Therapy is suddenly unfamiliar


For the first time since university, I am sat in a launderette impatiently watching the minutes tick down on the machine that I hope isn’t wrecking all our clothes. This is the first chance I’ve had to do some writing in a few days, so although it’s noisy here and uncomfortable I’m going to attempt sharing what’s going on for me.

It’s been a week since my wife and I left behind our old, easy way of living and moved onto our boat. There has been a contagious run of challenges and technical problems; rectifying each seemed only to lead to a new one emerging. For the most part, things are sorted now, but we’re still without hot water.

At first, I could remain optimistic in the face of these issues and just see them as small hurdles to jump. But you can only do so much jumping before you’re exhausted and just want to take it easy for a while. I hit a wall on Wednesday. I just ran out of energy and positivity and wanted to be able to go back to the house, where it’s warm and comfortable and everything works when you need it to. I got intensely homesick for how cosy and easy that life was. And then I felt all this sadness, like a sudden grief for my old life.

It didn’t help that my trip back to my hometown to see J felt disappointing. I’ve been very worried about how it will be to have a long distance therapy relationship. Having to drive so far is always going to put pressure on the session; I know I’m going to need to feel like it’s ‘worth’ the travel. That’s just how I am.

I was really nervous about seeing J on Tuesday. I got there two hours early because I was worried about getting held up in traffic. When I arrived for my session, I passed J’s husband in the driveway. That’s never happened before, as I know he avoids the times her clients are coming and going. It felt massively awkward and uncomfortable, but adult me managed to make eye contact and smile at him as we crossed. This meant I already had a hunch something was up with the timings.

We’d shifted the session 15 mins earlier than usual because it will now be 90 mins instead of an hour. I sat for a while, panicking that I’d got the wrong time or the wrong day. I was really very stressed. I was shaking and my hands were sweating profusely. After a few minutes, I called J but it went to voicemail. So I tried to calm myself and just wait. I was only waiting about five minutes, but it felt like an hour.

J had forgotten we were starting earlier. She apologized and my adult part was cool with it. We all make mistakes. But the small parts were scared and hurt. They were really distressed, not only by being forgotten about but by being ‘seen’ by J’s husband. There was also this part that felt like an inconvenience. That part assumed J was annoyed at me for interrupting her lunch, or for wanting to change the start time or have longer sessions. It was hard to just settle and be present.

So I closed down all those parts as much as I could, and defensively kept the whole session focused on small talk about the boat. What I really wanted was to update J briefly on boat happenings, and then share with her how I’d felt spending time with my dad (unsurprisingly that wasn’t good). And I wanted to tell her what’s happening for me around the move and change and all the fear it’s generating. The self doubt that’s dogging me and how intimidated I feel a lot of the time.

I couldn’t go into any of that stuff though, because the start to the session had left me feeling like it wasn’t safe to be vulnerable. The problem was I couldn’t tell J that, because, ironically that would have required feeling vulnerable.

As I drove away, all I could think was that the session felt like a total waste of time. I was angry that it didn’t feel good enough, and I felt let down by myself and by J. Immediately, the self destructive thoughts started. I was thinking of suicide before I’d even left town. The traffic was dreadful, and that just made me feel worse. My journey took double the time it should’ve, so for 3 hours I sat there feeling distressed by the thought that therapy at this kind of distance is not going to work.

When I got home, I was exhausted and bad tempered. I took some meds and went to bed. But I was already feeling anxious about my Skype session with J on Wednesday. We’ve never skyped before and I imagined it would be awkward and would feel even worse than our session in person had. I was worried that my data connection wouldn’t work well enough or that I wouldn’t get any privacy.

Only one of those worries became reality. Our data service was good, and it didn’t feel too strange talking to J through a screen. In fact, she felt very close and there was something nice about her being ‘in’ my home. I gave her a little tour of the boat and I liked that she could get an idea of how I’m living now.

But the conversation, again, was all surface level. This was not helped by the fact that an engineer came to help fix our engine and I couldn’t postpone him as we were desperate to get it running again and charge our batteries. That meant that my wife had to hang around to deal with him. So they were both there, wandering around outside and within earshot most of the time. I felt on edge because of that; I didn’t want them to hear me or J, even if we were only doing small talk.

A few minutes before the end of the session, J asked how our session the day before had felt. I hesitated, but I didn’t want to say something untrue. The fact that I was on my bed, with my dog cuddled up to me made it easier to tell her how it had been for me. But it was still hard to get the words out. I told her I’d felt anxious and unsettled because of how the session started, and that had stopped me being able to really use the session how I wanted to. At least I think that’s what I said. When I find things so hard to say, I tend to forget them very quickly.

She apologised again, and I always feel really uncomfortable when she says sorry about something. She mentioned the fact that it’s really hard for my young parts to see that she makes mistakes and it isn’t because of them or because she doesn’t care. She asked if that insecurity was getting any less present for me and I said no. The small parts still freak out all the time that she either hates them, is repulsed by them, annoyed by them, or is planning to abandon them. J asked me to think about what she could do to reassure the small parts. I’ve thought about that a lot in the past, so I don’t expect I’ll come up with anything now.

I’m left with all these difficult attachment feelings and the inner turmoil is horrible. I really needed this first week of doing therapy differently to feel comforting and reassuring. I wanted to feel close to J and secure in my relationship with her. And the adult part isn’t struggling with that. It’s the small parts that are chaotic now. I woke up this morning wanting to cancel my Tuesday session; feeling like I can’t face the journey and all the stress and upset again. I could email J to see if that helps the feelings settle, but I don’t know what to tell her or ask her for.

Anyway, now I’ve offloaded all of that, my laundry is done. Time to re-engage the ‘doing’ part and tackle Tesco. If that doesn’t cheer me up, I’m not sure what will…


5 Comments Add yours

  1. KD says:

    That sounds like such a frustrating and difficult transition, both with the boat not cooperating and with therapy changing so much. I hope that you’re able to find a balance in both that works for you and provides you some comfort. Maybe your email can say just what you’ve said here, that you had these expectations for how the therapy change would go and those expectations haven’t been met (which adult you knows isn’t anyone’s fault) so you’re still feeling unsettled. I think it is okay to say that you’re just emailing to see if that would help. I don’t know that you need anything more than that as a reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I send you all my compassion’s and know how difficult change can be especially with people we trust – I hope you find a way to comfort yourself xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sirena says:

    I hope things settle down soon. I can really imagine how unsettling and frustrating it must be to feel like you can’t get good enough access to your therapist at a time you need her most.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sending you love. I think you’re doing brilliantly. It’s a lot of change but you’re handling it, Laura. Things will settle down soon and you’ll be chugging along those canals before you know it. J is there. Reach out when you need her. X

    Liked by 1 person

  5. manyofus1980 says:

    sending hugs to you and love to laura!I am so sorry the session didn’t feel good. I’m glad you managed to tell J though you did good to do that despite everything going on! maybe it’ll just take a few sessions to get into a rhythm? I hope that’s all it is. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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