Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Second day of the 'my therapist is my colleague' awkwardness

If you read yesterday's post you'll know that I went on a course for work which my therapist (new psychologist) also turned up at and which also resulted in a 'weirder than I thought real life could be' scenario with me, my new psychologist and a psychiatrist in a group of three doing work together involving having to pretend to be a patient and therapist in a therapy setting. The weirdness of it is, apart from everything I've told you, the course is not about psychological therapies. It's a course for any health professional who wants to improve communication in certain ways with patients. As anyone who reads my blog in detail will know, I am not a therapist so was attending in the hopes of learning things to help my clinical practise. I certainly wasn't expecting anything like this!

Anyway, it is a four day course and today was the second day. I must say, I was feeling a bit more collected in general today: less flustered. Yesterday I think I said (or at least thought) that at least I couldn't see new psychologist from where I was sitting so it could have been worse. Today I turned up to find that the seating had been rearranged into a horseshoe style layout, with the seats running round the three walls, facing into a central floor area. As I took a seat I realised that I was now sitting directly facing new psychologist and so would have the pleasure of having to avoid her gaze all day. By this stage I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry and after sitting for a moment, feeling awkward, I got up and went to the toilet and had really bad squits (I have IBS and this was obviously a symptom of the anxiety I was feeling). By the time I got back to the room I had already missed a good bit of the first part of the session.

I settled myself in and felt relieved to find that I was definitely feeling a lot less anxious than yesterday. Obviously it was still on my mind all day long but I felt less physically anxious. I was able to sit relatively still (yesterday my leg was going like the clappers. I tend to jitter my legs constantly when I have nervous energy) and although granted I had armoured myself with about four layers of deodorant today, I felt like I was sweating less profusely.

Later on in the morning the trainer again decided to split us up into groups and apparently, having forgotten that new psychologist spoke to her about the groups yesterday, did the same thing and gave us all numbers. I thought the chances of us being grouped together again would be low, considering we were all sitting in different places today. She started with my side this time, giving the lady on my left number one; me number two and so on. I looked over at new psychologist and saw that she was kind of wincing with a sort of ironic, pissed off looking smile on her face. She had obviously quickly counted ahead and already realised that we would yet again be grouped together. You know, I had to laugh. Then I checked with myself if this was actually real life and not some kind of dream. What are the chances? If I remembered any of my probability work from A level maths I could probably tell you exactly what the chances were but suffice to say, they are slim. Thankfully, new psychologist took matters into her own hands at that point and I heard/saw her asking the lady next to her if they could swap numbers. I don't know what reason she gave the lady; I'm sure she wouldn't have said anything that would identify me as her patient. So New Psychologist went off to another group and I again did my best to pretend there was nothing abnormal about my day.

It hasn't been easy, this whole thing; for a number of reasons. Obviously, our relationship is a very specific kind of relationship. Clinical psychologists in my experience (which now equals three) don't tend to disclose any personal information about themselves to clients. Being suddenly in this different situation where we are colleagues and having to relate to each other in a different way is probably as awkward for her as it is for me.
I found it difficult also because I was aware that she obviously wouldn't have chosen to be in this situation with me. I could appreciate how it probably made her feel but as a result, I felt guilty about being there. I felt like I should try to stay out of her way so I felt guilty going for lunch in the cafe and seeing her there. I wanted to just go in and get a sandwich and take it out to my car but at the same time, I was reminding myself that I shouldn't have to hide from her.

Another surprising thing that these few days brought up for me was some feelings about a past situation that I found difficult some years ago and had thought I had put behind me. I didn't realise this situation reminded me of it until I had a dream last night about the past situation and the person involved. To put it in a nutshell, Adam had a girlfriend before he started going out with me. He broke up with her and apparently broke her heart because she thought they were going to get married and live happily ever after. When I left school and started university, it turned out that his ex girlfriend was in my class (which was a small class of twenty). She was really nice to me and I could tell that she wanted to be friends with me at the start, but once I told her who I was she freaked out and wouldn't speak to me anymore. She had already made friends with a bunch of the girls in the class and so, in support, they all stopped speaking to me.

The first two years of my university life were so awkward, every day... and lonely. Every day I went to class knowing that this girl hated seeing me because to her I was like 'the other woman' (even though Adam never cheated on her or anything, but you know... I guess I was a painful reminder of someone she wanted to forget). I felt like I was intruding on someone else's life. It was a horrible feeling. After a few years her friends got to know me enough that they became my friends but it remained that wherever we were, this girl would always be seated the furthest from me that she could be and I would always feel like I was intruding. The alternative for me was to be alone, but I didn't deserve that either. It wasn't my fault that she felt the way she did and I had to get on with my life despite her issues with me. I still felt guilty though and it played on my mind a lot. I also felt sad because, we would have been good friends probably. I could tell we would have. After we left uni I never heard from her again and I don't think about her much at all nowadays.

So dreaming about her last night (the dream was just a memory of being at uni and all of those feelings about her) was a surprise and I only realised on reflection, that it is this awkward situation that has brought back the feelings I had about it. Hmm, maybe I can talk to my therapist about it. Lol.

I have talked much too much about this now and there were other things I wanted to say, but the day was relatively uneventful and I definitely coped outwardly better than yesterday. New psychologist continued to not acknowledge me and avoided any eye contact with me, which I understand but at the same time, felt a bit disappointed about. I felt it kind of made it more awkward than if we could have just chatted openly about it or at least acknowledged the group scenario with a roll of the eyes or smile or something.

The only time we spoke today was on the second occasion that we bumped into each other in the toilets and that was, I guess because I was standing drying my hands at the hand towels and new psychologist needed to get towels for her hands. I could see her dithering about what to do out of the corner of my eye so I stood back and made a gesture for her to go ahead and take some. She took some and dithered a bit more before eventually asking me how I was. I was so happy that she spoke to me. We chatted a little bit about the course and I felt better. Just before we were going back in I said to her: "I'm sorry about the awkwardness of today." I just wanted to acknowledge it with her rather than pretend it wasn't a thing. She said "No, not at all. I'm happy that you're here. We can talk a bit about it on Thursday" then went to walk off, before looking back and saying: "Are you OK?" I replied that I was in a tone that sounded like I was completely fine with it (even though my honest answer would have been: "It's fucking weird and I can't concentrate on anything but other than that, I'm fine with it") and that was that. I felt happy after we spoke. I felt like it was easier for me to acknowledge it openly. These things are always better if you can just laugh about them with the person.

We have been given homework to try out certain techniques with clients and we are to use one patient as a case study to report back. While the trainer was explaining this I was wondering if, had I not been attending the course, new psychologist would have been picking me as her case study, given that it is a new relationship and the work is about building alliance with a patients.

So, I'll see her on Thursday. I hope she won't be weird about it. I want to tell her how it felt, but at the same time, I'm aware that there are another two days of the course later in the month. I'm also aware that one thing that I reassured myself with was that she doesn't know me yet given that we've only had one session and she admitted she hasn't read all my notes yet. By the time we go back she is going to have a much bigger picture of how crazy I am and that's just going to make it more embarrassing.


Ruth said...

Glad to hear things went better. Thursday should be interesting. Good luck. :)

CimmerianInk said...

Wow again...I think you handled it beautifully. You had the much more mature and appropriate thought to just get the awkwardness out there and laugh about it.

I can imagine being a therapist though, that she may have been questioning herself in her head the whole time, wondering how you would want her to act.

I just say: don't let the fact that you'll have to do it again at the end of the month stymie any talking you may do in therapy. It's her job to be the professional. :)

Candycan said...

Thanks Ruth and CimmerianInk

It's true. It's not my job, it's hers. I'd say she was probably worried about self disclosure as well given that the group work involved sharing things about ourselves. But again, that's not my problem. I just don't want people to feel awkward because of me. Thanks for saying I handled it well!