I was anxious about therapy today. After forwarding J the post I wrote after our last session, I was worried I had done the wrong thing. I sat in a bus shelter on the way to her house, deliberating whether I should go to my appointment or whether to jump on a random bus and disappear for a while. Yes, therapy is where you’re supposed to be able to say anything at all. But after a year of working with J, I’ve come to care about my relationship with my her. In the past week, I’ve realised that this might have started getting in the way.
We both knew something wasn’t right, as I was holding back and shutting down. When she questioned this, I initially felt like I had done something wrong. I am already in a phase of feeling like an oxygen thief, so I am susceptible to taking any comment as criticism right now. I explained in my post that I felt like I was failing at being a good client, and this made me particularly reluctant to be open about how I feel.
Something else came up for me today though. I was daydreaming at work (always best to get paid for it) and I recalled a conversation I had with J when she came to see me in hospital after I took an overdose. It instantly felt important and I couldn’t quite work out why. Later in the day, it dawned on me that I had harboured resentment for the past two months over something she said to me that day. I think this had been pushed into the background by how touched I was that she came to visit me.
I was in a terrible state, emotionally and physically. I was attached to a drip, tired, nauseous and tearful. And she said to me, in a very kind way, that I couldn’t keep relying on her to rescue me. I know, in a solid, adult place that she meant I need to have more than one strategy for dealing with a crisis. And that’s a fair point. It is not right for me to rely on her being available whenever I feel dangerous. Because one day she won’t pick up the phone and I’ll end up dead. But in my insecure, self-critical little bubble, the message I’d internalised from this was a telling off. I’d translated it into the ultimatum; ‘do this again and I won’t help you anymore’.
It was odd that when I arrived at my session today, this conversation was one of the first things J asked me about. I explained how I felt about it and she apologised and assured me that wasn’t at all what she meant. I felt guilty for even mentioning it, because I know she wouldn’t have wanted me to understand it that way.
But when I think about it now, I did feel like it was a warning. Until that point, nobody had ever told me so frankly that I needed to stop damaging myself. J was the first person to say to me that I had to commit to taking care of myself. I think for me, there was an implicit meaning there; she can’t do it for me, nobody can. That was a shock, because I’m not sure I can either.
For me, this exchange has sat between us. It felt productive talking about it today. I felt like we had negotiated something difficult, bridged a small divide. It opened up the opportunity for me to explore why I can’t commit to being kind to myself. But it did also bring my abandonment fear to the surface again.
It’s so tough needing someone so much when you do nothing for them, other than pay them. Because there isn’t the comfort of giving something as well as receiving. That’s what cements the foundations of friendships; you are there for each other, supporting each other in turn. I feel like if I am there to help out a friend, someday I can be comfortable asking them for help. We are both exposed, both vulnerable at times, so we are equal. I find security in that.
To an extent I do feel reassured by today’s session. But at the same time I still fear being abandoned by J. I’m pretty sure that she could drop me and not starve without getting my fee. So I guess I simply have to trust her. I have to trust that she won’t disappear if I go downhill, she won’t get tired of listening to my crap.
I know I need to have faith in the process and persevere. For that to work, I have to take risks. And when you feel like you’re only just clinging on, even the tiniest risk feels colossal.