A missed email and therapy

marsh2Things had been going fairly well, and now I’ve messed it up a bit. Not totally. Just somewhat.

I find with therapy, I want to feel in balance regarding what happens and my feelings about the therapist. There’s a centre point where I don’t obsess, but still feel things are OK, I’m moving forward, and that my relationship to Ron is pretty good, that he cares about me, and that if anything bad happens he would try to help me.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I haven’t been writing emails about problems, or about how upset I am about therapy, I’ve just been letting it all rest. Which was a good plan.

Then Monday night, I woke up in the middle of the night, afraid. Middle of the night, I am very prone to wanting to write Ron emails. I’ve found they help me sleep. And the younger parts are more insistent at that time, and they always want to write to Ron. And I remembered how he said so cutely, you can write to me any time you want.

Yeah, that’s true. I can write, but he won’t necessarily answer. We have an agreement that if I specifically request a response, he will respond.

So I wrote my four am email, listing my fears, and something about the darn group. And sent it off. And went back to sleep after a while.

Tuesday I checked my email all day long. No response. And no response today. At this point he will no longer respond, in my experience.

This situation used to make me wildly anxious, and I would send another email asking why he never replied to the first, and he’d reply to the second, and I’d feel calmer at least. I’m not expecting him to provide insights in his reply. Just any response so I know it was OK to write and he’s not angry.

This time, I’m more sad and deflated than anxious. I suspect he didn’t bother reading much of it, though it wasn’t that long, and didn’t read the part where I ask for a response at the end. It wasn’t a crisp and clear email.

I never know what to make of lack of response. Did something I said make him angry? Did he not bother reading? Is he fed up with me? Is he immersed in some crisis of his own?

I feel like, OK, Ron is pretty good in session. He helps me. He’s just not that available during the week. I’m disappointed, because he used to respond to emails. I wonder what’s changed. And for me, since the group, I no longer deeply trust him to have my back. It’s really sad, but I don’t. And the email situation just proves it for me.

Sometimes it’s preferable though to just feel sad rather than the huge anxiety of hope and despair.

To another topic, I wanted to finish up my session recap. I wonder what I can recall at this point. The last third of the session was the most intense, as usual.

We sat there, and I’d stopped talking. I was feeling internal pressures that I should be talking about other things, but didn’t know what.

E. Maybe I’ll have the kid talk now.

Ron looks a bit taken aback.

E. Well, maybe not.

R. Sure, go ahead.

E. Well….there’s kind of an angry voice.

R. What is that voice saying?

E. slipping into another part.  I….I’m angry?

I’m seeing something out of the corner of my eye.

E. It’s like….there’s light coming in under the door? We had these bunk beds, me and my sister. But….you’re not supposed to jump on the mattress, because you could fall off, and you could break the bed….

I’m getting more and more upset. I’m seeing a scene out of the corner of my eye. It’s our darkened bedroom in BigTown, USA.

E. But….I didn’t mean to do it! I didn’t!

I am crying a lot, the way a child cries.

E. I feel like I completely hate myself. Like I am the most horrible person.

R. I think someone worked very hard to make you feel like that. That you were bad, not them.

E. Yeah? Maybe.

I cry some more. I feel complete self-loathing. It’s a very difficult feeling.

And that’s about it. Nothing else about this scene becomes any clearer. I see our time is pretty well up and I start trying to pull myself together so I can leave. I stamp my feet on the ground a bit, I look around Ron’s office, noting the book shelves, the pillows and the couch. I’m somewhat avoiding looking at Ron himself.

R. It’s OK. You can stay longer, if you’re sad.

Hearing this kindness, the kid replies and of course starts crying again. Ron hasn’t offered to give me a few extra minutes before, and I appreciate it. But, I’m used to closing things down, so I do, enough to leave only about a minute beyond time.

This scenario was what I had to work through on the weekend. I tried moving around despite the pain, with mixed success. I tend to end up switching completely out of it, in order to cope, and it ends up coming back then as symptoms. But on the other hand, it feels great to get things done and to be out in the world. I think some mixture of this is a good thing – continuing to do things, but also trying to process what happened (whatever that may be) as best I can.

  1. Cat said:

    Ellen… as always your writings about the sessions with Ron is riveting.

    I would be going through the exact same emotions about my relationship with the Therapist. You are revealing so much, it is only natural to feel that you need a little bit extra reassurance. I know how it feels when we think someone hasn’t taken the time to completely read whatever we’ve written. It wouldn’t hurt for him to send a polite “thanks, got your email” but, as you say, maybe he’s a bit up to his eyes in other things. It’s good you have that outlet and I’m sure he probably reads more than you realise.

    • Ellen said:

      Glad it’s of interest Cat. Thank you.

      It’s a complicated relationship. I think since we have an agreement that he replies if I ask, he should reply. It’s made me feel really depressed that he hasn’t, and it is pretty easy for him to say some little thing. Anyhow. Glad you see it my way, kind of. take care.

  2. catherine said:

    I was struck when you wrote “I never know what to make of lack of response. Did something I said make him angry? Did he not bother reading? Is he fed up with me? Is he immersed in some crisis of his own?”

    In DBT we are learning about interpreting things… and not only that different interpretations will trigger different moods… but that our interpretations often happen in the absence of facts.

    From the vantage point of over here, 3 of your 4 interpretations have to do with you maybe having done or said something wrong or maybe being “too much” … ie. something you said or did maybe triggered anger in him, or indifference, or impatience. The 4th explanation is probably neutral (the one about his own crisis?) but even then, maybe you feel some anger that *his* crisis is more important than yours, when you were actually feeling quite horrible and needed to connect with him.

    So these particular interpretations (he is angry, he is impatient, he is indifferent, he no longer has my back) might trigger feelings of abandonment, possibly, I know they would for me. Or feelings of loss. Or of being unimportant to him. Or….

    Other interpretations might be more neutral (he was tired and distracted when reading, he reads the emails on his phone and didn’t see the end part, there was a breakdown in communication because he didn’t understand what you were saying in the email, he did respond but it got sucked into internet nowhere land, he dropped his phone in the toilet, he’s at the cottage with no web access until later in the week, he doesn’t want to correspond by email anymore, etc etc).

    I’m not saying that it’s wrong to feel how you feel… I really feel there’s no such thing as right or wrong feelings… but I am learning that when we interpret what’s going on in the absence of facts we often **increase** our suffering. It’s like me and my friend who can’t find time for coffee with me. I don’t know why… but I have many explanations (I made her angry, she doesn’t love me anymore, I’m not a priority… and most of these leave me pretty sad. But until I talk to her and find out what’s going on I’m adding to my pain by telling myself the storyline that had me being abandoned).

    I really really encourage you to talk about this whole episode when you see him later, and not gloss it over. And not be embarrassed to bring it up (I sometimes get the feeling that you think it’s too “needy” to want a connection with him and to feel special, or that only the kid parts get to want that relationship with him). There are facts here: you asked for an email response and didn’t get one. Now it’s time to find out why that happened, and maybe, if you are feeling like you can, explore the threads of connection/mutual respect/trust with him.

    Enough essay writing!!! Back to work for me!

    Good luck today

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for your thoughts on this – they make a lot of sense. I agree it’s best not to jump to conclusions – easier said then done though once we’re triggered isn’t it. We did discuss this to some extent, and I’ll write what happened. Too bad I didn’t see this before my session – I did discuss, but it was a muted discussion. I actually wrote him an email after saying I was quite a bit more upset about the email than I’d been able to express….

  3. I think he may have made a promise to you that he really couldn’t keep. He’s agreed to let you email him, which sort of implies he will actually read what you’ve written it, consider it, and give it some value. You have explicitly agreed that he would reply if you asked, but since he doesn’t actually read that carefully (this does seem the mostly likely explanation), sometimes he fails to. But sending him emails that he doesn’t read, or only skims, is actually not very satisfying and doesn’t provide the kind of reassurance that someone is there and cares that you want. It seems like he’s offered to do it because it seems like the kind of thing he thinks will help, but he actually doesn’t want to do it. He cares, but not that much–not as much as you’d like.

    • Ellen said:

      This may be true. I’m hoping not. He has replied to I’d say at least a hundred emails at this point, after over two years. Sometimes he’s great, but a few times he really falls down. From what he said, I don’t think it’s that he didn’t read to the end. I’ll write about this ‘anon’. Thanks for commenting Ashana.

      • Ashana M said:

        That’s actually even stranger, since it doesn’t take much more to reply than to read. It’s understandable if he were just in a hurry and didn’t read carefully, or only read until he thought he got the point, but seems genuinely rude to ignore a request for a response when the agreement is to respond when you ask.

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