I told myself I couldn’t respond to Anna until at least the next day, once I’d had a little time to calm down. That lasted an hour.
I got her email while I was at work, and barely managed to hold it together long enough to get through the rest of the day. Once I left the building, I started crying before I even got to the end of the street, and kept crying all the way home.
In my heart, I was sure that she was going to step up and we would keep working, keep trying. I’d picked the day that would be the most convenient for a session, and mentally set aside the clothes I was going to wear. I’d thought about which goal I’d pick for us to focus on moving forward. She committed to me, over and over, that this was long term, that nothing could make her go away, and I thought this was just another bump in the road.
I am so, so devastated that she’s given up on me so easily, and I am so angry that she thinks that 400 word email is all she owes me after all the promises she’s broken. But I’m so sad that she’s gone. I keep having flashes of the moment I looked up from my hospital bed in the emergency room and saw her standing there, at midnight, holding a stuffed dog for me. Of her sitting next to me while I cried, and reaching out to wipe my nose. Of walking with her through the park, barefoot. It’s almost like she’s dead, in a way. I keep thinking of everything I’ll never get to tell her. After pressing me to call child protection, she won’t be there for the fallout. I’ll never get to say goodbye to her dog. She’ll never wish me a happy birthday again. If I’m admitted to hospital again, she won’t come. And I want her.
Part of me regrets ever sending that email. Regrets not just going back to another session and telling her my plan and moving forward. It’s so angry with me for letting her go away when I could have stayed quiet and kept her. Another part of me knows that the way she’s handled this situation proves that she is not a skilled therapist, however caring she is, and continuing to work with her probably wouldn’t have benefited me in the long run.
I was in bed, sobbing, feeling so much grief and anger pressing on my chest. I had to get some of it out, and I couldn’t let her get away with that bland, no-big-deal email. I wanted to tell her that this isn’t a pleasant, shake hands, lovely to meet you parting, but a gut-wrenching devastating completely derailing betrayal, and I want her to own that. So I got up, and I sent her a rapid series of short texts.
“So much for all your promises. It might be “a bit hard” to start from scratch with someone new? Fuck you. I can’t believe you’re making me do this again. You kept telling me this was long term and I thought you were going to be my last therapist.”
For a little while after I sent them, I felt a little calmer, but then a different part of me took over and sent her an email. I think the abandoned child has been texting, and the angry, ruthlessly logical teenager has been emailing.
I wish I didn’t have to do this, but I feel I need to hold you to account one last time. Your email seems to be avoiding the real point. The ideal may be for me to work with a single psychiatrist/psychologist, but if you were capable of continuing to work with me, then the best approach would have been for me to start seeing one of them while still seeing you, and over time decide whether I wanted to transition across to work solely with them. In our last session you recognised that it’ll probably take me months to find a psychiatrist, and that’s on top of the months (years?) it’s going to take me to come to terms with this failure and loss of trust enough to try again. That is not ideal.
Perhaps my truth is different to yours, but I believe if you were really being honest, your email would have said something like this:
“I have come to realise that as much as I have wanted to support you, I don’t have the skills to be able to help you. I recognise that my inability to support you effectively and the mistakes I have made have given you additional burdens and have been painful and difficult, and I am truly sorry. I also realise that my request during our last session was inappropriate and I apologise for that. I know that starting again with someone new will be really difficult for you and I wish you didn’t have to go through that, but in the long term I believe it is in your best interests. Even though I committed to working with you long-term, I would be doing you an injustice if I wasn’t honest about this, because you deserve to get the help you need and through no fault of yours, I am not able to provide it. It’s unfair and it sucks and I’m sorry.
With that in mind, I think the most optimum way for you to get the help you deserve…”
I am very, very upset about how this has turned out, and very angry with you for letting me down. Despite everything, I still like you, and I would prefer to end with pleasant well-wishes, but this experience is not pleasant.”
I managed to get through some work for an hour or so, and then sobbed for the rest of the evening until my whole face ached. The vulnerable child was remembering everything kind she’s ever said to me – “I’m right here and we’re going to do this together, okay? I’m definitely not going to leave you. I’ll stay on the phone with you all night if I have to. Can you tell me where you are and I’ll come get you and sit with you? Please, Rea, I want to be there with you.” – and desperately wanting her back. The angry child wanted to punish her for how much she’s hurt me, and wanted to send her a text telling her that when I kill myself, I hope it haunts her forever.
I finally fell asleep after 1am and woke again at 4, and it wasn’t long before I was crying again. I got up, and the children each sent her a text message:
“All I asked you to do was start putting my feelings ahead of yours and start working with me instead of talking at me. If that’s so impossible for you to do then you shouldn’t be a therapist.”
“I didn’t want you to quit, I just wanted you to do better and I hate you for giving up on me so easily.”
I cried all the way to work today, and all the way home. It’s so shocking and abrupt that I don’t know how to even start dealing with it. A week ago, she was telling me that we needed a psychiatrist to support our work, not to replace her, and she offered to set up 4 or 5 appointments with different psychs and come with me to each. And now she’s gone. How did she go away so quickly?
Tonight I sent her another email:
“Let’s talk some more about this pathetic excuse for a termination email, shall we?
“Whatever happens, I’m not going to go away. I’m not going to go anywhere for a long time. I’m committed to this. I want you to know that.”
Apparently this wasn’t true, but I believed you.
“I’m not going to get it right all the time, but I am willing to own it and try to do it better next time. Having you calling me on it is a good thing. It’s not going to make me stop working with you.”
Apparently this wasn’t true either, but I believed you.
So when you were writing that email, what made you think you didn’t owe me an actual explanation of why you’ve abruptly decided you can’t work with me any more? Not “I think it would be optimal for you to work with a single psychiatrist”. The question was never about the most ideal way to do therapy, it was whether you can help or not, and a week ago you were offering to come with me to see a psychiatrist, not suggesting that I see one instead of you. Why did you think I didn’t deserve an explanation of why you can’t offer the help I need?
At the very, very least, why didn’t you think you owe me an apology?”
It’s been over 24 hours, and she hasn’t responded to any of my messages. Today is her day off, so she doesn’t have any other clients.
Through all of this pain and anger, I’m still holding out hope. Hope that she’s going to come back and say “You’re right, I made a stupid, terrible mistake. I was wrong to give up on you and now I know you want me, I want to keep working with you. I’m so sorry, and I’m going to make it up to you.” A lot of me really believes that’s going to happen, and it’ll all be okay. Because she promised.