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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Come closer…go away.

goaway_comecloser

I’ve begun to experience some powerful feelings for someone right now.   It’s hard to describe, since I haven’t met this person and most likely never will (which is perfectly okay).   The feeling is a bizarre mix of low-level limerence (but that’s not quite it), empathy, and friendship (affection), but really, none of these really describe it.  The closest way I guess I can describe the feeling is the transference feelings one sometimes develops toward a therapist (and I do have those too).

Idealization of a person is something that comes naturally to me as a borderline.  I know it’s idealization because I don’t know them very well and haven’t seen their flaws.   I’m a person who prefers to live out romantic fantasy in private, because the reality of an actual relationship never lives up to the perfect fantasy I’ve constructed in my mind (even though part of me longs for a real connection with someone in the physical world).   This individual seems to be a kind of a mirror to me right now, similar to the way my therapist also is mirroring me.   But in no way is this individual in a therapist role.   I consider myself friends with this individual, but I have to be very, very careful because I can tell they need a lot of space–and I don’t want them to know how strongly I feel.  It’s a delicate push-pull balance–a kind of dance, almost:  to maintain a balance between my desire to get closer and possibly overstep boundaries (and get hurt), and not giving enough or even pre-emptive rejection of someone I like due to my own deep fear of rejection.

I’ve talked about this with my therapist and he thinks this is good practice for me and is a sign I’m beginning to connect in more meaningful ways and learning to be mindful about it at the same time.  But it sure isn’t second nature yet.   In the past I always either became obsessed and overwhelmed people by trying to get too close too soon, or avoided them (in spite of my strong feelings) to not have to experience possible rejection.  There was never any in between.

Losing the false “I’m unlovable” scapegoat baggage

Katie has done it again! I could relate to every single word in this post. I could have written this myself.  There’s no need for me to editorialize any further.

Please leave comments on 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.

 

Crybaby.

kid_crying

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE MAY BE TRIGGERING.
I spent the first 13 years of my life almost constantly crying. I was a perpetually squalling cranky baby, a screaming tantrum-throwing toddler, a tearful preschooler, and a school child prone to attacks of uncontrolled crying in public places and embarrassing situations. During my teen years, my crying was downgraded to near-constant sulking and negativity. Tears came mostly when I was angry or frustrated by the time puberty hit. Rage frequently accompanied the tears, or maybe it worked the other way around.

I had the curse of the blonde and fair skinned, so my emotions showed on my face in neon reds and pinks against the white background of my skin. I blushed easily and that was embarrassing enough. I could feel the blood rising up my neck like a sudden wave of heat and my ears would start to burn. My bullies picked on my tendency to blush and would deliberately embarrass or humiliate me to see my ghostly pale face turn as red as a fire engine. If it went on long enough, my lips would start to quiver and there would be tears, and that’s what they were really waiting for–to see me cry.

The crying was awful. I wasn’t a pretty crier; in fact I was ugly when I cried. My skin would turn into a mottled red and pink that looked like a bad case of rosacea, my nose ran like a faucet and turned so red it was nearly purple, and my eyelids turned bright red too and swelled up as if they were bee-stung. It would take hours for these facial giveaways of my pathetic vulnerability to finally disappear.

I had a great deal of difficulty controlling all the intense and confusing emotions that seemed to crash over me like tidal waves when I least expected it. These feelings were just too big for me to handle, and I was so easily overwhelmed by them and had trouble soothing myself (this is an early indicator of BPD and other disorders like PTSD). Whenever I cried I thought I would never stop. No one could calm me down. My emotions were a force of nature too powerful to be tamed. When I wasn’t crying, I felt a constant dull ache in my chest (heart area) and congestion in my throat. Even that early, I knew crying would relieve the tightness and pain, but the crying was like vomiting and sometimes as painful because the intense waves of emotion plowed through me like an out of control bulldozer.

Raised by a narcissistic mother and enabling (possibly low spectrum or covert narcissist) dad, I became the the family scapegoat (made even more crazymaking by the fact that as an “only” in their marriage, I also sometimes served as Golden Child). I was either held on a pedestal that far exceeded my actual abilities/beauty/intelligence/whatever, but most of the time I WAS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM. I questioned myself and everything I did; it seemed I could do nothing right. I wasn’t allowed to do things for myself or speak my mind. I felt awkward and defective in my family and everywhere else too.

Not long after I started elementary school the bullying started. I was the class crybaby and kids always target the kid who cries the most or seems the most vulnerable. I had no defenses at all; I had never been taught any and lacked the confidence to stand up for myself. Things got especially bad in 3rd – 5th grades. During 4th grade, I was followed home every day by a group of kids who laughed and jeered at the way I walked and imitated my walk, as my tears welled and threatened to overflow (no wonder I hate mimes). The bullies would call out to me and sometimes even throw things to get my attention, but I wouldn’t turn around. I just kept on walking. I knew I couldn’t let them see the tears streaming down my face because that would make everything so much worse.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Morse, was a psychopath with arms like Jello who always wore sleeveless dresses, so whenever she wrote on the board, all that quivering, pale freckled flab hanging from her bare arm made me want to throw up, but I still couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was mesmerizing in a horrible way, like a car accident.

Mrs. Morse knew how sensitive and scared of everything I was. She knew I was bullied by most of the other kids. But she had no empathy for my plight. She was a sadistic bitch straight from the pit of hell. She deliberately called on me whenever I was daydreaming, which was often (no kids got diagnosed with Aspergers back in those days and the idea of “attachment disorders” that lead to later personality disorders was an afterthought in those days), then she would make me stand in the front of the room and answer a question or solve a math problem while she glowered at me like wolf about to pounce and kill their prey. She never did this to the other kids, who were allowed to answer questions from their seat. She deliberately tried to humiliate me, because she knew she would get a reaction.

meanteacher

One time I couldn’t solve the math problem on the board (which was my worst subject), and she berated and belittled me in front of the class.
“You never pay attention. You’re always daydreaming. Do you have a mental problem?”
The class laughed.
My tongue was in knots and I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt tears burning the backs of my eyelids like acid.
I swallowed hard and tried with all my might not to let a tear loose but they started to flow anyway. I hung my head in shame and rubbed away the tears with my grubby fists as I turned away toward the wall. My narrow back and bony shoulders heaved with silent sobs.
That was exactly the moment this sadistic malignant narcissist who passed for a teacher was waiting for.
“Look everyone! Lauren is crying! Look at the tears! Cry, cry, cry, baby.”
The class burst into screams and hoots of laughter.
“Cry, baby, cry!”
I stood there in front of the class, staring at the floor, snot mingling with my tears, and longed to melt into those scuffed green-gray linoleum tiles, and never return.
In today’s anti-bullying environment, this “teacher” would have been fired for that shit. She might have even lost her teaching license. That kind of thing isn’t put up with anymore.

white_rabbit

Later that year, there was a similar blackboard incident. This time, I was stood in front of the room and told I looked like an albino rabbit when I cried. (I actually did, due to my fairness and my slight overbite.) I was mortified as this unbelievable cruel bitch encouraged the entire class to laugh at my pain and humiliation. I ran out of the room and fled to the library sobbing. The librarian was a sweet and very young woman (probably just out of college) who actually liked me and knew about my love for books. That library was my refuse and the librarian was my friend who understood me. This time, she saw me rushing in like that and held her arms out to me as I crashed into her and sobbed into her warm fragrant neck. We stayed like that for a long time, until Mrs. Morse (accompanied by one of her 9 year old flunkies) came marching in looking for me. Mrs. Morse grabbed me roughly by the arm and marched me back to the pits of hell she called a classroom. Sadly, I looked back at my librarian angel and saw the wetness on her face and her sad little wave.
She knew, and I knew she knew. I’ve never forgotten her. Sometimes in my fantasies I still see her waving at me with that sad tearful smile, and that image gives me comfort and strength.

I think my years of uncontrollable emotional displays came to an end when I was 15. They had already been abating somewhat, replaced with rage and anger, but I had trouble controlling my anger and constant dark moods, even though I wasn’t crying as much. I started to drink and do self-destructive things. I started “talking tough” but inside I still felt anything but.

The year before, when I was 14, my parents divorced and I was taken to live with my mother in the city. She loved it; I hated it back then. We fought all the time, mostly because of her self involvement. My grades slipped and I never did my homework. I was depressed all the time and cared about nothing. When I cried (which was still often) I usually did it alone. The other kids at school didn’t like me. I was never invited to parties, always last picked for softball. I felt intimidated and shy all the time, but I still tried hard to make friends–a little too hard. I fit into no clique (I have never fit into any clique) but there was a group of girls low in the high school pecking order consisting of the geeks and quiet, studious girls. They seemed welcoming enough at first. I saw their small (or more likely, polite) displays of acceptance and wanted so badly to believe they actually LIKED me that I guess I started following them around like a needy puppy.

charlie_brown_linus

I noticed after awhile they avoided me too, and my “birthday corsage” box was proof of my unpopularity, because it was not signed by all the girls and when it was signed, it was just a name. No long flowery messages, no in-jokes, no high-school risque comments, no “you are such a great friend” or “Love ya, Lauren. XXXXOOOOOO” Just…signatures and an occasional terse “Happy Birthday.”

My fears were confirmed later that day. After weeks of avoiding me, the group of nerdy girls approached me and told me they wanted to take me out to a restaurant for my birthday after school. Wanting so much for them to like me I remember grinning like a fool and nodding like the needy puppy I was. Inside I was a little suspicious, but dammit, I wanted to believe them! Maybe their ignoring me had just been my overactive, “oversensitive” imagination after all, and they really did care. Why else would they want to spend time with me on my birthday?

At the restaurant I was picking up a certain tension. The girls kept looking at each other worriedly and wouldn’t look me in the eye. As I ate, I watched their anxious faces. Something was up, and it wasn’t good. I felt like I was going to throw up. I spoke to no one.

Finally, Harriet, the leader of that clique told me she needed to talk to me–privately. I felt like I was on my way to the principal’s office for some transgression. My heart pounded in my throat and I felt tears burn the backs of my eyelids, but I didn’t cry. I bit my lip until it bled and tried to just breathe through my terror.

Outside, she smiled at me sympathetically. Then went on to tell me the real reason they had planned to take me to lunch was because they didn’t want me to hang around with them anymore and didn’t have the opportunity to tell me at school. She actually got tears in her eyes when she said this, and then told me she hoped my feelings hadn’t been hurt. Um…hello? But all I could do was stand there staring at her as if I was cognitively challenged. For the first time ever, I felt emotionally numb. I didn’t realize at the time that would soon become my new way of coping with my pain.

nobody_loves_you

I was traumatized by that rejection. I spent the next two days in bed. I felt sick and couldn’t go to school. I told no one what happened because the shame was too great. I didn’t cry; I couldn’t anymore. I just wanted to sleep forever and maybe die.

After that I couldn’t cry anymore. At least not in most situations that call for it. I had and still have trouble accessing my emotions. It was too scary to let them out, because when I did, bad things happened. It scares me to realize I might have easily become a narcissist, splitting off from all soft emotions, even empathy and guilt. Many narcissists started life this way too, without natural defenses.

I know now whenever I feel that painful tightness in my chest and throat, that means I need to cry. I’m not afraid of it anymore. I want to retrieve my long-ago ability to feel intensely connected to my emotions, because used properly, being an HSP is a gift and a blessing. The big difference will be that I’ll be able to let emotions pass through me freely and be able to express them without shame and without allowing them to overwhelm me or control me.