I wasn’t really sure about what to expect today. As per the usual, I got anxious at like 2:30-3pm. I leave at 4:30 for counselling and that hour and a half is TOUGH.
The only thing that keeps me from cancelling is the cancellation fee that A would stick to (boundaries, am I right?). It’s better I show up and pay to say nothing than to not show up and not get the chance.
I told her I wasn’t really over Monday emotionally. That rationally I appreciated and understood her boundaries. Really appreciated them. But emotionally I wasn’t processing them very well. She asked why I thought that was.
I knew exactly why, and I came prepared.
“I think it’s time we talk about my past counsellors.”
“A lot of their behaviours, and lack of boundaries, or issues dealing with me because I was ‘too much’ – it was their voices I was hearing on Monday. Theirs, and my families. Not yours”
I proceeded to tell her all about Em, and our beautiful ending last night. She was curious as to why I hadn’t told her about Em before and I didn’t really have an answer. I couldn’t explain it, other than it felt like a betrayal.
“PD, what do you think you owe me, in this relationship?”
I listed off the basics. To show up (physically, not necessarily mentally) on time, to respect her boundaries. To pay her for her time. To not be abusive and treat her with basic human respect and decency.
“I would only add one thing to that. Don’t show up intoxicated.”
“You have done all those things so far. You are not in any way betraying me. You don’t owe me your secrets. Those are yours, for however long you want them to be. You may be betraying the relationship you WANT to have with me, but you’re not betraying me.”
I then started to talk about Liz, the WCE (worst counsellor ever).
This was hard because while I loved Em there is no love for the WCE. I went to her after just leaving home. I was actively suicidal. I was using SH to cope. It took me almost two years to trust her. And then, in one email, after one difficult session, she dropped me and told me I could call to pay her (a week later a student of mine, I was an RA, committed suicide.. And she still refused to even talk to me).
In that email she called me difficult and told me I enjoyed playing the victim. That she agreed with my mother, that I was beyond help and had a self destructive tendency that would never be helped.
I had yelled at her that session after she told me that what I was feeling was wrong. After she told me my mother was right.
A did pretty well disguising her shock at the complete lack of ethics displayed by WCE as I relayed the story and staying focused on me. One of A’s central tenants is that every client is not broken no matter how broken he or she may feel. She asked me to describe the dreadful WCE session and to take her there, she asked me to tell her anything I could remember. It took me a good 20 minutes to get there. She then asked me if I thought it would be helpful to read her the email, if I wanted.
And I did. When I was done she said
“PD, rip that up, and throw that out.”
So I did. I sat on the floor by the waste bin and ripped it into 100 pieces. And it felt amazing. I told her that and she said it felt amazing to watch me rip it up.
“We are changing that story. Tell me the story.”
I started talking about WCE and her shitty boundaries and incapabilities and her stupidity in both starting a fight and writing an insensitive email to an actively suicidal 19 year old.
And A interrupted me – “that’s still HER story. What’s yours”
I looked blankly at her
“I was a 19 year old, vulnerable person in therapy” she started for me and I managed to work my way through.
I got to the end and said “and I was too much for her and my emotions were too much”
And A was like – “nope, that’s not the ending.”
And we changed the narrative together.
I told her that now she had context for my reaction to changing boundaries and that I was so worried she was going to ditch me. I’m worried she won’t want to work with me at the first sign of emotions.
She responded by telling me what she would have done in the situation I described. She said it would be difficult for any therapist to deal with a clients rage but not beyond what they should expect and when done she looked at me and said “I will NEVER let you leave like that. If you are angry I will draw attention to it. I will do my best to bring you out of that haze. But I will never respond like that.”
It’s scary, going on this journey with her. I wasn’t ready to do what WCE wanted from me back then. I wasn’t even able to cope, 9 years ago. But I’ve laid the groundwork. I have the coping mechanisms and the support system and the goals and desires. But now to heal I have to be vulnerable and messy and those emotions may come again. And I want my best chance at success.
I’m still afraid I’m going to overwhelm her but as A said today “neither of us are going into this blind. We’ve both got our eyes wide open. And it’s my job, not yours, to make sure they stay that way.”
She is boundaried. She is thorough. She is realistic with her promises. She openly admits when I’m right and she has made a mistake. Against my better judgment, I’m starting to trust her. And with that, ladies and gents, trauma therapy may finally have liftoff.