Thursday, April 2, 2009

Always read the fine print...

During the first year of my most recent engagement in psychotherapy I did not reveal my true self to dear therapist. I kept every appointment, and arrived on time, in proper business attire, chatting about the 'worry of the day'...but never taking off the mask, never showing who I truly was. Halfway into the second year of therapy with her DT asked me if I ever got tired of being so fake all the time. I knew then that someone could finally see me, the me beneath the business suit, the perfectly made up face and the fake smile that I presented to everyone.

I had been to therapy so many times in the past...Al-anon, ACOA, individual therapy with several different psychologists and not one of them had been able to see beneath the mask I wore. Once, my freshman year in college, I saw a therapist 3 times and she told me I was perfectly healthy and she didn't need to see me again. This woman was different. I don't know what she saw in me~ did my eyes betray me at one point? Had I just grown so tired of hiding that I subconsciously showed her a part of me that I had never shown another?

Over the next year and a half, I found myself on the most difficult journey I had ever undertaken. DT and I were in near daily communication and she stayed steady and present, unwavering and available to me no matter what I said or did. Most nights I endured memories so painful, I was literally reliving the past in the present. My mind and my body was reliving it. I could no longer sleep or eat. I was vomiting numerous times a day in an effort to puke the bad parts out of me. And during this time DT emailed me everyday to let me know she was with me. I leaned into her as parts of myself emerged that had never had a say~ and there were many times when they said things that were unpleasant and shameful. During that time I had never felt safer or more cared for. She had seen all of me and she still cared about me, still accepted me.

But suddenly there was a change in our relationship~a change that I found myself unable to accept. DT explained to me that she had consulted with other clinicians and that 'they' decided communicating via email wasn't the best way to help me, that it could actually be harmful if she was unable to assess my 'mental status' and so she drew the proverbial line in the sand and said that I could email her as much as I wanted but she would no longer respond to my email. If I was in pain, or unable to 'cope' with what was happening to me, I had to pick up the phone and call her, and she would 'do her best' to be available to me via phone until 10pm every night.

In November, DT told me that she was going to be on vacation during Christmas and she was telling me in advance so 'we' could prepare for her time away, construct a plan of some sort, to keep 'me safe'. In early December I hit a new low~ every day was struggle to stay alive. Two weeks before her vacation DT told me that she had concerns about my safety and she strongly suggested that I go into the hospital. I refused. We were to meet 1 more time before she left and she told me that during our last appointment she would make a final decision about my safety and if she didn't feel that I would be able to keep myself safe during her absence, the choice would no longer be mine ~ I would be admitted to the hospital. (For her peace of mind, not mine).

During our last appointment before her vacation, I was childlike and afraid. I curled myself into a ball on the couch in her office and cried as though I were a 5 year old child and my mother was leaving me behind with no caretaker. DT told me that she would have her phone and if I needed her I could call her. I told her, in all honesty, that 'she' would not let me call her (she being one of the conflicting voices inside of my head). Suddenly DT turned into a woman I didn't know, when she replied, "Grace, you are not a child, you are an adult and you are perfectly capable of dialing the phone if you need me." I had never felt so invalidated. I didn't know what to say and I left her office in a rage. How dare she call me a liar!

There was no improvement in our relationship upon her return, in fact, I grew even more angry and hurt by her recent 'lack of communication' with me. She seemed to have morphed into a different person, and I no longer trusted her, or felt safe with her. For the next several weeks I expressed my anger and she stayed firm in her newly developed approach and she was doing it 'for my own good'. Finally, I became so angry that I cancelled two appointments and told her I wasn't going to continue in the relationship because I didn't even know who she was anymore!

I had tried to express the abandonment I felt...she no longer heard me, or maybe she just didn't care. And in my mind, I had now given up. I was tired of the anger and the frustration, exhausted from trying to make her 'hear' me and understand that I felt like she no longer cared because she had 'taken something away from me'. I would tell her this and she would reinforce that she was doing 'what she needed to do, from a clinical perspective'. She told me she 'had her reasons' and it was for my safety. For the next few weeks I spewed venom at her during our appointments, telling her she was a fool for trusting clinicians who didn't even know me, had never met me! How would they know what I needed? They didn't know me?

This Wednesday, I had had enough. In my opinion the 'therapeutic relationship' had been damaged beyond compare. She was trying to control me by her new approach, and I was not one to be controlled. An irreparable impasse? I sure thought so, and I was prepared to end the relationship. I knew it would be difficult and I knew I couldn't walk away without hating her...but I also knew that I couldn't continue feeling the anger and frustration I felt. She had taken away her evening support via email, it was only a matter of time before she took away her support by phone, and then what?

So on Wednesday I told her that I couldn't continue feeling the level of anger and frustration I was feeling. I no longer felt validated, or safe, in the relationship and since we were unable to come to a consensus on how to move forward, maybe there was no way to move forward.

It was on Wednesday that she told me that sometimes people's lives change. People die, move, go into the is change and her availability had changed and she was no longer available on the evenings to the extent that she had been. Now, I'm not a stupid woman ~ I made the connection that her boyfriend had recently moved in with her, so obviously he needed her attention in the evening and wasn't willing to accept that she had a high-maint. trauma patient who required so much of her time.

We were able to come to an agreement that she would email me 2x per week for support. And it wasn't' until after I left her office that I realized her decision to support me during the evening wasn't a clinical decision at all, but instead a personal decision because she now had someone in her life that needed her attention in the evenings. She didn't abandon me at all~ she just discarded me~ I still had value, just not to her. It didn't matter that I still needed her, it didn't matter that she made herself available to me in the evenings for 2 years ~ because she had someone new in her life, and she no longer wanted to help me in the evening. I no longer mattered. I didn't realize, until this week, that her support had strings attached, I had no idea her support was contingent upon her availability as a 'single woman' ~ and that once she found someone she fancied that I would no longer matter. Yes, things change for people, and once they do~ all previous obligations, commitments can be discarded at will.

I should have realized it ~ but I didn't. Had I known perhaps I could have been a bit more proactive at protecting myself. But I laid myself bare~ vulnerable...believing her when she said she would always be 'there' for me....I didn't read the fine point, the part that said the 'contract was null and void' once she found someone and 'fell in love'.

Lesson learned: ALWAYS read the fine point. Or, expect to get fucked if you don't......

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