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.