Even at Christmas time, therapy is fraught with feelings and dilemmas. One small dilemma I had this season was whether to give my therapist a Christmas card. I did want to, it’s in my nature to be giving and I thought it would be a nice thing to do. But then the worries seeped in, would she accept a card from me? Would she even want one from her client? And actually, what realistically could she even do with it? If I sign it, she can’t exactly put it up with the rest of her cards because confidentiality and all that. So then what’s the point?
And there was also a smaller part that was almost embarrassed to give her a card, like showing she mattered to me. I’m not sure I’m ready for her to matter to me. Also what if our relationship isn’t close enough to merit a Christmas card? Maybe it’s just safer to keep things on a very professional level and that means we aren’t included in each other’s Christmas traditions.
My deeply ambivalent feelings for my therapist really got in the way of making a seemingly simple decision as to whether to give her a card or not. I do wish her a lovely Christmas and I am grateful for her in my life (usually!). As I think back to the other therapists I’ve had, it was easy for me to impulsively buy a gift or send a Christmas card, I loved doing it, I loved giving a little something back to this person I loved and was so grateful to for all their help during the year. Looking back though, quite a lot of those actions were about me. My need to express love, my need for acceptance and perhaps even my need to push away the cold hard fact that they weren’t my loving mother, but someone who is being paid to help me, a business relationship.
I don’t feel like I need any of those things anymore, or at least not as much. I have grown over the years, I accept what the relationship is and isn’t (mostly). And in the absence of this painful mother/daughter dynamic that got activated in my other failed therapy relationships, I don’t feel a pull to give anything to my therapist. I don’t have to be perfect for “ mother” to stay. I don’t need to be her favourite, I don’t need to get her approval or acceptance through gifts, I don’t need to do anything. She’ll still be there whether I give her a card or not.
But it’s not all “healthy adult” and secure thoughts that prevented me giving her a card this year. Part of it was just not wanting to. I felt like giving a card was somehow me trying to gain emotional intimacy that I long for with her but just don’t have yet, like I’m trying to expedite the process of attachment and of bonding. I would be trying to force something that just isn’t there.
And of course part of my inner child felt a bit put out and huffy and had thoughts like “ Well, she didn’t get me a card either, so why should I give her one?” My child knows it’s all to do with boundaries and shit but fuck boundaries. Why do I always have to be the one reaching out? Why can’t she reach out to me? Why couldn’t she just want to give me a card?
So after much deliberation, I did not give her a card.
But tonight, it is Christmas Eve. And I have finally got settled for the evening after many days of rushing around. The tree is twinkling and glittering, the presents are wrapped and under the tree, it’s warm and cosy in my house and my thoughts turn to my therapist. My heart softens when I think of her and I count all the ways she’s helped me this past 10 months and I am so grateful for her help. I am thankful for her openness and patience. I am thankful for her understanding of trauma and complex ptsd and dissociation and attachment issues. I am thankful for all the time she’s made for me outside of sessions, and for her willingness to engage with me in ways that help me express things ie art, email and texting.
So after speaking to my friend, I decide to send Sienna a text wishing her a Merry Christmas. I decide that I do want to send Christmas wishes to her. Because I want to, because I like her, because it’s who I am and what I believe Christmas is about.
And 2 mins later I get a very warm response and she wishes me a Merry Christmas back. And it was enough. That small interaction between us on the eve of Christmas was enough.