Therapy Friday 1

Big delay in posting on my session this week, so of course I’ve forgotten the details. We talked about the email, in kind of a muted way. This was my session before Ron’s two week vacation, and I didn’t feel like being ‘difficult’. I said that it had upset me when he hadn’t responded, even though I’d asked him to. As per my blog post, did he not read all of it, was he angry, did he not care….

R. None of those are the case. This week was really busy for me – not here, but in my daily life, I had a lot of chores to do to get ready for the trip. I read your email and was thinking it over.

E. I was really upset and I got depressed.

R. I just hadn’t gotten around to replying.

E. So you were still thinking you were going to reply? After all that time?

Ron nods.

R. I know the delay wasn’t optimal. Just this week I had a lot to do.

E. I don’t expect you to do therapy by email. Just some response so I know you’ve read it.

And I let it drop. When Ron hadn’t replied after two days, I sent another email saying only that I was sad he hadn’t responded. To which he replied right away, that he ‘is here’. Which meant he never would respond to my original mail. Don’t know why, but that’s his method.

The email I sent was kind of complex. I sent it at four am, so I didn’t edit it much. I can see how he might have been struggling a bit with what to say.

I guess to me the underlying meaning is that I am reaching out to someone important when I’m distressed, and not getting a response. I wonder if Ron realizes that I only write these when I’m upset. If I write something simple, like the being sad email, he responds pretty fast.

Ah, emails. I’ve written Ron another four or five since he’s been gone, as I’ve had a rough week. Didn’t send them though. They’re like little diary entries sitting in my drafts folder.

Not totally sure why this week has been so rough. I put it down to anxiety over Ron’s absence. Then, my client/boss, whom I like and depend on a lot, is leaving next week, and it’s making me sad. Then a relative is visiting my parents’, so I’ve been to visit twice. She’s a lovely aunt. However visits to my family always make me depressed. Like a physical weighing down. So there’s that.

Then last Friday, I realized I’d stopped taking a depression supplement I’ve been on for years, 5 HTP. A friend mentioned that she doesn’t believe it’s good for your health to take these forever, they can cause damage. And it says on the bottle to consult a practitioner for use over two years. I think I’ve been taking it about five years. Anyhow, I didn’t think it was doing much anyway, so I stopped it last weekend.

And as the week went on, I became more tearful and more anxious. I now suspect this supplement is taking the edge off my moodiness, so I went back on it, and it seems to have helped.

Sigh. Maybe I need to slowly taper off. I feel so impatient with myself, forever collapsing and tearful. I so much want to be able to cope without these various interventions.

We did get on to more helpful topics in therapy, so I’ll continue about that in my next post.

  1. It seems to me that Ron is just lying. When you’ve made it clear that what you most want is not a thoughtful, considered response, but really just any response that indicates you’ve been heard, it’s nothing short of stupid to say he was “thinking it over.” You never asked him to think it over. You asked for a response. That is, in fact, the agreement: not that he give your email great consideration, but that he read it and respond briefly.

    I also think he has a lot vested in his own image of himself as a caring person, and sometimes the desire to feel good about himself is much stronger than his desire to do what actually helps.

    I’m not saying he is a terrible, untrustworthy person. People do just lie. They lie fairly regularly, mostly over rather trivial matters, and many times to avoid hurting people’s feelings, or to avoid consequences–especially in the form of other people’s upset. I think that is Ron’s motivation here: He doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. He doesn’t want to deal with anyone’s hurt feelings. So he lied.

    • Ellen said:

      Maybe. I don’t think he didn’t want to deal with my hurt feelings though. He didn’t close down any discussion of that. I did that myself. I do think email is tricky. I deal with it a lot at work, and I have learned that if I want a response, I have to formulate my question carefully and make it easy for the person to respond. Otherwise, they may mean well, but they won’t know what to do, easily, and they’ll skip the email for later, and later never comes. I wonder if the same kind of thing happens to Ron.

      I think he’s not perfect. Yes. There’s no way for me to know if he really would have responded if I hadn’t sent a second email. I just can’t sit with the anxiety of it for that many days to test this out. I think it is likely he was very busy, shelved the email, and didn’t feel it was urgent to get back to it. It’s probably a kind of middle ground – he had good intentions, but didn’t carry them out.

      I can’t mandate what kind of response he is to give. If he feels he wants to respond to the content, that’s fine with me actually. Just that is then harder for him, and he likely can’t / won’t do it.

      Anyway, I sent him a further angry email after my session about this, but at this point, I feel I’m over it. Therapists are not so perfect. He has a lot of other good qualities.


  2. Ruth said:

    Emails were always kind of difficult. I would want a response too when I emailed my counselor. He eventually got to where he would simply write, “look forward to talking to you about it.” It wasn’t any answer but I knew he at least opened it. Interesting how we both have similar expectations of some type of response. I only sent emails when I was really stressed out. However, I learned that other people do not behave the same way. Sorry to hear you are having so many things pile up at once.
    Take care,

    • Ellen said:

      That’s really similar to me. Thanks Ruth.

  3. Gel said:

    When I read about this issue before, I thought Ron was breaking an agreement with you if he didn’t respond to your emails. But I didn’t want to be negative about him.

    If it were me, and I had an arrangement with a T that they’d respond to emails, it would be really hard if/when they didn’t respond. I’d want to set that up more formally or not do it at all. By formally I mean that it would be a firm clear agreement. I wouldn’t expect that a T would want to be available in that way. But if they were available by emails between sessions I’d want to know if they could commit to making a reply even if it’s only to say they’d received and read the email. I’m not saying you should get him to make a commitment. I just mean that I understand that waiting and wondering and how uncomfortable it is and I’m not good at letting that happen in my life if I can help it.

    I think it’s really terrific that you can reach out to Ron (someone) and say stuff when you’re in distress. But it seems like if he doesn’t reply then that can set you up for more distress wondering what is going on for him.

    • Ellen said:

      I can see why a firm clear agreement would be good. However I think what I’ve got is the best I can do. Unless it’s an emergency, I don’t feel I can insist Ron must respond all the time. He just doesn’t seem able to do that. He responds ninety five percent of the time provided I ask. I did float the idea in the session that I should stop sending emails altogether. Ron said it’s my choice, but he thinks it’s good I send them and he will try to respond.

      I’ve weighed giving them up. I can’t quite do it. I’ve tried figuring out what he finds it difficult to respond to – kind of managing his response by what I write. I don’t know if that’s a good path to go down….Anyway. Thanks for your thoughts Gel.

  4. catherine said:

    Hope you can keep talking about the email issue with him, and specifically let him know that you are trying to figure out what he finds difficult to respond to and that you are trying to adapt what you write in order to get a response. I think he’d find that very interesting …. and seems very worth exploring…. my first question might be how does that reinforce the messages of your childhood (ie trying to manage your family’s/or/your father’s response to you by not showing the full range of your emotions). I wouldn’t drop the issue, but maybe try and get deeper into it.. not only the “I really need a response” negotiation, but what does this mean underneath … about being heard? about feeling important? about connection? about respect? about “feeling difficult” when you express disappointment? about staying connected when he disappoints you? about feeling like you have to minimize your expectations? and so on…

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, that would relate to my issue of trying to fit into my family by skewing my actual feelings / thoughts. I suspect that’s true for all of us trying to heal mental issues. Those are really good points. I can discuss with him. I guess at the moment, though, those discussions are not very emotional, they just feel like an exercise, or a trap to me. My emotions seem all tied up in parts. It’s a dilemma for me, whether to approach therapy through these younger parts, in which case we don’t discuss issues at all rationally, or whether to use the time to try and work on actual things that happen to me, including the therapy relationship. The joys of dissociation.

      Thanks for the insight on this. I appreciate the push not to give up on things that seem ‘unimportant’.

      • catherine said:

        it seems you might explore it from both places. how do the younger parts feel about him not responding? it might be easier to get in touch with those feelings, as you mentioned you often write to him in the middle of the night. so… does younger Ellen feel heard? and respected? and loved? it’s not about discussing this “rationally” and “logically” and these emails *are* actual things. hope you enjoy your mini vacation from therapy, c.

        • Ellen said:

          Good suggestions. Thanks Catherine. Hope you are surviving or even enjoying your T break as well.

  5. Cat said:

    If I emailed, I’d want a response and not getting one would cause me too much anxiety, which would push me towards writing another (not so nice) email.

    It’s good you have this outlet with Ron. However, I’m not sure if it is an agreement and is maybe something he does beyond the therapy. I doubt he is deliberately being dishonest. As you say, he probably meant to deal with it at another time, but forgot. In saying that, a quick email to say he receives yours would have been more helpful.

    I think the therapy relationship can reflect a lot of what happens in our “outside” life. It’s important to explore this with the Therapist.

    • Ellen said:

      Good to get your perspective Cat.

      Yeah, I don’t really want to make him work hard at a response – I just need to know he’s not angry at what I wrote. It’s sometimes either embarrassing, seen with hindsight, or angry, or some other troublesome thing, and I keep needing to know it’s OK, basically.

      Yes, it is important to explore these things. Thanks.

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