In therapy

I went to see Ron for my first (paid) therapy session on Saturday. It was a bitterly cold day, so that was my only outing that day. He had actually cancelled my original appointment the day before, and changed it to the following day. Which was fine. I did wonder if he’d had some kind of personal emergency, but didn’t want to ask, and he didn’t volunteer any information.

This time there was a young man in ahead of me, who quickly brushed past me in the waiting room. I went in and sat down. It is a tiny office, so the facing armchairs are very close together. It seems OK to me, if a little unusual.

This time, I’d say the session was more tense than last time. I wanted to give Ron more of an idea of some of my symptoms, and he also asked about my past experience with therapy. So I plunged in with this information. Ever since though, I’ve been feeling like a freak. Why did I try so many therapists? What is wrong with me that I cannot get better, and that I fight with some of them?

He did say something about the therapists though, while not saying they did a bad job, he did ask if I ever tried to raise my concerns with them, especially the last two. And I said I did try, but that for one, things improved a bit for  a short while, but then went right back to how they were. Anyway, it occurred to me afterward that hey, maybe the many therapists situation is not entirely my fault. I did try to raise things with some of them, but they either got defensive or they kind of ignored it. Shouldn’t the therapist also have some responsibility? Maybe they also could have been engaging with me, instead of ignoring things.  So when I thought about this, I felt a bit better about the ‘many therapists and still not better’ situation.

Though he still likely thinks I’m a freak. Sigh.

Then he also asked again about being suicidal, or did I hurt myself. I told him I don’t do anything like that. I also don’t starve myself, don’t drink, or do drugs. I just have this PTSD problem. Yep, he thinks I’m crazy.

We also, of course, touched on my family. Ouch, painful. One thing Ron said about my sister stuck with me afterwards. I mentioned I never see her, and that she seems to look down on me for not being an academic. He said that if I take that belief on, that there is something wrong with me, then the relationship would be toxic for me. Which is what I often do. When dealing with my family, I tend to feel deficient and at fault. At the same time as being angry with them.

But then if I could see my sister and not take her lack of interest in me personally, if I could see it as part of her own anxieties, then the relationship would not be toxic for me. It is one of the sorrows of my life that I essentially no longer have a sister, though she lives in the same city as I do. So I was thinking I might try asking her to go for coffee at some point, just as a tiny test.

Overall, Ron seemed a little less at ease than the first time I met him. I was wondering if there was a crisis in his personal life, hence the cancelling of appointments the day before.  Or if he really wonders if I will be a good client, or how crazy I might actually be.

The upshot was I went home feeling pretty good, and plunged into some chores. After an hour or so I started to feel all emotional, and lay down for a while to try and deal with some of the feelings the session had thrown up. That was fine, I had nothing urgent to do and maybe this was good for me. I just had a low key day and then went to sleep.

At 3 am, I woke up full of a sharp sharp acute anxiety. It was more like fear than a milder anxiety. It was actually located in the side of my gut – that’s how I visualized it very clearly. A ring of fire, accompanied by all kinds of fear.

I’ve basically had this strong anxiety ever since, though every day it’s getting a bit weaker. It’s like a pain in my gut, though emotional, not literal. I can no longer fall asleep without some kind of pill, though I just take an over the counter one, nothing major.

Well – not what i like to pay therapy money for. Go for session, emerge with acute anxiety that lasts a week. See therapist again in two weeks to perhaps discuss. Great.

The thing is, I’ve felt these feelings before. They have dogged me through life. However, I’ve become quite good, or just lucky, about avoiding them by avoiding triggers. And here I’m paying someone and they happen to me.

The overwhelming fear does get triggered by certain men, and sometimes it is a man I have feelings for. But in this case, I can honestly say, I have no such feelings for Ron. No fantasies, no reveries. But I do strongly wish for him to like me. And I fear that he does not. Something about Ron appeals to me – I feel like I’d like to talk to him, and to hear what he has to say. And I know my fears about not being liked stem from me, more than the people that trigger them.

So I’m not ditching him as a therapist yet. If I could work through the anxiety, maybe I could become free of it in my life. Isn’t that what a therapist is for? However, I’ll have to see. I forgot in my session to mention my very anxious feelings when he didn’t get back to me for four days. I do tend to forget things like this.

So next time we meet, I have to bring this up. That won’t be for almost two weeks, and hopefully the fear will have faded by then. But I mustn’t ‘forget’. This is what I want to work on. What happens to me in these situations that triggers so much fear in me. Meantime, I get to feel afraid. But I can work with it. I can try and relax around it, and that helps. Though for the moment, the feeling keeps coming back.

At least I know what I want to talk about.

Art: Fairy of Despair, Shanti Marie

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8 comments
  1. diver said:

    'What is wrong with me that I cannot get better, and that I fight with some of them [therapists]?'I dunno Ellen, maybe Jung was right when he suggested that all neuroses are insoluble, that they can never be cured but only lived through and outgrown with as much grace and good humor as we can manage? It's one explanation for those past failures with therapy and therapists I suppose? It sounds like you're putting lots of thought into what's going on in Ron's head – about as much as he's putting into you with all these probing questions about things like your family and (possible) suicidal ideation. Fair enough I suppose. These early sessions have gotta be fact finding missions more than much else haven't they? Still, the sensation of having a male trying to get closer and closer to you, infiltrating your boundaries … like you say, it triggers stuff. Sad that it smacks you around for a week afterwards though 😦 Fingers crossed for you that it's just part of an anxious "getting to know you phase" that will settle down in time.PS … appreciated your 'Fairy of Despair' – splendid iconography, as usual!

  2. Ellen,It just sounds like you're starting to recognise the work that needs to be done.I've been doing tai chi once a week for four months now. On some weeks I'll be dealing with fallout from a session for the entire week as things surface and get dealt with. I allow myself time to let it happen and trim my social life if I'm not getting enough quality sleep.Dealing with the fallout is rough but I'm a lot better now than i was then.P.s. Therapists sometimes treat things like PTSD as if it were infectious. It could also just be that this guy just sees you pain and emphasises..

  3. Nechtan said:

    Hi Ellen,I think its a perfectly natural reaction to want to be liked by your therapist. In order to build the trust to open up then without that it would be difficult and very uncomfortable for anyone. Nothing wrong with that at all. You need to feel at ease first and foremost I would say.On therapists I would say there is nothing wrong with going through many and not getting any progress. Frustraing yes but not a problem with yourself. From what you said it sounds like the last two at least had strong stand points and were not flexible. I would imagine a good therapist would either be able to argue the their opinion to the point of compromise or allow at least for your own views. In my short experience the ones I have encountered do neither and when you I have voiced that something is doing me more harm than good then I am not trying hard enough or giving in too easily because it doesn't fit with their belief of how therapy works. And lets face it they all have a different belief on what is best and there is no defined route to wellness so why should any of us take their word as gospel because they have a bit of paper- a bit cynical I know but really don't think there is anything wrong with you because it hasn't had the desired effect yet.I'll try to keep the comment short. Asking a question of little relevance is one of my biggest annoyances. A text book judgement made by response to that question. I don't think it works like that in life. Everyone has their own opinion but I would imagine a good therapist is a listener with no pre-concieved ideas about the person they are listening to and tries to find solutions within that based on their understanding. All the bestNechtan

  4. gniz said:

    Hey Ellen, I was puzzled by this comment you made: "So I'm not ditching him as a therapist yet." Ditching him? Why? He sounds so far like a pretty good therapist for you. You like him, so far he seems to have a good understanding of things and a manner that suits you.And yes, therapists are human and on some days they can be a little "off" and even distracted, which isn't very fun when it happens. But it does happen occasionally, even with really good ones.You are going to be triggered in doing this kind of work. There's simply no way around it, only through it.You can do it though. You are strong enough, and eventually it will get a little easier.Take heart, don't lose hope. We're all pulling for you.Aaron

  5. cbtish said:

    Yes, those therapists should have taken responsibility for engaging with you, and they should not have ignored what you had to say. And yes, working though anxiety is exactly the kind of thing a therapist is for. That feeling that you'd like to talk to Ron, and to hear what he has to say, is exactly right for a first session, it seems to me. So this therapy with Ron could turn out to be a very big turning point in your life — anyone would be anxious about such a thing, although you are more sensitive to it than most.

  6. Ellen said:

    Thank you dear commenters!@diver – I like your idea (or Jung's idea) of outgrowing neuroses. And like you say, it's very early days, and fact finding is common sense at this point. Glad you like the Fairy of Despair…it's amazing the art available when you have a look. And fairy of despair – with a title like that, who could resist her? @Mike – Interesting that you do Tai Chi now. You were the one blogger I know whose stuff also comes up with physical movement. Miss your blog Mike. Good to know you're still working hard at healing also. And it could be he just empathizes…a good thought.@Nechtan – I know you definitely have had very negative experiences with therapists Nechtan, who actually made your issues worse. I trust in this case, I will be able to work through my anxiety, not just have it triggered and then be left to deal with it. That's what I hope will be possible. It helps in my case that I get to choose the person, also. Like you say, it is important that we like these helpers… @ gniz – I made that comment because I went to see him, and I felt a whole lot more anxious afterwards. I pays my money, and I feels worse! And we really haven't actually touched on my PTSD type issues. The anxiety is all about him. But yeah, I'm thinking if I can explore the anxiety, it's most likely a good thing. Thanks for the kind encouragement.@ cbtish – I love the handle cbtish! Thank you for the very encouraging words….I hope it is a turning point – such a hopeful thought.

  7. Hey, Ellen -I'm glad your giving Ron a solid chance . . . when I imagine myself in your shoes (and I've been in similar situations before), I would like to be able to bring my concerns (feeling abandoned, feeling unimportant, etc.) to my therapist and know they will be addressed to my satisfaction even if that means the therapist takes responsibility for shortfall in his behavior (which I think taking more than one business to respond to correspondance would easily be considered a behavioral shortfall).If he didn't address the concern to my satisfaction, I'd probably move on to another therapist . . . and another . . . and another . . until I found one who brought as much to the table as I was bringing. (And it certainly sounds like you are bringing a lot of positive stuff — including reasonable behavioral standards for all parties involved — to the table.)- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  8. Ellen said:

    Hi Marie,I know you are very good at interviewing therapists! I will do as you suggest, thanks for the comment.

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