I went in and she immediately asked for my Diary Card, which is what she does only when she is annoyed with me, instead of asking outright how I am. I gave it to her; she looked over it, and asked how I wanted to spend the session. I told her I wanted to apologise for breaking my commitment to her on Friday (a behaviour that I had promised I would stop doing) and texting on Saturday about it (even though I had good intentions in simply recommitting to her as I was struggling to not continue giving in).
I over-apologised and took the blame and full responsibility for the situation. I showed that I felt regretful and understanding and grateful to her. I didn’t let any of my anger or hurt or confusion spill out about the situation that led up to this, which is too long and complex to go into now. I put my own hurt aside because I was desperate to resolve the conflict and knew that getting emotional about it would only perpetuate the rupture.
But it didn’t work. She told me that, quite frankly, she was annoyed with me. She said that I continuously push her boundaries and that something within our dynamic isn’t helpful. And that there is a clear pattern of me setting up interactions in which I end up being or feeling “punished” by her as a consequence – as though that’s a position I subconsciously recreate for myself.
I tried to explain to her that it isn’t personal – it isn’t about HER specifically – and that my attachment issues follow me with every single therapist I see. “I warned you about this”, I reminded her. It is how I am in relation to all therapists I have, no matter what they do or don’t do, no matter what their approach or ways of interacting with me are. She said that she believes she has not been boundaried enough with me and that she keeps giving in to this complex dynamic between us in a way that isn’t helpful to either of us; that I suck her in and she keeps extending herself; but that ultimately it sets her up to fail and only adds to the pain that I already experience and recreates past relational difficulties.
Out of nowhere, she told me that one solution available to us is that I see another therapist. I froze in absolute shock. After building up my trust with her over two years and starting to finally believe that maybe she could be the first therapist to not leave me, give up on me and hand me on to someone else, here she was announcing the prospect of me seeing someone other than her.
How could she claim that this was one of her solutions? Me transferring to another therapist would be the total opposite of a solution. It would be her admitting that there is no solution – I am beyond help – and passing me over to yet another clinician to try and have a go at dealing with such an impossible and hopeless case. Me.
I erupted. I broke. I totally lost it. The tears, the anger, the hurt. I could not speak for the shock.
And then, the shame. The shame because how dare I be shocked that my therapist is considering leaving me. Of course she is considering leaving me; that’s what everyone does. Everyone leaves me. I am flawed. I am irreparable. I am supposed to be left. Why would anyone ever not leave me? How dare I let myself think for even one moment that maybe someone was here to stay.
As time went on and I continued to express my feelings in response to her “solution”, she said she wanted to clarify – that I was catastophising. It felt like she was trying to cover her tracks, to be honest, but I just don’t know anymore. She said that no, she wasn’t giving up on me, and that transferring therapists was just one possible solution to me being ineffective and these issues between us. I reminded her that yes I was ineffective this week; but look at where I’ve come from, look at how I have managed myself and our relationship in recent months. I asked her to focus on that instead of the one week I fucked up, especially as I was recognising and taking full responsibility for my actions and doing everything in my power to get back on track.
She couldn’t understand that the fact she even so much as THOUGHT about me seeing another therapist could be what was causing me such distress, regardless of whether that might happen or not. Even if that is only one of 100 solutions, if she could think of that as being a possible answer, then she has totally betrayed me. Just the knowledge that she had considered me seeing a different therapist to her in itself was enough to bring my whole world crashing down.
The session was a mess. I couldn’t look at her. I could not stop my tears. My head felt like it was about to explode.
About half way through, she started to really bother me. She started yawning and shuffling and shifting, and even went to the toilet during our session for the first time ever. She also got up and stood by the heater, started stretching her legs, moved the table and her chair into different positions – all things she has never done before. I was feeling really uncomfortable with all of the above and trying to understand why she was acting so differently to usual. I was completely honest with her, brutally honest. It was clear I was pissed. I needed her to know it. I told her how uncomfortable I felt with all the above and how angry and confused it left me. I told her that how she was interacting with me was making me question reality and what was going on for her and between us, making me hypervigilant and scared, making me feel unsafe.
She started describing her symptoms to me, expressed a pain in her legs, a sleepiness, a disconnection, and agreed that she was in fact restless and discombobulated like I had noticed. She told me that there was no personal reason why she should be feeling that way, and that usually when she has this experience within a session (for no tangible reason related to herself) it’s because her client is dissociating. Making it all about me.
I told her I was no more dissociated than usual. I mean fuck I was dissociated, but I’m always dissociated – and she’s never been like that with me. She yawned again, in fact it happened 4-5 times overall. By the last one, I flipped out and forcefully requested for her to PLEASE STOP YAWNING. I reiterated how distressed I was feeling off the back of how she was interacting with me, told her I felt like she was annoyed, bored, waiting for the session to end, wanting to get rid of me, unable to focus on me and not understanding my distress. I explained how her behaviour was making me feel the need to assess her with more scrutiny and attend to the situation taking the focus off of myself; that it was making me want to look after or fix her, which I didn’t feel was appropriate.
When I told her these things she told me that I was judging and mind-reading, and that I needed to pull back and watch where my brain was taking me. She said I was trying to find any evidence I could to fit my emotions. WHAT. I was actually trying to use evidence from observable behaviours and reality (i.e her yawning and restlessness for example) in order to try and develop an informed understanding of what the fuck was going on between us.
She said I needed to check the facts of the situation, but that was exactly what I was doing, and the facts were that she WAS behaving very weirdly with me. She again told me that “weird” was a judgment. And when I said “you know what I mean”, she responded that “actually no, I can’t mind read, can I?”. I felt like she was pressing my buttons on purpose, being so obstructive, passive aggressive and insensitive. It felt traumatising.
When I accused her of acting bored or angry with me, she started arguing that how she felt in terms of the sleepiness and restlessness was no reflection of how she was consciously feeling in relation to me (i.e. She wasn’t angry or bored) – bringing it back to the “this is what happens when my client dissociates” excuse. Once again, I felt like I was being blamed for her odd behaviour, and being punished for feeling distressed about it.
Her justification also pissed me off more, because as humans we exist in relation to other people, and if we notice something different in one person in a dyadic relationship, it’s probably telling of something that is going on within that relationship. It’s not just about one person – it’s not just about “the client dissociating”. The therapist brings their own shit too. Her shit was definitely coming out in the session. Plus, I have often been more dissociated than today and yet she has never acted how she did earlier during any of those instances.
As I started getting more angry and expressing everything I was experiencing to her, she told me that this wasn’t about me and her but that it was about me and my past relationships – specifically, my mum. I had been talking about how I feel like everything I was saying was wrong, despite my best efforts to just do right, be a good person and not cause others to suffer, all I do is end up fucking everything up for others – and in turn for myself. Instead of seeing how this actually was true within the current situation with her, she kept bringing it back to my past, asking if this was a familiar feeling to me and where it came from.
I told her that yes it is a familiar feeling but that I don’t have many memories of my childhood and so I’m not sure where it first came from, I find it hard to access specific examples, but I am open to exploring this when we have resolved the situation between us. She told me that my inability to access my past is just another way of me dissociating and that it acts to create a smoke screen to what the actual issues are. I expressed to her I was willing to address the core issues but asked how the fuck I am supposed to do so if a) I don’t know what I’m looking for and b) I don’t have a clear idea of my childhood. I find it hard to remember how I was or how I felt and that’s not on purpose.
She said we would have to work on ways to access that stuff together. So I asked how I could access it, and I was surprised when she told me that she didn’t know. I got even more angry. “How can you tell me that what I experience is a smoke screen to what is really there, but when I ask you as my therapist how to access what is beyond the smoke screen you get mad at me for having, you tell me you don’t even know!?” Once again, I felt I was in a lose-lose situation.
At the end of the 90 minutes she told me that she wanted me to decide how we are going to use my Thursday session. She said that if we do EMDR, it has to come from me, as she’s not going to be another person who forces me into doing something. I get it. But I don’t feel SAFE doing trauma work with her right now, because we are in the middle of this huge rupture. I told her this, explaining that I would need to feel very comfortable with her, and like this situation is resolved, before delving into EMDR again.
She started telling me not to use the judgment “safe” and asking me if my emotion of fear was justified? “You know where the door is, you’re not trapped in here, are you?”, instead of acknowledging why maybe EMDR right now would be fucking scary. Especially considering we are in the middle of the worst rupture we’ve ever had together and it is incredibly distressing and inducing emotions beyond explanation in me. Who gives a fuck if fear is DBT-defined “justified” in terms of my “life being in danger”; the important thing is that how I was feeling today was fucking VALID. Even I could validate myself for once in my life.
I felt completely unseen. She seemed totally unable to validate how or why I was in such a distressed state, and couldn’t see my feelings as justified, sticking rigidly to those DBT definitions. I thought, “After you trying to assure me for almost 2 years that you feel a certain way about me and are never going to give up on or leave me, for me to then hear that you have considered the possibility of me transferring to another therapist, HOW AM I NOT SUPPOSED TO NOT HAVE EMOTIONS (and valid judgments) IN RESPONSE TO THAT?!!?”
I walked out of the session without eye contact or a thank you, because I hate her guts right now and am beyond hurt that I cannot even describe this pain. All I want to do is hurt myself. But I’m not, because some part of me still wants to fix our relationship and the likelihood of that happening if I am “ineffective” is slim to none. The fact that I am not giving in to urges, merely because of how doing so would worsen the situation in terms of our relationship, is making me hate myself even more. Because why am I so invested in saving (what feels like on my own) a relationship with someone who has hurt me so unbelievably much.
Why do I love and hate her in the way that I do? Even though she has hurt me in a way I never thought she would, and betrayed all the trust that has taken me so long to build with her, why do I still feel like she’s the most significant person in my world?