en·dure: suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently.
I just saw A. I’ve never had a more emotionally volatile session. I started very backed off, then burst into tears while saying “I can’t go to MO.” eventually read her the letter, she talked about how she heard that I’m feeling fed up – and her description was so accurate I was connected again.
And then I said “I wish I could take what I know here with me” and she said “You can. And this won’t last forever.” And I got so angry – I was thinking how does she know?! She doesn’t know what my experience is. And I said “I’m really angry all of a sudden.”
And she said “oh, okay. What made you angry? When did you first notice the anger.”
And I said – with a high dose of sass – “When are you going to replace that stupid blanket.”
And she gave me that really, PD look. And then she laughed and I was like “it’s not funny! You’ve replaced everything else in your office but kept the crappy blanket. Do you have some sort of weird attachment to that blanket? It’s not even soft. If I come here and share I want a soft blanket!”
And she calmed down and got serious again and said “alright, I hear you. I hear you are angry with me – but I also don’t think it’s about the blanket. Can I hear what the anger is about?”
I briefly paused. I’ve never gotten angry at her in session before – usually outside of it and then addressed when calmer. But I kind of think I felt like I don’t have a lot of time to get angry, like my life ends when I go to MO, and I didn’t want to not say how I felt. I had a super I give 0 fucks cause I already feel crappy attitude going on. So I went for it.
“You don’t know what it is like for me there, A. Don’t you think if I knew how to use the skills we learn here that I would? Do you think I want to devolve into a mess? I know it’s your job to believe in me, but it feels so invalidating to hear you say “you can use those skills” as if it’s simply that easy. As if I should be able to hop off the plane and suddenly remember everything I have learned here in a place that is absolutely triggering for me. It makes me feel stupid. You don’t know my experience. You don’t know what it’s like or how hard it is.”
“You are right, I don’t. And I’m hearing right now that me believing in you and telling you it’s possible and affirming your capabilities isn’t helpful. I can appreciate why that would be invalidating. And I am hearing that you’re in a dark place – where you don’t have your own back and optimism or positivity feels hollow – so let me come there too.”
I cried for a bit and then told her “I don’t want to go. And it’s not the normal don’t want to go. The trips are too close together and I wasn’t expecting my parents visit and the first wedding to trigger me like they did – and so I didn’t have a chance to recover. I usually have a plan and lists and know what may trigger me and what to avoid and I have none of that. It feels legitimately dangerous.”
And then I said:
“I need to not go”
And I tried to keep talking but she said “wait, PD, you just clearly expressed a need for yourself.”
“But it’s not possible”
“But you articulated a need for YOU without thinking about anybody else. Can we sit with that for a little bit? Regardless of whether or not it is possible, can we sit with that?”
We did. We sat. I didn’t realize I had so clearly expressed a need.
“PD, it sounds like there are two choices here. I support you in whichever one you make. You stay here and don’t physically go, or you go and we work out a way to keep you protected but not in pieces. Some goals and strategies – because it’s about endurance at this point, surviving using both your old coping mechanisms and some new ones.”
It’s probably pretty obvious, my choice.
So we talked about goals, and I’m sure we will keep talking about them tomorrow. She won’t tell me what they should be -she makes me come up with them (she knows I will do them simply to please her otherwise which reinforces that habit). She made me phrase them positively. Instead of “not be drunk the whole time” it was “I will try to stay sober.” And I said I didn’t want to be constantly thinking of everyone else and she prompted “Rephrase it. Start with I want to” and I said “put myself first when I can.” We will write them down tomorrow and have a list. Which is good – I needed a practical plan that would allow for some survival, and would work within my current skill set. After I told her I was worried about self harm – legitimately worried about that, I was full up and honest – she said it’s not the time to practice anything new – and that we can make the goal staying connected to the experience as much as possible without self harming. To endure.
So I felt connected again. Sad, connected, angry, connected and then.
Then I found out the reason for our no phone session next week is because she is away for 4 days in Hawaii. Which, like, normally wouldn’t matter – she normally even wouldn’t tell me. Her out of session boundaries don’t require me to know if she is gone for less than a week. But because it corresponded with my time in MO I was really angry at her for the second time. And I told her that. And she said “I get that, I do. It’s okay to be angry at me.” And she went into the logistics and I was like “I don’t care why. I need you and you’re not there. That’s the part I care about. Logically I know any other time it’s fine. You’re allowed to go away. But when I go somewhere where I feel I am not cared for and not loved and can’t be me – our phone conversations remind me there IS someone who gets it. Emotionally I’m like a 5 year old – no object permanence. I can’t stay connected to you when I know I can’t reach out. I haven’t been doing this with you long enough to trust there is a connection when we aren’t in the same room.”
And she said “I get that, PD, I truly do. And it’s okay for you to be frustrated and even more okay for you to express that. I want to know if there is something I could do, within our boundaries, that might help.”
I hesitated, and changed the subject for a bit, and then rounded back to “would you ever let clients record their sessions. I’m not asking because I want too, I’m just curious.” And she said “yes, I have, I had to record mine in school too.” And I said “I really wish I had a recording of you reading that poem.”
And she said “oh! What a good idea! Of course we can – I’m glad you asked. Where’s your phone?”
And she made one. I was so afraid to ask, but I did. It starts with her saying “This is the poem The Guest House, by Rumi…. and this is for you, PD.”
And my heart is full.
And I feel like even though it’s a test of endurance, to get back here, that I will get back here. For the first time – although I know it won’t be easy – I think I can endure.