Yesterday morning I was really upset about something. I texted my therapist to say “I notice feeling a disproportionate amount of sadness about…”, which was purposefully very descriptive and “effective”, according to DBT guidelines. I wanted a response but honestly wasn’t expecting anything, as I know the message wasn’t for skills coaching specifically, but more for comfort. Anyway, a few hours later after not having signal for a while, I saw I had a voicemail from someone. I called voicemail and was surprised and touched to realise that it was a message from my therapist. She knew that I was having a hard time and why I was so upset, and had taken it upon herself to reach out to me and offer support. It was a really special caring message; she was validating my sadness and saying that she was thinking of me. I appreciated it so much I was tearing up. So I called her back and when her phone went to voicemail I left a message thanking her for everything profusely.
A few hours later I was at home, and I was struggling with the sadness still. I had been trying to soothe myself and let myself feel sad without it overwhelming me, but it had been getting bigger and bigger until it felt like it was taking me over entirely. I was crying on the floor and struggling to regulate myself but having a hard time doing so. I planned to watch something to distract but was even struggling to get off the floor or even stop the tears.
I called my therapist again and left another voicemail – this time saying that I was really struggling to not fall into my sadness, and that I was in a lot of pain and really needed to talk to her. At the end of the message I told her what skills I was committing to practice, starting with watching Masterchef. She didn’t reply for a couple of hours so I started having loads of worries. I find it hard to regulate myself when she doesn’t reply to me for a long time, and get into my head a lot of negative distortions. I was panicking quite a lot and digging myself further into a rut, barely able to distract myself or summon Wise Mind. I thought that because I hadn’t heard back, I must have done something wrong and that she was angry with me. I tried to rationalise but as usual, it wasn’t helping me. I felt guilty for sending the second voicemail and worried she was thinking that I was taking the liberty, especially after she had left me such a nice voicemail earlier in the day.
(She often says that when she offers me support or reinforcement I just end up wanting more and being ineffective in order to try achieve that, and I was scared she would think this was one of those times. However it genuinely wasn’t. I was feeling very dysregulated and whether she had left that voicemail or not I would still have reached out. I only reached out when it got to point I didn’t feel I could manage any longer after a few hours of trying to contain the situation myself. I was being effective as I was reaching out in order to take her advice. In the mean time I was trying to self soothe, check the facts, challenge the paranoia and validate my sadness.)
After about two or three hours of not hearing back from her (and me using distraction skills myself, but still not feeling calmer, in fact getting more agitated) I wrote her a text as I wanted to apologise in case I had done something wrong, and let her know that I wasn’t trying to take advantage of her support. I apologised for leaving the second voicemail and said I was worried that she may think I was “taking the piss”. I said I honestly wasn’t, but that I felt like I was “going to die” without her, because that’s how much pain I was in. I asked if we could talk because I was very distressed. I sent the message.
Ten minutes later I received a reply from her. In it, all that she said was that she regretted calling me earlier (when she left the voicemail) because it had encouraged my ineffective behaviour and judgments. She said that she wouldn’t do it again. That was it.
Literally as soon as I saw that message, I went into a complete state. I sent a long string of messages apologising profusely, trying to explain descriptively, asking for her help, expressing my current pain and distress and literally begging for her to call me. I explained without judgments what I had meant by “taking the piss” (i.e. I didn’t want her to think I was taking advantage and wanted her to know how much I appreciated her earlier voicemail) and explaining that I used the word “dying” to describe how I felt inside and how much pain I was in. I apologised for any misunderstanding and for being “ineffective” but made it clear that I hadn’t meant to be and that I was trying my hardest. I asked her to call me. She knew I was in a panic attack, you could hear it in my voice, tears and breathing.
The above messages were all a few minutes apart and were sent as my panic attack was progressively getting worse. I also called her during this time, 6 times, in utter desperation, and she wasn’t answering. Two of those times I left voicemails in which I was literally hyperventilating begging for help – expressing how I could no longer reply by text because my hands had gone numb and I couldn’t move, apologising profusely, expressing how willing I was to be effective, how I needed to talk to her and fix this situation because I thought it was a misunderstanding as I had been trying hard all day to be effective and how I needed her to call me back in order to help me calm down.
It hurt me so much that she had said I was being ineffective when I was trying so hard to be effective. I felt so broken that her text said she will never call me again like she did in the morning, due to my “ineffective” behaviour. I still don’t know what I did so wrong. I feel like I always try and do everything I can to be effective and not hurt others, but somehow always end up doing something wrong and making everyone hate me or feel negative towards me. I feel like I am walking on eggshells around her half the time; like if I say something a tiny bit wrong, she will completely turn on me. She didn’t seem able to mentalise that I was in a total crisis and therefore how I may receive her messages – and that what she said and did would obviously make me even more dysregulated. She knows me well enough, believe me.
She reminds me of my Mum when I was a kid. The smallest step out of line and suddenly I’m the worst person in the world and it’s all my fault. I don’t know how much of this is real or how much is based on that – but yesterday provoked an emotional flashback of sorts for sure.
Anyway, after my messages and calls I received a message from her listing some skills (which I was way beyond able to use, considering my current physical state) and reminding me about a commitment I made to not use skills coaching ineffectively. I still don’t know how it was ineffective of me as I have never needed skills coaching more than in that moment, and yet she refused to call me back. I feel as though by that point, it would have been more effective of her to call me and let go of her own reaction because I was at an all time low and unable to manage it alone. Whatever was going on for her, it definitely got in the way of her being effective with me. How she responded to me was exactly what set the entire panic attack off in the first place and she was only making it worse with each response (or lack of one).
So of course her last message was not what I needed, I was literally mid panic attack and couldn’t grasp reality let alone think about being effective. I couldn’t even breathe. I was unable to reply to her at that point anyway because I was on the floor and my hands were numb and in a paralysed contorted position so I couldn’t type. I could just about press my phone (every time I called her I put it on loudspeaker so the phone was with me on the floor and I didn’t have to hold it). I was literally sobbing my heart out, screaming crying, hyperventilating etc, but so desperate to get through to her and show her I was being fucking effective and willing. After I managed to slow my breathing down I called one last time and left a voicemail, breathing through it, slowly trying desperately to make myself clear, and said, very descriptively “Hi, this is the last time I am going to try and call you, I would really appreciate it if you could call me as I am extremely distressed and in need of help, I am willing to do anything to be effective”. Bear in mind this is MID panic attack. The worst one I’ve ever had.
She didn’t reply, she didn’t call me back. I ended up having the worst panic attack of my life. I had to call my mum which in itself was nearly physically impossible due to my hands being so numb. She was freaking out as she was about to get on the train with no signal, so she called my dad, who came over with my step-mum as quickly as they could bearing in mind that my Dad has broken his foot and can barely walk. By that point (no idea how many minutes later) I was lying stuck on the floor in the hallway, my hands were totally totally paralysed and contorted, my hands and feet were numb, my legs were shaking, I couldn’t open my eyes or see properly, I was sweating and apparently burning up despite the fact our house is freezing. Luckily they had a spare key.
My stepmum had to support me and prop me up as I couldn’t move, take my top off and hold about 6 ice packs over my body. The entire thing lasted over half an hour, I was probably shaking and numb for longer, and was the most humiliating thing in front of my Dad and stepmum. I work so hard to constantly hide my distress from my family but I had lost my grip on reality and that was no longer possible – especially considering the uncontrollable physical reaction I was having. My mum had said she wanted to call an ambulance but I told my Dad not to as I was so ashamed. He was freaking out with worry so called my therapist from his phone – she still didn’t answer. He texted her saying “Hi this is X, please help us, she is having a panic attack and cannot move her limbs at all, we don’t know what to do”. She didn’t reply, and still hasn’t.
I can’t express how upset, angry and broken I feel right now. I can’t believe she would do that to me. She left me at my lowest and most desperate point. And her rationale didn’t even make any sense, or if it did, she could have chosen a more appropriate moment to express it. I’m terrified this is going to affect everything, I don’t know how I will ever get over it and learnt to trust her again. Yet again. She won’t even talk to me to sort it or explain it in a way that will help me make sense of her actions until I next see her. I have to live with this shit until our next session and who knows what will happen after that. I don’t know what to do. I am surprised I made it to today as I honestly wanted to kill myself last night. I feel the most suicidal I have in months or longer.