Hard slog

I am walking through depression these days, that’s for sure. Trying to keep my head above water. I ordered four different self-help books from the library, or maybe five? I can’t decide what I have that’s most urgent – PTSD Workbook, Anxiety Toolkit, 7 steps Through Depression, Compassion Therapy for Social Anxiety. Four. Plus the Mindful Way through Depression, my old favorite. I feel as if I have pretty much every diagnosis out there except for bipolar or schizophrenia. Oh, I’m also not obsessive compulsive. Everything else, I’ve got.

Today I went to the gym, so I am proud of this. Yesterday I spent a lot of hours in bed, so today I’m more active. I might go to 12 step group tonite. Or maybe let it be for a while.

Yesterday was my first session after the holidays. Ron was thirty minutes late. The boundaries with him, which until a few months ago he was great at holding, seem to be falling apart a bit. He gave me no notice of his unusual two week Christmas vacation, and now he both showed up very late and did not bother phoning me to tell me he was delayed. For the vacation, when I asked why there was no notice, he was completely defensive. He carefully explained how he had been telling people and maybe that was the week we did the bio session so he forgot to tell me. He didn’t apologize. What do I care what his exact problems were – the fact is, he hurt me, by inattention, and it would make sense to offer a small apology. I would, if it was me.

I assumed he’d forgotten my session yesterday, but it turned out he’d been coming in from out of town and my 11:30 appointment was his first. The weather was bad, and he was slow to get here. I can actually understand that. What I don’t understand is why he couldn’t let me know. He had a phone in his car. He could have saved me from coming in for a twenty minute session. He did apologize, and did not charge me for the twenty minutes. I do not see why he didn’t let me know. He shrugged and said his kids were in the car.

I’m going on about these small things. I find them hurtful and unprofessional.

My therapy is pretty much in the toilet. Even in the twenty minutes, I felt criticized and unsupported. To the extent that it plunged me right back into my non-functional depression. But today, I realized that I had been criticizing him, and likely hurt his feelings somewhat. Not for being late – we briefly discussed then let it go.

I don’t know. I was thinking in my mind, first of all, I’ve had a rough time, and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been trying to help me – the exercise, the group. But also, what I remembered today, was I said I didn’t think therapy could help me. And that I wanted to work on a plan for making my life better, rather than plunging into trauma feelings, or something like that.

Which of course Ron is going to be irritated by. I don’t know if he actively dislikes trying to plan for a better life, or if it’s just something he doesn’t think works? And my saying therapy isn’t going to help – that is definitely criticism.

I also explained about my Christmas a bit – leaving the family event early. He did say a satisfying ‘wow’ when I explained how my mother and sister had reacted to my leaving before dinner was over – ‘would you like to take pie?’ and ‘thanks for coming’ respectively, nothing else.

After about fifteen minutes, he wasn’t saying anything, and I felt uneasy, so I said it always freaks me out when you sit silent like that. And he said the hurtful thing, something about what I’d said about the gym, how I’m trying to balance the anxiety exercise causes me with the depression that no exercise leaves me in. He criticized that – something about how I’m trying to manage my feelings instead of really exploring them.

The reason that hurt so much is that I’ve been struggling so very hard to not succumb to depression over the holidays – to get out of bed, to do things. Even though if I think about it, my life sucks on basically every front right now. So I try not to think about it. And I’m kind of proud of going to the gym, of finding a way, after years of avoidance. And of going to the group, despite difficulties. It’s me out there, fighting.

And Ron doesn’t see it that way. I guess. I feel criticized for not exploring feelings properly. And it makes sense, as I criticized his therapy. Which I couldn’t see at first, as my pain was overwhelming at that point.

I didn’t say anything to Ron about this. I do not need another discussion about the way to help me – we’ve done that, got the t-shirt, I don’t need to go there again.

Another thing that occurred to me is that this dynamic with Ron feels very much like the one I had with my father as a child. Enormous hurt, feeling criticized and never good enough. I in turn criticizing him. I never seemed to have any influence with my dad, and it feels similar with Ron. So maybe that’s something I can explore.

I also know that therapy feels bad when parts are no longer involved. Ever since Ron rejected B a few months ago, no parts have showed up for therapy. Ron doesn’t seem to notice – I suppose he believes they have magically disappeared. But B is the main part of me that attaches to people, so if she is no longer welcome with Ron, then I feel quite distant from him. So that’s another thing.


  1. Ellen you are really onto something here. That kind of behaviour from a therapist is totally out of order. My new therapist has never been late once, she always honours her commitments and I never feel criticised. I think there is some force in us and in the universe that attracts us to similar wounding experiences from childhood that can replay the original relationships. Maybe if you can unpack a lot of the pain from the two experiences within yourself you may make some progress. I know human relationships are bound to fail us at times and our therapists do the best. But I do think he really should have let you know he was running late. Thinking of you and sending you support. You are trying so hard to heal. You really should not have been let down like this. ❤

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks EFDN. I guess….his pattern is not to be late. I’ve been seeing him for six years, and he was late one time in all those years, and that time he called me ahead of time. So this is unusual, to be fair. I guess I don’t get why he is not communicating with me at this point, and wondering what that might mean. He’s not actually irresponsible usually.

      For me the bigger issue is the criticism I feel, though I also am criticizing him. I wonder how much I’m setting up this dynamic. So if I can stand the pain of it, it might be worthwhile for me to explore what’s happening with him.

      Thanks for supporting me.

      • That’s okay. It sounds like he has something going down personally and that may be why he is a bit thrown off. I find some therapists don’t like to let down their professional superiority guard when things are going on personally and so they may deflect things.
        I agree that if you are feeling criticised its not a good feeling. That’s when I guess you need your own filter to see when its unjustified. Also maybe if you are feeling critical of him, could he be picking it up? Who knows. So hard to know what goes on with others if they cannot honestly say.

        • Ellen said:

          You could be right about that. Christmas can be hard on everyone. Maybe his kids were giving him a hard time and he couldn’t cope with calling me at that time, who knows.

          He’s definitely picking up my criticism of him, as I go ahead and tell him. lol. I’m not subtle. So I can see how he might be reacting to that negatively, even though he’s supposed to be able to manage his own reactions and not retaliate. Cheers.

    • Neloran said:

      I agree. Over the years, I have “seen” a change in Ron from reading your blog. He’s allowed to have feelings. He is human. I feel like in some circumstances it is helpful for you to see his human reaction, but in other circumstances he is not strong with professional boundary and containing his countertransference.

      • I told my own therapist about what happened and she just shook her head. Even though he is human he should also have and maintain boundaries or at least be honest, that was her opinion.

  2. Uggh. That doesn’t sound helpful at all. I don’t see any problem with ‘managing’ your feelings – however much you explore those feelings in therapy, you still have to live your life for all the hours of the week outside of that. And all the other stuff – it just seems like sometimes therapists forget that part of what you’re paying them for is to put aside their own issues and focus entirely on you, and in a constructive way.

    • Ellen said:

      Me neither. I don’t think he would tolerate not being able to function in his own life – surely it’s a good thing to manage the feelings enough to have a life of some kind? I do not get it. Thanks DV

  3. Wow. That’s a lot. It is so important to learn to manage feelings. I think most therapists would say that needs to be done first. It seems like disagreeing about this makes it seem like a black-and-white issue. I mean, the idea is you manage the feelings better so that you can cope with what comes up as you explore it. Maybe this needs to be brought out into the open: As in, “Our goals seem to be different.I am trying to learn to manage my feelings so that I can cope better with what comes up as I explore them. Can you support me in doing that or do you feel that it is not the right approach?” And if he can’t support you in doing that, then maybe it really is time to move on.

    As depressing as that sounds….

    • Ellen said:

      I have been thinking of leaving of course. Just – he’s almost my only stable person. I start getting petrified when I really contemplate leaving – I’m feeling really unstable at the moment.

      I think I will say this to him and see what he says. It seems like a good balanced way of putting it. I’d be saying that I am interested in exploring feelings, but also, managing what comes up so I can have some kind of a life. Yeah. And can he support me. I like it. Because I think I get offended and polarized, in these kinds of discussions, which doesn’t help.

      As well, I know he is triggering my father issues at this point, and they are agonizing. I think he would be open to exploring that, maybe.

      Thanks for your thoughts Ash

      • Ashana M said:

        Yes, it seems like these discussions are polarizing: he implies you are avoiding; you point out you can’t function. It makes it hard to see whether he really doesn’t support you in trying to manage better, or if he just doesn’t support avoiding. Because it is supposed to work together. Managing (what we call self-regulation) lays the groundwork for trauma work.

  4. I want to echo what you feel about the unprofessionalism. He should have let you know he was late or unable to make it. And the criticism. I used to feel like that with an old therapist. I criticized A today – I looked her straight in the eye and said “I think you’re useless to me today” and she looked at me and said “that’s okay. You are allowed to feel that.” Point being that it’s their job to let you explore your emotions without judgment. I just feel your hurt here. Maybe he had an off day – but I really like what Ashana suggested as a statement. Maybe it is his approach. However I completely understand that this is someone you have worked with for a long time, and how incredibly challenging this is – and you know him and you best. I am here for you.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, he should have let me know.

      For the criticism – sometimes Ron is like that. At the moment, it feels like we’re entrenched in a conflict though, and he seems defensive to me.

      Thank you PD

  5. Laura said:

    I have a thoughtless therapist, also! Especially around the holidays! We both need to let them know how much they disappoint us, how angry it makes us – instead of turning that anger against ourselves, getting depressed, because we think that it’s about US – that we must deserve this kind of treatment. No – we don’t. They’re being shitty.
    It seems like you can have 3 positions in relation to your feelings – your depression in this case, or your ‘father’ responses to Ron. One is that you suppress or avoid them, two is that you observe them – as if they were weather, and three is that you act on them. If you know you’re depressed, you don’t have to wallow in it, that’s acting out your depression.
    How are the parts involved in your depression?
    If he doesn’t validate going to the gym, is it any less true for you, that it helps? I get that you expect him to support you and it hurts when he doesn’t.

    • Ellen said:

      I’m sorry Howard seems to be giving you grief. Actually, I don’t feel that Ron’s behaviour is my fault – I’m pretty clear on that for myself, and his lateness didn’t bother me that much later.

      For your three positions – I don’t think I’ll suppress them. The other two options are up for grabs though.

      It does still help whatever he thinks – it’s just all really awkward. Thanks Laura. Happy New Year!

  6. ellen I am sorry this is happening with ron. it sounds like the dynamic is really shifting and that is not good. its not good he has rejected your parts. they are an integral part of you. I hope things will work out and if not maybe its time to find someone else. xxx

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