there is a very strong self-destructive force in you

I went back to see Alina on Tuesday. It felt wrong to call and cancel after she’d gone out of her way to see me, and even if we couldn’t work it out and she wanted to refer me on, I didn’t want to end things with her telling me I had to leave, and with me walking out. I didn’t want her to think I was seething in a corner somewhere, downing shots and throwing darts at a photo of her face.

So I went back. We had an appointment scheduled, and I assumed that if our last session was The Final Straw and she wasn’t willing to see me again, she would have had her receptionist call and cancel my appointments. I was wrong.

I arrived at 2pm, and she was with another client. I sat in the waiting room for 15 minutes before I’d constructed enough of a poker face to ask the receptionist, and my cheeks flamed red as I lied unconvincingly that I must have got the wrong day, and stumbled out the door.

I don’t even really understand why I felt – feel – so ashamed. She was unprofessional enough not to communicate with me before booking over my timeslot; how is that my shame? But something about it feels so cringeworthily pathetic, to turn up thinking she would be expecting me, when she’d crossed me out and moved on.

And I felt angry. Who is she to assume that she knows me, to be so sure that I’d just walk off and not show up again?

In the two hours between that debacle and my appointment with Nikki, I cut and burnt, and I really wasn’t in the mood for therapy. I was feeling even more guarded than usual, which basically means I threw a couple extra alligators in the moat to back up the catapults. I didn’t tell her what had happened with Alina, because I dreaded being asked how I felt about it.

I’d wanted to talk to her about working on my belief systems around pain. We only have 8 sessions left now, and if we keep just going through my history, I’m going to walk away feeling like I’ve dug up a mess of bones without any time to clean them up, lay them out neatly and bury them back in the ground. I’m worried about boring her by focusing in on one narrow thing, but I think that’s the only way to leave believing that it was worthwhile. So why didn’t I bring it up? Yes, I was very shut down after what had happened with Alina, and trying to initiate a conversation with Nikki about goals felt abhorrent and impossible. But therapy sucks anyway. Why am I suffering through it in near-silence and getting nowhere, instead of pushing a bit harder, suffering a bit more and maybe actually changing something?

So far, Nikki is following the well-trodden path of psychologists before her. She wants to know what will help me feel comfortable; we’ll go for a walk next week; I should bring Everest along to a session. She asks to see my arms, is distressed at the extent of the scarring, and both sessions run at least 15 minutes over time. She says she’ll make calls, talk to people, try to get more help for me, but says that doesn’t mean she is getting rid of me; she’s more than happy to keep seeing me. I like her, a lot, and if I could afford to keep seeing her I would. But there is nothing that makes me think this person could help me change my life. Can anybody?

The next morning, on my way to work, I got a text from Alina – the receptionist had told her I was there.

I am sorry that our meetings ended in such way. And I am sorry for misunderstanding of what has happened on Friday. I was looking forward working with you although we both know it would not be an easy path. But you said last Friday that you were not ready to sacrifice with staying on line and checking your e-mails while you are at therapy sessions, in fact you said you were choosing e-mails over therapy and left in the middle of the sessions. So I interpreted all of it as a sign that you were not ready to commit to therapy. And as much as I regret that out attempt to work together has failed this time, I also know that I could not do anything else. We know that there is a very strong self-destructive force in you and without clear boundaries and limit setting we will not achieve anything. I think you know that you need a strong therapist, but then you are fighting it at the same time.”

I got angry, I cried, I cut myself, and then I started wondering whether she was right. Not about her retelling of what happened – I certainly never said I was choosing emails over therapy! – but about me sabotaging myself. Did I walk away from somebody who was inflexible and arrogant enough to be certain of her own assumptions, or did I throw away an opportunity to work with someone great because I was too willful and stubborn and convinced that I was right? Or like most things, does the truth lie somewhere in the middle, and if we’d both bent a bit we could have connected?

I don’t know, but I want to. I felt so outraged that she was claiming I was uncommitted and self-destructive when my conscious motive for picking up my phone was to regulate, to stay calm enough that I could stay in the room with her, in therapy.

A little too outraged, perhaps. Usually when I feel that fired up about something, it’s because I know there’s at least a glimmer of truth in it, and I wish there wasn’t.

I’m a bit at sea. There’s no rush, I keep reminding myself, but if my conception of a ‘good’ therapist is completely different to what I actually need to get better, then it doesn’t matter how long I wait. They could land in my lap, and I’d throw them back into the sea.

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there is a very strong self-destructive force in you

7 thoughts on “there is a very strong self-destructive force in you

  1. The woman with her strict boundaries sends a text message to communicate? These are the exact types of reasons why therapy with people who take a punitive and judgmental approach to “borderline” (trauma) cause so much more damage than harm. I really do not appreciate how she handled the situation, and I am very impressed and in awe that you went back. A “self-destructive force?” How about you have a lot of emotional pain that you are doing your best to cope with. You don’t have a self-destructive force, you are in pain and trying to get help. I don’t agree with her assessment.

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  2. Rea, like Rachel I am not impressed with Alina. I think you are probably better off without her, but I can see how painful it must have been to show up and know she had cancelled but not told you (another mark against her). Also, if you are “not ready to commit to therapy,” then why did you show up again today? I think she has some kind of fixed ideas about BPD and doesn’t get you at all.

    Would you consider writing Nikki an email with the idea you have, focusing more narrowly? Then if something hard happens right before you see her next time and you find it hard to talk, she will still know what you’d like to try. Just an idea.

    I just wish you could find a really skilled therapist who could commit to you over the long haul (and be affordable). Much more than a self-destructive force, I see a desire for healing in you, one that is strong enough that you keep on trying despite the discouragement.

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    1. I guess that is the downfall of seeing someone who specialises in a particular area – when she was making rules and setting boundaries, I did feel like she was talking to someone who wasn’t actually me.

      Nikki and I did agree that next week I have to share something of my own accord, and so that will hopefully push me into talking about wanting to focus on belief systems. I’d like to send her an email, but it feels too high maintenance. I know it’s probably okay, but I would feel wrong.

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      1. You don’t have to send the email. Just write it out and bring it. You can read it or let her read it, whichever is less excruciating at the time :-). Or you can send it. If you are only going to see her for 2 more months, lay it on, she can deal, right?

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  3. I don’t know what the right answer is. I am glad you are still trying. It is tough to trust yourself and your needs in any circumstances, let alone these where it feel so much is on the line. I say go with your gut. Heart and Head can get confused and over think/over feel things, but you got guts, so maybe use them? hmm that made more sense in my mind then it does written out. :-/ Half the time its hard to tell who is in charge (mind/heart/gut) so maybe that is really poor advice 🙂 I did smile at the line where you said therapy is basically going to suck no matter what.

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    1. My mind just went off on a tangent trying to work out a situation where therapy wouldn’t suck. In a field of daisies? Nope, still sucks. In Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? Nope, still sucks.

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      1. Ha ha. Yep, pretty much. why do we do subject ourselves to this again? For me maybe it wouldn’t suck so much if I could be snorkling in Hawaii. Course then it wouldn’t be therapy because I’d be too distracted and wouldn’t be able to hear anything under water 🙂 I guess we put up with it because the alternative is worse somehow?

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