How to Hurt Your Therapist's Feelings (and Your Own) – C: Week 54

I was a complete bitch to C last week. I just sat there and insulted him for about half the session – perhaps more – and he didn’t really deserve any of it. It’s not his fault he has to abandon me at the end of the summer, and even though my rants weren’t necessarily focused around that issue, that was surely what was driving them. Unsurprisingly, he appears to believe that my reacting angrily to him is a defence mechanism to deflect from the sorrow and despair that I feel regarding the imminence of our separation.

Admittedly, I went in in a bad mood to begin with. I’d actually been in a good one hitherto, thanks to waking up to this lovely comment from Seaneen (and one already made by Nick, to which I alluded at the end of that post). I’m always thrilled when people compliment my writing; although the blog is still primarily for my own benefit…well, if it’s considered to be done well by others, then that’s a very worthwhile, confidence-boosting bonus. So yes, I was in quite a decent mood, and the sun was shining, and I thought that this confluence of relative non-shitness might lend itself to actually covering something useful with C for the first time in about 300 years. Although, having said that, when I’ve been in a good mood in the past I tend to go in, ramble on a little, then seduce him into a discourse of academic psychology and intellectualism. But anyway…

I arrived at the hospital, and was outraged to see a car in ‘my’ parking space. Who the sodding hell did they think they were? I park in the same space each week. In fact, I have a ritual. I drive to the back of the carpark, turn, drive forward into the space, adjust steering until I am exactly six inches from both right and left extremities of the space, and finally reverse/go forward until I’m right in the middle relative to the front and back of the space. And it has to be that space.

Were I not so utterly in love with my little car, I would have used Him to ram the other car of unwitting evil out of the space. How very dare it steal my space?!!

(A tells me that I have to write a post about my apparent OCD-ish behaviour. Another foible that he finds consistently amusing is the fact that I will not change the radio station in the car, even if the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard is playing, unless he’s with me).

So I had to take another space – one that actually brought me a good deal closer to C’s building – but I felt soulless and destroyed inside. I cursed myself for having failed to bring Diazepam with me. And then my nose started bleeding, as if symbolically voicing its own displeasure at the sorry circumstances in which it found itself.

I had no tissues with me, so holding my nose, I dashed into the building. Before I reached the toilets, however, I almost literally ran into C. This was about 9.20am, which freaked me out because C does not exist at 9.20am. He only starts existing at 9.30am when our appointments commence.

We exchanged awkward pleasantries, and I ran to hide in the toilet, blood trickling its surreptitious way out of my nostril. I plugged it up with bog roll (unused, just in case you were wondering), and stood behind the door, listening, waiting, for him to go past so as I didn’t have to encounter him outside session-time again.

How ridiculous is this? Seriously. How can someone so obsessed with and attached to her psychotherapist be thoroughly freaked out by seeing him outside of the allocated fifty minutes, especially when it’s mere seconds beforehand? There have been times when I’ve dreamt of bumping into him in a pub, a shop, I even half-hoped I’d see him at the recent Metallica gig at which we were both in attendance. If that had actually happened, though, it would appear that I’d have gone completely doolally. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Anyway, having heard someone that I assumed was him walk past the door, I sneaked back out to the waiting room, like some silly schoolgirl bunking off class. Eventually he emerged again, this time to escort me to that week’s 50 minute doom.

It commenced in the usual silly way. We acknowledged each other. I even asked him how he was, something I haven’t done in eons. Then there was silence. He glanced at me. Our eyes met. He nodded. I made some not unfavourable facial gesture in response, and looked away.

And the silence continued.

And continued.

And continued.

Eventually, he said something along the lines of, “where would you like to begin?”, to which I responded with resigned laughter.

C replied by saying that things seemed to be frequently commencing in this silent fashion. No shit there, Sherlock. 10 out of 10 for observation.

I think he then said something to the effect that he wondered if we could use ‘the time remaining’ to tackle some of the issues that were paramount in my mind.

Thanks, C. Rub it in. Just rub it right in. Pour a barrel of salty piss right into my gaping, agonising wound. Go ahead and remind me that said wound is going to be open and raw for some time – possibly forever.

“But you’re trying to protect yourself, aren’t you?” he said. “So you’re finding it difficult to communicate these things.”

Did I shrug at this? I think I did. Whatever the case, my response was non-committal.

“What about the sexual abuse..?” he asked tentatively, tailing off.

The mention of this most un-amusing of subjects somehow did amuse me – the very notion that I would discuss this more when I am being consigned to the dark recesses of rubbish bin of psychotherapy was tragically funny. I eventually said, honestly but reluctantly, “I don’t think I’m going to talk about that anymore.”

It seemed ‘tragically funny’ then, but it doesn’t now as I sit here writing this review. It fills me with a deep, foreboding, unforgiving sort of sadness, that I can actually feel physically as well as psychologically. It feels almost like a part of me – a physical part, no less – is being surgically removed without an anaesthetic. A huge gap or a hole somewhere in my stomach, just clawed out carelessly with a rusty scalpel. It hurts. It hurts. So very, very much.

I have so much I want – need – to address, and nobody seems to care. This leads me to believe that I have always been correct in my resolute belief that I deserved everything negative that has happened to me in my life, including though not limited to the child abuse and my father’s point-blank rejection of me. This proves it, surely. Nobody wants to help me, or pay attention to me – they just want to reject me all over again, so everything that has gone before must have been deserved.

But enough childish, whinging navel-gazing. The whole ‘I won’t discuss the sex abuse with you’ led to the typical bullshit discussion about the end of therapy, the one I am perpetually desperate to avoid. I can’t address it without fighting tears, and I don’t want to give C the satisfaction of seeing me cry over it.

Instead, I heard myself telling him how annoyed I had been when he last week accused me of saying (the week before that) that the process coming to an end was ‘tragic’. I actually went on a massive rant about this, although I did try to do so whilst not attacking him directly. In retrospect, ranting about this was completely bloody stupid as my fury was ignited over one tiny word.

“Tragic,” I declared, perhaps a little pompously, “denotes something big. The Cumbrian shootings were tragic. The 2004 tsunami was tragic. The end of a relationship between two people – out of over six billion people on this planet – is not tragic.”

“I looked in my notes after you left last week,” he replied. “They said you said it was ‘sad’.”

“Sad! Yes, I said it was ‘sad’ alright. I did not say that it was ‘tragic’. Do admit that I did not say it was ‘tragic’?”

“I suppose so..,” he replied, apparently rather bewildered at my passion over this almost meaningless semantic issue. “You seem to have an air of triumphalism in that, though, and I’m wondering why it’s such a big deal to you?”

Triumphalism. I had accused him of the same here in my write-up of last week’s session, so rather than help him explore his question, I told him so.

Why did I say that, readers? Why?! I accepted myself that I was probably over-reacting to the supposedly ‘triumphant’ comment, so why did I have to insult him by telling him of my paranoid thinking?

He looked quite dutifully stunned, and then I think I stated on the ‘mechanistic’ comment he had made.

“I’m grateful to you for saying that,” I started, smiling, “because it led to one of the greatest compliments I’ve yet received about my blog; someone [Nick, referenced above] said that that proved you’d not seen my blog, because apparently no one could say that about my writing.” Carried away by this train of thought, I also started wittering on about Seaneen’s comment, and several others I have received from a surprising number of you lovely people.

C sat there looking at me in utter bafflement. I could almost see the cogs of what the fuck? turning inside his mind.

Eventually he stopped my narcissistic rambling. “So, you’ve been hugely complimented about your blog,” he iterated. “You’ve met nice people through it. Unlike this big, bad, nasty therapist…”

To be honest I’m not sure I realised just how vituperative I had been at that stage. To his continued surprise, I told him that I had “not been having a go at [him].”

I watched his face carefully. He looked…I dunno, ‘wounded’? ‘Torn up’?…and I suddenly felt guilt and self-disgust surge through my veins.

“You’re insulted now,” I murmured, lowering my eyes regretfully. “That really wasn’t my intention.” And it hadn’t been. I still don’t know why The Bitch came out to play with such intensity.

He didn’t respond to that specific comment, but instead said that he felt two things were underlining this negative form of engagement with him. Firstly, it was indubitable that I had a lot of pent-up anger – whether or not it was directed specifically at him, it was coming out aimed at him (all well and good from the analytical point of view, of course), and that it was in fact probably suitable and right that I was bringing it with me and flinging it into the poor sod’s face. Secondly, he opined, I was going on an all-out crusade to avoid talking about my heartbreak (not his word) as regards the cessation of our relationship.

All of this was fair, and my silent response was intended and, I think, taken as confirmation of it. I looked down at the floor. Shadows created by the window-blinds breaking the sunlight danced insouciantly on the carpet. For a few minutes, this strange waltz captured my attention completely.

“Where has your mind wondered to?” C’s voice finally asked, breaking into my distracted consciousness.

I ‘came to’, and told him about the dancing shadow-shapes. He raised an eyebrow curiously but said nothing.

Another silence briefly ensued, which I eventually broke by blurting out, “I want to see the notes you hold on me. Can you just give me them, or do I have to apply in writing?”

He hadn’t been expecting this, and was visibly surprised by the revelation. He admitted that he didn’t know the procedure, but said that he would consult the Head of Department and advise me accordingly at our next meeting.

Inevitably, of course, he wanted to know why I want my notes. Was it simple curiosity?

I said that it was, and advised that I would not just be asking for his notes, but also NewVCB’s and my GP’s.

“I think I’ll request my GP’s since I was about 12,” I mused thoughtfully. “You know, just before I became properly ill.”

Then I chuckled slightly, and added, “yes, 14 years of notes. That’ll really piss them off!”

The utterance of this comment was a serious error on my part. I should have known that C would jump on it and wank on and on and on about it – which of course is exactly what he did. He became convinced that I was only requesting my notes to annoy the various medical professionals with whom I am involved.

This is not true. Is there a certain element of caustic satisfaction from the amount of work that inevitably goes into the preparation of such things? Inevitably there is, yes. But it’s both incidental and innocent; I take such sadistic pleasure out of any such situation, and it has nothing to do with winding the Trust and its employees up. For example, when W – who lives in England – got married, I went to great pains to wrap his (fragile) wedding present to unbreakable standards in preparation for postage. Although it took me about two hours to do this, I took pleasure from the fact that I knew it would take him (or his then-fiancee) similarly long to unwrap it. I told him so, and he found this amusing. It’s just a silly character trait, and I wish C wouldn’t overreact like this.

I became sick of his whinging about this, so said, “look. I know you’re trained to read a lot into every single little thing I bring into this room – I get that, I do. But I swear to you; my primary motivation is not to piss the health service off. I just want to know what my notes say. OK?”

I’m not sure if he believed me, but either way he conveyed his acquiescence through a nod and added, again, that he would look into the procedural issues of the matter for me.

Another brief silence came and went. I don’t recall whether or not he instigated the conversation or if it was me, but in any event, an in-depth discussion developed about my intention to seek out alternative therapy when my time with him comes to an end.

I had been with Lovely GP the day before, hoping that he would act as an advocate against the Trust’s intentions to end my therapy as he had said to my mother he would. I told him, in about as un-detailed terms as you can possibly get, about the abuse and how I felt that therapy had re-traumatised me vis a vis same. After asking if C had the expertise to help ease my traumatised mind – and my affirmation that he had – LGP went on anyway to suggest I saw the Nexus Institute. He made no further reference to ‘making a phonecall’ to make sure the therapy continued, and as such the appointment was only of any use in that he gave me some IBS medication to try.

Anyhow, I told C about LGP’s suggestion, but then sighed. “I fully respect what they do,” I told him, “but regardless of that I have, by association, a long-held negative view of them, even though it isn’t their fault.”

I explained how, when I had seen a therapy assessment woman (at the same hospital in which I see C and NewVCB) when I was about 17 or 18, I had been treated with utter disdain – “nay,” I corrected myself, “contempt” – apparently having been considered as an angsty teenager with no legitimate mental health concerns.

“I made the most oblique of references to having some experience of sexual abuse,” I went on, “and she immediately threw Nexus’ number in my face and all but demanded I get out of her office and stop wasting her time.”

He thinks that the following us my belief: if I end up going to see them, I am accepting and agreeing with her view of me as a time-waster. This hypothesis most likely true. I kept apologising to no one in particular for forming such an unreasonable view of Nexus, but every time I hear of them I remember that woman’s palpable antipathy towards me. I didn’t deserve that.

C proceeded to make some comment about how I’m perpetually derisive of myself. “You often sit over there and say that your wasting my time, or that you should just ‘pull yourself together’ and whatnot. You feel that you were treated badly by that woman, but yet you say these same things about yourself.”

Hmm. I bollocked around this for a bit, claiming that most of my ‘time-wasting’ self-castigations related to times when I sat in C’s presence without saying anything, and this is true. However, there have certainly been plenty of self-directed rants on how my problems are infinitesimal compared to those of some others. I think I finally rationalised my position to him by stating that, whilst in the grand scheme of things my psychological issues don’t really matter, that they were still nonetheless very real to me. “In the midst of my self-hatred, I just lose sight of that sometimes,” I admitted.

We continued talking about future therapy, and I asked him if he’d have any recommendations for private therapists. He responded in the affirmative, stating that they would, however, be primarily be from the analytic school.

“Good,” I responded. “That’s what I’m looking for.”

During the ensuing conversation, it emerged that he was familiar with a group of psychoanalysts that I have also come across. He mentioned one in particular with whom I am familiar, but asked me to bring in my overall short-list to see if he recognised the names.

“Bear in mind,” C cautioned, “that these people are more likely to lean towards traditional analysis.”

“What, like I lie on the couch and babble endlessly, and they never open their mouths?” I checked.

“Hmm…well, any therapist you meet will try his or her best to tailor the therapy towards what’s best for you as an individual, so not necessarily – but still, I reckon you can expect them to be less interactive than you’re used to here. What exactly are you looking for?” he queried.

A curious question coming from someone with a doctorate in psychology to a person with a Wikipedia knowledge of the subject, but then he knows that I am very well informed.

“Analysis-ish,” I replied. “I like your integrative approach. Psychodynamic, but sufficiently bending the rules of that persuasion so as things suit me. I like that you actually respond. I don’t think I’d be completely happy with someone who never said anything, but notwithstanding that I really have much more faith in the more traditional therapeutic approaches. I don’t think that CBT or DBT or things like them are remotely helpful practices, except possibly in the hands of exceptionally skilled practitioners.”

“I think that issue is key,” C stated. “As you’re probably well aware, research consistently shows that, generally, one of the main factors in successful psychotherapy is the relationship between therapist and patient, rather than the type of therapy specifically.”

I did indeed know this, and it has always been one of the key problems in the Trust ending my therapy with C. After all these years – after all these horrible, painful years – I have finally found a psychotherapist with whom I have a proper, workable, trusting and intimate relationship. He is just about the best person I could have asked for. Through our connection – for we do have a connection – good work was being done, and could have continued to be done, had I not had this constant menace of the curtain-down of things hanging over me. Yet such an encouraging prospect is being cruelly and unfairly being stolen. All because some fat, pen-pushing bastard sitting in some overblown office somewhere thinks that C should be driven by fucking time-directed targets and not real, life-changing, meaningful results demonstrating a significant improvement in a patient’s health or well-being. Fuck the health service! What is the point of it being a ‘health service’ when it prioritises statistics over its patients?

I think C saw an opportunity here, perhaps noticing some vulnerability in my stature or body language. He (quite gently, to be fair) brought back up the issue of me ‘fighting’ my feelings of sadness/grief/abandonment/rejection/etc.

Yet again I felt tears prick my eyes, and a lump form in my throat. Why does he want to put me through such pain? Does his ego really need stroking that much? (For what it’s worth, I suppose I do see, objectively speaking, what he’s trying to achieve, and no – it’s not really about his ego. But I can’t bear it, however much I intellectualise it now).

I sensed that the session was nearing its end, so decided I could get away with answering this rather than redirecting it. He wouldn’t have enough time to probe me further.

“Yes, OK, I admit it – I admit it freely – of course it makes me feel sad. How could it not? I don’t like it and I don’t want it. I don’t want it to end, not at this juncture. Yes, I’m sad and yes, it hurts. But I’ve sat here and insulted you in copious measure this morning so I don’t suppose that sense of regret is always entirely evident, is it?”

Of course, armchair-psychologist-Me realises that sitting there insulting him in copious measure that morning made it all the more evident, but I wasn’t feeling at my most intellectual at the time.

“I don’t feel insulted,” he reassured. “Things were rather adversarial for the first 30 or 40 minutes, I think, but no – I don’t feel insulted.”

“‘Adversarial’,” I repeated wistfully. “[submissively] I’m sorry, C. I was in a bad mood when I came in here. Someone parked in my parking space.” I threw him a weak smile at that, which thankfully he returned.

One thing I deliberately kept from him during these whole shenanigans was the fact that I had finally posted the most recent letter to Mr Director-Person the day before (it didn’t go exactly as detailed in the relevant post, but it was close enough). To recap briefly, said letter specifically requests (for the first time) that my treatment with C continue beyond the current allocated time, citing issues of re-traumatisation and the fact that a CPN or social worker – however good they may generally be – are under-qualified to deal with something quite so complex.

I don’t know why I didn’t tell C. Probably because I know Mr Director-Person is going to blab all anyway, and they can laugh together at my pathetic, desperate begging. Still, when I decided to respond to Mr Director-Person’s first stupid and borderline-offensive letter, I vowed to myself that I would see this fight through to the bitter end. And one way or another, we’re approaching that point now.

I just wish part of me didn’t seem so hell-bent on offending C before we get there. He may claim he wasn’t insulted – but I’m not stupid; I could see that he was effected by my words, and in fact I think he was hurt. At the end of the day, I actually think he’s rather fond of me (as I am of him), and listening to a constant barrage of criticism from someone you hate is hard enough, nevermind when it’s from someone you don’t mind. It’s part of his job, I know, but I feel hideously guilty anyway, and have resolved to try and be nice to him this week.

Maybe I’ll even allow him to see some real vulnerability.

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20 thoughts on “How to Hurt Your Therapist's Feelings (and Your Own) – C: Week 54

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  4. I really hope Mr Director Person agrees for your therapy to be extended. I do think it is really wrong to get you to open up to someone to the extent that you have with C, and then cut that off before you are ready. The NHS is bloody obsessed with measurable goals and achievements and all that bullshit – that was what my CPA review last week was all about; I can’t just sit and talk with L in a therapy type way – we have to set stupid bloody measurable goals, because that is what the NHS say has to happen. Everything has to be about targets, and all progress has to be visible and concrete and it is all a load of bollocks. But I really do hope they give you longer with C. xxx

  5. Aw, hun. It really hurts so much to end. I was able, and actually was totally compelled to tell my T exactly how much it hurt etc, but i had had much longer with him than you have yours, and so felt safer to do that, i trusted he wouldn’t do anything humiliating with that disclosure. It was weird, i didn’t want to tell him, but somehow knew i had to, that it was a really important step for me to take that scary as fuckin hell risk and say all that ’emotional, weak’ stuff. I guess i knew deep down if that if i didn’t it would always be a regret and that would be harder to live with than the ’embarrassment’ of revealing my feelings about him.
    Also i knew there was this aspect to me that wanted to sabotage it all, and end it all really nastily and coldly, just out of defense cos it hurt so much to end, but strangely i told him about that too, well, rather – i wrote all these things to him. i think somehow my self destructive survival instincts had turned around a bit to actually make me do things that were kinder to myself. So that i wouldn’t live with regret over the ending. Something in me knew it was essential for this to end well, because it had been something so special and important to me. It couldn’t be ruined. And looking back now i realise i didn’t deserve for it to be ruined as much as i was tempted to ruin it!!
    — And i genuinely feel so worried for you as to how this ends for you – you don’t deserve for it to end badly. I totally disagree that this therapy should be ending now, but if it does as seems likely, and it’s out of your control i know, but if it ends i really want it to end in the best way possible for you, so you won’t spend the future beating yourself up over it. You’ve had so much shit happen you don’t deserve to have added pain over this. It will hurt like hell, even if it ends well, it is such a loss, but I hope there is no added trauma to it for you in terms of a bad ending – or even not showing up at all – which is what i was so tempted to do because i was so scared to walk in there that last time. I literally felt that i wouldn’t be able to walk back out afterwards, that i’d dissolve and die right there, it was so powerful. (There’s something i did – to force myself to show up the last time – which I’ll share in a twitter DM to you soon, – my T knew about it – god knows what he thought about it, but he was kind enough to not exclaim ‘You Crazy Fool!’ )

    For you it must be so much harder, not having had anywhere near enough time to have worked through so many more things you need to explore to heal. Feel really angry for you, for how shitty the system is being towards your care and therapy. I hope you feel strong enough to see it through hun, for however much longer it will be. Thinking of you, take care xxx

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  7. At the risk of sounding patronising, I totally get what you mean. You’re finally, finally reaching the stage of getting on well with a certain therapist and getting to trust them to talk about things – and suddenly it feels like the NHS just decide “Well, shut up and deal with whatever sensitive stuff you were talking about and talk about it to a new complete stranger”. Even when in the NICE guidelines, always changing and short term therapy isn’t reccomended. Fsdjkfh.

    I will be gradually ending therapy with my CAMHS therapist soon. It’s a horrible rushed feeling, like you’re being abandoned, I know.

    outwardly x

  8. Ah Pan this makes me sad and furious in equal measure- who do they think they are, making things worse for you then effectibely telling you to get stuffed??? I don;t really know what to say except that I am sorry and wish that I could do something. I hope Director-Person will listen to you.

    I heard from serotoninseeker! he is alive =)) He was sectioned for _11_ weeks, justr got out yesterday!

    Best wishes
    Kate

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  11. (((hugs))), keep fighting.
    Re seeing therapist out of sessions: I saw my old psychologist in a supermarket months after had finished sessions with him. I managed to drop ALL of my shopping on the floor, he walked by smiling while I grappled with rolling cans of beans on the floor! x

  12. Health records!

    (Each trust has some sort of ‘information governance’ department that can send you the relevant form for applying for records).

    All of the notes I’ve acquired under the Data Protection Act 1998, although providing a fascinating read, have at the end of the day only really told me about the individual personalities of the people who wrote them! Rather than finding lots of helpful insights, I’ve just found more evidence of my failure to make myself understood or believed. As I’ve said before, having a history of not being believed, tends to make one a better witness. So, the danger is you end-up ruminating even more about how some people simply don’t listen etc etc.

    However, a useful exercise for those of us who quite enjoy linguistic ‘shenanigans’!

    x N

  13. There’s a line from Annie Hall that may be applicable here (slightly tweaked): Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about therapy — full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness — and it’s all over much too quickly.

  14. I think it’s so unfair to have a time limit to your therapy. Try to get better while a clock is ticking over your head, hoping that what? on the last day you’re going to be: Woo! All my issues are gone!

    Being in therapy requires a lot of digging in uncomfortable and painful places, and I actually understand why you would be reluctant to completely opening up to C no matter how good he is.

    It shoudln’t have a time limit.

    • Thank you 🙂 It’s always good to know that people are supportive of my stance on this. Poor C – it’s not his fault, and he’s powerless to do any more than he’s already done. But it still bloody well sucks and makes it so much harder, as if it wasn’t hard to begin with!

      Thanks again and hugs x

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