Friday, 9 December 2011

Therapist: "We need to discuss my leaving and what support you'll need but if you say anything I'll be defensive and snap at you."

So if you missed the last post, I was telling you that my psychologist, who I have now been seeing for three years, broke the news that she is going away at short notice for an extended period of time. I talked about my initial shock but there was more than just that in the session and I didn't want to overwhelm you with too much reading at the one time so here is some more (note I didn't say 'the rest'!) of what happened in the session:

So the session went on... T talked about options for support as I said and I couldn't really engage in any useful way in that discussion. I was still getting my head around the 'she's leaving' part. The thing that made this so much harder, and always has ever since she first told me she would be taking leave at some point, is that I feel like she is defensive when we talk about it. She's defensive in her answers to ANY questions I ask about it and she's defensive in her reflections about anything I say. It's not reasonable. It's not nice and it makes me feel like I can't really talk to her about how I feel. I feel like she must be defensive because she feels bad for giving me bad news, but she's trying to remind herself that she doesn't need to feel bad, but then she ends up expressing that sentiment in everything she says, as defensiveness. 

For example:

Me: “So you have no idea how long you'll be going for?”

T: “I think I said to you before... six months. It was better that I give you a clear cut time.”

(I'm thinking: what does that mean?) so I say something like: “so you're thinking it'll be about six months?”
T: “At the minute, yes.”

Me (trying to get clarification in my head because things like 'at the minute' to me mean, 'I might not come back at all actually): “So it's likely to be about six months?”

T (in a stern/blunt tone and raised voice): “It's six months! It's better that I be clear...”

Me: “Yes... but I don't want to think it's six months if it's going to be a year...”

T (more normally toned now) tells me that she hopes to be back within a year but that if it makes it more clear for me she can tell me a year and then I can be confident that she will be back in that time... but then she tells me that that wouldn't necessarily be true (what does she mean? I'm getting more confused by the second). She then tells me that a year would be a more 'cast iron guarantee', if that's what I'm looking for.

So I'm feeling a bit taken aback at her response because it seems a bit defensive but meh... but then in an incredulous tone she adds: “but I can't give anyone a cast iron guarantee; you know... I don't dictate the future! I know that's what you need, but it's not what I can offer.”

OK so written down, it seems not too bad, I admit, but you had to be there. You know the way you can say the same words two different ways and it sound warm and kind or cold and harsh? Well she was saying these in a blunt and defensive way if you ask me and I felt like I was being scolded for asking.

Later on I expressed that I had really hoped that when she left it wouldn't be at Christmas and that the timing was bad. She then kind of defensively said that it was bad timing for her too. I said: “I know it's not easy for you either.” I said that because her response was said in a way that suggested she wanted me to know that it wasn't exactly her ideal scenario either. When I said 'it's not easy for you either' I was acknowledging that it's hard leaving a job because there are always a lot of things to finish up and loose ends to tie. I am under no delusions that it would be in any way difficult for her to sever herself from me. I don't need reminded of the fact that the only reason she sits there and listens to me blabbering on pathetically each week is because she is paid to do it. But apparently T felt I did need reminded and proceeded to make it quite clear that it was not in any way difficult for her because of me; that I provided her with 'no additional challenges' and that she must arrange support for all of her clients in the same way etc. What the fuck? She totally misunderstood me and I felt hurt by her reaction. Even if I had in some crazy way thought that she cared about me and would be sad to end our meetings, her response would not have been appropriate. There's a way of saying things you know!

It's difficult because she's the one person who I am supposed to talk about difficult stuff with, but this has always been an issue I feel we can't talk about. It didn't matter so much a few months ago when I raised it and she gave me very blunt responses and didn't seem to want to talk about it. Now, it matters, because if she's leaving at the end of December that gives us by my estimates only a few more sessions in which to get things sorted out. If she's going to snap at everything I say, we're not going to get very far and we're not going to end on a good note either.

I was so close to saying to her that I felt she was being very defensive

Anyway, besides all of that annoyance about her attitude, the fact that she is leaving is making it's way in to my system but still hasn't completely sunk in. When I got home from the session I went into the kitchen and stood with the meat knife on my wrist. I wanted to slash it but I was scared. I made a few cuts and then switched it all off again inside and got in my car and went to work. I haven't allowed myself to really feel anything (I can't if I try) but I have been wanting to kill myself for a few days now so I guess it is having an effect. I've been needing pain killers for migraine symptoms too and the last few days I've been feeling like I've just been hit by a truck. My body aches. The relationship between my physical symptoms and the difficulties of attending psychology and all it brings up disheartens me because I have been telling myself that all of my physical problems are related to this genetic disorder I have now found out I have. Weeks like this remind me that it's not just as simple as that. Certainly the blood problem is going to be part of it but getting started on the blood therapy is only going to help me so much.

Anyway, getting back to the point: I don't think wanting to kill myself is just because of T though. Going back to work on Monday was like a crash back into reality after my week off. I got a lecture before I'd even got my coat off and when I looked at the amount of work I have to do and the little time I have, I felt so trapped. Two of my colleagues greeted me and asked how my holiday had been and the rest of my office acted like I didn't exist. I felt like a few people were being frosty with me too and I know why that is (having been in work until 2am and midnight all week preparing for the big event I had to run, I had accidentally neglected to do another task which I was on the rota to do that week. Not that I would have had time to do it even if I had remembered), but I couldn't just shrug it off the way I usually would. I sat at my desk trying to hold back tears and thinking about killing myself to get away from this hopeless, doomed life. I feel trapped in a life I don't want to be living and that's why I want to kill myself. There really doesn't seem to be any escape.


JustEliza said...

I have to admit, I'm not sure how I would cope with a defensive therapist. It seems somewhat unprofessional to me. Certainly a psychoanalyst would aim to understand and work with the countertransference rather than just dump it on the client. A psychologist just doesn't seem to play by the same 'rules' as a psychotherapist, sometimes.

Ruth said...

I always find it disconcerting when my counselor would slip up and reveal being human. I think now that I was lucky when my counselor said he was moving with no coming back. I don't think it really sunk in for a couple of months after he was gone. He did help me find a new counselor that I have learned to work with. I hope that things work out for you before too much stress builds up.

Anonymous said...

I'm just so sad for you Candycan. I wouldn't be able to take news like that in. I just hope you can be strong enough to find some more support in the meantime.

This won't be much hope, but I know from experience my therapist fell very ill and had to take time out. But she did return thankfully :-)

Sometimes things happen beyond our control. It's not anyones fault it just happens.

We're all here for you if needed (Iknow it's not the same, but it's very true!) You've helped me no end sharing your personal experiences.

Take care
Erica x

ellen said...

So how come she's leaving anyway?

To me from this post, she does not sound like a good therapist. Maybe psychologists are different, like JustEliza is saying. But it seems like she is having all kinds of problems coping with your very natural feelings about her leaving. Is she not expecting you to be attached to her? I know there are different kinds of therapy, so not sure what kind she practices....there are some where it's more about them applying a method on their patients, and not about the relationship. So if they leave, well you just find another person who can apply the method, no biggie. That's not something I believe in.

She's being insensitive at the very best. I'd say except for the fact that you really like her, you'd be better off with someone who can deal with transference and attachment issues. Hope that doesn't sound harsh, as I do feel for you.

take care

Candycan said...

Thanks guys. It is difficult. I guess it is unprofessional, which is weird because she's always been so professional in every way. I guess this is more personal to her because it's because of her that we're having the issue so it's harder for her to be a blank slate. Doesn't make it any easier though.

Candycan said...

Hi Ellen, for some reason your comment went into my spam account so I just found it. I know what you mean, I don't know what her expectations about transferance are. I think, although she doesn't really focus on it, she accepts it OK. I have told her about my feelings about her before and she's been OK. BUt now I guess she feels responsible for causing me pain and is struggling with having this feeling because she knows she shouldn't... or something. I don't know.

NormalWasNotMyGoal said...

I'm so sorry about this, it's just horrible, the whole thing. Not only her going away (leaving you) but her not supporting you in all of this.