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

If Nikki Is Shit It Doesn’t Mean I’m Bad

I’m too upset to be thoughtful or analytical or eloquent – I just need to write out what happened today.

It was my first session back after the whole overdose-rejection by hospital crisis-Skype failure-maternity leave misunderstanding debacle, and I was feeling more unsettled and uncomfortable than usual; when she came out to get me I was even stammering, which I rarely do.

There was this distance and disconnection right from the start. We were both being super cheerful and ‘friendly’ on the surface but there was an undercurrent of restrained tension that kept on building.

She started talking about strategies again and how I’ve been resistant so she’s been hesitant to suggest any, and I agreed. I am resistant. I have lists of skills coming out my ass, I have DBT group, and Nikki telling me to go for a walk or take a cold shower doesn’t add any benefit for me; it just upsets me that she’s trying to superficially problem-solve something that’s so much more complicated. Which prompted:

“What’s the point in coming here, then, if you can do it all yourself?”


“How was I supposed to know that?” [that I swim regularly]


“I’m not saying you should stop coming; if you want to keep coming it’s completely up to you.”


“If we can get to the stage where I can say to you ‘Rea, you’re being a dick, and if I was your mate I’d be really pissed off with you right now’, and if you can trust me enough that you can not think that that’s the end of the world, and I can trust you to not go away and think that it’s the end of the world – are you not getting it? Do you not get what I’m talking about? I think it’s an important piece of the picture.”

That’s going to be playing on repeat in my head for a long time.

The hurt and rejection boiled over at the end of the session, when she asked what had prompted the crisis two weeks ago, and I said I didn’t know; that it feels like it just happens.

“I wonder if that’s an important thing to know, because you seem to get it in your head that around anniversaries things get bad, and I wonder whether it actually is the anniversary or whether it’s just getting it stuck in your head. And so does that not give you some evidence that it’s not necessarily about anniversaries, it’s just about getting stuff stuck in your head, so actually taking the potency away from anniversaries?” 

I lost all control at that point; I took a couple of gasps of air, tears came to my eyes and I tucked my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them, without any conscious intent to move.

“That’s the most stupid fucking thing. What the fuck.”

The confusion and betrayal are so intense; every time, for every anniversary, I’ve told her that I know it’s all in my head, that it’s so frustrating to feel compelled to harm myself when I know it’s completely arbitrary and meaningless. Where was she? If I could just change my thinking about it then I would; if I could just stop having obsessive-compulsive thoughts then I would. What the fuck.

It got her back up.

“I’m not saying I’m going to come up with pearls of wisdom all the time!”

I made her leave the room. I couldn’t sit there with her.

When she came back in, she asked “You okay?”, in a flat, almost irritated voice, and I blocked her out, calling for Leia so that I could put her in the bag and leave. Nikki wasn’t safe, at all.

She knelt down so that she was at my eye level, and asked again, calmer this time: “You okay?” 

I didn’t respond.

“I’ve just had a thought; you said you didn’t want to come on Tuesdays [today] while you were on the DBT group, but I haven’t deleted them from the calendar.”

More anger.

“That’s probably because I didn’t say that.”

Back before I started DBT, Nikki said that maybe two sessions a week would be too much while I was also doing group once a week, and I told her I’d have to wait and see how it went; I felt pressured to drop back to one and like I was being too needy if I said I wanted to keep two, so I equivocated. She apparently took that as a solid decision.

She’s so misattuned. The last time I did DBT I had much, much more intensive support (two psychologists and a kinesiologist) but Anna still built in extra support when I started DBT because it was so triggering for me. And Nikki just doesn’t hear me at all.


If Nikki Is Shit It Doesn’t Mean I’m Bad

The One You Feed


“Inside each of us are two wolves. One is evil, one is good, and they are always at war.”

“Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

“The one you feed.”

The next day, Nikki texts me at midday to ask whether she’s seeing me at 6pm or whether she should cancel our appointment.

For fuck’s sake, I think, anger settling in my belly and spreading out through my arms. Last night you said to text you when I get back – why are you now asking me if I still want my session today? I feel like you’re hurling me around in the air like one of those gymnast ribbon things. 

For a couple of hours, I can’t decide what to do, and I don’t really want to think about it. I’m annoyed with her for disrupting my day again, after I’d mentally shelved her until next week.

I could text her back and tell her yes, please cancel the session; I even start writing the message in my head, but it doesn’t feel good. It feels hostile, and closed, and distancing. I have this feeling in my chest like I’ve taken a big black ball of gooey tar, wrapped it up in clingfilm and pressed it in just above my heart. I know if I choose to step away instead of move towards her, that ball will stay inside my chest for a while.

So I text her back, and tell her that I made a doctor’s appointment because I got the impression we were cancelling, but as long as they’re running on time then I can Skype at 6pm.

(Though I’m tempted to, I don’t say Take a beginner’s class in scheduling and learn how to have the barest, most basic level of stability, you scatty idiot. That would definitely be feeding the bad wolf.)

We don’t actually connect until 6.40 – technological difficulties again – and part of me is hoping she’ll say forget it, sorry, this isn’t going to work tonight. I feel shut down and protective and I don’t know what I’m going to say to her.

Not much, it turns out. She asks how I’m doing, and I don’t trust her with any kind of real answer, so I say I don’t know how to answer that. (I still think this is progress from “okay“.) She asks a few questions about how long I’m staying at home, and she’s engaged, tender, leaning right in to the camera.

How was the weekend? she asks, and I shrug, take a breath, and think for a moment, eyes slipping off the screen. The true answer is that it was fine, that I took Everest and Leia to a studio to get professional photos, I went to a concert, I came home to my brother. But the full answer is that it was fine, and I’m relieved that it was fine, lucky and grateful that it was fine, because it almost wasn’t and that still scares me.

I’m not ready to open that up with her yet. It was okay, I say, with the quirk of my lips that acknowledges I know there’s a lot I’m not saying.

Okay, she says. Her brows are furrowed, and she has both hands resting around her neck. She pauses for a second, then gives a quick, almost imperceptible shrug and says I worried about you the whole weekend. 

Another momentary pause. I’m doing that face I do when people say caring things that feel like they can’t really be true; kind of a mix between skeptical and patronising.

I woke up worrying about you. 

Sorry, I say, but only because I can’t think of anything else to say, not because I mean it. I wonder if she should be telling me this, whether this is a boundary issue again, but it has its intended effect; I thaw a little.

The camera freezes as she starts to respond, and when she unfreezes, she has tears in her voice. I interrupt to tell her that she’d frozen, but I wish I hadn’t, because she doesn’t repeat whatever she was saying.

It keeps freezing every 30 seconds or so, and it’s just impossible to have a conversation. 6 minutes in to the call, I’m done. We’ve touched base, our relationship is okay, and there’s no point trying to talk about anything meaningful when it’s this disjointed. But I still feel an aching distress in my chest after I hang up.

With the contact barrier broken, I don’t really hesitate when I want to text her the next day. I’ve been thinking about the options for her maternity leave, prompted by her raising it on Friday, and seeming frustrated when I insisted that I didn’t want to see anyone while she was gone, that I wanted to take a break. And there’s a kernel of doubt in me, planted by Dr S last week, when he brought up Nikki’s maternity leave, and asked whether she was leaving “for a year or indefinitely“.

The last time we talked about the length of her leave was in October, when she said she was “barely taking any time off” and she’d “probably only be gone a couple of months, 8 weeks“. I want to be sure of how long she’ll be gone before I sit down and make pro and con lists for each of the options. I want clarification, but mostly I want reassurance that yes, she won’t be gone too long.

Meant to ask yesterday. When you told me last year that you were pregnant you said you’d be taking a couple of months maternity leave (which I mentally rounded up to three because two doesn’t sound like enough). But when you were talking on Friday about plans for when you’re away it sounded like you’re going to be away for quite awhile? Have plans changed?

It’s a bad day today, the worst I’ve had since I’ve been home. My brother is back at work, and I’m home alone and failing to be productive, fighting the urge to go back to bed. Nikki doesn’t reply for a long time, and I’m unsettled, uneasy, expecting that she’ll tell me no, nothing has changed, but unable to really focus on anything until she does.

Hours later, her reply comes through. I’ve been sitting by my phone, sometimes just holding it, so I open it immediately.

I don’t think I ever said there was a set in stone amount of time I was taking off. Pretty sure I said I would have to get my head around how long I would take. So sorry if I’ve confused things. I think I would have to say four months is realistic so not that much longer than the three you thought. I think I may have said we might have to start with Skype sessions at first? It’s really difficult to predict that early on with the new baby. Can we discuss this further when you get back!

For a moment, I’m too thrown by the phrasing of the message to really register the content. I feel attacked. She sounds hostile and defensive, and the fight part of me rises up to obscure the hurt and confused: what did I do wrong?

Then it hits me. She’s going to be gone at least until August. Given that both of our Skype sessions have been total disasters, probably at least until September.

The urge to self harm rises up, coils around me. Oh my god. There are tears pressing at the back of my eyes. I was insistent that I didn’t want to see anybody else because I didn’t see the point; I really wanted, needed to save the money, and seeing somebody for two months wouldn’t help me make progress; we’d barely get past the introductory stuff in two months. But five months? That’s too long. Oh my god. 

The shock is like I’m getting the news of her pregnancy for the first time. I’m so glad I didn’t find out in session; I don’t think I could have poker faced my way through. And I’m so glad I didn’t find out at home, or I’d be bleeding.

Instead, I put on a meditation app, and I notice how the tears fall harder on each exhale. I go out for a walk, and when my brother comes home, he puts on his focus pads and we box. I try to use my feelings to feed the good wolf, not the bad.

(I can’t believe she’s so fucking unprofessional she gave me misleading information about how long she’ll be gone and then never corrected it because she’s never mentioned it again in the last three months becomes: You did such a good job to ask her to confirm, Rea, you’re getting so much better at raising things, I’m so proud of you, and This feels a lot like the way my parents never spoke to me about self harm because they knew I didn’t want to talk about it, this would be a great chance to explore that dynamic, the way I subtly intimidate people into being afraid to bring things up.

Five months, oh my god, that doesn’t even fucking make sense, if she can Skype then she can come to the office, it’s only 10 minutes from her apartment – is she planning to do sessions alone with the baby, which is not okay, or with her partner at home in their tiny one-bedroom apartment, which is also not okay, and I wouldn’t even know she has a one-bedroom apartment if she wasn’t so fucking unprofessional becomes I’m so upset she’s going to be gone for so long, and this is also a great opportunity to have the time and money to explore other things; I could do private yoga therapy or take a Buddhism class or focus on physical health and fitness.)

I’m probably trying too hard to run straight past grief and into acceptance. This sucks. It fucking sucks. No; it’s devastating. I’m afraid to feel the full weight of it.

I can’t make myself work, even though I told my boss I would, so in the afternoon, I push myself to use a DBT distraction skill. I bought some brush lettering pens a couple of months ago, and I like the focus on pressing hard on the downstroke and lightly on the upstroke. It’s rhythmic, engrossing, calming. I pick whatever words come to mind and feel right; shit; sad; cry; stab; hurt. Bitch keeps coming to mind, but it doesn’t feel right.

And then another word comes to mind, and the tears well up again, and I don’t write any more. I realise why I’m so upset about the length of the break, and that what I’m feeling is grief. I don’t think I can go five months without therapy, I don’t think I can stick to my plan of just taking a break, but if I start seeing someone else, then I don’t think I’ll go back to Nikki.

My last word is goodbye.

The One You Feed

Got What I Wished For, I Guess

“Hi Rea. Sorry, haven’t had a second to call you today. Crazy busy. Dr S sent a message to say he did hear from you on Saturday and that you’ve gone back to [home] for a week. Sounds like a good plan! Hope you have a good break! Text me when you get back and we can organise another session. Thanks for paying those fees too! Talk soon. N.”

I hate her. I never want to see her again.

Got What I Wished For, I Guess

I Really, Really Scared Myself

On Thursday morning, my bags are packed, and I’m ready to go to the psychiatric hospital.

I haven’t slept much. I’ve looked though the timetable of mandatory activities for inpatients, and they mostly look okay, but I’m terrified they’re going to make us do some kind of interpretive dance workshop where we pretend to be trees. (My anxieties are apparently very specific.) When it occurs to me that I’ll probably have to share a bathroom, I almost change my mind completely.


I’m desperate, but I also feel centered. I’m out of control to the point where I can’t see any option other than being in a hospital, being supervised, kept safe, forced into a routine that will pry me out of bed…and there’s a strange kind of peace in that. I have total conviction that no matter how frightened and averse I feel to doing this, doing this is the only choice and so I have to get through it. The anxiety is muted beneath a full-body sense of deadly calm. Dissociation, probably.

Things on Thursday don’t go smoothly. Based on my experience, the admissions department is run by six Beagle puppies and a dead tarantula, and their process is something like this:

Image result for meme fill out form

The first hurdle: the day before, the psychiatrist from the emergency room decided I was “resistant” to being admitted because I said that I hadn’t made a final decision yet, and so he elected not to send my discharge papers over; I can’t be admitted without them. (I find this out from my boss, who’s rearranged meetings to drive me to the hospital and is angry with me for screwing up the process. I tell him I don’t want his help if he’s going to be like that, and hang up (angry, sad, sobbing: I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t understand why the ER psychiatrists always treat me like I’m so difficult, I’m not, it’s not fair)).

The second hurdle: once I’ve dealt with the paperwork nonsense, the hospital changes their mind, and decides I have to be assessed by Psychiatrist #11 before they’ll take me. (I’ve seen him twice before, to get a referral for DBT.) I’m so phone phobic and overwhelmed I have to burn myself to gather the courage to make the call, and he won’t discuss it over the phone, so I have to make a ($400) appointment to see him the next day.

The needy, clingy part of me wins over the guilt and shame: I want Nikki to know where things are, what the plan is. I want to feel that she’s keeping track of me, keeping me tethered, contained, watching and ready to step in. I don’t want to do this on my own.

So I text her, and tell her her I have an appointment, and ask if she’ll be in her office (only a couple of minutes walk from the psychiatrist) afterwards. I can be; no, don’t come in specially, just thinking about a safety plan if things go badly; okay, but call me from his office as soon as you’re done. 

She ends her last message with ‘Night‘, and I’m stung; I know how to judge when a conversation’s over. I wouldn’t have replied anyway; you don’t have to push me away.

It isn’t until afterwards that I think: What? I’m making a safety plan?

At the third hurdle, I fall.

I fuck up. I sleep in, and wake up one minute before my appointment. I can’t go without showering, I can’t leave the house if I’m not clean, so our appointment is cut down from 45 minutes to 15.

There are ligature marks around my neck; I choked myself the night before, too many worries, too much despair and anger to sleep. I tell him about the overdose, the cutting, the burning, that I feel out of control.

In a voice that tells me it’s a decision and not a discussion, he says that he thinks being admitted will make me worse, and everything goes numb. I’m somewhere very far outside of my body.

Okay; why do you think it will make me worse?

Because I’ve worked with a lot of people with your kind of issues, and based on my experience, I think it will make you worse. 

I don’t cry yet. I feel like I’ve just been told that someone I love is dead, and I know that I’m devastated, but it still feels unreal. I nod blankly when he tells me to come back on Monday, and to call tomorrow morning to make an appointment once I’ve decided whether or not I’ll be going to work that day (no, he won’t give me a morning or evening appointment unless I’m sure I really need one, those are sought after and if I’m not going to go to work anyway then I should come during the day, call once you’ve decided – because, evidently, on Saturday by 12pm I will know whether or not I’ll be able to get out of bed on Monday).

I hate him, and I hate myself more.

As promised, I call Nikki. I tell her that he won’t admit me, and she’s frustrated (Oh, you’re kidding!), and immediately responsive.

(Do you want me to come?

I don’t know.

I’ll jump in the car now. I can be there in 10. Okay?

A long pause. I feel completely devastated. I don’t think I can talk. I don’t really have the money for another session. I didn’t bring a cigarette lighter, so I can’t hurt myself enough to make me coherent. But what’s the alternative? I can’t just go home.


Less than 10 minutes in to my explanation of what happened, I’m crying. Raw.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. 


I don’t think I can keep myself alive if I go home. The private hospital won’t take me; the psychiatrist dismissed me, cavalierly (I’ve lived this long without being admitted, and I’m not somebody who can be helped, anyway; probably just looking for attention, best not to indulge that sort of thing).  The emergency department thinks I’m difficult, one of those patients.

How? I don’t understand what’s so wrong with me that they can look at me bleeding and bruised and poisoned and choking, drowning, asking for help, and turn me away. Make me feel bad for asking.


I was going to do the yoga class and focus on mindfulness and talk in group about practicing coping skills. Carol and Megan were going to visit and Chiara was going to look after my cats. I don’t understand. How could that make me worse? How can I be any worse?

Nikki suggests we make a list of options of what to do. Yes. Okay. That makes sense. Option one is to try again to find another hospital that will take me; option two is to do nothing in response to the immediate risk, to continue seeing her once or twice a week (once? why once? why are you saying once?), keep doing DBT and keep seeing Psychiatrist #11.

And then the conversation derails; what do you want in terms of therapeutic stuff, as in ongoing therapy in the long term? Would you rather go forward seeing a psychiatrist for psychotherapy instead, maybe Psychiatrist #11?

(Okay, okay, she’s just asking, it’s the wrong question to be asking right now, the wrong thing to be discussing right now, but it doesn’t mean anything, she’s just asking, giving you options. Oh god, it hurts that she’s asking. I feel sick.)


No, I tell her. I like that he’s direct, and I can have intellectual conversations with him, but he’s not somebody that I would be able to share anything emotional with.  

And then she starts pushing. Maybe that’s just about building trust, maybe I should see him once a week and her once a week, once you establish a connection she’s heard he’s really good, and really, can you share emotional stuff here either? She’s not just giving me options any more; she’s pushing me away.

And then she’s talking about her maternity leave, and how she’s going to have to separate, and she’s not going to be able to be the crisis person, and she’s not supposed to be the crisis person anyway, so there’s going to be have to be a line. She wants me to have someone else while she’s gone, she’s nervous about me taking a break from therapy.

I don’t understand why she’s talking about this when we only have an hour to figure out some kind of plan; if we don’t figure out what’s going to happen right now, today, then I won’t be alive while you’re on maternity leave, so it isn’t going to matter. There’s a rhythmic swooshing sound in my ears. I feel dizzy, fuzzy, far away; my head drops backwards sharply, suddenly too heavy to hold up, before I catch myself, pull myself back upright.

This is not the time for you to panic about boundaries, Nikki. You can panic later. Don’t do this to me right now. Please. Don’t do this today.

It’s not like she’s suddenly cold and distant. She spends two hours with me; when I completely shut down and we’re stuck in silence, she convinces me to come for a walk with her and buy some lunch. (She gets a salad, and I get the world’s grossest smoothie which turns out to have bee pollen in it. Bee pollen. Why?).

It’s still clear she cares about me, is still drawn to care for me.

(I feel like I should have come with you [to the psychiatrist] today. 

I don’t want you to sit for any more hours in that shitty hospital. I don’t want you to feel any more pain. This is so ridiculous to say, isn’t it? But just know. Just know. 

If I could do the maternal thing, and drive you there, and set it all up, and settle you in, tuck you up in a nice clinical bed with some lovely matronly staff, then I bloody would, but I can’t.)

But I’m a client and she’s my therapist, and All I can really say to you is come and see me on Tuesday. 

It’s a death blow. A hammer to my chest. I’m not going to make it until Tuesday.

I don’t want you to be going away from here today feeling like you’re completely alone and unsupported and lost, she says, but it’s exactly how I feel. I am alone. I’m going home, alone, and the only person who’s going to save me is me. That’s right, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but it’s hard to reconcile that she’s going to leave me to die because she needs to move her car, and because tomorrow isn’t a work day. Three days ago she was driving me to the hospital; two days ago she was bringing me food and clothes. If she hadn’t, then being sent away now wouldn’t feel so bad. It would be normal, expected (though really, she should be calling the police, or an ambulance; at this level of risk, no therapist should just let me leave).

But I’ve had a taste of feeling like I matter. And being a client, with the expectation that I’m on my own until our next session, is crushing me.

I’m partway home when the obvious solution comes to me; I’ll fly home and stay with my brother, C. I’m safe with him.

It’s incredible, the shift. In the space of a second, I’m no longer at risk. I still feel terrible, but I have a way forward.

Half an hour after I leave, Nikki texts me, tells me she’ll call me after she’s spoken to Psychiatrist #11, okay? I don’t reply. I’ve shifted states completely, from vulnerable and desperate to completely self-contained. Nikki feels like a stranger, not so much intrusive as just irrelevant. I’m not trying to make her worry, but I don’t feel any connection to her, and I don’t care if she is worried, don’t feel any impulse to make sure she’s reassured. (There is anger under there; I hear it now.) Any way I respond will have layers of meaning, then Nikki’s reply will impact me, and I want to stay an island.

Twenty minutes later, she texts again, says she’s really concerned, she’ll have to call the crisis team unless I contact her within an hour and commit to staying safe until our next session on Tuesday. I don’t reply.

When the hour is up, she calls, to check in, she says in her voice message. I don’t pick up.

Three hours after that, she texts a third time, lets me know she only spoke with the psychiatrist briefly, that she wants me to catch up with a friend tonight, and she wants to touch base on Monday to make sure I’m okay; take care. I read it and I think: Why is she assuming that I’m still alive? 

Saturday morning she texts a final time to remind me to call the psychiatrist and make an appointment for Monday; she hopes my Saturday is going better than my Friday!!; talk on Monday. All I feel is aversion. No warmth knowing that she’s thinking of me. No urge to reply.

Tomorrow, she’s going to call, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I don’t want to ignore her, to sit with the discomfort of behaving against my values, and be stuck with knowing that we’ll have to mend a rift next time I see her.

I don’t want to talk to her. I want to protect myself from disruption; it’s too dangerous, I’m feeling more contained, and I can’t risk having feelings right now. I’m in a safe bubble, here with C, and I don’t want her touching it.

I don’t want to tell her I don’t want to talk to her, and have her respect that and back off. I think that might kill me.

Ideally, I want her to just stop existing for a week. Maybe two. She can exist again when I’m ready. But right now, I’m not.

I Really, Really Scared Myself

The Last Time?

That night in the hospital, I text Nikki at 2am; I want to be better or dead and I don’t care which one. I’m hooked into an IV drip inserted just above an infected burn on one arm, stitches in the other, my right foot streaked with yellow and purple from hitting it with a sledgehammer, and I’m throwing up everything I’ve ever eaten. I’m a fucking mess.

The next day, though, I realise I don’t mean it. Nikki comes to visit, and partway through the conversation, I roll my head back on the pillow, pressing my eyes closed.

I can’t believe I’m here again. 

This is the last time, she says, resolute, and it hits me like a lightning bolt. The last time? No. No! I have the urge to somehow clasp this experience to my chest, like a toddler with a favourite toy, and refuse to let her pry it away. The idea of never being in a blood-stained emergency room bed again is frightening. I hate the nausea, the urine samples, the doctors on rounds talking about me as though I’m sitting right there, and I need it. It’s routine. Familiar. I don’t really want to be dead, but maybe I don’t really want to be better, either.

The last couple of days have been like some kind of weird movie directed by Tim Burton where an attachment-disordered client’s dreams come to life. In very concrete, solid ways, Nikki has manifested all the care, support and concern that we want from our therapists. Met all of those primal needs. Touch. Food. Clothing. She’s been a mother.

When I call her and tell her I’m freaking out, she asks me if I want her to come over. I’m hesitant (isn’t that…weird?), but I know little Rea will never stop yelling at me if I pass up this opportunity to have her at home with me, so I decide yes, please can you come? And she does. She sits in my chair and she comments on the art on my walls and reads the titles on my bookshelf aloud to herself. It is incredibly uncomfortable and everything I’ve ever wanted, all at once.

She falls into the situation sideways, because she does home sessions as a part of her normal practice, and she can’t predict that I’ll panic and take an overdose, but it ends up being a pretty literal rescuer scenario.

(Have you done something?

A nod, eyes fixed on the bedspread. Fear coiled in my stomach. Dread.

What have you done? Gentle.


Have you taken something?

A nod.

What have you taken?

Just Panadol. Quiet.

How many? Distress, but not surprise.

I only had 20.

That’s not ‘only’. You know that’s a lot. We need to go in.

I don’t want to. 

I know you don’t. You can die from that, and I won’t let that happen. There’s no chance. Firm. There might be tears in her eyes, but I only look up at her for a second, so I’m not sure.

I’m so fucking stupid. A whisper.

Oh, Rea. A beat. I’m glad you told me.

A long pause.

Don’t be mad at me. Little Rea, crying.

I’m not mad at you. Tender.

You should be. But I don’t want you to be.)

Instead of calling an ambulance, she takes me to her car, and drives me. She seems to be fighting herself at every stage; first she says she’ll walk me (it’s five minutes from my apartment), then she realises she needs to move her car and says she’ll drop me off. Then she’ll just park in the five-minute drop-off zone and get me checked in, then she says she’ll stay until eight and goes out to move her car into parking. At half past, when she finally tells me she has to go, she still seems hesitant.

I don’t want to leave you, she says, and I bite back I want you to stay.

I’m okay, I say instead.

Before she comes to my apartment, she calls the psychiatric hospital, and organises an appointment for me with the intake coordinator the next day at 12pm. She’ll pick me up from home at 11.30, she says.

(I can take myself.

You don’t have to.)

Even after the overdose, the drama, the inconvenience, she’s still planning to take me. She’ll pick me up from the hospital, but call her in the morning if anything changes, okay? It turns out, though, that the hospital refuses to discharge me in time because I have toxic levels of paracetamol in my blood, and she can’t drive me the following day [today] because it’s her day off and she’s caring for her son.

(If you really cared you’d get a babysitter, I think mutinously, then I’m horrified that the thought would even cross my mind. How did I become an entitled monster so quickly?)

She touches me to comfort me, to gently get my attention, and I soak it in.

(A couple of months ago I told her a story about my mother, and she said That reminds me of the time I tried to give you a hug, and the amount you repelled…it was like I’d burnt you, or given you an electric shock. You were practically up against the wall, like this, and she mimes flattening her arms out straight against the wall.)

When she arrives at my apartment, I’ve just finished hastily wiping up the blood from the bathroom floor, and I thrust the kitten at her to try to distract her from the bloody towel I’m pressing to my arm. It doesn’t work.

Is it time for a hug? she asks, sympathetic, and she’s already standing close, and I can’t even remember how it happens, but we’re hugging. It’s fuzzy now, but I think her cheek is pressed against mine. Eventually she draws back, because I’m never going to.

At the hospital in the waiting room, I slump against the wall half-conscious, and when she wants to talk to me, she puts a hand on my knee instead of saying my name. Both times she says goodbye, she puts a hand on my shoulder and squeezes gently. It’s another barrier down between us.

(I want her to hold my hand when the doctor’s poking around in my arm trying to find a vein, but I notice the still-tacky blood smeared across my palm and fingers, and I’m afraid she’ll be disgusted but feel obligated to do it anyway. So I don’t ask. But she doesn’t flinch at anything, not at my apartment when I reach for the kitten and accidentally drop the towel covering the fresh gashes –


Don’t be sorry. It’s not like I don’t already know this is what happens. 

– and not when the doctor peels back the covering over the open, infected third-degree burn on my forearm.)

The food is the thing that most strikes at the desperate orphan in me. When she comes to my apartment, she brings a tub of fruit salad and yoghurt, because she’s worried I haven’t been eating. Later, at the hospital, when my hands are on my stomach and I’m breathing through the nausea, she thinks it’ll get better if I eat and wants to go out and buy me something.

Having someone tend to physical needs is enormously meaningful for me, especially since my mother is so scornful of me for daring to eat. The next day, when she comes to visit for an hour with a bag of food, it isn’t even just the gesture of bringing sustenance that floods me with feeling; it’s the caretaking in the detail of it.

[This is what’s in the bag:

A salad with chicken on top, and a little plastic pig full of salad dressing: earlier in the day she texts to tell me she’s making me a salad, and asks whether I eat chicken.

A snap-lock bag full of Vita-Weat biscuits, and an equal number of roughly-sliced pieces of cheese wrapped in clingfilm, with a little jar of chutney to put on the cheese.

A tub full of grapes.

A pack of wet wipes, because I’d told her that I felt and smelled like a rotting animal.

A singlet of hers, to replace my bloodstained tshirt; it smells like her, and I immediately decide I’ll never wear it because I don’t want to have to wash it.]

That’s the kind of bag only a mom could pack for you. Right?

She asks whether my cats need to be fed, and mentions that she’d thought about going to my apartment and picking up my laptop for me; when I tell her that a friend has fed the kittens for me, she seems almost…disappointed? After she’s gone, when I try to organise payment for the hour she was with me, she absolutely refuses. It was my choice, she says.

Of course, there’s a major problem with the illusion that Nikki is my mother – it’s an illusion. And the bubble has to pop.

The psychiatrist comes over to tell me I’m being discharged, then adds And we’ve talked to your psychologist and told her that next time she has to call an ambulance, and being in your home wasn’t appropriate. 

[The psychiatrist doesn’t like me.]

I’m on fire while I walk home. When I step in the front door of my building, I think I should kill myself. I feel intensely distressed, chaotic, frightened, shamed. I feel like I did something terrible, that I trapped Nikki by overdosing even though I knew she was coming. You got Nikki in trouble, you stupid bitch. She’s going to hate you now. She’s going to wish she never helped you. 

I need to text Nikki to ask her about logistics for the possible private hospital admission, but I feel intensely guilty for contacting her, afraid that I’m coming off as needy, that she’ll see the messages and regret that she reached out to me, think Oh dear, she really is desperate, poor thing. I feel sure that the responses she texts back are as deliberately brief and uninvolved as possible, intended to put distance between us.

And I desperately need her. My brain is an oxytocin junkie. It wants more, and it’s not satisfied with little hits. A text message isn’t enough now that I’ve had a hug and a home visit and a little bag of biscuits and cheese slices. I want to talk to her on the phone, to hear her voice. I don’t want somebody else to drive me to the hospital; I want her, and I’m deliberately slow about making the arrangements, hoping that if the admission gets put off to tomorrow she’ll offer to take me. The night I’m in the hospital, I almost don’t contact Carol and ask her to come sit with me, because I’m afraid it’ll make Nikki think I don’t need her. I’ve never felt this needy. I’ve never had to pace and bite my fingernails to hold myself back from picking up my phone.

I imagine sending out an internal rescue mission for the old me, and it makes me smile, at least. You. Yes, you, the teenage part with the bad hairstyle. Go find me the part that hates talking on the phone and bring her back here, on the double. And somebody get rid of this whimpering child part! 


I’m aware that Nikki and I are playing out patterns that have existed for over a decade. I don’t know how, but somehow I make people want to mother me. Take care of me. Rescue me. And I don’t know why; why have I spent over ten years seeking out and soaking in love from maternal figures but resoundingly rejecting any care from my own?

There’s a lot to explore and to understand in this dynamic. But I don’t think Nikki will bring it up on her own, and I don’t want to. Talking about it will take it away, and I don’t want it to go away.

I have no idea how this is going to pan out. Nikki might panic at her level of involvement, terminate and run like hell. But whatever happens, I’m going to get through it.

The Last Time?