The Surgery, And A Bizarre As Fuck Therapy Session (With A Happy Ending)

I have a long, raw wound on my right thigh where they scraped off three layers of skin, stretching down to just above my knee. Above it is the graft, bigger than my hand, and black around the edges from the glue they used to attach it to my leg. And the thing that bothers me the most is a small, fading yellow bruise on the inside of my left wrist.

The morning of the operation, Nikki texted me to wish me luck – “Hope it all goes ok today and that you’ve got somebody to pick you up whenever you get discharged. It’s okay to ask for help! Take care of yourself!

I sat and just looked at the message for a long time. Over the next few hours as I sat waiting, playing Words with Friends and reading blogs, I went back to it every few minutes, reading it again and again even once I had the words memorised. Seeing them on the screen gave me something concrete to hold onto, and I felt warm and comforted. She’d reached out. It was just a text message, but it felt like something precious.

It took the anesthetist almost forty minutes to get an IV line inserted. She and the nurses bustled around, tucking my hands under blankets and rubbing them to warm them up, and I felt comforted by their touch, and then wildly scathing of myself; how pathetic am I, to be so starved for affection that somebody preparing to stab a needle into my veins feels good?

Bizarrely enough, I’m squeamish, and I had to look away and take deep breaths while she wiggled the needle in the back of my hand, trying to get the blood flowing. After half an hour without success, she turned my wrist over, and told me she was going to have to use the vein at the base of my hand.

I felt panicked. A little voice in my head said “No, no, I don’t want you to do that!“, and tears came to my eyes. I could feel myself start to sweat, and the blanket felt clammy. It was such a nonsensical thing, but I almost wished I’d defended that part of me, and asked her to find somewhere else.

Last time, I woke up in so much pain I could barely think, and so groggy and disoriented that while they were wheeling me to the ward, everyone’s faces looked big and distorted, like a funhouse mirror. This time, it was almost like I’d just been napping on the beach.

It was worse.

It didn’t make sense. Where was the pain? It was like having an acquaintance you don’t like very much cancel on you at the last minute – sure, you’re kind of glad you don’t have to hang out with them, but you wasted all that time making lemon bars and pushing all the dirty laundry under the couch for nothing. I almost felt cheated, in a way. This was supposed to be a big deal. WHERE IS THE PAIN?

(It showed up in a big way two days later, with a constant stream of blood running down my leg for almost 48 hours, and even with strong painkillers I couldn’t walk, and was left hopping around like a deranged cross between a kangaroo and a flamingo.)

Half an hour after I came around and was moved back to Day of Surgery, I texted Nikki back. I’d held off in the morning, afraid I was going to need her after the surgery, and afraid to “use up” my reply too soon. I was brave enough to tell her it was really nice to hear from her, and negated the vulnerability by pointing out I was only admitting it because I could blame it on the drugs. We texted back and forth a couple of times, she reminded to take it easy with half a dozen exclamation marks, and signed off with her usual “Take care hon“.

I was burning with the need to hurt myself, to force the aftermath of the surgery to align to my expectations, but I felt happy, and cared for.

The next day, I had my usual weekly appointment with Nikki. I’d lied to the hospital to get them to release me, and was wrapped in thick bloodstained bandages that kept slipping down my leg, but I felt physically okay.

We talked about the surgery for less than ten minutes, because I couldn’t bring myself to describe the experience to her (it’s boring and stupid and I’m making a big deal of nothing and she won’t understand and she doesn’t want to hear about it anyway), but I felt comfortable and connected, being there with her.

As the session wore on, the feeling of connection slowly slipped away. She was bringing up topics I don’t care about, pushing me to see friends and do things I don’t feel capable of doing. She’d asked me to bring a picture book I love, Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, but she didn’t “get” it, and I slipped back into that endless comparison. Anna understood, I thought, as I stared at her blankly, nodding non-committally along with whatever she was saying. When Anna read it, it made her understand how hard things were for me and how grey and endless this depression is, but Nikki just thinks it’s kind of funny. 

Then things started to go really sideways.

We were already at the end of the session time, and she started talking about how she’d been reluctant to go into private practice because of “the whole ‘worried well’ thing“, because she wanted to work with people who have serious problems and really need outside assistance to help them cope, not people who don’t have anything wrong with them and should just be relying on their friends and family instead of going to a psychologist. And internally, I started panicking – why is she telling me this? Is this the part where she points out that I’m a white girl with first world problems and tells me she can’t see me any more? Oh my god, why is she telling me this? 

I hadn’t moved at all, physically, but suddenly I was sitting much further away from her. I was right at the back of my head, in a dark, caverny kind of space, looking out at her from a distance.

Do you know what I mean?” she asked.

I get your general point, but I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

Then she talked for a while about how the role of therapy is to help you build up your support networks, and how the therapist is part of that, but there’s an issue around creating dependence.

Do you get what I mean now?

I do, but I’m still kind of like…what’s your point?

Outwardly I was very very calm, and inside I was confused and scared and angry, because I’m not dependent, and it’s so unfair of her to reach out to me and then accuse me of relying on her too much, and why was this happening?

She started to talk about how she thinks my relationship with my last therapist Aisha was more like a friendship because Aisha disclosed so much to me, and that she’s wary of telling me too much about her life as a way to make me committed to the relationship, even though in other circumstances I’m the kind of person she’d be friends with, and I was falling further and further into the twilight zone because I have literally never asked her a personal question, and one of the reasons I stopped seeing Aisha was because of her shaky boundaries. 

I’m just wary of putting too much out there,” she said.

Nobody wants that,” I reminded her flatly.

If the session had ended there, I would have lost my goddamn mind. But finally, finally, she got what was really underneath it all.

Okay. This is probably motivated by the stuff about Anna doing and doing and doing, and ‘contact me any time you want’, and coming to the hospital, and being the one that was there for you, and – I’m getting a lump in my throat – while you were in the hospital, it crossed my mind constantly that I could just go and see you and tell you ‘you need to bloody stay in here’ and mum…mother you. And so that’s a boundary that I get drawn to cross quite a lot. The friends boundary, or the mother boundary. I want to protect you, and say ‘bloody frickin stay in hospital!; what are you doing to yourself?; don’t go to work!; lie with your feet up!’. Do you know what I mean? You’re strongly drawing out that instinct in me. So that’s why I was talking about that. And I probably put it in quite clinical terms, but that was my motivation.

Her voice broke on the word ‘constantly’, and by the end she was crying, and embarrassed, wiping away the tears and hissing “oh my god” under her breath. It was so difficult for me to sit in my chair and watch her cry – my instinct is to reach out, to soothe, and I had a strong urge to hug her. The flat, distant feeling had disappeared immediately, and I felt alive and energised again.

We talked for another few minutes, and she said she thinks it’s important that there is a maternal instinct there, and when she told me she thinks it’s important that she wants to protect me and help me feel better about things, she choked on the words, and had to take a deep breath to compose herself.

It seems impossible that in all her talk about the ‘worried well’ and social supports and therapist disclosure, what she was really saying was ‘I care about you‘. That I could so easily have gone home feeling rejected when she was trying to tell me that it’s hard for her to hold a therapeutic distance from me.

Part of me feels wrong, and bad, like I’m doing something to manipulate her into caring about me. But oh, fuck, is there anything that feels better than this?

 

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The Surgery, And A Bizarre As Fuck Therapy Session (With A Happy Ending)

29 thoughts on “The Surgery, And A Bizarre As Fuck Therapy Session (With A Happy Ending)

  1. Oh so get that last part. Feels wrong and so good. Both.

    Umm yah that was a really strange way to get it across, but I am so glad that she did get to it. I too want you to please take care of yourself and let your body and wholeself heal. You are precious.

    I’m really glad the surgery went well, sorry it was so disorienting but also glad they took better care of you this time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I totally understand the last part feeling good/bad. But you haven’t done anythin​​​g wrong at all. You deserve to be loved and cared for Rea.
    I really hope you are looking after yourself after the surgery, I know how hard it is but please be gentle with yourself xx

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  3. Oh my god Rea! You turn even the most beautiful things into a reason to criticize yourself. Can I send you a hug (a gentle, cautious one that doesn’t bump your leg) and ask you to stop for just a moment? It is not manipulation or trickery that makes Nikki care about you so much. She cares because you are a smart, interesting person who is suffering way too much. She cares because you are easy to care about. She cares, and you deserve that care. You deserve it.

    I know that is going to be hard for you to accept, even though it’s perfectly apparent to all of us who read your blog. I wonder if you can try something E suggested to me, when I said I could never, ever tell her what happened. She asked me, could you consider that one day you can tell me? No way, I said. Okay, she said, could consider that one day you could consider the idea of telling me one day?

    Could you possibly say: one day I will be ready to contemplate the idea that at some point I might start to believe that I deserve love and not pain?

    You are such a dear person, so kind to others, so murderous to your lovely self. I so wish you could see yourself as others see you.

    Okay, but back to your post. I’m glad you have now seen how deeply Nikki cares for you and how she struggles to maintain the boundaries that she thinks will be most helpful to you. It’s so moving.

    I wish I were nearby and could sit with you and baby you through your recovery. I would do it (especially now that I’m unemployed and have time!). All I can so is ask you to be kind to yourself. The next time you feel like doing something harmful or that might damage your recovery from surgery, just that one time, can you imagine that I am there and instead do what I would lovingly do for you? xxoo, Q.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For all that I pretend to be tough and independent, I am a sucker for babying. For someone bringing me toast with Vegemite, and a drink, and covering me up with a blanket.

      I don’t know, Q. It feels like it’s all a trick – I don’t know if you are tricking me into thinking you actually care, or if I am tricking you into caring, but somehow it’s all a big mistake. I am trying to think about contemplating it, though. Carefully, and in small doses.

      I would have hurt myself the day I got out of the hospital if you hadn’t asked me not to, I think. I’m glad I didn’t – thank you. Sometimes I think reaching out doesn’t ever make me feel better, but then I remember your comments and how comforted and cared for I feel, and I realise that’s not true. It doesn’t seem to happen with people in my “real life”, but it does happen.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it doesn’t happen as much in “real life” because most people don’t really understand severe depression and self-harm. So they have a lot of fear, confusion, and mistaken ideas about what is needed (or they pretend they don’t see so they won’t have to show that they don’t know how to respond). Those of us here in this circle of bloggers, however, know all too well what it feels like. We don’t freak out. We aren’t shocked. We just know what it’s like.

        I do really care. I would happily come baby you, even though I don’t know what the hell Vegemite is.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This.shaking says:

    Hello Rea and Hello E! I am so glad to see both of you! You take such good care of each other … I want to bring a big plate of my wonderful chocolate chip cookies [use brown sugar and only half what the recipe calls for!] for my Neighbors. Let’s put on some music – I know Rea can’t dance right now … but maybe sing, clap, conduct the band??? Enjoy this day????? Hugs – TS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. TS, how did you know that chocolate chip are my favourite? I’ll pour some milk to go with the cookies, and while you and E dance, I will drum along on the table, and Everest will yowl over the music (and probably dip her nose in your glass, while you’re not looking).

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  5. You deserve so much love and care – Nikki cares about you because you are intelligent and wonderful…. and I’m glad she managed to get across that she truly does care even if it was a little shaky and she took a roundabout route.

    That was a bizarre as fuck therapy session. I can’t think of a better way to describe it, but if the end result was that she is there for you and cares then maybe it was a good thing.

    Gentle hugs to you, if you would like them. Xx PD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks PD. It’s a little scary because I don’t know how long it’s going to last and I feel like I have to be ‘good’ to make sure I keep it. But it is nice to know she cares. (More than nice.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so glad to hear that you and Nikki are in such a good place. She could have kept it in and decided not to share all of that with you, and I am so, so glad she told you. She really cares about you and that’s beautiful. And wow, that could have gone so badly – if she hadn’t clarified. I’m so glad she explained.

    I hope you recover soon. Sending you warm thoughts.

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    1. I’m still puzzled about how she could have thought that any of her ramblings about people who shouldn’t really be in therapy and about how she shouldn’t tell me about her life was communicating ‘I care about you’, but thank god we got there in the end. When she starts talking about random things that don’t seem connected to anything I’m getting better at keeping on asking her to explain instead of just giving up and pretending I get it.

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  7. This actually explains a lot of her behavior to me. And how you have perceived her, unsure of her care or support, and her responding to your texts with a lot of enthusiasm, and seemingly being there quite responsively to you. I imagine it actually felt quite vulnerable to her, to tell you all of that (given how you can, ahem, push a bit – no judgment!). I am so glad she did tell you, I am glad she spit it out, albeit awkwardly. And I am glad she keeps those boundaries, you don’t need an Anna, despite how good it felt sometimes. You need a therapist who can keep ethical conduct, AND care for you. Which I hear Nikki doing.
    Sorry about the ouchy leg, that just sounds really painful and terrible, actually. I hope it heals quickly, Rea.

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      1. On my phone, will respond when I get home in a few hours. That may have come out not exactly as I intended, I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings.

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      2. OK, good. How to put into words. The “pushing” I was referring to, I think is more of a lack of opening or reaching. The holding yourself back from letting her support and nurturing in, NOT reaching out when you need her, keeping the guard up, intellectualizing things (using your highly developed mind) and having that bit of “edge” you have mentioned having. Even over the internet, in our interactions, I sense this wall up. There is this sense that you are over there, and I am here, and I feel this caution around moving too close. I am only saying that to give honest feedback, not any kind of judgment. I have my own walls up too. But I am imagining how it would feel to sit with you as your therapist, and I imagine it might feel very delicate to reach towards you, but not so much that you retract even more. Yet you want to be reached for (we all do), but that reaching causes you to shut down the care (and person). Is this resonating, or am I completely misreading? Is this wanted, or should I take my analysis and shove it? I really like you, and I care about you, and I see how much you want connection but have a hard time believing you are worth it, or people genuinely want to be close to you.

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      3. I cried a bit, reading this. Yes, that’s exactly how I am, but I am surprised and sad to hear that it even comes across here, where I’m more open than I am anywhere else in my life. (And important to know, because it puts into perspective how much more strongly people in my ‘real life’ must feel ‘pushed’.) Those are almost the exact words Anna used, actually: “I’m over here, and you’re over there, and I can’t bridge that gap”.

        I was confused before because I thought you meant I push the boundaries, but this makes much more sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh no, definitely don’t view you as someone pushing boundaries. If anything, quite the opposite. With everything I said, I also do see you opening yourself here, sharing so vulnerably, and giving so much care to everyone. Your open and loving and understanding heart, is the reason why it feels a little ouchy or sad when you do wall yourself off; you have so much to offer, and your presence feels so good. So when you go away, it is sad for people who care about you and who want to be close to you.

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      5. Could you point it out, when I do wall myself off, or push away? If and when you feel okay to. It’s something I need to work on, but hard when I don’t even catch myself doing it.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. No prob, would be happy to. One example immediately coming to mind – me posting “Rea, Are You Okay?” because you hadn’t posted or checked in for awhile on here. Despite having some serious stuff going on, you kept it all inside. Didn’t let any of us support you, you turned it on yourself and hurt yourself and were all alone in it. I would have liked to be there (symbolically), at least had the opportunity to send supportive comments sooner than a few days. xx

        Liked by 1 person

      7. And I know how hard it is, to let feelings of closeness or connection or being cared for (like Nikki’s admission in session, or when I did submit that Rea post) stay – I get why you’d push it away or not let yourself remain open, hence the opening and then retracting. I get that, 100%. I also know that it also feels kind of nice to let the connected feelings stay, but of course that takes a lot of time and patience to sit with the vulnerability. I just want so much for you to not feel so alone, to let yourself open to people who really do want to connect to you. I am probably overdoing it, sorry. For some reason you just tug a little extra on my heart.

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      8. You’re not overdoing it – it’s all stuff I need to hear, and I am so grateful to you. I’ll never be able to tell you how much. In the last session, Nikki asked me why I went from “Never, ever share your feelings, ever” to feeling more okay about it, and the first thing that popped into my head was “Rachel”. Honestly.

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      9. In a nutshell, it is this sense that you will reject other people so they can’t reject you first. And you reject/abandon them by not letting them in, not letting their care in, not letting them have a chance to love you.

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  8. Nikki sure did express herself in a way that came across as bizarre as fuck, but I see the sentiment behind it, and it’s beautiful. I completely understand the last part – like I shouldn’t manipulate people in to caring about me. The thing is, I care about you COMPLETELY of my own volition. And so does Nikki. You are a beautiful soul, Rea, and easy to care about (even though I know it’s hard to believe that about yourself). Lots of love to you xx

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