I have often wondered how you are.

      And thanks for saying that my stories from the house were helpful to you. There is probably nothing you could say that would make me happier. The road from despair to a meaningful life is a hard one, and the idea that I could help someone along that road gives me a lot of joy.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Getting caught up on all of your recent posts today. Oh Q, my heart is filled with warmth as you navigate the closing of this chapter in your life with such thoughtfulness and care towards yourself. It is truly inspiring.
    When I moved far away from my therapist a few years ago I was not ready to end therapy, so that severance was very hard. But in the end it still evolved into a lasting relationship with holiday texts or cards and the occasional text update. It has felt really good to know that I can still hold onto a small piece of our relationship even though I have moved away and have found my way into the care of another therapist.
    Thinking of you and sending you thoughts of warmth and strength as you move through this important transition. 💕💕

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Sara! I had no idea that it was possible to hold onto the connection to a former therapist. Twice I also moved before I was really done, and neither time did I stay in touch (neither therapist gave me any indication that it was okay to do so).

      The questions worked well with E (I’ll write about that later), and now I feel confident that we will stay connected, though in a very different way than we used to. And it will be okay.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I imagine it depends on the therapist and my guess is that it’s probably pretty rare to stay connected. I’m so glad E is open to staying in touch and working with you to iron out the details of what that can look like for you.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Q! I ended up ending scheduled sessions with my T this week and am moving to a vast, open, ‘get in touch when you need a check in’ future. I am right there with you with all of this.. it’s the right thing, but it’s bittersweet, and I am quite tender about it all. How are you doing in the aftermath?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I want to speak the friend with the therapist thing. I think that, for me, it will never happen. It would never have a reason to — we like each other very much, but our relationship is about this work, even though it was very special, and even if there would be definite grounds for a friendship. It’s taken me many, many years to say this and believe it, though!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, you too? It’s a really big deal, isn’t it? How long had you been with this therapist? How are you feeling now, a few days later?

      I am feeling okay, but I’m thinking about her a lot, more than I want to. I know that will change over time, however.

      Liked by 1 person

      • P.S. I think I might agree on the friend v therapist thing. I’m not sure, but it does kind of seem like this is something unique and precious that might not neatly transition into something else. For now, though, I think I will be content with “we’ll just see what happens.”

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve been with her for four years. Weekly for the first year and a half then kind of haphazard during COVID. It Fees ok, but also sad. Like nothing to look forward to. I keep thinking of things that I’d like to bring to talk about, then remember I don’t do that anymore. But besides a couple of good cries, I’ve been really fine.

        How’s it feeling a week on?

        Liked by 1 person

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