*********** Trigger Warning. This blog post talks about therapy ruptures and termination. If this is triggering for you, think about whether you should keep reading.********************************************************
My session last night was intensely awful.
When I walked in and said hello and I hear her tone as she greeted me, I knew immediately something was up. And that was followed with an immediate “ I think we need to have a big talk.”
My hypervigilance went into overdrive. Waiting for the death knell of a termination speech.
And what she said next had all the hallmarks and excuses therapists generally spout when they’re dumping you.
I am not in a position right now to write exactly what was said. I am still processing it all for myself and I’m feeling awful.
But the bottom line is that she is contacting my local mental health team to speak with a psychiatrist about the work we are doing and try to get me a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) that I can contact in times of distress.
I laughed and told her good luck. I’ve been there several times and I KNOW she’s going to be laughed off the phone by mental health when she calls and asks. But hey, it’s her time to waste, let her get on with it.
She said a lot about how she’s been feeling this week or lately, I can’t remember. But her feelings were flagging up that’s there’s a big problem needing addressed. Her reactions to my texts coming in this week were pretty severe and she didn’t even read the rest of them after she’d replied to the initial one. (Yeah, that didn’t hurt much…)
She said she felt like we weren’t progressing. She acknowledged there has been some progress but in other ways very little and it’s been 3 years.
I denied that and said that wasn’t a fair assessment. I’ve actually progressed tons! And I reminded her that she herself and her supervisor said last year that we’d done way more work and progress in 2 and a half years than most clients don’t get to until year 5-7. And that we needed to slow things right down, for both our sakes. I told Sienna, you always said this was very long-term work.
She seemed to retract a bit and agreed those things had been said.
I talked about the impact the rupture had on me last year, she disappeared on me for 6 weeks on a burnout. I mean she didn’t fully disappear, she gave me the odd update to let me know where she was at, what was happening re supervision etc. But essentially, to my child and teen parts… she fucked off with no notice.
She looked at me like I was mad. Said that is NOT how it happened. We agreed that I would take a break, which therapists need sometimes….. blah blah”
I corrected her.
“Sienna, you put the phone down on my mid session and then took 6 week off. I did not agree to anything. You took the time off.”
She seems to think I’ve twisted it all in my mind to fit my abandonment lens. But that is utter bullshit because I have ALL the texts, all the calls recorded, all the emails, and all the sessions recorded and also blogged. It is not my memory that is skewed on this. Although I can see why that might suit her to think that.
She fucked up hugely last year. She is embarrassed that she did what she did to me and she has re-written it in her mind.
The first half hour was horrific. I cried. I teetered on falling into that annihilation blackout place and tried so hard not to because it was important to talk and to find out what was happening, what was the bottom line here. Am I being terminated?
Sienna said no. We are still working together but we need to work differently, and I need help that isn’t her outside of sessions.
I said it was really unfair to say that I am not coping outside of sessions or that she can’t cope with my texts. That past two weeks have been a blip in over 7 months of me holding onto a lot by myself. That I have worked really hard and that there hasn’t been any texts. She nodded in agreeance.
But said that her capacity has vastly diminished outside of sessions. I asked her why? She said she didn’t know, perhaps just eventual wear and tear?
She said that we were not terminating, it wasn’t that. It’s just that things needed to be changed a bit. And she needed to have an honest conversation with me about what was going on.
The fact that it wasn’t a termination speech was enough to keep me out of the annihilation blackout.
The last half hour actually was positive in a lot of ways. I mean, hot, worried tears blinded me the whole way. But I spoke about what’s been going on for me, and I showed her my charts I’d drawn.
She LOVED them. I think Sienna really responds to flow charts and bullet points. I moved and went to sit beside her to read them out to her and to explain things. She said I’d worked SO hard on them and was so pleased I’d done them and that it really helped her understand a lot. She hugged me a lot and rubbed my shoulders in an affectionate proud way.
She asked if she could keep them because they were so helpful. I said “yes of course, I don’t need them I already know this stuff, it’s you that needs them.”
Having read the charts we both wondered whether her negative transference around our work and me let’s face it, I am the work, was in part her picking up my anger and hurt and continued detachment, because I’ve certainly felt like not going to sessions and not engaging and her feelings were mirroring mine. That’s a real possibility as we are quite attuned with one another usually.
Her reading those charts, it felt like a weight lifted off us both. Like, she suddenly understood that a lot had been going on for me, that the some of the reasons for the way she’s been feeling this week have been mirroring my unexpressed feelings and not necessarily her own true reactions. She suddenly felt a lot more empathic and open to me.
She gave me lots of hugs before I left. And reassured me as per my charts that we are not terminating and that she’ll be there on Monday, always.
When I got home I felt exhausted. Much calmer than I would have expected give the horrible things that were said at the beginning of the session. Just knowing it wasn’t leading to termination was enough to keep me regulated.
It was a weird feeling though, I felt shell-shocked and deeply hurt by some of the things said. Yet, there was safety, because I wasn’t getting terminated and that’s all that matters to me.
The session was truly horrific for me. All the things I’d written in my trigger chart were pretty much said in session. And she acknowledged when she saw it that I must be really near the annihilation blackout place then after what she’d said!
The fact that when I got home I was fairly calm and wasn’t chewing down on diazepam like they were smarties is a testament to my own growing resilience and growth. So fuck anyone including Sienna who says I haven’t progressed much in 3 years.
I know for a fact I have done amazingly well. My growth and progress is not going to be dictated to by anyone else’s timeline or opinion.
Today I’ve woken up and even though I feel psychologically okay, my body feels like something catastrophic has happened to it. There’s a sick, heavy ball of angst sitting right in my solar plexus.
It’s the body’s knowledge that something horrendous just happened, yet my mind is clear and fairly calm. It’s like I’ve been in a car crash but there’s no visual evidence of it. It’s a really horrible feeling. My body just feels wrung out. Battered and devastated.
Sienna is not terminating me.
But that doesn’t mean I am not terminating her.
I hate to write that. But I have huge concerns about her ability to a) do long term trauma work
- B) Hold me adequately and more importantly
- C) Hold herself through this work.
It seems there’s something about me that she reacts pretty strongly to me at times. And that doesn’t feel very nice for me.
It also seems to me that there’s been a major rupture every single year we’ve worked together, and it always comes from her. Her reactions to the work. Her lack of capacity, her burnout etc etc.
I mean there’s been lots of little ruptures along the way caused by me, but I’m the fucking client, I am supposed to be the chaotic one. I have to ask if this is normal, for my therapist to be the one causing the fucking big ruptures????
I am scared to ask her these questions, because once again I am terrified I push the issue and it results in termination.
I also have to take into account the impact this is having on my husband both financially and more especially, emotionally.
He hates seeing me in such a state. He gets protective anger about how upset I get at the things Sienna does. And he questions how any of this is good for me and if perhaps it’s time to start living without therapy?
I am asking myself the same thing. Can I manage without therapy? Have I come as far as I can? Should I be spending the money on things that make me happy and healthy? Massage, reiki, yoga, my own education and fledgling business?
Yet I am so hopelessly attached to Sienna that the idea of terminating is heart-breaking.
I know that isn’t healthy- hence the need for therapy. But that’s where I am at. Maybe that’s just me, maybe I’ll always form fierce attachments to those I love.
I am an artist, we love passionately and deeply, we are emotional.
But I’ve been wondering today what like would be like without therapy. What about taking a break for a year? See how things go? I like the idea of not feeling this horrific and terrified all the time about someone leaving.
I like the idea of just living and breathing in deep and not having these troubles.
I am aware my issues would still be with me. They would be on hold until such times I decided to return to therapy. But maybe they’re at a cope-able level where I could hold it for myself better?
The only thing in life that triggers me this severely is Sienna, therapy…. So, take that out the equation and maybe I’d do okay?
I don’t know.
But I’d miss Sienna so much. I don’t want to leave her. And I’m scared to leave her because what if I want to go back and she’s not there?
What if in the interim she decided she likes her life without me in it? What if she decides not to do trauma work?
I’m terrified of that. Yet I also can see that if that’s how she feels then it’s better not to work with a therapist like that anyway. I get it.
I’m scared to have this conversation with her.
You know, we work so amazingly together at times. She’s the best therapist I’ve ever had.
But there’s no doubt we rupture big. There’s some really shit elements to our relationship and I’m not sure how normal or healthy these dynamics are.
I find myself really wanting stability. I want to feel that she is robust enough to take what I throw at her and that just hasn’t been the case lately. And that isn’t good enough.
I can’t see how we can continue long-term with her rupturing and the question of her capacity to hold me through this regularly rears its head.
It makes me scared for our future.
I know she loves me and is deeply committed to me. But that isn’t enough. Is she continuing on because she really wants to, because her deep commitment to me makes her struggle through when really, it might be best I leave and that she doesn’t do trauma work?
Or is her negative reactions/countertransference to me, about herself and things she needs to work on in her own therapy and/or a re-enactment of something else rather than her not being the right therapist?
Those are very hard painful questions for both of us I’d imagine. And it’s a conversation I am avoiding because I’m scared of the answer.
I feel really sad and scared about what’s to come.
In part, I really want to take maybe a years break. But I wonder my need for that is about self-care or feeling like I need to protectively withdraw myself and my needs away in order to look after Sienna’s needs and to ensure she stays with me and doesn’t terminate?
Doesn’t this echo my past and my patterns of attachment?
A big part is my feeling that Sienna could do with a year long break from me. And I know that isn’t my job, to look after her needs. Yet I feel the impulse to do so. To create space and distance. To stop the pain for myself, to try and prevent eventual abandonment by detaching from my own needs.
It’s so sad. I am sad that child me had to do that and I am sad that even now, child me has that impulse.
So that’s where I’m at right now.