I didn’t answer her. Right now I didn’t want check ins, I wanted to be as far away from her as possible.
I pushed through all my anger and made one final attempt to recover this shitty session.
“ You always do this distancing thing when I’ve been angry about you not being there.”
Sienna said “ Is that what it feels like to you?” uhhh, yeah??!! I nodded.
I said “ You say all the things that I hate.”
I reeled them off “ I’m just one person and this is when an organisation would be better for you.”
Sienna said “ I’m not saying it would be better, I’m just making the point that it’s a trade-off.” (The trade-off being that I am with a single therapist who has limited energy and time and space and so might not always be there when you need me, as opposed to an organisation with a full team.)
I interrupted her “ I KNOW it’s a trade-off,” Sienna said over me “ I know you know.”
I continued “ Am I supposed to just not talk about it then, because it’s a trade-off?”
Sienna said “ That’s not what I’m saying, I get that… it’s one of the frustrations isn’t it that there is that trade-off that one person can’t always be there.”
I said “ But when I’m telling you how it’s affected me (when I can’t get her support) I’m not telling you for you to change it, for you to apologise to me and promise you’ll always be there 100% of the time. I’m not asking for any of that. But what else do you want me to do? Am I just supposed to not say how it affected me because that’s the trade-off that I’ve accepted with staying with a private therapist?”
Sienna said “ Well obviously I’m not responding to you in a way that helps you. Maybe I’m not acknowledging how hard it is at that moment. But I thought I was… I thought I did. I thought I did both actually- acknowledge how hard it is for you but also reality check that there isn’t anything more I can do about it. I absolutely agree that there isn’t an organisation that would suit your needs…”
I exploded “ AND that’s the only reason you’re keeping me? Because there’s no one else out there?”
Sienna said “ Is that what you think?
I said sullenly “ It sounds like it.”
Sienna replied “ I don’t think you believe that.”
I said “ I do. I do believe that.”
Sienna said “ I care, but I also have my limitations. And sometimes those limitations mean that you’re going to get let down and that doesn’t sit well with me either. But it’s a balance, sometimes your needs don’t get met but sometimes they don’t need to get met all the time because that’s the model of life.”
I agreed “ Yeah! And that’s the work. But I’m confused about what I’m supposed to do about it then because the feelings are still going to be there, that’s still going to happen (getting triggered by unmet needs) …”
Sienna spoke about how developmentally with time that will change and get easier. But that wasn’t what I was asking her… I was asking her how am I supposed to bring up my responses to her not being available so that I can sort them out if she then becomes defensive and talks about trade-offs and me being in some sort of crisis team and the therapeutic relationship being nothing more than that etc?
It’s like we were in two different dimensions. This was nuts.
She asked me if I had similar reactions to my husband when he can’t be there for me?
I spat out “ No, because I trust HIM.”
Sienna said quietly “ Okay.”
And I meant that, but today I realise that occasionally there’s been times where I’ve reacted badly when he hasn’t been able to be fully him. Like when he’s been really drunk, which has literally only happened twice in 12 years. But I remember the feeling of him just not being present and his normal attentive self and it made me angry and scared and lonely. And also times when he’s been away on business or away staying with friends and if I’ve needed him and he’s not picked up, then I’ve got really angry.
So I do feel this way with people other than Sienna.
I was still crying and sniffing away and I said to Sienna, “ When you say, this is a therapeutic relationship and it’s got its limitations as such, that just feels like it devalues what the relationship means to me. And I don’t actually even think it’s about that it’s a professional working relationship. I think you’re saying it because….”
Sienna interrupted “ It’s that in as much as the boundaries or the amount of physical or mental energy that I can guarantee you at any one time. But on a different level, it’s much more than that. And just because I put the template around the relationship it doesn’t mean to say that I don’t care. I care very much.”
I said “ It’s like you’re putting me back in my place when you say it.”
Sienna said “ I don’t mean it to sound like that. But I certainly also have to put that boundary in around not allowing you to think – and I don’t think you do- that it’s an open ended relationship the way… well friends wouldn’t even have open-ended, partners might I don’t know… some mothers and children do others don’t.”
WTF was she even saying? I am assuming she means open ended in terms of open access all the time?
But why was I being told or having a boundary explicitly explained to me when I haven’t broken any boundaries? WTF??? What is this about?
I said sarcastically “ Well, thanks for the reminder.”
She said “ Well, I’m sorry it feels harsh or feels like getting put in your place, it’s not meant to be like that.”
I said, my voice dripping with controlled anger and total contempt for this bullshit.. “ Well What’s it meant to BE like then??
Sienna said “ The reality check, the check that, that it’s not an un-boundaried or limitless relationship and you know that, it’s not that you don’t know that, you also know that it’s not a clinical “here’s our session and there’s nothing outside of that.””
I said to her angrily “ And you might want to look at why you feel compelled to remind me of that, to think that I need reminded of that. And it’s always around the times that you’ve not been able to meet a need of mine, rightly or wrongly.”
Sienna exclaimed “ Maybe you’re right! I will take that to supervision, that’s a good point.”
With a softer voice she asked “Does it feel like it’s always on my terms?!”
Sienna said “ Maybe that’s something I’ll look at.”
I thought to myself Please fucking do.
Sienna continued “ I suppose that’s where boundaries come in too isn’t it, because when I can give it, and I’m available and can do it that’s fine but when I’m not able to do it then it stops and that makes that potentially very inconsistent for you. I get that. I hear you, it is something to look at.”
No, Sienna clearly you’re not hearing it. I haven’t mentioned once about things feeling inconsistent for me. Is this woman smoking crack???
I said to her “ You’re approaching this from totally the wrong way, because I think it would be different if I’d come in saying to you, how dare you not have got in touch with me over the weekend when you knew it had been really hard for me, if I had this self-righteous thinking that you should be there for me all the time, then that might be the time for a gentle reminder about boundaries but that’s not what I’ve been saying. I’m allowed to come in here and tell you what I experienced and try and work out what’s happening! Because if I don’t talk about it then I can’t solve it.”
I was getting upset again.
Sienna said “ I agree.”
So I said to her “ But you respond to me telling you what that was like, by saying; “oh by the way, here’s the boundaries.. I’m not going to be there for you all the time, this is a therapeutic relationship, this is why you should be in an organisation”… and I only ever get that from you at these times!”
Sienna said “ I think I’m hearing that that completely overtakes the fact that I completely empathised with you when you first came in. I do understand how hard it is for you. But I do hear you and I do know from other times how difficult it is.”
Clearly you’re not hearing me Sienna cos this is like the fucking twilight zone in here.
I push on. “ Sometimes I feel that I come in here looking for you just to understand what the experience has been like or help me find a way to fix it but instead, I don’t know you just move away.. you just…” My voice trailed off as tears blinded me.
Sienna said softly “ and you’re still not getting your needs met.”
I didn’t reply.
Eventually I said “ You’re not asking me where I think the boundaries are or what they should be or… you’re just assuming that I’m overstepping yours.”
Sienna said “ Well I did ask you, when you asked if they should be changed, I asked you what you thought?”
I said raising my voice “ no, I’m asking YOU because you’re the one pulling rank.” Sienna didn’t reply.
I added “You’re obviously not comfortable with where they are or whatever.. So YOU say it…. What you want it to be like.”
Sienna spoke “ Wellll… ideally what the contract is your sessions and what we are contracted for over and above that which is every second Thursday to come in here and alternate Friday check ins. Now I understand that and that’s good boundaries and that’s what any other clients would sit around, but I understand that you need… that sometimes you need more than that. And I try and give that and I don’t know how I am open to suggestions, how we define that more.”
I said “ Does it need defined more?”
Sienna said “ Well I don’t think so cos generally, if you need more than that I try and provide that. But I don’t always have the space in my week or my head and I certainly could not have done a single thing this weekend while I was ill. And I can’t contract for anything more than that, because I don’t have space in the week to set time aside. But I do get that sometimes you need contact.”
I said exasperated “ This is what I don’t understand, I am not asking for anything else…”
Sienna said “ But sometimes I can’t give it.”
I blurted out “ But I’m not asking!!! What do you mean???”
Sienna said with equal exasperation “ Because if I don’t answer you, you come back and take that as a rupture, you take that as abandonment and sometimes it’s cos I don’t look at my phone all weekend ( LIE – who doesn’t look at their phone an entire weekend?) Sometimes it’s because I’m ill..”
I said confused “ But is that not the work?”
Sienna replied “ yes, and I’ve said that to you.”
Mate… I’m fucking lost!!! What is she going on about????
I said to her “ It’s too different things that are going on here.”
Sienna said “ tell me a little bit about that.” I resisted an eye roll and bit my tongue so as not to say something really sarcastic about that Shrink-y phrase…. So.fucking.cheesy.
I replied “ Because you’re responding with “how to we avoid that happening again then” “
Sienna said “ No, it’s not about avoiding it, for sure.”
I continued “ All I’m doing is coming in and saying because of the issues I have and how I see things, this is how I felt. I’m not coming in and saying you have to change this Sienna, you have to be more available, I haven’t said that and I’m not asking for that. I’m telling you… this is just how it felt to me. And in an ideal world if things were different, you would be able to be available at all times, but that’s not realistic of any relationship and I know that. It wouldn’t matter if it was a mum and a daughter or a friend and a friend or a husband and wife… every relationship has limits in some way and people need downtime or they need.. whatever. I understand that. But what I’m bringing to you is whatever it is that makes me respond in a certain way.”
Sienna said quietly “ I know.”
She added “ And that’s what I tried to explain to you earlier that it’s part of that developmental part that’s just going to take time.”
I said “ But you also feel the need to….”
Sienna said over me “ Well would it be better if I don’t… drop that B-word, I don’t need to remind you about boundaries or contracts or anything like that?”
I said angrily “ NO! Because I’m not a fucking retard!!!” (sorry guys, not a nice word)
Why would she need to remind me about boundaries that I’ve clearly observed and not overstepped? She isn’t making sense.
And while we were laying out the law, I said to her“ And I don’t need to keep talking about my illness either. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Sienna started to speak “ but that might be a really significant –“
I interjected “ NO it’s not!”
Sienna said “ It’s part of your life..”
I said “ People with similar histories to me don’t have Lupus and they are responding the exact same way I’m responding.”
Sienna said “ Yeah I know, but sometimes people have complex medical/psychological interactions..”
I interject “ I DON’T CARE! It DOESN’T MATTER, it literally doesn’t matter. Cos what if this Lupus is affecting my psychological responses? Do we work differently?” That was a rhetorical question cos the answer is no, we wouldn’t work any differently.
But Sienna said “ I don’t know, we’d need to investigate that.”
I laugh cynically “ Pfft, So you can get rid of me more like.”
Sienna said “ Nope it’s not about getting rid of you, it’s about maybe acknowledging that there might be a medical thing to be discussed on the medical side that might help.”
Yeah, so now you’re going to force me to go see a brain dr I don’t want to or take pills I don’t want too, like last time? Fuck that. Why is she making everything so much more complicated? She needs to stay in her own lane. I will worry about my Lupus and she’ll be informed if there’s anything I think she needs to know. IS this all an attempt to shake me off ethically as a client? That she feels stuck with me because she made a promise to me, to not leave and not she wants rid? And proving I have some sort of complex neuro-psychological issue would take me out her realm of care.
I shook my head in irritation “ You’re making me really angry.”
I burst into tears. I felt completely defeated. I felt like she’d pushed me away continuously and created barriers. And all I’d wanted coming into this session was to feel reassured and to find some reconnection and a way to stay in it when all Sofia wants to do is leave.
I said “I don’t know how to do this anymore.”
Sienna said “ You just keep doing what you’ve been doing.”
I felt bereft “ It’s hurting me though.” I broke down.
Sienna said “ I know it hurts. But slowly but surely things will improve.”
I whispered “ I can’t do it..”
Sienna responded “ You CAN do it, you ARE doing it.
Me: “ noooooo.”
I sobbed “ I just want to go back to being numb and just being on my own.”
Sienna said firmly “ No you don’t.”
“ Yes, I do.”
She repeated “ No you don’t. This is going to pass Sirena. And it’s going to be okay. You’ve been here before and it passed. And it’s shit but you’re doing it, and God how brave are you to keep coming back?”
I sobbed, feeling completely exhausted and like I had nothing left to give to this therapy thing “ I can’t do it, I can’t do it.”
Sienna said “ You can.”
I just sat and sobbed hard.
“ I’m just lost.” I literally had no sense of how to make this thing work. How to tolerate a minute more of this relationship.
Sienna gave me tissues. “ Wipe your face. You are going to do this. You are going to beat this. And it is going to get easier.”
Sienna touched my arm and looked at me “This is going to be okay, it is going to be alright. I know it’s hard.”
The session was ending and as I left, Sienna gave me a side hug. I left with a red face and tear streaked make-up, it was super attractive. I cried all the way home, I couldn’t stop. And considering all of last week I felt like crying and couldn’t, that’s no mean feat!
But this time I wasn’t crying out of need for Sienna, there wasn’t a grasping need for her to make anything better. There was just this new sense of being in this relationship was utterly intolerable and I wanted with all my heart to leave it. I had literally nothing else to give to it. I was sick of all this fear and sorrow and pain and trying to work her out and ugh… all of it, I just wanted out. Yet I knew I couldn’t do that so I felt trapped.
I yearned to go back to feeling number, highly dissociated and alone. With no one to fear losing, no one to cause me pain. Everything felt impossible.
I ended up letting Sofia write what she was feeling and sent in in email to Sienna, I put in the subject line that there was no reply needed. and went to bed.
When I woke up I did have a reply from Sienna. And predictably it was intellectualising and distancing. And I felt so angry. I wished she’d taken heed of my subject line.
I text Sienna and asked for a check in and we spoke later in the evening. I will probably write about that but nothing is resolved. And it feels shit. Yet I’m coping.