Last week: therapy Thursday; I’m not doing my homework 

“So….hubby told me I could talk to him, and I told him I can’t.” It’s about 15 minutes into therapy when I announce this to Bea. I’m sinking fast, not sure what to talk about, and scrambling for something, anything, to keep her from turning her focus on me. 

“You did? When was this?” She asks. 

“Sunday. He asked me what was wrong, and I didn’t even know how to begin to explain, so….well, I just said there was a thing between you and me, and Kay was gone and I had no one to talk to. And he said I could talk to him. But I told him I can’t because he always shuts down, and then he said he doesn’t, and….ugh. I don’t know. I told him he does, he pulls away and I’m left alone. He said he just doesn’t bring things up the next day because he is waiting for me to bring them up! But it’s not that anyway. He’s just….gone. It’s not really something to put words to. It’s….like you were last week. He said he doesn’t mean to be that way, he just doesn’t know how else to be. So I told him to go to therapy, and he said okay…..well, I told him I want to be able to talk to him, but I can’t ….that we won’t be able to really talk and be real with each other until I work through my stuff and he works through his. And that even though I feel like I can’t talk to him now, it’s not because I don’t want to. I really do want to be able to talk and be real. So he needs therapy.” 

“Well, that wasn’t being in the bubble! That was a real, honest conversation. He clearly wants to be there for you, he just doesn’t know how. But you guys talked. That’s big,” Bea says. 

I suddenly feel annoyed with her, for some reason. I’m not sure why, but I can guess it’s because she is seeing hubby as someone who can be who I need. I don’t know. But I start to roll my eyes, then stop myself. “I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for him to go to therapy,” I say. 

Bea smiles at me. She likes this sassy part of me, for some odd reason. “You know, I believe that people are always working toward health, and just like you have grown and changed, and your parents—”

“And that only causes more problems and confusion–” I interject. 

“Yes,” she agrees, “Sometimes it does. But hubby is working towards health, too. I really believe that. When one person in the family unit changes, it influences the rest.”

I shake my head at her. “I’m still not holding my breath.” 

“Maybe this won’t be the conversation that gets him to therapy. But maybe it will. Either way, it was an important conversation. You were honest.” 

“We’ll see. I don’t expect anything will come of it. But now he knows where I stand.” I shrug. I made myself more vulnerable than I wanted to be in telling hubby how I feel. Granted, I’ve been more vulnerable, but after all the times he’s hurt my feelings, this feels pretty damn vulnerable to me. I refuse to get my hopes up and believe in him this time. I won’t be hurt again. 

Bea wisely lets the subject drop. “And you? How are you feeling? I didn’t get any emails, so I don’t know, but you seem lighter today.” 

That’s not me, I think, it’s the bubble. I want to seem okay, I desperately want to seem okay. I stare at the floor. I don’t know what to say. 

“Well, how did the dentist go?” She asks. 

“Fine. Well….yeah, it was fine.” 

“Did something happen?” 

“No, not really. Just, she wanted me to take a med that wouldn’t knock me out, but her assistant called it into the wrong pharmacy…and, I don’t know. It was a mess. I left here Monday, and went to run errands, and then got stuck in traffic, and was going to be late to pick up Kat, and no one was answering their phone, and finally hubby did, and he said he’d get Kat and  meet me at the grocery store so I could get my meds for the dentist and the groceries, but….well, I didn’t want to shop yet, I like to clean out the cupboard and the fridge and the pantry and have the kitchen clean before I get groceries and so it wasn’t time to go to the store, but hubby decided that was what we were going to do, so….ugh. We met at the store, he went to work, Kat and I shopped. I had to call ABA and have the tech meet us at the store because we weren’t going to get home in time, and then hubby said the pharmacy would have the meds by noon, and it was like 1:30, but they didn’t even have a script. So I text hubby, and he called the dentist and they had called it to the wrong pharmacy, but they fixed it. Except then I was already in the parking lot. So we went through the drive through but they said it would be 4 hours. So I cancelled it. Because I wasn’t going to drive all the way back to the store. And then I called the dentist and apologized for the inconvenience and asked if they could just call it into the little pharmacy by my house. And she got sort of snotty, saying she could but that she had already fixed it and didn’t have time to do it right then. So I just said that was fine, don’t worry about it, I wouldn’t want to inconvenience her due to an error she made in the first place. And then I hung up. And so I just took my normal med, that I still had some of, and took 1/2 the dose. So I was more awake than normal. But knocked out the rest of the day when it hit me. Plus I didn’t sleep Monday night, so I was really tired.” 

“That was a lot!” Bea tells me. “So it was okay on Tuesday though?” 

I nod. “It was.” 

“And you still like her?” 

“Yeah.” I think about it for a moment. “I do. I really do. Hubby was annoying me though.”

“How come?” 

“I don’t know. He just kept telling me I was doing a good job, but in that voice, you know…the one you use for crazy people? I don’t know. The dentist, and even her assistant were okay though.” 

“I’m thinking about Monday, and how that was a lot of loss of control,” Bea says slowly. “There are times now where you can handle that loss of control better than others. It seems there is a tipping point, where it’s too much. We’ve never really talked about it, or what happens. But maybe that is something to notice this week.” 

I don’t say a thing. I just stare at the floor. This isn’t what I need. This seems like something very concrete, and I don’t want this. But I don’t want emotions either. I don’t know what I want.

“It’s just something to notice, to see when it happens, what else it going on, how you handle it. Like, what happened when you got home from the store?”
 
“I put the groceries away.” 

“Were there feelings or actions you wanted to take?” She asks. 

Part of me is aware that she is making a good point. But part of me just doesn’t want to do this right now. “I don’t know. If I’d not had Kat and the ABA tech there, I’d probably cried in the car. I cried for a minute, just feeling really scared and like my whole life was spinning out of control after putting away the groceries but then I stopped and cleaned, and started sewing. And I sewed and sewed. Hubby came home, I was sewing, I told him I wanted to be left alone and not talk to anyone.”

“That was real, too,” she says, regarding what I had told hubby. “So, how did you stop the feelings?” 

“I just…I don’t know. I just turned them off. Like flipping a switch, I guess. I didn’t really get rid of them, so much as pause them. They aren’t….worked through. It’s not that I don’t feel things in the bubble, or let things in. I just…..switch them off. Until it’s too much and then I scream at life guards (I was referencing something I did last year while in this bubble of mine) I don’t know.”
 
“Makes sense,” she tells me. “It can be very useful to flip the switch when we need to function. But we have to let ourselves feel it, work through it. So it doesn’t all build up.” 

We sit in quiet for a moment, maybe longer. I don’t really remember. 

“So, do you think that’s something you can pay attention to, this week?” 

“That sounds hard.” I mumble. I want to explain why, to talk about it, but I’m at a loss for words. 

“Well, it’s not easy. But remember, you don’t have to change anything, or judge it. Just notice it. Do you think you can do that for homework this week?” 

Instantly, I’m on alert. Why is she assigning homework again– when she never has before? Does she think I’m not doing enough at home, working hard enough? Is she deciding I am wasting her time? “Why…..” I start to speak, then stumble. 
“You’ve never given me homework before, and that’s the second time you have this week.” I try to keep my tone light, laughing even. I think I succeeded.
 
“Well, it’s not homework– not like school. I just meant, it’s something to observe outside of therapy. That’s all.” 

“Phew. I thought you might be expecting a 500 word essay.” I’m joking, but in my head I’m wondering if that is all she meant. Oh my God, it’s hard to be in my head sometimes. 

We wrap up after that, although I’m not sure what we talk about. It’s St. Patrick’s day today. I should be meeting Kay for breakfast at this popular Irish pub. With St. Patrick’s day so close to her birthday (some years, it’s one and the same), the day has always been a day we go out— from morning until night. And living near a college town makes it easy to go out and party to celebrate st. Patrick’s day. She drinks green beer, I start with mimosas, and then move onto wine. But not this year. This year….well, I’m not out celebrating. But, I’ve already seen pictures she has posted to facebook. She’s out, with her wife and friends I don’t know. This day sucks. And I’m not doing my homework. 

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7 thoughts on “Last week: therapy Thursday; I’m not doing my homework 

  1. I also get really annoyed when my therapist/s express enthusiasm about a step I’ve taken towards a goal. I think I hear it as “Yay everything’s better the problem is basically solved!” and it feels invalidating because there’s still so much more hard stuff to get through. If you were feeling that she wasn’t really acknowledging your totally valid reservations about your husband, I completely understand why that would have been frustrating/hurtful/disconnecting.

    So sorry it’s still so tough. Maybe the little girl would like to colour with her next week?

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    • Yes, exactly! I needed acknowledgement of the issues with hubby, not focus on the good things, steps taken towards healing.

      It’s funny you ask about coloring. I think she would like to, but I get there and feel so frozen and hyper alert at the same time, the concept of coloring and being in the present seems very hard and very scary. It is like I’m back where I started. I don’t know.

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  2. That is so sad, to see pictures of Kay out, and you aren’t there. The session sounds tough, sometimes I don’t want to do homework either. Tough therapy week, I hate those.

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    • Thanks Rachel. I know you get the tough therapy week— I’m thinking of you and how hard things have been for you and hoping they get better soon. It was really hard to see Kay out, without me. Thank you for validating that. Xx

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  3. I also get annoyed with my therapist when she does the same thing. I think that it is because my brain is telling me that there is something dangerous that I should be paying attention to and she is trying to get me to pay attention to all of the OK things. So it feels like she’s ignoring something that I Have to pay attention to, even if I’m not sure what it is. The problem is that there isn’t any real danger, it’s just that my amygdala has been over programmed to keep me on hyper alert at all times.

    As I’ve learned to disengage from that cycle more and allow my brain to calm some, I’m finding that it’s easier to deal with some of the difficult issues without being pulled into a trauma head space.

    I’m sure that losing Kay has put you on hyper alert for danger. 😦 Sending tons of supportive, warm thoughts to you…

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    • This makes so much sense– that our brain is telling us there is danger and we should pay attention…..when in reality, there is no danger, so when Bea is “ignoring” the danger it feels unsafe, or like she isn’t there…..I need to remember that. Thank you for the support. Xx

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      • I guess that one way that you might think about dealing with it is taking on the role of a firm but loving parent whose child has a fear that is making them miserable and that fear is based on something that happened a long time ago but has nothing to do with what they are afraid of now. The parent would show love and compassion for the child and not get mad at them for having the fear. At the same time, it would be irresponsible for them to act like the old fear actually applies to the current circumstances. They would work with the child to help the child see how things are different now and they are actually safe from what they are afraid of.

        It is completely unfair that you have to take on that parent role for yourself, but that’s the reality. Bea needs to keep on showing up and being honest and real to the best of her ability at any particular time.

        I think that I wrote a post about this at some point. When we were young, we were supposed to have the consistent support and care that we needed to internalize a sense of people being there when we need them. If there is enough neglect and/ or abuse, that doesn’t happen and we are left having to make the repairs as adults. It is very painful to do that because we experience the child longing to have someone there in the way that we needed for a parent figure to be there in the first place. You know, always available, always aware of your needs, etc. but now that you’re an adult, it’s impossible for anyone to actually fill that role. The need is genuine and legitimate, but the reality is that the need can no longer be filled directly.

        I personally experienced this period as becoming agonizingly aware of how when I am most in need, often “all I have is me.” Even though MB wanted to be there for me as much as possible. But I couldn’t call in the middle of the night, even if I was in crisis. I couldn’t reach her if she was in session with another client. As much as she cares and makes herself available, I am the only one who is guaranteed to always be here. I went through periods of being angry with her about this. I beat myself up over it. It scared me. I was pissed at the world that I had to be the one to pick up the pieces when had broken into bits and scattered across the floor. Even when I called and talked to MB between sessions and she helped me through a particularly hard spot, still I was the one who had to continue to hold things together after the call was over.

        It was a slow, painful process, but eventually I was able to accept that this is a part of being human. If I had had better care as a child, I would have had a more secure base to work through that existential pain and the process would have been so much quicker and less painful, but we all have to grapple with being alone in some deep and frightening ways. It’s just that when you have been conditioned to expect abandonment, it makes learning to deal with the whole mess so much more difficult.

        Does this make any sense?

        I cannot tell you how many times I decided that I would never trust MB with anything deep again while I was going through this process. I regularly tried to figure out how I could stop therapy. I felt trapped in a “I need you closer”/ “I can’t stand it! Go away!” dynamic that had me wondering if I didn’t have borderline personality disorder for awhile. I did my best to hide it from MB for a long time, but it was after I started to talk about it that I finally started to make more progress at dealing with it, rather than just cycling through, over and over.

        I know that you are concerned about transference and that things being worked out in your relationship with Bea would mean that the relationship wasn’t real in some way. It’s very real. It’s just that it’s safe enough for some of these painful things to emerge. There might be feelings of anger towards her sometimes that she wasn’t actually the main source for, but usually there is something going on that reminds you of something older that you weren’t ever safe enough to deal with. So Bea provides a safe environment for you to finally have a chance to unpack and deal with the earlier emotional issue. If you didn’t have a real relationship with her, then you wouldn’t feel safe enough for the transference to come up.

        You know how kids tend to hold it together in school and then let everything out once they are home because they are confident that their parents can handle their upset mess? Well, it’s kind of similar to what I’ve been talking about. However, rather than dealing with issues from 20 years ago, you’re dealing with issues from that morning.

        Sorry this is so long!!! I’ll end now.

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