When your therapist rejects you.

No, my therapist hasn’t rejected me, but I think this is something that all of us in therapy sometimes worry about.

Lucky Otters Haven

Abandonmentsign

I just read a post from a blogger who describes how her therapist suddenly terminated her without warning.  She writes,

I spend pockets of time here and there throughout the days just wracking my brain trying to figure out what went so wrong. I replay our conversations in my head and try to decipher what this meant or why she said that. I try to figure out what the fuck I did wrong.

It’s devastating and crazymaking.  Unfortunately, being suddenly rejected by a mental health professional seems to be pretty common.   People who have never been in therapy sometimes have trouble understanding how devastating this can be.  We become extremely attached to our therapists through a process known as transference, especially when the therapy is of the psychodynamic type (as opposed to behavioral/cognitive methods like CBT).  The therapist acts as a surrogate parent and for a therapist…

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The Rant I Promised You

This needs to be reblogged because it’s so passionate and made ME angry too. Yes, there is a lot of “salty” language in Jason’s post, but I think it’s justified after what he saw today and makes it so clear why Jason has EVERY RIGHT IN THE WORLD to be as RIGHTEOUSLY ANGRY as he is.  There are so many ignorant, bigoted, and hateful people in the world who use the Internet as their bile spewing playground.

Please leave comments under the original post.

Triggered.

Depression (1)

Some days are better than others. Overall, they are getting better and better, but there are days where I feel like I took three steps back and get trapped in my old toxic emotional thinking patterns. At those times I feel like I’m trapped inside a dark, moldy prison with no one but my own demons to talk to and will never be able to escape. I know that’s not true, and tomorrow will probably be better, but right now, at this moment, I’m in immense emotional pain.  I feel like if I died and went to hell, it wouldn’t much worse than this. I can’t just turn the pain off with a switch, the way the narcissists in my life seemed to expect me to be able to do.

I got triggered. At least I know what the trigger is. Today is my daughter’s birthday, and we were planning to drive up into the mountains and have lunch together. She was supposed to be here around 10 AM. But by eleven AM I still hadn’t heard from her. I began to panic and imagine some kind of catastrophe befell her, the way I always do because the world has always seemed incredibly dangerous to me and no one can be trusted.     You never know when you’re going to get bad news or when the other shoe will drop.  It’s a horrible way to live and I definitely don’t recommend it.   But it’s in my programming.   People think I’m nuts but I can’t help being this way.   It’s hard to change the programming.

Around noon, I finally got hold of her and she hadn’t gotten out of bed yet. She was hung over from a night of partying and she was also depressed. All I could think about was myself and what SHE was doing to ME. I told her I’d been looking forward to this and I’d taken the day off work to spend with her. She told me I was putting her on a guilt trip and she was right–I was. I apologized and told her to try to have a nice day and we’d get together another time. But I still felt triggered  and ornery.  I’d written a nice, positive post this morning about the fun day I was anticipating having with her, and what a great daughter she was, but I couldn’t bear to keep it up, so I removed it.

I spent the rest of the day alternately feeling sorry for myself and being angry. I did nothing but sit on the couch, switching channels mindlessly but not really watching anything, and poking around online but not really paying much attention to what I was looking at. I tried to read a little, but couldn’t focus and would keep reading the same sentence over and over, not comprehending the words. I yelled at my cat for no good reason. I snapped at my housemate. I thought about how much my life and everything in it sucks and how I’m not getting any younger and will probably be dead in the next 25 or 30 years with nothing to show for it.   I thought about how most people my age and even much younger are doing much better than me emotionally, financially, and every other way. They have healthy, real relationships because they were given the emotional tools to have those things.  My programming cut me off from having access to those things.   Of course I was constantly reminded of my inferiority by my unsupportive narcissistic family (I was rejected and labeled “the black sheep” for my failure to attain the “success” in life my very programming denied me) until I cut off almost all contact with them.  I was cruelly told to “sink or swim” but never given any swimming lessons and in fact spent most of my childhood with my head forcefully held under the water. That’s the sort of mindfuck you get when you’re the child of narcissists. You can’t win. You can only lose–and then you’re callously blamed for it. Sometimes you’re even disowned for it. I’ve been treading water–barely–for years, in constant fear of drowning.

The rain stopped and the sun is shining but I have no motivation to even go sit outside on the porch. All I want to do is stew in self pity and self hatred. Why? What good does it do? I hate it. Angry and bitter? You bet. But I refuse to drown in those feelings because I still hold onto hope that I can be a real person someday. I won’t give up on me, even though the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally did.

Finally I got a call from my daughter apologizing to me. She was crying. I felt so terrible. She told me how depressed she was and it sounded a lot like my own depression. She was talking about all the bad choices she’s made. She feels badly because some friends she went to school with are starting families or are getting advanced degrees or have careers and she has none of those things. But she’s just 23.  She blames herself. I could relate. I tried to be empathetic and not think about the way I feel very much in the same boat–only I’m a lot older and don’t have my whole life ahead of me or the options she still does. I assured her that she may be a late bloomer but that she is blooming and to be patient with herself. I may never be a perfect mom, but I will never give up on her or abandon her the way my family did to me, because it’s not something you ever get over. It ruins you. It murders your soul. I won’t let her soul be murdered.

Sorry this post wasn’t more upbeat. But I’m just really depressed today and needed to write about it. It doesn’t help to keep this crap inside.  

A very unpleasant dream.

dontleaveme

I need to write this down where I’ll remember this later.

I just woke up from a dream. I must remember this one so I can tell my therapist. Right now I’m still rising up from the fog of sleep and my memory of the dream is still fresh but will fade away soon so I can’t delay in writing it.

I am waiting to see my therapist. But my therapist isn’t my therapist. He is my old therapist (the one I had when I was 22, the one who I fell madly in love with and had to leave because my emotions were too painful). But he is still my current therapist. (I know, but it made sense in the dream.)

Someone is talking to me and I’m crying. It’s not a bad cry or a painful cry. I think I’m crying in empathy. I don’t know what I’ve been told or what emotion I’m feeling, but my head is thrown back and tears are streaming from the sides of my eyes and down into my hair. My lashes stick together. I’m wearing non waterproof mascara; I’m vaguely aware the black tear tracks will be visible to my therapist even after they’ve dried. I leave them there, almost proudly, intending for him to see. We’ve been working on getting me to cry in session. I need for him to see the evidence of my tears.

His office is in some kind of art complex. Outside, patrons are walking around looking at and purchasing art. My handsome therapist comes out, as he always does in real life, to ask me kindly to give him another five minutes. But this time, his face worries me. He looks worried or concerned. He tells me there is something he needs to tell me. I feel the blood drain from my face and my heart curls up into a tight ball as if to protect itself from whatever’s coming.

“It might disturb you, but don’t worry,” he says. And then he walks away.

Of course I worry. In fact, I panic. I go back out into the art complex and walk around, pretending to look at the art. There seems to be a party going on. People are dressing in costumes. I think about what my therapist has to tell me. Is he sick? Going to dump me? Leaving town? Is he going to die? Dread and my old friend, Fear of Abandonment, holds me fast. I can’t escape. My breathing quickens and becomes shallow. My tears have dried and I can’t make anymore even as I will them to come.

Soon I see my therapist laughing with a woman, a beautiful woman. I wonder if that’s his wife.
My therapist turns, approaches me. I freeze in place, almost drop the raku vase I’m holding.
I start to cry when our eyes meet.
But pride takes over.
“You’re an asshole,” I say, rubbing my eyes with my fists like a spoiled child. I no longer want him to see me cry. I don’t want him to have the satisfaction.

He looks angry.
“I’m not going to see you when you talk to me that way,” he says. I look at him dumbly, stunned into silence.
“But what about–?”
“I’ll see you next time,” he says, and turns on his heel and walks away.

He might as well have just stabbed me in the stomach. I feel as if I could collapse onto the floor. I want to disappear. The shame and anger is overwhelming. And I have to wait to find out whatever horrible news he has to tell me. I think he’s trying to torture me.

I’m still in the art complex and people are walking around as if the world didn’t just end. All the therapists in the office are milling around too, drinking out of cocktail glasses with ridiculous little plastic umbrellas and other doodads sticking out of them. Someone has set up a cash bar at the far end. My therapist is over there, laughing with the other therapists. I feel like I don’t exist.

One of the therapists gets up on a podium and says we are having an animal costume contest. We will be dancing to “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in our animal suits. I don’t want to be there, but I feel obligated to participate. A huge box is pulled out from somewhere and everyone rushes over and starts pulling out costumes. All I can find is a chicken head and a silly cowprint suit. Somehow it seems familiar to me, as if someone in my past had worn this same costume before. I put it on and feel like I can be invisible in it. I just want to die.

I woke up and was overcome with relief when I realized it was only a dream and knew I had to post it right away. I haven’t worked out what it all means yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m skirting around the edges of the yawning black hole at my center, where my abandonment and early attachment issues live. I’m about to dive in there, I guess. It’s interesting that even though I trust my therapist more than anyone I’ve ever known, and he has given me NO reason to think he would ever abandon me, this fear I have of him abandoning me seems to be a recurring theme in our sessions. Obviously my transference toward him has been successful and I’m replaying some kind of abandonment/rejection trauma I experienced when I was a child.

When your therapist rejects you.

Abandonmentsign

I just read a post from a blogger who describes how her therapist suddenly terminated her without warning.  She writes,

I spend pockets of time here and there throughout the days just wracking my brain trying to figure out what went so wrong. I replay our conversations in my head and try to decipher what this meant or why she said that. I try to figure out what the fuck I did wrong.

It’s devastating and crazymaking.  Unfortunately, being suddenly rejected by a mental health professional seems to be pretty common.   People who have never been in therapy sometimes have trouble understanding how devastating this can be.  We become extremely attached to our therapists through a process known as transference, especially when the therapy is of the psychodynamic type (as opposed to behavioral/cognitive methods like CBT).  The therapist acts as a surrogate parent and for a therapist to terminate a patient without warning is akin to a parent rejecting their child. It’s extremely traumatic and the victim often develops PTSD from the rejection, especially if they already have attachment or trauma-related issues due to rejection or neglect by caregivers when they were children.   The problem is that many people with mental disorders themselves become therapists, often to work out their own emotional issues by proxy.  They may not be aware they are doing this, but it happens all the time.  That’s why therapists are encouraged and even required to be in therapy themselves, in order to address any counter-transference issues that may come up with their patients.

If my therapist ever rejected me like that…ugh, I don’t even want to think about that. I think I would just want to crawl into a hole somewhere and die.  I know he would never suddenly terminate me without good reason and without explaining why, but because I worry about everything, sometimes I worry about that too.

I’ll give you an example of how ridiculous this worry gets.   In my last session, toward the end, I asked my therapist if he had any children.    I don’t think I had any reason to ask other than simple curiosity.   But after I asked I felt liked I’d somehow overstepped his boundaries (he did answer me).   I don’t even know why, really.  He asked me what made me ask him that.  Maybe he thinks this is significant.   I imagined I saw an angry or concerned look on his face after I asked.   But I always imagine negative looks on people’s faces even when their expression is actually neutral.   I feel like I should apologize.    I don’t even know if he was upset by my question but I still feel like it might have been a boundary invasion.    I know he wouldn’t terminate me for this, but I still worry that he might like me less because I *might* have invaded his boundaries.

It’s so dumb that sometimes I feel like I have to be perfect even for my therapist.

Further reading:

50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy  (red flags you should know about):

There are over 700 comments under the above post. I was shocked at some of the stories I read about horrible therapists who make their clients even worse.

Infatuation and Transference:  Please be aware that I wrote this post over a year ago and my views about transference, which were mostly negative at that time, have changed.

 

I feel like I’m a bad friend.

bad_friend

Tonight on a whim I looked up an old Facebook friend I hadn’t talked to since 2012 (we had been close from 2009-2011) and was shocked and very upset to learn that she died this past September of Merkel cell carcinoma. She’d had to have part of her jaw and her lips removed and I even saw her post that first announced her terminal cancer diagnosis. She asked for prayers.

I never knew. I never bothered to check in on her until tonight and felt just awful about not having been there at all for her while she was in so much pain and dying. I left a post on her wall (which is still up) telling her to rest in peace and how sorry I was. What else can you say to a dead friend you abandoned? Sure, she was only a Facebook friend but I still feel like an insensitive heel.

About two years ago, another casual friend, someone I had actually known through work who ran a blog about living in poverty in the United States, and who was known to have suffered from major depression, committed suicide. I hadn’t talked to her in several months, and it was her husband who posted about her death on her wall. I learned this horrible news THE DAY AFTER she killed herself. All I could do was offer some kind words to her bereaved husband, who had loved her very much and was understandably devastated. I felt ashamed at not having talked to this woman during the months prior to her suicide and was almost too embarrassed to say anything to her husband.

I always seem to find out bad news about friends and people I used to know on Facebook, which is another reason I don’t like Facebook too much.

But neither of these things are as terrible as the way I treated a close friend of mine from back in the 1980s. Robert was gay and he was one of my best friends for several years. We used to have a blast together, and were even roommates for awhile. I remember planning his 21st birthday party and how much fun it turned out to be (and I hate parties!)

But Robert was also promiscuous and brought strange men home while we were roommates. He also developed schizophrenia around this time, and due to both his bringing men I didn’t know to the apartment and his declining mental condition, I had no other choice but to move out. We continued to remain in touch occasionally even after I married, but over time, as friendships do when lives go in different directions, we lost contact and stopped speaking.

betrayal

Just after my son was born in 1991, I received a phone call from Robert’s sister. She told me Robert was in the hospital and very close to death. He had AIDS and had lost his vision and his mind, and was no longer able to feed himself and had to be cared for like an infant. It occurred to me he probably already had AIDS during the time I knew him. I was shocked at the news and promised to come visit him in the hospital, but I never did. In all honesty, I was afraid to see him like that and chickened out, even though I had intended to go.

He died two weeks later. His sister called again and invited me to the funeral. Again, I didn’t attend because of the guilt I felt over having abandoned him and never visited him in the hospital.

I realized later how selfish this was of me, only caring about my own needs and feeling like seeing him like that would be too upsetting and just plain weird. My friend needed me when he was dying and I let him down. I never forgave myself for that and still pray for God to forgive me for my selfishness. I’m sure He has, but I never really forgave myself.

That’s why I feel like I’m a terrible friend and maybe don’t deserve to have any.