She Used To Care, And Now She Hates Me

“I’ve just finished my therapy with a difficult self-harming patient….hospitalised a couple of times this year with self-harm, very rigid views and belief systems…very controlling about what can be said and what’s said…

Those words have been playing over and over in my head for four months now. Difficult. Rigid. Controlling. Those are the words my last therapist, Anna, used to describe me when she was referring me on to a new therapist, after she abruptly cut and run, even though she promised over and over that she’d never leave me.

Anna, who took me on walks to the park with her dog and visited me in the hospital and read me poetry over the phone, who was willing to be there for me all the time, any time, if I’d only reach out. Anna, who told me I was funny and kind and smart, who poured warmth into all the empty spaces inside of me.

I know that they aren’t mutually exclusive. I know that people can be kind, and smart, and rigid, and controlling all at the same time. But it’s thrown me off balance. I didn’t know that she thought those things about me – what else don’t I know? It makes me feel naive, and afraid, and I don’t know what to trust any more.

Almost two months ago, impulsively, I wrote to Anna, requesting a copy of my notes. It was a short, clipped email, and part of me feels bad about it. It was polite, and I don’t think I owe her anything more than politeness, but it also doesn’t feel good to be so cold. The last time I’d been in touch with her, it was right after she’d quit, and I was sending venomous email after venomous email, wanting to make her feel as terrible as I did. I hadn’t intended to contact her ever again, and I didn’t want to, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Difficult. Rigid. Controlling. 

A week later, she wrote back, three sentences, informing me that she did not consider it in my best interests to release the information to me, but that she was happy to speak with my current practitioner. I was expecting it, and I was enraged.

You don’t get to tell me what to do any more. You don’t get to make decisions about my best interests any more. 

It isn’t about the notes any more. It’s about power, and about taking the control back from her, and it’s about winning. I know she doesn’t want to give me the notes, and I want to make her do it anyway.

I guess she was right about me being controlling.

I wrote back, informing her that she had breached the legislation about access to health records, not only by failing to give a proper reason for withholding them (it has to be based on a serious risk to my life and health, not just my “best interests“), but also by failing to inform me that I’m entitled to nominate a GP and have the records sent to them instead.

Maybe it was just ignorance. After all, she knows I’m a lawyer, and it took me less than ten minutes to find the legislation and the relevant provisions. It would be a pretty stupid way to try to keep me from getting access to them. But it still makes me furious, because I’m lucky enough to have five years of law school behind me, but what about people who don’t know their rights, and can’t advocate for themselves?

(But I also know she’s right, that I am a danger to myself, and when I do finally get my hands on those notes, there will probably be a lot of blood.)

Last week’s session with Nikki was tough. After her disclosure the previous week, where she’d cried, and told me she feels the urge to protect me, I’d been feeling excited, and happy, and like I couldn’t wait to be back there again. I wanted to talk to her, suddenly. Her emotions had flipped some kind of switch, and I wanted to share difficult things. And I wanted to tell her what had happened with Anna. I’ve been seeing Nikki for over four months now, but I still feel raw about Anna abandoning me, too raw to even mention it to Nikki. She thinks we parted on good terms.

Over the weekend, I’d drawn out a therapy timeline, and sketched the name of each therapist I’ve seen. Aisha was written out on the keyboard of a laptop, with teardrops on the screen, and Anna was growing up out of the grass like a flower, but with clouds lurking overhead. It felt embarrassing, and vulnerable, showing it to her, but I remembered Lily’s box, and I made myself be brave.

We never made it to Anna, and it went really badly. I was talking about Jen, the kinesiologist I love and miss, the only person who’s ever really been able to comfort me, and I told Nikki that I think the thing that made the most difference was that she would just sit and hold my hand or rub my back, and that I’m much more tactile than verbal.

Nikki talked about how the therapy relationship is all verbal, and that “it’d probably feel pretty weird if I was sitting here holding your hand right now“, and that Jen “had to touch you because it was her job“, and then she put a hand on my shoe in a pointed, kind of mocking way, and I went home feeling dirty and disgusting and like I needed to tear myself apart.

I barely slept, and woke up the next morning feeling anxious. I was on the verge of tears all morning, and I felt like I had to self harm. Like I should self harm. I was still triggered by the therapy session the day before, and I felt clenched and sick whenever I thought about Nikki touching my shoe, but I also felt small and sad, and I wanted to reach out to her. For comfort, for reassurance, for understanding – for a verbal hug.

Can you remind me that it’s okay not to self harm? Is it okay not to self harm?

And as always, she was incredibly responsive – within two minutes, she’d replied, telling me it’s more than okay not to self harm, that it doesn’t help me at all in the long term, to do something to just get through the moment, and asking if something had happened.

I felt about a million times worse. Upset that the message somehow didn’t have the validation or attunement or care I’d wanted, angry at myself for reaching out when it never helps and I should have known better, angry at myself because you should feel better, normal people would feel better, and ashamed of bothering Nikki, of disrupting her day and then not even being grateful.

She asked if I needed to talk – she had a client in 5 minutes but could talk right now if it would help, or she could call me in an hour. But I didn’t want to – I was at work, and anyway, what would I say?

I tried so hard, though. I was feeling triggered and bad and she didn’t feel safe, but I texted her back, and told her I felt like I’d done the wrong thing, and I needed a “You don’t need to self harm for being an idiot and disrupting Nikki’s day for no reason” message. I’m proud of that, of pushing hard to stay open and keep reaching for what I needed when I wanted to withdraw.

I got the message I asked for, and then she told me she was going in with a couple of clients and that she hoped the rest of my day was nicer to me. That stung, and I felt shut down and abandoned, even though I’d chosen not to take her offer of a call.

About half an hour later, I got a cold email from Anna with an invoice for preparation of my file – once it was paid, she would courier the file to my GP.

She’d charged me over $700 for her time photocopying it.

(In the state next door to me, the absolute cap a psychologist can charge is $33. The recommended fee set by the Psychological Society is $140. And worst, worst of all, Anna’s hourly rate is $180, but she billed me at $238, the maximum hourly fee for a clinical psychologist. That’s the malicious part, the part that cuts deep.)

I can’t reconcile my kind, loving therapist with this person who hates me so much. Literally, I can’t; they’re split into two separate people in my mind. Oh, maybe she doesn’t hate you, maybe she just really wants to protect you from hurting yourself when you read it. Okay, but if she’s concerned about me, why not say that instead of just being a bitch?

I reached back out to Nikki, to ask her advice, and she thinks I’m angry with Anna. I’m not. I’m just so, so sad and hurt. What did I do wrong? 

One way or another, I’m getting those notes. I wrote back to Anna asking her to reduce the fee, given it’s more than $550 above the recommendation from the Society, and I called the government department responsible for information privacy to find out about making a complaint if she refuses. If all else fails, I’ll skip a month of therapy with Nikki and I’ll pay the $820 for them.

But I’m terrified of getting them, too. What the hell is in there that’s making her so determined to stop me seeing them?

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She Used To Care, And Now She Hates Me

20 thoughts on “She Used To Care, And Now She Hates Me

  1. “I’m proud of that, of pushing hard to stay open and keep reaching for what I needed when I wanted to withdraw.” That was really brave to do – it’s so difficult to express needs when feeling vulnerable and rejected. I’m glad that Nikki is being responsive to you.

    I understand why you want to see Anna’s notes. And I’m sorry for what sounds like an unbearably painful ending with her. I would be really curious to read T’s notes, but I imagine they have the potential to make me insane with rage.

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    1. It was unbearably painful – 7 months later and it still hurts. But I’m glad it ended when it did, before she had the chance to hurt me even more. It makes it hard to trust Nikki.

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  2. Wow, I am so sorry Rea, for this entire situation. I too, feel better when held and while I understand why A can’t do it for me, the one time she offered her hand as contact plays in my head over and over… and I kind of sometimes wish she hadn’t offered it or I hadn’t taken it as I now kind of long for it.

    The ending with Anna, the whole thing with her, it sounds so painful. And I can’t believe what she’s charging you for the notes… I mentioned to A the other day that I would maybe want to see them… and she said she never writes anything that a client couldn’t read given she knows we have the right to request them at any time… I wish Anna had had that foresight.

    It sounds so difficult, and we are with you.

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    1. After reading this again I want to make something really clear – none of this is your fault. These are her failings, Anna’s. Whatever she wrote or said or did. They are not a reflection of you but of her.

      I just wanted to say that, because for me it’s always the hardest thing to believe.

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    2. The ending with Anna was so, so painful, more than I ever could have imagined. Thank you for being here, and always being so validating and affirming and just lovely.

      And I am interested that you might want to see A’s notes – do you mind if I ask why?

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  3. Sirena says:

    Rea, I’m really concerned about you obtaining these notes. You’ve admitted yourself that they are likely to cause you to want to self-harm. While I understand the reasons you want them, I think there’s little to gain right now from reading them, I don’t think you’re going to find whatever it is you’re looking for from them. It sounds like you and Anna have locked into a power struggle or a game. Personally the bigger power you have is to leave her in the past and face forward and find health. If you can no longer cancel the notes then perhaps give them to someone else to hold (sealed) until a time when whatever is in there truly won’t hurt you or have any affect on you. Right now is not the time to be adding further pain.
    Plus what she writes in her notes won’t be an indication of how she truly feels anyway, she will be writing in them in clinical language as if a peer is reading them.
    As for the touch issue. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Some of the most healing moments I’ve had in therapy is when I’ve been held. Touch conveys so much more than language at times. And it can literally soothe our sympathetic system and bring us to a place of calm. More and more trauma therapists are coming to realise the power and usefulness of safe touch and there’s more and more evidence coming out to back it up. I think Nikki’s reaction was clumsy and thoughtless and more of an insight into her personal discomfort with touch than anything to do with you personally.
    Can you talk to her about this? Is this something she could offer you? If not, where can you get that need met? Perhaps another touch/bodywork therapist in addition to Nikki?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I read this comment, part of me felt relieved – it hadn’t actually occurred to me that I could change my mind about getting the notes. Things have progressed and Anna is sending them this week, so I may or may not get them next week (depending on whether my GP decides to let me have them or not). I’m afraid to read them, but I also really want to be able to look at myself from an outside perspective – it’s kind of like, I don’t know what I need to work on until I know what needs fixing. God knows what’s going to be in them anyway. She could write in shorthand, or have indecipherable handwriting, or it might just be verbatim records of what I said without any insight. I am torn, and reading them might be a bad fucking idea, but I want to face myself, I guess. Thanks for your concern, S – it feels really good.

      I was just so thrown by her reaction, because she’s touched me more than any therapist I’ve ever had (and I’ve had 17). A light touch on my arm, a hand on my knee. And just in a natural, no discussion way. I used to do bodywork with Jen, but there is exactly zero chance of being able to afford $140 for that on top of the $200 a week for Nikki.

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      1. Sirena says:

        Wanting to look at yourself from an outsiders perspective is completely normal. The insight it can give is fascinating and helpful. And obviously you’d love to know the true inner thoughts of the person who hurt and rejected you. Who doesn’t?
        However, do you really want to face yourself through the lens of someone who hurt you and who didn’t hold you in gentle regard? Through the eyes of someone who can barely remain professional? Is that the version of yourself you want? Why are you trusting this person with your heart?
        You can still get other people’s opinion of you in a far less precarious way. You can work with a therapist’s countertransference in real time. Anna’s clinical notes are not where you’ll find yourself. Not a true reflection of you anyway.
        This feels like another form of self-harming. I really hope you allow the Dr to keep them for you until you’re in a place to read them and not be affected.

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      2. Why am I trusting her with my heart? It’s a good question, S. After the way she handled the termination, I have some pretty serious doubts about her professionally, so why would I give any weight to her opinions? I don’t know.

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  4. Rea,
    First of all, it warms my heart that you thought of my box while trying to be brave. You were brave – so brave – in being willing to open up to Nikki in the way you did, and I’m so sorry that she didn’t handle it well. The quote “it’d probably feel pretty weird if I was sitting here holding your hand right now” – ouch, ouch, ouch – but I’ll echo what others said – that completely reflects HER countertransference, HER feelings about touch, and has absolutely nothing to do with you being unworthy, undesirable, or unlovable. I think this may also have to do with her trying to set a boundary because she DOES care for you, so much that she feels like it threatens her ability to be professional (as she told you last time). She’s not expressing that anxiety well or handling it effectively, or in a way that benefits you, and that really, really sucks, because you have to deal with the fallout, and it’s not fair, at all.
    As far as Anna… when I read about the billing, both for sessions and for the notes… just… what the fuck?? I am so angry on your behalf (though I realize you’re mainly very said and hurt, and I understand that, at least to some extent, due to what I’ve gone through with J). Rea, it is absolutely your right to choose to (and be able to) read those notes… but, like Sirena, I am concerned about your safety. It sounds like Anna may have written some pretty hurtful things, and I understand why you want to see them. The things she said would have stemmed from her own insecurities, her own lack of professionalism, etc, and are NOT an accurate reflection of you… please know that. Would you be able to compromise and get the notes, but save opening them for a time when you have someone who can help you go over them? I don’t want whatever Anna has to say to have the final say over your health and your life, because you are an incredible, strong, and beautiful person who is working so hard and so bravely to come to healing, despite all the odds that have been stacked against you. Now that I wrote that it sounds kind of trite, but I mean that so sincerely.
    Also, Difficult? Rigid? Controlling? None of us are perfect, for sure, but it sounds like this could be some more countertransference (I mean, who is really making things difficult here? hint: NOT YOU).
    Lots and lots of hugs and love to you, Rea. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rea, I’m jumping in with Lily’s post (hope you don’t mind Lily) because I agree with everything Lily has said here.
      YOU are NOT being difficult. You really are amazing. Just try and take care of yourself. The dogs send kisses xx

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    2. The worst part was that I really didn’t see it coming, because she seemed comfortable with touch. She’s touched me more than any therapist I’ve ever had – a hand on my knee, a touch on my arm – so it hit me out of the blue. I’m going to be holding on to the pain from that for a while, I think.

      You make me feel so warm and held, Lil. It would probably be safer not to get the notes (though it’s hard to tell when I have absolutely no idea what kind of records she even kept), but I feel like I’m going to go mad if I don’t read them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand. Love you, Rea. Also, I’ve just finished reading about your current struggles and please know that I’m sending lots and lots of love, hugs, and my hand to hold, if you want it. Always feel free to email me. Please don’t pick up that gun, Rea. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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  5. Um, can I say that I love your response to Anna? Fuck right you are a lawyer! I love it. I cheered internally at that, and at your final closing statement “I am going to get those notes.”
    I like the sprite part of you, and honestly, why not be controlling? What does that even mean, controlling? That you don’t want someone else trying to control you, or a situation? When I hear “controlling” client, I hear “I am feeling insecure at my ability to navigate someone’s intense pain, so I am projecting my fear of their pain, back onto them.” Because, why do any of us try to control? Why do I control pretty regimentally, the way I eat and what I eat? Why do I do that? Because I am living in a body that feels fucking wired most of the time, and being able to control for vulnerability factors (food, sleep exercise, etc, external stuff) helps. I guess my point, is that I don’t even view controlling as a real description of a person, I just read “oh, they are afraid of something.” And even if you were controlling, it would be for a damn good reason.
    Second, be gentle with yourself, and the notes, if and when you get them. Now you have me wanting to email Delaney for her notes, just because…

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    1. I was a little worried about sharing the more bolshy side of me, and relieved that you like it! It’s very rare for me to advocate for myself so strongly, and always related to money, but when it happens I don’t back down.

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      1. I like it! No (negative) judgment on my part at all. Though I understand how it can feel exposed, letting those more bolshy sides out into the open.
        I definitely won’t on purpose get into an argument with you, I already know it would not end in my favor.

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  6. Dear Rea, I think I agree with Sirena. I can totally understand why you don’t want Anna to be the one who decides what you can or cannot see. No wonder! She ended things terribly and hurt you in a way that is just not professionally justifiable. It’s outrageous and infuriating. And the fees she wants to charge is just more of the same.

    But I worry that you are looking for something, even willing to give up a month of therapy for something that you can use to hurt yourself. I know from experience that when you are looking, there is plenty to find. If E says, “have a nice day” to me, and I’m hurting, I will feel terrible because she doesn’t get my pain and it must be unreasonable and she must be sick of how long I’m hanging onto this, why don’t I just get better? No matter what she wrote, you will find something. Because despite your rage, you are also naturally vulnerable when it comes to Anna, whom you trusted.

    To me, it seems like the most important thing is being gentle with yourself, helping yourself. You did so well at that in your interactions with Nikki. You are making real progress! I know it takes a long time (I’m working on it too, of course), and I’m learning that progress means repeatedly making the choice to love rather than destroy yourself. I care about you and just don’t see how reading those notes will be choosing love.

    But liking caring touch–that is choosing love! It sounds like Nikki is very uncomfortable with that. Her issue, not yours. E doesn’t do that either. But I also work 2x a month with C, a mind/body therapist, and I’m still kind of surprised by how much that is helping. I wonder if you might look to augment your therapy with something like that?

    With great affection and hope that this comment won’t piss you off, Q.

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    1. I don’t think I could be pissed off with you even if I tried, Q.

      When I first thought about getting hold of the notes, it was absolutely about finding something I could use to hurt myself. I don’t like cutting (I’m squeamish, and seeing the inside of my arms grosses me out), and I was pretty sure that there would be things in there that would hurt me enough emotionally to make me hurt myself enough physically. And then (so the story goes), I would feel better. Cleansed in a river of blood.

      Now I am seeing it a little differently. That I might hurt myself along the way, but that I want to be able to look at the parts of me that aren’t so pretty, and work on accepting them.

      Nikki’s response blindsided me, because until it actually came up in conversation, I’d assumed she was okay with it. She has touched me more than any therapist I’ve ever had – a hand on my knee, a light touch on my arm, in a way that seemed like it was just her natural instinct to reach out.

      There is just no way that I can afford to add another kind of therapy, on top of the $200 a week I pay for Nikki. I miss Jen, the kinesiologist who did body work with me, but I’m also not sure if I would go back even if I could. It was too easy to avoid working through things when I used to see three or four people at once. Mad at Anna? Well, fine, I don’t need her anyway, I can go to Aisha for support. Aisha isn’t offering this thing I need? Fine, Jen will be there for me.

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