To Close Our Work

On Wednesday, Anna sent me an email response titled ‘To close our work’. Just reading the subject line flooded me with so many emotions. It felt like she’d closed a door in my face. After I’d spent 8 months gradually getting to know her, trust her, reach out to her, in the space of a week she’d decided to terminate therapy, and two email responses was the only processing she was willing to give me. More crudely, I’ve spent over $10,000 in out of pocket costs for therapy with her – is that really all she owes me?

I was choking on tears while I read through it. It was a much nicer message than the last one – she acknowledged that she doesn’t have the skills to help me and that she knows that must be devastating for me, and she apologised. But that mostly just makes me angry. She wrote a nicer email because I walked her through exactly what she had done and needed to take responsibility for. So she is either just parroting what I wanted to hear, or she genuinely didn’t have the awareness to recognise her role in the situation and how the termination was going to impact me and acknowledge that before I spelt it out for her.

I do believe that this objectively sucks, but I’ve also been struck with the realisation of how intensely my reaction is linked to transference. The phrase that keeps stirring my emotions back up is “I’m so sick of always having to be the grown-up – I’m so angry that she basically made me terminate my own therapy because she couldn’t face the fact that she can’t help me until I directly asked her to think about it“. For days I kept ruminating on this, and the fury was so big it felt like it was going to explode out of me somehow, that I was going to start hitting and kicking like I did when I was a child because I just couldn’t hold it inside me any more.

When I stepped back, and asked myself what I meant by “always having to be the grown up”, I realised I was talking about my mother. Of course I was. I mean, the therapist uniform should be a t-shirt that says “This is about your mother“. Emotionally, I’ve always had to play the adult role with my mother, to the extent that when someone gives her a compliment and she starts running herself down, I step in and coach “Say thank you” and she complies. Like Anna, my mother cares about me but has no idea how to help me.

I’ve been filled with a lot of rage this week, and not just at Anna. When my brother (who is probably the most important person in the world to me) texted me to ask how my day was, I told him to fuck off. I wanted to physically push anyone who got close to me, lash out at anyone who wanted to talk about anything meaningful. Anna has shut the door and I don’t want her to open it again, but I’ve been kicking it, beating it with my fists and screaming my rage. I’ve sent three brief but abusive “fuck you” emails, telling her she has no idea what she’s doing and she shouldn’t be a therapist. And I have zero remorse.

The other thought that has been poisoning my emotions is how far she has “set me back“. That it’s going to take weeks to even go back to Aisha and Jen, months before I’m ready to see another psychologist, maybe years before I can trust a therapist again. I’ve been outraged that she has damaged me, that she has “wrecked” everything, all the progress and the effort I’ve made.

One afternoon after work, sitting in the park with Everest, I asked myself calmly “So what?”. It wasn’t a dismissive, critical statement, but a genuine question – so what? And my answer is that it sucks, but in the whole scheme of life, it doesn’t really matter if it takes a year before I’m ready to go back to therapy. It has consumed me so much, been so intense that I’ve fallen into the belief that therapy has to be happening and it has to be working or nothing is okay and everything is hopeless. In reality, I’m only 25. Assuming I survive to be 26 (and so far I have an impeccable track record of staying alive), then what does it matter if I take some time off and spend my therapy money on a trip to Hawaii instead? It isn’t ideal and this betrayal has affected me and will affect my therapy in the future, but it just isn’t worth being so angry about.

I have a long way to go. I’m still sad and angry and I miss her and hate her. I still want to cut up the stuffed dog she gave me and set fire to it, and I want to send her a photo of a puddle of blood and tell her This is what you did to me. I want to break things and cry, I want to be held and I don’t want anybody near me ever again. But it already hurts less than it did six days ago. Hopefully it will hurt a little less tomorrow.

To Close Our Work

13 thoughts on “To Close Our Work

  1. Rea, I’m so sorry. I feel so much empathy for you. This whole situation hurts to hear about, and I also hope you continue to feel better. I imagine the grief and rage will come in waves. Sending support and compassion for your strength and courage to face all of those feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alice. Hugs gratefully accepted. I have to admit I felt more than a bit jealous when I read your latest post, but I am really glad you’re starting to mend things with Bea. Hope she is able to keep hearing you and reassuring you during your next session – look forward to hearing about it.

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  2. I also want to say/validate that it is so infuriating/painful to be the “adult” and call out a situation. What you described with Anna is so similar to what happened with the therapist I had before my current one – I went through so much of what you wrote here (see my first 100 posts, which will take some effort because my blog is not user-friendly). I was SO hurt, SO angry, and SO confused that my therapist didn’t see she couldn’t help me – and I had to tell her what I needed and how she failed, and I had to ask for closure I never got. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life, because I worked with her for nine months and I loved her and wanted it to work. I thought she would be my last therapist. I really did. Sometimes, even though I have a solid connection to my current therapist, I miss the other one. I think about our connection and how it is different and I wish I could see her. But our relationship was unhealthy for me so I don’t want to see her. I guess I’m saying all this because I get it, and your feelings are so valid and right on for what is happening, and you have tremendous courage for taking steps to put yourself in a position to find someone who will truly help you because they have the skill to do so.

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    1. ‘”Oh, really?”, Rea said nonchalantly, as though she hadn’t already read every blog post Rachel had ever written….’

      I definitely felt there were some real parallels with what happened with you and Delaney, too. A few days ago I actually went back to re-read some of your posts from that time but stopped almost immediately because they were hitting a little too close to home. I guess my worry is that you came out of that experience with a really clear understanding that her lack of boundaries caused an issue and you knew to look for a therapist who would manage that better. I have no idea why specifically Anna couldn’t help me, so I don’t know how to screen for it in other therapists.

      I’m not sure it counts as courage when it pretty much happened by accident! But thank you.

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      1. You made me laugh with that first part 🙂 I suppose you did tell me at one point you read through my older posts, and I forgot!
        I can see that, and I had many therapists before Delaney, a couple of which with notable poor boundaries/unethical conduct. It has taken me 10 years to know what to screen for. I guess I am saying that to validate this is a learning process, and each time does bring more insight. It sounds like from what you wrote, that you do have some sense of what you needed from Anna and didn’t get: clear communication and explicit discussion and establishment of boundaries around out of session contact, reliability, CONSISTENCY, someone versed in the dynamics at play with attachment and trauma. I think you know yourself better than she knows herself, unfortunately. Which set you up to be the “adult.”


      2. I think I’ve been resistant to acknowledging that I learnt anything from the experience with Anna because then it seems like it wasn’t all bad, and if it wasn’t all bad then I shouldn’t be angry about it, and damn I’m angry. Thanks for the gentle reminder that it’s all a work in progress 🙂

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      3. I don’t think it happened by accident – you initiated conversation, you kept bringing up your needs around consistent boundaries and stable boundaries. I won’t keep harping, I’ve said my peace 🙂

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      4. No, you’re right! I’m being defeatist about it because I’m scared about it happening again, but I already have a mental list of “interview questions” I would ask a new psychologist, so it has been a learning experience.

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  3. Rea, I’m so sorry about this. I’m also really angry on your behalf. It feels so unprofessional.Anna’s harmed you, above all by not being self-reflective enough about your therapy. She could have reached out to colleagues or her own therapist and found support so she could serve you better. She clearly had a trusting relationship with you, which is a lot. She needed help finding a focus for moving forward, and she should have seen it even before you asked. And when you asked for it, she still could have sought that support! Instead she ran away, scared. This IS outrageous. No wonder you are mad! I also get your desire to have her SEE what she’s done to you. Maybe you should cut up that stuffed dog and take a video of it. Or draw a picture of her and poke holes in it. I don’t know about you, but I like to make “ugly art” when I am pissed off. You can share it with her, or not. Just making it is a way to give yourself the gift of validation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! This is exactly how I feel and exactly what I needed to hear. Anna has been in fairly close contact with my Skype therapist, Aisha, since we first started working together – if she was struggling to figure out how to support me, why didn’t she ASK AISHA? When we first started working together and were just focusing on understanding the self harm before we got bogged down in all the crisis management crap, it was really positive and really helpful and I don’t understand why we couldn’t go back to that, if she actually was committed to really trying to work with me. Much as I know that she did have to be honest with me if she just couldn’t help me, I do think she gave up too easily. And after all her promises about being there as long as I needed her, fuck her for that.

      I love the idea of angry art. I’m thinking of splattering and smearing paint all over a big sheet of paper and punching holes in it. Awesome idea.

      Liked by 1 person

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