I feel unbelievably ambivalent about my therapy. I don’t see where it’s going, I feel a lot worse after sessions, I don’t have a lot of confidence that Ron’s ideas are going to help me much. And yet….I have changed. I am better at relationships and I see more clearly where they might be going wrong. But my PTSD remains the same, basically untouched.

Last Thursday’s session put me back into a depression which I’m still trying to climb out of, thereby wasting a lot of my time off. I’m still doing a few things, but quite a bit less than before.

I’m having trouble focusing on what the trouble might be. I know Ron hurts my feelings deeply when he tells me I’m like my family. One reason he says that is because there are topics that I don’t wish to discuss. He thinks I’m then shutting down discussion as my family did. Though to tell the truth, with my family, discussion was mostly suppressed before it could even start, rather than shut down in progress.

Ron wants to discuss my son. He says I have all kinds of massive feelings about his situation, and it would help to discuss. I do not want to waste my fifty minutes on discussing the situation. It’s hard to get Ron to understand anyway, and it doesn’t go anywhere. There’s nothing he can do. I ended up telling him if he needs to discuss this, I’d listen to everything he has to say, because I don’t want to shut him down, but that I didn’t have anything to say about it. My efforts at not shutting him down. Isn’t choosing a topic different from ‘shutting people down’?

Anyway. This isn’t what triggered off the depression. Towards the end of the session, I asked Ron – shouldn’t he be linking my past to my present, isn’t that what his job is in psychodynamic therapy? He agreed and said that’s exactly what he’s doing in trying to discuss my son. I didn’t see it. How is discussing my son’s current situation doing that? Where is the past in this? He’s not making any links as far as I can see. He’s just intent on showing my son’s situation is psychological, not physical. It may have psychological components, but I am convinced it’s also physical. But I just don’t have time to get into arguments in my short therapy session, arguments that will not help me.

But. At the same time, I was drawing with crayons, doodling. That provides a lot of relief to parts of me that are not involved in this type of discussion. It also opens up my emotions, which I suspect are from these split off parts.

So then I said, half from an emotional parts type state, I thought Ron should be focusing on what it was like for me, what effect did it have, to have a mother who was unable to tolerate any emotions from her child. And I can’t remember what Ron said to tell the truth. He said a bunch of stuff, and I was still drawing away, feeling more and more emotional and child-like. I felt both sad and also angry and petulant, like a kid sticking to her guns despite a grown-ups fancy arguments.

I think that’s what pushed me into the depression. Parts emotions lead to other parts emotions, all walled off but ready to come tumbling out all together.

The fact is, it was severely painful to have a mother who needed her children to suppress all emotions. There was not a lot of love, but what there was went to any child who did not display feelings. So we all learned very early not to have feelings.

Which led to my being depressed for most of my life. All my life force dammed up as my mother needed it to be.

So reason enough to be depressed in the present.

Is this helpful? I have no idea. It means therapy is having an effect, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be a good effect in the end.



  1. This sounds horrible. What a horrible place to be left in.

    I told my T recently that I felt I was getting worse and not better (which isn’t true on the whole) but was at the time in terms of now I am accessing my emotions for the first time ever (because of a mother like yours!) it felt like I was often hit by a tidal wave.. she reassured me that it was pretty normal to feel this way because when you’ve spent a life emotionally repressed and you start to feel it’s hard! She said to me “you are NOT depressed, you are coming out of depression”….. I was like wow. I’m not sure if that helps you at all???

    Also, I don’t know you or your son but maybe he’s trying to find links between how you were patented and how you now parent? Maybe beliefs you have because of your upbringing or something? I don’t know obviously – but I think it’s normal to feel angry and in denial at some things but try and hang on in, it gets better! And then harder, and then better! Xx

    • Ellen said:

      Your experience does sound similar, and that helps.

      As to my son – he’s 29 and doesn’t live with me, so my parenting days are basically over. I do have a lot of regrets on my parenting and my ex’s as well. However the current discussions are on how to help him in the present – he needs to move, and apply for benefits, etc….

      Thanks for the comment TT!

  2. What you say makes a lot of sense to me, that first of all you might not want to spend a lot of time talking about your son and problems you can’t really do much about, but that you would like to talk about yourself and how it feels and felt to be you.

    I also get what seems to be a sense–a possibility maybe lurking in the back of your mind–that you need to talk about certain topics to please Ron so that he can feel heard, and you aren’t free to choose.

    But mainly I get having this mother with such limited coping skills that she is overwhelmed by her children’s emotional lives, and needs them to remain basically silent as people. My mother reacted in these really florid, overt ways, but I think the results were very similar to what happened in your family. It’s very lonely and leaves you with a feeling of being profoundly unwanted. It also plays out in these other ways that are quite serious: you can’t risk having feelings, so that when serious problems do arise, she’s not capable of protecting you (like abuse from your uncle). You don’t have anywhere to turn. There is no safe haven.

    I think Ron sees how it’s damaging to be silent, but might not get how it felt to be lonely–not just needing to keep things in all the time, but not having anywhere there to hear you when you do speak. Because that is still true. You can see your family, and share little things about yourself at those times, and they still don’t connect over anything.

    • Ellen said:

      I agree with all of this. My mother just was and is profoundly absent. While being a stay at home mom. I think it was damaging, and lonely, but also, I kind of didn’t learn how to interact with anyone in a satisfying way. It kind of hobbled my social development. I lost track of things I might have wanted or needed to talk about in all the silence.

      I guess now when I open that up a bit by talking about it, I’m hit by a tidal wave of hopelessness and sadness. It’s good to try and remember that this is a memory….not necessarily about today.

      Thanks Ash

      • I wonder if as children we just cannot afford to grieve the absence of honest connection with our parents. We have to keep trying to get our emotional needs met as best we can, and we cannot afford to give up hope and stop trying. As adults, having other options, we can start to understand that it is hopeless to try to connect with them beyond a very minimal degree. It’s a pretty horrible process.

  3. I also felt that things got much worse before anything remotely like feeling better. I shut off all my emotions and I needed to reconnect to them. It is a painful process but the bonus is now I feel happiness and joy that I could never feel before because feelings weren’t allowed. I didn’t remember my past so talking about it was very difficult. I didn’t know. However, I learned along the way the things that pained me, I felt inadequate doing, and frustrated me continued to haunt me until I faced them and learned to process what I did feel about them.

    Something to consider is how you feel about your mother and how you felt being a mother may be more closely tied than you think they are. I struggled when my counselor pointed out I did some of the same things my mother did. At the time, I was devastated. Now, I recognize what he means as I make the connections between my barely remembered past and present.

    This is a hard part of counseling when giving up seems reasonable. I am cheering for you and hope you can press forward to a more connected way of living.

    • Ellen said:

      Glad to hear you now feel some joyful feelings….I actually feel somewhat better in days I’m not triggered by therapy too. I’ve spent a lot of life being depressed, so this is good. I think partly I make up my mind to be cheerful then – it’s not exactly fake, but I feel OK enough that I can encourage better feelings.

      Yeah, it makes sense that mothering feelings would be connected. It is painful to think about that. I know I was not as good a mom as I wanted to be because of my issues. Anyway. Ron wasn’t discussing that so much – more a discussion of what my son should do – apply for benefits, move, etc….Which it seemed to me I could handle as well out of therapy.

      Thanks for your thoughts Ruth

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