The day after the disastrous session with Nikki, I felt guilty. Okay, things had not gone well, but there wasn’t really much she could do about that. It wasn’t her fault that Skype froze and FaceTime didn’t work and she happened to be at the same festival that I was. She committed an hour out of her day to me, and that’s what I got – the fact that we were only able to talk for half of that doesn’t change the fact that she spent an hour focused on me.
She hadn’t seemed angry the night before, but I still felt anxious about exposing my nastier side to her. I didn’t feel like I could wait another week to reconcile, but I was afraid of contacting her again, of being too demanding and high-maintenance.
In the early afternoon, I sent her a text, asking if it would be okay if I sent her an email. Before then, she had replied to every text message in less than 5 minutes. This time it took 3 hours. It wasn’t the waiting that bothered me – it was the change. I took some deep breaths, and tried to listen to the wise voice that counselled me not to read too much into innocuous things.
Eventually, she sent back “Of course!”
I feel ambivalent about sending her emails – it’s not the way I want to communicate, but at the moment, it’s the only way I can communicate. My mind is jumping from Point A to Point Q – the last time I sent her an email, she hadn’t read it by the time of our next session almost a week later, because she hadn’t checked her inbox in that time, and I leapt to the conclusion that she must not have many (or any) other clients who email her, and therefore I’m weird and demanding and she’s taking pity on me.
But it doesn’t help, to not be able to explain things to her, and then feel hurt and frustrated that she doesn’t understand me. So I sent the fucking email.
I’m frustrated with myself, that it feels so impossible to talk to you. And I know it’s frustrating for you too, because of course you can’t help if all I give you to work with is monosyllables.
I often find myself thinking You’re not listening to me!, but when I reflect, I know it’s probably actually:
- What I think I’m saying and what I’m actually saying are two completely different things; or
- It’s one of these situations:
So I guess I’m writing this because I’m not sure whether I’ve communicated it and I do want you to know and understand some of how I feel, and because I want you to know that I am trying, even when I’m being impossible.
This is what an okay week looks like:
Wake up feeling anxious, ten minutes after my last alarm went off. Go back to bed for another ten minutes, until I’m definitely going to be late for work, then bang my head against the headboard a couple of times to get myself moving. Stand under the shower and think about what I should write in my suicide note to my favourite nephew; blink back tears. Get off the train and walk to work with my chest feeling tight, my skin tingling; feel the urge to sink a razor into my arm. Do the rounds, say good morning, chat to Cara about what we both did last night. Sit at my desk and work for a little bit, then notice that I’m rocking myself back and forth. Shift back to lean against the chair to try to keep myself still. Go back to work. Open eBay and search for scalpels; no, I’m supposed to be working. Close the tab. Go back to work.
Check in with Sarah; how is it going?; listen to her vent. Stop at P’s office; (she looks stressed); ask how she’s feeling.
Spend twenty minutes trying to decide what to eat for lunch; everything looks unappetising. Share some cat videos with Cara; read new blog posts; check in with Ash and Ally; go back to work. Talk to R; try not to get snappy when he gives me more work to do. Look up whether you can overdose on Effexor, and how many pills it would take. Go back to work. Feel blood trickling down my arm; am I bleeding? Put a hand up my sleeve to check; no, just memories.
Watch the clock. Is it time to go home yet? I need to go home. Skim through a document; can’t focus; check the clock. Maybe I can just leave early? Go back to work. Finish a little after 5.30, pack up my stuff, tell myself I have to call out goodbye to Rebecca and Siobhan as I leave, I have to, it’s not that hard. (It’s too hard; I don’t.)
Walk to the train station; feel bored and frantic at the same time.
Shit, I have to go and pick up Everest’s food from the vet, she’s been out of wet food for days. But I’ll probably know the staff member and I’ll have to make small talk; I can’t, I can’t talk to anyone, it’s too hard. I’ll go tomorrow. (I said that yesterday.)
Walk in the door, tear off long sleeves, pick up Ev and crawl into bed. Love her so much; she touches my face with her paw; my heart could burst. Lie with her; close my eyes. Think about having to get up and do this all again tomorrow; want to cut myself. How am I going to get through tomorrow without cutting myself?
Pull my laptop onto the bed; flick through Netflix. Watch five minutes; can’t focus; too much effort. Think about choking myself; no, the rope’s in a box under the bed, it’s too hard to get it out. Text Gretel a photo of Snape in a wig; laugh at the photo of Dumbledore she sends back. Close my eyes.
Read blogs; leave comments. Play Words with Friends. Write in the Highlight Of My Day book (sat in the grass; photo of the baby from J; stranger singing to himself on the train). Feed Ev; get ready for bed; crawl under the covers. Too restless; roll from side to side; feel panicky; kick the end of the bed. Get up and pace. Read five pages of Calvin and Hobbes. Go back to bed. Put headphones in. Skip through twenty songs, listen to half a song then start skipping again. Curl up; dig my nails into the bottom of my foot. Get up and pace. Go to the bathroom and get out a razor blade. Hold it for a minute, press it against my skin, then put it back. Go back to bed. Fall asleep at 4am, and dream about bleeding.
When I say spending time with friends is “too much effort”, you seem to hear something like this:
What I’m trying to say is: Sometimes I spend an hour and a half in the shower because the idea of getting out, drying myself and getting dressed feels too impossibly difficult. I get up every day and go to work and attend meetings and make calls and support colleagues, and the effort it takes to be functional makes me wish I was dead, but staying in bed all day isn’t going to make anything better. So I go to work, and I volunteer, and I keep in touch with family, and I look for a second job, because my niece wants dance classes but she lives near the beach so I’m not taking her out of swimming, because I need to be able to go home regularly, because I need therapy, because I can’t stop myself buying medication for the homeless guy at the pharmacy who can’t afford his script, because my brother owes me over $8,000 and I was crazy enough to book a trip to Bali with my tax return. A lot of days, I feel like I’m way past my capacity to cope. And the thought of adding another thing that’s “good for me” but doesn’t feel good makes me want to cut myself.
When I say “I don’t want to”, what I mean is I usually make an effort not to complain, and to see the good in things, because my life is better when I look for the positives. But things are hard, and it’s exhausting trying to be ‘brave’ all the time. I need this one place where I get to whinge and be pissed off about how hard I have to try, and not be expected to be upbeat and instantly ready to tackle anything all the time.
I get that there’s a tension there, and you want me to make changes because you want my life to be better – that comes from a lovely place. I guess I just want to know that you hear me, too.
Thanks for hanging in there with me.
P.S. Can we change “push” to “encourage”? Maybe ‘encourage’ doesn’t capture what you mean, but I prefer it because it sounds like you’re on my side – ‘push’ doesn’t.