They say that getting better doesn’t mean you’ll stop getting support. That it doesn’t mean people will stop noticing or caring or attending to your needs. They say that if anything, it makes them feel more motivated to want to be a part of that process. They say they will reward the progress and the effective behaviours, as incentives to keep us on the recovery path.
I asked my therapist if she would still be there for me if I showed signs of getting better, or continue being less distressed like how I have been this week. She said that when I am like this she feels closer to me, instead of noticing any desire to withdraw, as I fear. She said that seeing me how she did on Friday only motivates her to want to work with me more. She said it gives her joy to see me like that. (I think that was the first session I have ever been noticeably happy in, after an entire year of working together.)
But then I remember the times she has said things like “you won’t be in therapy for ever” and “we have to work towards you being your own therapist” and “do you want to cut down from twice weekly to once weekly sessions?” And I remember that when I am better, if I get better, her role – and ultimately her place – in my life will change dramatically. Ultimately, she will not be there.
So the truth is that if I get better, certain support structures will slide. I won’t have access to the many levels of my support system I currently have. People will not worry about me nor ask me how I am with that level of concern that makes me think they actually do care. People will not check in on me, nor double check that I am not lying when I tell them that I am okay. People will be less emotionally available because they will assume I no longer need them as much as I once did, as it it not a matter of urgency.
I will not have my therapist available so readily, or at all, and the prospect of that terrifies me. I currently have 2 individual sessions a week, one DBT skills group and access to telephone crisis coaching – and going from that to zero is not something I can fathom doing. Even the fact that you can only access contact between sessions for crises can feel flawed, as the message is further reinforced that “you have to be in a crisis in order to get the attention/ love/ support you desire”.
And so, I know that despite all these things they have told me, the truth is, if I get better once and for all, in many ways I will indeed be more on my own than I ever have been.
I feel like these are the times I need the most overt attentiveness and support from the people in my support structure – so that I can be positively rewarded for doing well, which will motivate me to keep it up. I am so scared that as soon as the support dwindles, old behaviours will creep up again. No matter how much “better” I get, I still find that the strongest way I can communicate what I need is through indirect behaviours and means. Saying what I need in words is not enough. The mental health system does not work like that.
But maybe if I am better, it won’t matter any more. Maybe I will know when I am better by the fact that I don’t feel so fearful of the prospect of not being in therapy, nor having her to rely on, nor needing people to know that I am not okay and that I am still hurting, any more. Maybe that will be the most accurate measure of what true recovery looks like for me.
*It is ironic that after only a week of feeling stable, this is where my head takes me. If only I could count the number of times I have believed I am “cured”, only to suddenly crash a few days later. I wonder if it will be different this time.