Holding onto Hope in the Midst of a Storm

Yesterday, was therapy day. If you’ve been following my blog then you know things haven’t been the greatest with my therapist since we had a pretty significant rupture. Or, at least, that seems to be the consensus. If you’re not hip with the therapy goings-on, you may want to check out Text, Touch, and Therapy Changes and Therapy Ruptures, Running, and Rebuilding Trust first.

I felt pretty certain that she, my therapist, and I were not going to be able to move past my anger at her for changing the policies the way she did and for delivering the news the way she did. Somehow, though, I don’t feel angry anymore. I worry that maybe I’ve just locked away the angry, angsty part of me that was feeling abandoned. And, that the anger is actually still there, but that this work stuff forced some super mature, superhuman part of me to the forefront because I have been in major clean up mode with my life. But, I don’t know; it could actually just be gone. Either way, this last session actually felt like a step in the right direction and I feel like she has really been making an effort to be kind in our professional out of session contacts (just schedule changes and little reminders for in-session).

In my last two sessions I have been making efforts to connect in different ways in the room, since outside is no long an option. The first of those two sessions I just asked her to sit closer. That didn’t do much. Haha I don’t think she was close enough for it to make a difference. This time, I brought art/coloring books. Consequently, she was even closer this time… which, probably did help with the connection. It was easier to sustain eye contact without it feeling super weird. I mean, it was still going to be weird though because I was working on art and she was coloring, so every instance of eye contact was incredibly intentional.

Right so, I  wanted to share what I/We were actually working on in terms of the art/ coloring stuff before I actually get into the nitty-gritty of the session. There is this art piece I started working on Monday, to try to find the hope that C held onto for me before this whole rupture happened. I guess I was trying to use my art to reconnect with her outside of session (ironically, it ended up helping to connect in session). Anyway, that’s what I took with me to therapy. For C, I brought 4 coloring books she could choose from because it makes me really self-conscious to be in the zone and have someone giving me the therapy stare down. Not that I ever actually feel uncomfortable when she stares. Her gaze is soft. But still. Staring is always a weird feeling. The coloring thing worked out well. She chose a creepy page that looks like a whole bunch of eyes, fitting to the whole staring  thing, huh? 😉

This is my art (the first thing I’ve done in ages):

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The quote on the left is from a Turkish author, Mehmet Murat Ildan (his initials are down there, just a bit hard to see). The quote on the right is from my therapist, C. She told me once that If I lost hope, she would maintain hope for me, if I’d let her. I don’t know why but it really stuck with me; it meant a lot… just to know that even when I was feeling hollow, like a husk of a human… there was still hope being held for me. It was there when I was ready to come to it. I guess it didn’t matter that the hope wasn’t initially mine, just that the hope was there, that it existed, and that it was for me.

This is her’s (unfinished, of course, but you all had to see the creepy eye-ness of it):

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I think yesterday’s session kind of helped me piece the trust box back together a bit. That thing was looking a little ragged, with all the trust for her just sort of seeping out. Or, maybe, it all fell out the bottom suddenly. Whichever. There wasn’t much hope or trust there (according to C, we hadn’t ever really fully filled it up anyway, which might make this whole fixing things easier… she may have been onto something). Yesterday C actually talked to me about some of her internal process these last few weeks. She said that she had been giving what happened between us a lot of thought. That felt good, like she was finally trying to figure out her part. It made me feel like, maybe she does still care.

I will admit, I didn’t completely like hearing what she had to say. She owned up to having felt, at times, angry, confused, and hurt. She said that the push-pull I was exerting was… I can’t remember if she said exhausting or frustrating; two very different words, I know. Both, negative connotations. I hate knowing that I elicited those responses (especially because I know that it happens with pretty much everyone at some point in my relationships with them). Part of me still wonders if she felt those things because I was right with some of my accusations, or if it was because when that protective part of me gets to come forward, she is ruthless. It is in those moments that being good at words, does not bode well for the other person. I’m perceptive and verbose. Not a good angry combination.

C also admit that despite feeling these things she was still trying to do the “unconditional positive regard thing” by just taking my lashing out at her and by remaining somewhat detached, to contain all the anger I was throwing at her and that she was feeling from her own emotional store. She acknowledged that this tactic was not genuine (which I had been saying all along) and she finally saw how and why I perceived her words/actions as being disingenuous. Her intentions weren’t malevolent or even selfish; I think she was trying to shield me from her anger, to prevent me re-experiencing what I experienced in childhood. Had she lashed out at me it would have just confirmed that my emotions are bad and that I am bad and I probably would have completely shut down to feeling anything at all with another person.

The conclusion she came to, after reflecting, is that keeping her feelings to herself isn’t going to be beneficial in our relationship. She said, I’m too attuned to her and what’s going on with other people. She apologized for inadvertently making things worse and she promised that from now on she will be honest about what she is feeling in the moment with/toward me… even if it might hurt. That is seriously all I had been asking for! LoL the truth. All of it, the ugly and the not so ugly.

We did cover quite a few other things in that session as well. Like, diagnosis. After my psychiatrist appointment and after my lashing out at C, I started to wonder about my own diagnosis. I have always, always thought maybe BPD fit, but no psychiatrist ever sees any of those parts of me, so that diagnosis would be unlikely to actually happen. And, C, as it turns out doesn’t really care much for diagnosis when it comes to trauma. She says that a person may fit the label one day but somewhere down the line, they no longer meet that criteria and that it doesn’t make sense to stick them with the stigma of a diagnosis, when they may actually stop exhibiting those “symptoms.”

As for my BPD concern, she both confirmed and denied it. She said that most people with this much childhood and adult trauma do exhibit some of the “symptoms” of BPD but that it is a result of the trauma, that those behaviors/reactions were necessitated by environment. One thing she did mention, however, that has left me a bit unsettled is D.I.D. I’m not unsettled by this because I think being diagnosed with this would be “bad” but I’m unsettled by it because, even despite knowing I have very distinct parts warring it out in my head, and despite often feeling fragmented and not very much like an “I” at all, and despite having gaps of missing time, and having what feel like alternate memories… it literally never occurred to me that it might be D.I.D. So… now I am all in my head like… “wait, was she saying that is what she thinks is going on? Is that how she would diagnose me?” And, also, of course now I’m trying to decide if it really fits… I guess it might. The fact that I have a whole mess of dissociation going on, is irrefutable, so maybe it isn’t a stretch at all. Hm…

I don’t actually think it changes anything for me one way or another. As long as I’m getting the appropriate treatment for what’s going on… that’s all that really matters.

13 Thoughts

  1. I’m glad that at least she’s starting to be more real with you. I find it really curious that she’s talking about her reaction as frustrated or exhausted (or whatever the exact words might have been), and also talking about trauma and dissociation, yet not connecting those dots to BPD. That kind of therapist reaction to clients with BPD is why the DBT model has colleague supervision built in, to keep it from getting directed at the client. Hmmm. And on a different note, great art!

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    1. Thanks, for the art compliment. And, there is certainly still a lot that I have questions about and find problematic. But, at this point, I’m grateful that she is reflecting and being honest. I can work with honesty. Not that it is my job to do some of the work I think I’m going to end up doing… but, I’ve always sort of thought therapy for me would be two-fold: working on my own trauma and learning how to do the therapy thing better when I make it to that point. So… I guess I’m just learning the second part in a way that I hadn’t expected.

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    2. Maybe the frustration/exhaustion is projection… I mean… *I* was feeling that way but anger was primary… I don’t know. As for BPD, I have often wondered about the DBT model and the coaching element, particularly after she took outside contact away because it was too much for her, as a private practitioner. It goes back to her not doing what is best for me.

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  2. I am glad she was able to be honest. Its very similar to the fact my therapist was really angry with me one time and instead of confronting the issue tied to protect me from it. I wonder at these kind of times if there is a lot of counter transferance going on. Push pull is not an unnatural thing to feel when we are experiencing big emotions with and around others and in such a tenuous thing as therapy it is very complicated especially being through the abandonment traumas you endured.

    I heard a great programe on D.I.D. a few weeks ago on All In The Mind on Radio National in Australia. In it as well as interviewing a therapist they interviewed a woman in long term therapy with it who had gone through sexual abuse. Dissociation is such a huge part of trauma and we lock all kinds of feelings away when we fear or have experienced they may overwhelm, hurt others or lead to abandonment. She spoke at length not only about how her DID manifested but the therapy process as well. Anyway this last para may be off track but it feels like you are making some progress and am so glad the clash didnt lead to a complete rupture with her which may have left you in a very lonely place..

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    1. Definitely think there must be some significant countertransference. But, it isnt like we can force them to see it. I know she will keep coming to things on her terms, same as me, I guess. She has made a big deal about the push-pull… I almost feel a little blamed… hm…

      I have access to that program on Castbox, but it’s about a month behind. Haha so if you heard it some weeks ago, I’d have a little while to wait, but I definitely want to hear that one. Sometimes I listen to those episodes on my way to/from therapy. So meta. Lol

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      1. Yes goddam therapists. My first gut response is why isnt she more in touch or able to handle this in such a way you dont feel so unsupported??? I think you in some way have a deeper level of perception than she does. Anyway. we keep hanging in there, dont we? I think that programe was on about 3 weeks ago. xoxo Hope you can find it back, it was a good one. 🙂

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        1. I still stand by, she has some personal happenings in her own life and she isn’t ready to see how those are affecting her practice. But, I do know, she is seeking consultation. So, that’s something. Now that I’ve actually stopped distrusting my own perception/intuition, I think you’re right. And, yes, we keep hanging in there! Go us!

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  3. I can’t help but wonder if your T has her own T? If not, why not? If she’s having a hard time with your feeling and emotions, then that is something she needs to work on to be the best person she can be for you. I don’t want to sound mean, but it’s not your responsibility to take care of her and her emotions. Nor is it fair that you need to suffer (even if unintentionally on her part) because she doesn’t know how to better deal with her feelings that come up when she is with you.

    If your emotions feel frustrating and exhausting to her, how does she think it makes you feel? If T said that I left him feeling frustrated and/or exhausted I’d probably curl into a ball in the corner and be left with ‘I knew I was too much for him’ feelings. And then I would shut them down so quickly they probably wouldn’t come out again.

    As for your anger being gone. Do you think maybe now that you know it feels hard for her, you’ve gone and shoved it down a little bit? Maybe it was gone before you saw her, but maybe it’s a bit of reaction to her revelation about her emotions? Not sure.

    I am glad that she’s being more honest with you though. That definitely is important. I’m proud of you for sticking it out and trying to work through this rupture with your T. It feels like a big one to me and it’s not even me who’s going through it. 🙂

    That’s just my feels about it all. Maybe it feels differently to you since you’re going through it.

    To end on a positive note though…..I love the artwork!!

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    1. I don’t know about her own T for her own problems, but she is definitely seeking consultation. So, if things keep on, presumably whoever that person is, will say, “yo, you need to go back to therapy for your feels, too.” It definitely isn’t my responsibility to take care of her and that has been one of my worries, that we would recreate the dynamic I had with my mother. I had to care for her before I got any sort of care. It could approach co-dependency, enmeshment territory.

      Good question about how she thinks they make me feel. I doubt she put two and two together on that one. When she told me all of this, I definitely stuffed down the tears but I think I had already done much of the crying before hand. I have been thinking for weeks that I’m too much for her, and for every other person for that matter.

      The anger was gone before I went in but it’s definitely possible that I now feel more inclined to protect her from my emotions.

      Thank you for the art compliment. ☺ And the great insight.

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  4. I echo Kerry’s comment. Also, I see quite a few red flags regarding your T. The only reason I say this is because I’m afraid of the long-term consequences to you. The longer you’re with her, the more attached you’ll likely get, and from all I’ve read and what I pick up, I’m not sure whether she’s the best therapist for you. I’m just concerned. But I know it’s not my place, just wanted to throw this out there. 🙂

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    1. No, I definitely look to you all for your input. I’m too in this to really see things clearly. I’m letting the already attached part of me run the show because I want it to work so badly. But, I want to know all the red flags, you all are wiser than I am when it comes to this stuff.

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  5. My therapist has never cared about diagnoses either. And it’s true that trauma survivors often exhibit symptoms of so many different disorders.

    I’m glad that things are better with C. Honesty might hurt temporarily, but it’s better than feeling that something is very wrong and not being privy to it. Because you are so attuned and articulate, this might be a technique that C has decided to use with you, quite deliberately. It might not hurt to find out if she is drowning or simply trying a different approach.

    As far as the anger goes, I agree with some of the others. Don’t hide that rich material to make her more comfortable. P likes to remind me that being uncomfortable is part of his job.

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