I felt totally humiliated today. It was like one of those dreams where you show up to school with no pants on, except this time it was showing up for a session and finding your therapist wasn’t there and wasn’t expecting you, and it wasn’t a dream.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, I told Nikki I was thinking of taking three weeks off therapy. I desperately needed to save some money, but mostly I just wanted a break from the constant triggers. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that that wasn’t a good idea, that it would just be perpetuating my avoidance and reinforcing my “therapy sucks” attitude, neither of which promote healing. But after our crappy session in the park, when we were back in the reception area with clients and other staff milling around, she asked me whether she should cancel three weeks of our regular sessions, and I felt so intensely aversive to telling her that I was coming back that I shrugged.
“I don’t care. Whatever.”
And I walked out.
An hour or so later, she texted to thank me for the Christmas card and to wish me a Merry Christmas. I’d had enough space to calm down, and I texted back “See you on the 3rd!”
Today I arrived right on the dot of 6pm, and buzzed the intercom. When somebody picked up and asked “Who is this?“, I panicked and froze. I must have pressed the wrong buzzer; the consulting rooms always just buzz you in immediately. I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just waited for a moment, my head going fuzzy, then pressed it again.
This time, one of the psychiatrists who works at the rooms came to the door and opened it.
“Who are you here to see?”
“Um…Nikki,” I said, awkwardly stepping around him while he stood halfway blocking the entrance.
“There’s nobody here,” he told me. “I just turned off all the lights.”
It was like I’d just run straight into a brick wall. This sudden, shocking wave of shame and humiliation just rose up and smacked me in the face. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I felt like this pathetic, unwanted, pitiable thing.
Before I could excuse myself and run away, he was dialing Nikki, and telling her there was a client there to see her. I heard her voice on the other end of the line, indistinct, then he covered the mouthpiece and asked “What’s your name?”
Oh my god. Oh my god. I’ve seen her at 6pm on Tuesday every week for the last 7 months, and she had to ask who I was. Oh my god.
While I was still trying to figure out how to extricate myself from the situation and go somewhere quiet where I could tear myself apart, the psychiatrist finished his conversation with Nikki and told me she’d be there in 10 minutes. I sat down to wait, cursing myself. The day before, I’d wanted to text her to confirm my appointment, worried that this exact thing would happen, but I refused to let myself. Stop trying to control every little aspect of the process, I told myself. You told Nikki you’d see her on the 3rd, so just trust that she’ll be there.
Ha. Well, that was stupid.
She arrived breathless and panting, dressed in cut-off denim shorts, and excused herself to change. By the time we finally sat down, 20 minutes of the session were gone.
“I thought we’d agreed that you’d contact me if you wanted to keep your sessions?” she said.
“I did. I texted you and told you I’d see you on the 3rd.”
She pulled out her phone to check, then winced. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “It’s lucky I only live 10 minutes away!”
Apparently she cancelled all my sessions for the three weeks. Even if she’d forgotten the text message, I never actually said I wasn’t coming. I don’t blame her (she obviously assumed I was going to decide in favour of a break, and no point screwing herself out of possible income), but it hurt, that she wasn’t holding that space for me. It feels unbearable that she’s booking them back in, like I’m crawling back to her begging.
So; the session sucked. I could talk to her lightly, like telling the story of the time I ran stark naked down the hallway because there was a daddy long-legs spider in my shower, but I couldn’t share anything important. I can’t recover that quickly yet, and I didn’t have the sense of safety that I need to open up about anything – not only because she hadn’t been there, but because there was so little time left.
We came close to something difficult when she asked about my foster brother, but I said hesitantly “…I don’t know if I want to talk about that today,” and she dropped it immediately and moved on. I needed to be coaxed today, reassured that she really wanted to hear what was going on for me, but she probably felt it was important not to push me.
I’m trying to balance my humiliation with what it probably felt like for Nikki, to be called by a colleague and told she’d forgotten a client, and then to have to face that client completely unprepared. I’m trying to remind myself that I don’t have to hurt myself to express my feelings.
And at least for tonight, I haven’t self-harmed.