She Didn’t Reach Out (So I Did)

It’s 10.30PM. The hospital is quiet – for once, nobody is screaming. I’m stuck here overnight, even though I tried to persuade four different nurses that I’m fine to go home. (If they’d agreed to release me, I would have felt disposable and devastated.)

I felt very small while they were prepping me this morning. It’s hard to be confident and self-assured with five people crowded around your bed in a small room, one inserting a canula, another taking your arms out of the gown while trying to keep your breasts covered, with a third sticking heart rate monitors on your collarbone while the registrar explains the procedure and shows you where to sign. Even though I was familiar with the process, I felt kind of lost, and like I’d surrendered – no matter what they wanted to do, I would have obediently lifted a limb or rolled to the side or followed whatever instructions they gave. That isn’t me, and I don’t like it when the compliant child parts are running the show.

I’m sad that I didn’t feel scared, or even nervous. I did the first time, and the second, but skin grafts are just old hat now.

My heart rate dropped during the surgery, and it stayed low after I woke, so I was groggy and out of it for hours. When they called the anesthetist back to check on me in the ward and she asked me if I knew where I was, I had to really think about it.

The visitor’s chairs have been empty all day. I decided not to tell anybody what was happening. While I drifted in and out of wakefulness, I surreptitiously imagined Nikki walking in the door, bringing me fruit salad, offering to drive me home, holding on to my arm while I struggled up the stairs to my apartment. Mostly I knew it wasn’t going to happen, but I still hoped.

I came out of the recovery room at 10.30am, but I didn’t get my bag with my phone until 4pm. I turned it on, hoping, hoping….but she hadn’t texted.

The monitors by the bed started beeping, alarmed by my blood pressure. It felt like something was squeezing my heart. When I had this operation last year and I’d only been seeing her for a few months, she still texted to check on me. When I was last in hospital, she came to sit with me. But this time I had to grow up and deal with it on my own. This time she was just my therapist, nothing more, and there were boundaries and I’d see her in her office on Tuesday and that was that.

I know she’s supposed to encourage me to reach out for support from my other relationships, and that being there for support unsolicited isn’t really therapeutic. She’s all over the fucking place and there’s counter-transference and frustration and god knows what she’s feeling towards me right now but I don’t doubt that in general, she does care. It’s not the end of the world. It’s fine.

But I wanted her here.

For half an hour, I debated whether or not to text and ask if we could talk for five minutes.

She’s going to think you’re needy and dependant and she’s going to regret the times she’s supported you and she’s going to pity you. Don’t be pathetic. You made the choice not to ask anyone to come be with you, and you have to deal with the consequences of that. It’s not appropriate to go whinging to Nikki when you brought this on yourself. 

You’re running out of chances to have the experience of reaching out. She’s leaving in a month, could be less if the baby comes early. Just this once, don’t be so rigid about living up to your own exacting standards. If you don’t reach out, you’ll regret it later.

So I texted, and she called, and we talked for fifteen minutes. I told her about the two opposing sides at war in my head: the one that is so angry and shaming me for not hurting myself badly enough, for being stupid enough to bother getting the operation when the injury is nothing, so minor that they’re willing to send me home tomorrow, that wants me to hurt myself again but properly this time; and the one that’s so sad and just doesn’t understand how I can be expected to go on with life like normal and get back to work tomorrow when something so major has happened.

Talking to Nikki didn’t help. It didn’t make me stop aching for a hug. But that wasn’t really the point. The point was to believe that I matter enough to reach out, and to push past the shame of being needy and do it anyway. Even though right now I kind of wish I didn’t, I’m glad I did.

This sucks, guys. I wish someone was here to tuck me into bed.

She Didn’t Reach Out (So I Did)

Here We Go Again

I cancelled my next two appointments with Nikki. Every time I imagined going back into that room and sitting down with her, the conversation in my head went something like this:

[“Can you tell me why you were so upset with me last session?”

“Because you were being a cunt.”]

It was the kind of uncontrollable rage that I used to feel as a teenager, (and as a child, I guess), when I used to throw things and hit and slash at people with words because I felt so angry I couldn’t contain it. I don’t know how to explain how big and uncontrollable it feels. And I get even more irrationally angry at everyone else going about their lives and making cups of tea in the staff kitchen and chatting over their cubicles because why are they being so calm and normal when everything is imploding why aren’t they angry and spinning out and losing control too? 

It wasn’t because Nikki said a few thoughtless things at a particularly volatile time. I was (am) so, so angry because she isn’t the right therapist for me, and I so badly want her to be. I want her to suddenly be attuned and appropriate and helpful so that I don’t have to say goodbye to her.

She isn’t, though. She isn’t ever going to get it. She cares and she means well, but she isn’t equipped to work with me.

[I know that working through anger is an important part of therapy, but I felt sure that going in angry would just make her defensive, and the situation would deteriorate beyond my ability to handle it, so I cancelled my Friday and Tuesday appointments – it felt like a wise mind decision, not avoidance. By Tuesday, though, I was starting to calm down enough that I thought I would be able to keep my next appointment on Friday.

Then on Tuesday afternoon, her office called and left a voicemail.

“If you want to keep your appointment with Nikki on Friday then you’ll have to see your GP for a review before then. If you don’t have time to arrange it before Friday then let us know and we can reschedule your appointment.”

The anger imploded again. What. the. fuck. It’s a normal part of our healthcare system that you have to see your GP for a review after six sessions (which I hadn’t actually had yet – Nikki counted wrong) but why were they telling me this with two days notice? It takes at least a week to get an appointment with a GP.

And again, it wasn’t really about this incident. It was about all the times she’s forgotten to book my sessions, or forgotten to show up for the session, or told me she has to leave on time and then changed her mind, or told me she’s taking two months maternity leave and then changing it to four or maybe five. She’s not stable and consistent, and I can’t do this with someone who isn’t stable and consistent, but she doesn’t even seem to realise how hopelessly scattered she is. And I’m angry, because I care so much. I want her to be my therapist, but she can’t be.

I sat on it for a few hours, then sent her a text: Why am I getting a call on Tuesday afternoon to tell me I have to see my GP before Friday if I want to keep my appointment? I felt like I couldn’t calm the anger down enough to go back there until she’d acknowledged it was a fuck up and apologised.

She didn’t respond. She’s never, ever not responded before.

I went back anyway. This is how she addressed it in session:

“Sorry I didn’t have time to answer your text. It sounded like you were pissed off. But once they called back and explained, it was fine and you weren’t angry any more?”

It’d be nice if this kind of thing didn’t keep happening,” I said, but then I let it go.

Oh, and another example? In that session, she told me she’s decided to go on a holiday after the baby’s born, and she won’t be back until November. So, not two months of maternity leave. Not four months. Seven months. It shouldn’t matter, when I’m not planning to go back to her anyway, but it does.]

During that week of feeling uncontrollably furious, I kept functioning. I often cried all the way to the door of the office, but I went to work every day. I meditated every day, I went to a boxing class, I went to DBT, and even though I wanted to desperately, I didn’t self harm.

That decision had major consequences for the way I behaved. If I’d hurt myself, it would have regulated my emotions enough to be able to keep myself in check. But I didn’t, and I was impatient, sometimes snappy,  trying so hard to rein myself in, observing myself and not liking the way I was behaving but not able to change it. Following a phone call with a government funder, I sent a recap email with some information missing, which meant we had to send a second email, and I wasn’t apologetic, and I didn’t care.

The next Monday, I was called in to meet with our HR manager. The woman I texted after taking an overdose last month, who came to visit me in emergency and brought me Pringles and crossword puzzles, the one that the nurses mistook for my mother.

She told me that she’d had feedback from staff that I hadn’t been a good team player last week, that the Jewish mama who’s been my strongest, closest supporter told her I was coming across as arrogant, that I needed to be careful about bringing my personal issues to work and jeopardising my relationships with my colleagues.

It was true. It doesn’t happen very often, but when I’m in that state, I do come across as arrogant, and I’m not very likable. But fuck, I’ve never felt so betrayed. I’ve worked here for three years. These people know me, love me, support me. I reach out to them and confide in them. One bad week, and I’m being warned to watch my step? It hurts, to feel as though their respect is so precarious. When I had lunch with my boss on the weekend, and I was in a better place, he said “I love this part of you,” but I can’t be that person all the time. Unless I self harm.

So I went home that night and burnt my leg, badly. Then I went back to work the next day and thanked the manager for her feedback, spoke to the colleague that I know complained and apologised for my behaviour. I sucked it up and made nice and I want none of them anywhere near me, emotionally, ever again. It hurts that I trusted them so much.

I went to the Burns Clinic yesterday, and they wanted to schedule me for surgery today. I’m having it next week instead.

I might as well just kill myself.

Here We Go Again