What happened?

By the time Monday came around, I no longer felt like I wanted to make stars in my session. The weekend had felt hard as my anxieties rose about the upcoming break. I’d felt this emptiness that is familiar with the attachment problems I have.

I feel like my anxieties around breaks is becoming worse instead of better and I don’t know why. But it certainly hasn’t helped the way the breaks have been spaced out. Sienna was away mid April and then we’ve had 7 weeks before this upcoming break and then there will be only 4 weeks and she’s gone away again for a course for a week. And it all feels like too much. One exhausting wave after another.

The pain and worry of separation opened up this grieving and emptiness and anger too. I felt like in our second last session before the break, I really needed to find some connection to Sienna, something that would sustain me throughout the break. I wanted to talk to her about how I was feeling and get some reassurance. Even though really, nothing would help most likely.

I knew if we made the stars, we’d be distracted with that and it would be a light chatty session. And that wasn’t what I needed. The younger parts of me really needed some contact. And honestly, with some of the material that’s been surfacing in the past week, there was lots of other things that needed attention.

I took the stuff I’d bought to make the stars and sky anyway. Because my thinking was that I could leave it there and we’ll do it another time.

Sienna was excited see what I’d brought in. She asked why I didn’t want to do the stars anymore. I gave her a shrug and said “ I just don’t.”

As we settled down into the session, Sienna said “ I had a thought during the week, and I wondered; have we got caught in the trap of focussing on the downside too much?”

I instantly felt my hackles go up.

I said “ Why?”

She said breezily “ I don’t know, it was just a thought that came to me that… do we get caught in that thing of always looking on the bleak side and never checking in with you about what’s actually going okay and what parts are okay. And is there a narrative in your life… as I know there sometimes is… is there an opposite (more positive)  narrative going on in your life than what you bring here? And I’m just curious I suppose because this is your time and your space, is that an important thing; to be able to concentrate on all that stuff and just get it out in here OR does it leave unbalanced? I don’t know, I’m just reflecting what came up for me and a thought popped into my head. I suppose I’m just checking in, making sure that I’m not driving the negative all the time….”

I sat there, taking in what I’d just heard. Feeling slightly stunned and confused. And suddenly very unsafe.

I felt like she was saying that my sessions are so negative and that we or me specifically are wallowing in that and not spending enough time talking about the positive.

I was perplexed. I don’t feel like we are negative. The stuff I bring is in my heart and soul. It’s dark, and murky and complex and heart-breaking and challenging. We are getting to a part of the work where the pressure is ramping up a bit as the younger more concealed parts begin showing themselves. But I don’t think we are concentrating on the “negative” stuff. I don’t even like that she labelled my life or my stuff that I bring as negative or bleak.

I mean it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, granted. But why is my hurt being labelled as negative or bleak?

I felt judged.

Sometimes I wish Sienna would keep her thoughts to herself.

I understand it’s her job to look at the overall picture of what’s going on in therapy. And maybe it’s a reasonable thing to ask herself? Is she as a therapist driving the attention onto the dark stuff all the time, would it be helpful to mention the positives? I get it. But honestly…. The way she delivered that to me there was shit.

Sometimes I don’t need to know everything that she thinks or wonders about.

I sat there feeling angry. And very defended. And bloody hurt. And I felt like I now had to hide myself from her.

I couldn’t speak and my mind just span off in a whirl-wind of confusion.

I finally spoke in a huffy tone “ Well, folk don’t normally come to counselling to talk about all the good things in their life.”

Sienna said “ it’s not a criticism, I’m just…

I interjected “ Well it sounded like one.”

Sienna said “ no, it’s just checking in on the process of therapy I suppose.”

I spat back “ Well you must think it (that we’re too much in the negative things)  if that thought occurred to you.”

Sienna explained further “ I suppose, it’s just a bit of awareness for me as well… I’m just checking in on various things.” I assume what she was saying is that perhaps she was just doing a bit of “meta perspective work” and thought she should make sure that I was okay and not feeling like we are concentrating too much on the hard stuff.

I sat there, stony-faced, not looking at her.

Sienna changed tack “ You look tired tonight.”

I nodded. Thinking to myself, “ yeah, well traumatic based nightmares that include child abuse, dead bodies and blood every night will do that to you.”

The room fell silent. I was furious.

Sienna asked me questions, and I stonewalled them all. Fuck her. I wasn’t going to speak. Why should I? All my stuff is Bleak.”

My foot was jigging up and down, agitated.

Sienna said “ What is your foot saying?”

I said sarcastically “ I don’t know, what do you think it’s saying?”

She laughed “ I don’t know, but it looks pretty annoyed! It looks like it’s saying Piss Off Sienna, go away!”

I looked at her and made an expression that said “ YUP, Bingo!!”

More silence.

Then I say with attitude “ Well, I don’t have anything joyful to say, so you speak and I’ll listen.”

Sienna said in a tone she uses when she’s being tolerant of my attitude and sort of deflecting my tone “ Welllll…. I don’t need have joyful stuff, it was just a reflection or a though that’s all.” She ended her sentence with a yawn and a slight stretch and if she was very relaxed. And it was on the tip of my tongue to ask her what her yawn said?

I fucking hate her tiredness. What even IS that?

Sienna got up and brought me paper and told me to get my pens out.

I said “ no.”

She said “I want you to draw me what you really want to say right now.”

Again I said “ nope.”

She exclaimed “ no??”

I knew she was being playful and sort of not taking me seriously in my huff. She gets like this when I’m being teenagery and she seems to enjoy the challenge and she seems to enjoy teasing the teenage part. Not in a cruel way, more in a trying to cajole me out my huff way.

She said “ I’m trying to work out who’s here tonight? Who’s usually belligerent.”

I smiled slightly despite my mood.

Sienna continued “ Sofia? Mia?”

She looked at me. I wasn’t giving her an answer. She said “ You’ve got your hair up differently tonight, does that mean someone else is here?”

I shrugged. I didn’t know. I didn’t feel different.

Sienna sat down and started drawing. I sat on the opposite sofa, staring at the office wall. Mired in rage and mistrust.

Sienna said “ I want you to draw what you’re feeling inside right now.”

I said sullenly “ I don’t want to.”

I really did want to. But I had totally shut down. My anger had gotten the better of me and I’d lost trust in Sienna… I felt ashamed to bring anything up anymore since it was deemed as “negative.”

Sienna asked if there’s anything I’d like to do.

She said “ Do you want to talk about doom and gloom?”

I said “ WHAT?” Did she just say do I want to talk about doo and gloom?????

She repeated “ Do you want to talk about doom and gloom or do you want to talk about…..”

I exploded “ Well I didn’t realise I was supposed to come here and talk about really positive things…”

What the actual fuck was going on here? What’s with the judgmental labels? OMG!

Sienna interrupted “ no that’s not what I’m saying either, that’s not what I’m suggesting you’ve twisted that…it’s not what I’m suggesting.”

So what the fuck is she saying then? How am I twisting it? When she’s the one labelling what I bring to session as “doom and gloom” “negative” and Bleak” and that’s in the first 12 minutes of the session.

I said to her “ Well, I’m sorry my life is doom and gloom and I bring it every single week.” I felt like adding if she wanted the happy stuff, maybe we should just meet at the pub.

Sorry, but what the fuck is therapy for? If I want to talk about the normal life stuff, the happy stuff… then I’ll talk to a friend who doesn’t charge me an hourly rate to do so.

Sienna said “ That’s fine. I’m not saying it isn’t fine. Actually it was about me, I was checking in with you that I wasn’t focussing on an area when actually there’s other things you might prefer to work on.”

I spat out “ And you don’t think I’d tell you if that was the case?”

She said “ You might not. We might both be caught in the same game or trap whatever you want to term it, that’s all.”

It felt so unfair to me that she was using all these judgemental labels for my emotions and what I brought each week. But I couldn’t work out if I was really over-reacting or not.

I didn’t really think that deep down she’s judging me, I couldn’t believe that she would. And yet I couldn’t understand why she was using words like “doom and gloom” and “bleak.” And I felt scared that maybe was sick of our sessions, sick of me or worse, thinking I wallow needlessly in painful things. Maybe that’s her real thoughts.

We sat in silence and she drew her picture and I stared into the distance.

Sienna finally spoke and said “ I get a real sense I’ve triggered something. But I don’t know what it is unless you tell me. Or draw it for me if you can’t find the words.”

How can she not know? I thought.

I wouldn’t speak to her. I was totally closed down. All I knew was that I came to this session needing connection from her, needing holding for the fears and anxieties about the break coming up and instead I feel like I’ve been judged. I felt panic because the minutes were dwindling away fast and this session wasn’t going to be saved and there was only one more session and then she was away.

Sienna said “ Do you want me to talk?”

I said quietly “ Go for it.”

She said “ Well I’m wondering if this is what other people experience from you if you’re annoyed – well you look annoyed, I can’t presume you’re annoyed – and you can’t find the words or you don’t want to say and you just close down to other people and it just feels like people may as well leave you because they can’t get a bit of communication? Is that a pattern.”

Um yes, maybe. But I’m not going to tell you that.

I say sarcastically “ I’m just waiting for you to pick a joyful subject.”

Let’s have some fucking joy, Sienna, you don’t want bleak or doom and gloom so gimmie something full of joy then!

Sienna entertains me and plays along and she starts talking shit about random stuff that I don’t care about.

I had my head turned away from her.

She said “ now you look sad.”

There was no way I was going to be vulnerable with her now. And it amazed me and made me laugh a bit inside that the eye that was furthest away from Sienna was crying but my other eye that Sienna would have been able to see, stayed dry!!!

I was actually so determined not to show her emotion that I was able to cry out of one eye! Hahahah WTF?

Sienna said “ Are you going to go out of here tonight and think that you had wanted to say things tonight and didn’t?”

I shrugged. But yep that’s exactly what would happen.

She said “can I draw a face on your foot?” ( I had sparkly ballet slippers on)

LOL, sorry what? Most random request ever. She was obviously trying to remain playful and hope to get a smile out of me. But fuck that.

I said no.

We fell into a big silence and I just watched the time speed by and I felt more and more resentful of how utterly shit this session was. I was desperate for Sienna to do something… to somehow save it.

It felt like she was avoiding the obvious, her fucking comments at the beginning. And she really missed the mark on the tone of this session. I acknowledge that she did try to get me to talk about it and I stonewalled her. But this talking crap and trying to playfully cajole me out my mood was a terrible strategy. It felt like she wasn’t taking anything seriously.

In the last few minutes of the session I told her that this had been pointless. And I was going to just start the holidays here, ie not come in for my Monday session. Because at this point why bother? There was only one more crappy hour and then she’d be away. And I’d be left my myself to deal with it all.

She said she didn’t think that was a good idea for the younger parts. She asked if that felt easier? To just dissociate all my feelings to cope with the break.

Sienna said it was up to me, but she’ll be there for my session.

Somehow even that pissed me off. I felt like she didn’t care. She felt like a stranger to me.

So I upped the ante and said “ Actually, I’m not coming back at all.”

I think I wanted some sort of reaction. I wanted her to realise the gravity of how shitty this session had been and how badly it was affecting me. And part of me wanted to punish her probably. And another part of me genuinely didn’t see the point. I felt like I’d lost trust in her in that session and the break was weighing heavily on my mind and it all felt too much and I genuinely wanted to get away.

She asked if it was because I was annoyed tonight or if it was because I wanted to switch off from my feelings?

I asked her to give me my book back. She asked what book? And I told her “ my book, my journal…”

She got up and gave me it and I collected my stuff and left the room. She followed me part way and said “ Check in on Friday?” and I said “No.”

I walked away. So angry. So determined to not go back.

And this week has been really crappy because of it. The anger hasn’t really calmed down much.

And you know, part of me hoped/wished she’d reach out to me. It would have gone a long way if she had. And that’s just making me angry, that it’s always me who has to make amends, always me that has to reach out first. Why is that???

I can see the point if I was a client who constantly sat on their arse and looked for rescue instead of asking for what they need. But I’m not. I work really hard in therapy. Really hard. And when I’m able to communicate better, I do so.

But I’m struggling with this and it would have been nice to know she cared enough to send me a text or something.

Part of me imagines her “knowing” I’ll calm down and turn up on Monday because my stupid attachment pattern will drag me there. So she doesn’t need to worry about me terminating. And it gives me rage to think of that. And it makes me even less likely to go on Monday. Just to prove a dumb point.

Part of me imagines that she is watching me squirm and fight with myself and get into a power-struggle like a dumb toddler who hasn’t worked out that mum knows all her manipulative tricks.

And that makes me want to be less predictable.

I know I’m being stupid and causing myself more pain by not just reaching out. And it IS causing me pain, yet I can’t end this stand-off. I am so hurt and angry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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34 thoughts on “What happened?

    • Sirena says:

      Thank you. After listening to the session again, I don’t think I’m overreacting either. And I feel justified in my anger actually. I just don’t know what I want to do about it.

  1. manyofus1980 says:

    you didn’t over react. I feel anger towards sienna anger for you and your parts. breaks are hard, she knew her break was coming, why say all that now? Its not fair to you you already had so much to manage. I can understand why you don’t want to go back, sirena sending you much love and many hugs xoxoxo

  2. Kate says:

    No, you didn’t overreact. Sometimes when we are the most prepared to share stuff, therapist suddenly seem to have there own agenda and the two just won’t mix.
    She had a poor choice of words. I don’t think she meant it but I’m sure it hurt all of you because she is the first person to witness what’s going on inside, the first person ever that you are showing parts to and I should feel angry and hurt.
    Could you send her this post to explain?

    • Sirena says:

      Yes exactly! She’s the very first witness to my inner world. Literally no one else on this planet knows of them. And to label them hurts. I think I know it was just a poor choice of words and not how she truly thinks. But it still didn’t feel safe to open up after that and she’s left so much space between us now that it feels even harder to go back or reach out. This is MY life as it is, and she gave it negative labels. It hurts.

      • Kate says:

        Yes, of course it hurts! And not being able to resolve anything in between sessions hurts even more (and for me, it’s usually harder and scarier to open up)
        I recognize how maybe one part (or more) can see the whole picture and rationalize any comments my therapist makes, but the minute she says something hurtful (intended or not) I just clam up. Or whoever is out clams up and becomes this volt were on the one hand all these emotions and triggers and scary things are, and on the other just this shell because otherwise it doesn’t feel safe.
        You are allowed to be angry and hurt, you all are. You are allowed to be as dark as you want in therapy, because that is the place for all those scary things that can’t be anywhere else. You didn’t do anything wrong. It was a poor choice of words and I’m sure that sienna didn’t meant it the way you perceived but that doesn’t mean you can’t have all the feelings it brings up.

  3. Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. says:

    I think you have every right to feel hurt and angry. As I read this I think I remember this happening before…that as her vacation was coming Sienna was reluctant to dig into the painful topics, and this felt really hurtful to you. In no way am I trying to defend her being so out of touch during this particular session…but I think if this is a pattern leading up to her vacations it warrants discussion. My suspicion (I think I said this when this happened before) is that Sienna is trying to keep things lighter either to try to protect you, or maybe even to make it easier for her as you both anticipate the break. Not sure…this just feels familiar to me. You’ll feel better if you talk to her about it.

    • Individual Medley says:

      I was going to say a similar thing- I think it was the rupture just before Christmas when Sienna was trying to keep things light before the break and it wasn’t what you needed. Perhaps it would be worth looking over your December blog posts?
      Perhaps she is tired and in need of her break because she definitely f*cked up in this session with you. I too would be massively angry and hurt, and it would certainly trigger my fear that my T will leave me because I’m too miserable, so I understand why you are too pissed off to reach out to her. It’s hard to deal with when Sienna is often so attuned to you and then she messes things up. But I don’t think she meant to hurt you, and I think she still doesn’t know what she did wrong. Unfortunately I think the only way to start fixing this is to tell her what she said that was wrong and how badly it made you feel. I kind of think resolving these things before the break would lessen your pain, but I know what it’s like – I can go weeks and weeks seething on the inside before I can finally talk about what I’m so angry about!
      Take care of yourself X

      • Sirena says:

        It’s hard to hold the knowledge that she didn’t mean to hurt me ( I know she didn’t) with the fact that she did hurt me. How do I even deal with that?
        As for being tired, maybe. But she just had a break 7 weeks ago.
        Reaching out first feels too hard right now. So I don’t know what will happen.

    • Sirena says:

      Yes this is a pattern, you are right. And I understand trying to make things light. And I did discuss this with her before. Mostly what hurts is her calling my life- the stuff I bring as doom and gloom and bleak. How dare she? It hurts me. And I just feel like she should have reached out this week and she didn’t.

      • Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. says:

        Yep. She blew it this time. You have a right to be hurt. But she has proven herself to be able to understand and repair things when this has happened before. Give yourself time…you’ll know when you are ready to talk about.

      • Sirena says:

        She sure did. I’m ready to talk about it now. I’m just not ready to be the one that reaches out-again.

      • Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. says:

        Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you leave things that you were never coming back, and you didn’t want a check in? I know you think she should know that means you are really hurt, and you feel like she should repair it because she hurt you. I can’t speak for her, but I can tell you that when I was in her position as a therapist, I would be experiencing both hurt (that someone I really care about is threatening to stop working me), and simultaneously I would know the best way to help you (as painful as it is), would be to demonstrate and reinforce healthy communication as much in possible…in this case not to reinforce your attempts to get what you need by indirectly expressing your hurt. If I was in Sienna’s position I wouldn’t reach out either. I know you want her to realize she was the one to screw up, so she should reach out. But she’s human. We all screw up. If she doesn’t know what she did that hurt you, she’s probably feeling confused.

      • Sirena says:

        I know that’s the therapist way of understanding things but how can she not know why I felt hurt? I thought it was obvious if she thinks about her turn of phrase. And if she was hurt by that, why not say that?
        If she’s confused why not use that ‘healthy direct communication ” that she’s so eager to teach me?
        It feels like hypocrisy to me.
        But you’re right I did say I was leaving and that I didn’t want to check-in. I think I just always think what I say and do is so obvious in its intent that I expect her to just know.
        How can she just not reach out?

      • Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. says:

        She shouldn’t. Even if she really, really wants to. Even if she knows she screwed up. Teaching you to communicate directly sometimes means not responding to threats to quit therapy. To reinforce that pattern would be unhealthy for you. Sorry…not what you want to hear.

      • Sirena says:

        How can she teach me to communicate directly, when not doing so herself? If she has something to say then isn’t it also healthy to demonstrate that it’s good to reach out and say what you need and want to? To not do so is withholding and how is that anymore healthy than what I’m doing? Her communication isn’t much better right now.

      • Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. says:

        Okay, I’m still not defending her initial comments that hurt you. But she tried, from what you said, in many ways, to help you communicate to her what was going on in the session. You said “I kept stonewalling.” If she doesn’t know why you were hurt…and I know you think she should…but what if she doesn’t? From her perspective she was trying really hard to communicate. Then, you threatened to abandon her. Why would she then be the one to reach out?

  4. dangerousvoyager says:

    Hi Sirena. I haven’t been commenting much on your posts because I often just don’t know what to say that would be helpful. But this post, your description of how Sienna acted during the session reminded me so much of the way I used to handle it when my daughter was upset about something happening in her life, or mad at me for something I’d done, and I had no idea how to handle it empathetically, so I’d just try to jolly her out of it. Tickle her or try to make her laugh some other way – and god, how I cringe at how inappropriate and invalidating of her experience that seems now. I’m not saying that Sienna is lacking in empathy or in the knowledge of how to handle this, but it just feels a bit as if this is more about her not wanting to delve into whatever is going on for you at the moment – as Sharon said, to keep things light in view of the break – than it is about you.

    I don’t know if what works for me is in any way helpful for you, but one of the things I have noticed a lot in my own therapy since I have started working with Dr L again this year is that he is reaching out a lot more, and has also made himself more available to contact outside of sessions if I need it. I sometimes wonder to myself “isn’t he worried that I’ll start to get dependent on this, that I’ll become manipulative and push him into a position where he has to rescue me?” and I have expressed that in some small ways in session. The gist of what he has said and what he has implied is that he feels that it is what I need at the moment, and that this need will decrease as I feel more secure. There is a sense that he trusts me (including not to abuse the contact privileges), and this in itself has settled things a lot. But the main reason we have got to the point where he knows what to offer is that I have become better at talking about what I need and at giving feedback about what he is doing that has been helpful.

    I guess this is probably just a long way of saying that maybe Sienna needs more information to work with about what responses from her are actually helpful to you. I know you’ve been working with her a long time and maybe you feel as if you’ve covered this before and she should already know what you need, or maybe it seems kind of fake to say something like “when I’m upset and pushing you away in X way I actually want you to do Y”, but it could also be that there is still stuff that hasn’t been made explicit and would be better for it.

    • Sirena says:

      Yep I’m guessing more communication is needed. However we went through this in December so I’ve assumed she knew not to force light sessions on me. But it’s not just that, it’s her labels of my stuff that I’m working on being doom and gloom. It hurts. And now it’s all got bigger because she hasn’t reached out and I don’t feel able to and it’s just this stalemate.

  5. skinnyhobbit says:

    My heart goes out to you.
    I’m offering my clumsy experience…
    I felt similar when my therapist one day demanded I answer “do you want to remain a victim?”. When I dodged, saying I wanted to heal, she asked the exact question again. Your post actually put into words the feelings I had completely numbed out at that time in shock… that I realised T thinks xyz of me and it’s not good.

    …I am so sorry your session was so absolutely lousy.

  6. peicesofemm says:

    This is a hard one, I like the fact that my therapist refers to it as heavy stuff and sometimes she reads me or I tell her that I can’t do a heavy session (usually it’s because I have some responsibility afterwards) we still do work, it’s just not heavy…we may touch on heavy things from a safe distance. Sometimes it’s talking about where I see progress and where she sees it, what has helped what hasn’t. And there are times when we just touch base about my life and the things that are going well, I know it helps her to see me as more balanced and reminds me that life isn’t always so heavy.

    Just a thought could making the stars help you with her time away? It will give you something tangeable to hold and see that the two of you created. I had a therapist once give us a rock that she kept in her office to help us with her time away.

    Have you considered leaving her a message as to how this last session made you feel? And that you would like to talk about it next time, and problem solve on what were probably poor word choices to start with and miscommunication.

    As my therapist tells me that bring up these issues with her and working through them instead of my default to just push it aside, is practice in a safe place with someone who can handle a less than elegant confrontation

    • Sirena says:

      Hers were a poor choice of words, and with the heightened anxiety and emotions of the break it just blew everything up. Normally I don’t have a problem with emailing her how I felt about something but this time I just shit right down.

  7. alicewithptsd says:

    Isn’t it amazing how another part can be running the show, and yet we don’t feel any different? It just struck me, when Sienna asked who was there at session, and you didn’t know because you didn’t feel different. This happens to me, too.

    The way she delivered her thought about being negative, I just cringed. I totally get why you would want her to keep it to herself. I think that about Bea’s thoughts she shares sometimes, too. And, I don’t think this was an over reaction on your part, therapy isn’t rainbows and unicorns, and having your inner feelings and secrets labeled as doom and gloom is really hurtful.

    This session feels painful reading about it. All this right before break….i hate sessions right before breaks. Sometimes I think I find something, anything to be mad at Bea over, because it’s easier when she is gone to just be really, really angry. I’m sorry she didn’t reach out. I hate that therapists don’t reach out and we have to do the reaching. Bea explained it once that it’s because she can never be sure of her reaching out to me is because of her worry and her need to know I’m okay or whatever, or because I need her to reach out, and her needs should never supersede mine. It still sucks, but this explanation helps a little.

    • Sirena says:

      Bea explained it well. It used to be that being angry going into a break felt better but not anymore. I seem to have moved into a place where I really need to feel close and feel a lot of connection to make it okay and it feels like I don’t always get enough of it, since there’s little mini-ruptures that happen around the time she’s leaving.

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