Re-engaging with therapy

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Today I had my first therapy session since trying to kill myself almost two weeks ago. I had an anxious mix of fear and anticipation fluttering in my stomach all morning. Part of me was worried J might be angry with me or disappointed, while the other part has been desperate to talk to her since the day I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital.

While I was in hospital, I’d sent J some emails about my thoughts on what I needed from therapy. That was a hard thing to do. But it felt as though my relationship with her and what we’ve been doing in therapy played a big part in me becoming suicidal again. It wasn’t the only factor, but it did have an influence.

I’m aware that therapy will inevitably churn up painful stuff. Since I started therapy, three years ago, I’ve often felt worse leaving my sessions than when I walked in. That’s just how it is when you’re poking at these deep wounds. Being able to manage that is crucial – and I mostly do. But when my reserves are low, and I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, a tricky therapy session can tip the balance. That’s something J and I have to work on.

I’m feeling increasingly infuriated by family and friends who assume that my therapy is bad for me because I’m often upset after a session. Or because, in their view, I’m not ‘better’ after doing it for years. It seems that since I tried to commit suicide, they have decided that they’re all now entitled to opinions on my treatment. They all know better than I do what’s right for me.

These opinions make me particularly angry when they come from my family; the very people who cause the majority of my distress. I want to scream at them. I want to yell in their faces that they are the ones who need to do something different if they want me to get better. If they want to trust I won’t try to end it again, they could consider changing their own behaviour.

What they don’t realise is that, while I have stuff to work through regarding my relationship with J, she has been there for me more than any of them have these past few years. She’s listened to me, accepted me, acknowledged my pain, and stayed there – week in and week out for years now. Yes, I know I pay her for that and she is doing a job, but the relationship is still hugely important to me. It pisses me off that any of them could think it is OK to judge that without knowing anything about it.

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t seriously thought about ending therapy recently. I’d somehow manoeuvred myself into a situation with J that felt unsustainable. Throughout this year, a lot of difficult stuff has come up in my relationship with her, and I have managed to mostly avoid dealing with any of that. The result was that my attachment to her got more and more tenuous and insecure as the year went on. Consequently, I became resentful and angry toward her, and I was looking for any reason the relationship would fail. At the same time, I was still constantly fearful of it failing, of being abandoned and left alone to cope with everything.

What I’ve been through in the past few weeks has helped me see this all a bit more clearly, and maybe with some distance. I put a great deal of thought into it, but I decided that I want to try to work things through with J. We’ve got a whole lot of messy threads to untangle together, but I want to give that a go and I want her to be the one helping me.

I made this decision partly because I have a lot of respect and love for J and I do value our relationship and the work we’ve done together. But I also strongly believe that if I changed therapist, this stuff would all come up again in time. These issues coming up in the therapeutic relationship are issues I need to work through, and they won’t go away just because I ignore them or change to a new therapist.

 

Image: Helen Melissakis, Creative Commons.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. DV says:

    I want to second what you’ve said about the same stuff just coming up again if you change therapists, and there being value on working through it with your current therapist if you have a reasonable working relationship and attachment. Other than the times I stopped therapy or changed therapists because we were really not a good match, or once when the therapist was just plain horrible (and dropping them was absolutely the right decision) changing therapists never really worked out the way I thought it would. The same relationship issues have kept cropping up every single time. At best I got in a few weeks to months of skill-building during the initial “honeymoon” phase before attachment dramas started to kick in. Even if you do ultimately decide to see someone else, the work you do with J now won’t be wasted – it will likely be helpful in working out what you might need in the future that is different from what J can offer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This.shaking says:

    Dear Laura: I had exactly the same view of this as DV so excellently expressed. I am very impressed with your analysis, and your courage, Laura. I will be thinking of you. TS

    Liked by 1 person

  3. La Quemada says:

    I was reading this thinking what good insight you had into yourself and your therapy relationship with J. I agree with DV and TS–if you are struggling w attachment issues with J, and she’s basically caring, competent, and compassionate, it probably makes good sense to stay and work on them with her. Because after all, “wherever we go, there we are…” We just carry our attachment wounds with us until we heal them, slowly, in a safe relationship.

    The main thing is, you know in your heart whether this therapy relationship is beneficial to you. You are wise to trust that and to let the words of family and friends who don’t get it to just slide right on by, background noise you can ignore.

    Liked by 2 people

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