I honestly don’t know how she does it. I marvel at our relationship sometimes. How perfect it is. In that finding a good therapist is hard. Finding the right therapist is nearly impossible. And yet, I’ve done it. I really believe I’ve done it. And that is terrifying in and of itself – which I told her at the end of session, and she acknowledged. The idea that I have this, and it could go, any second.
It was like a dance. My pushing, her pulling and redirecting. My isolating, her refusing to accept that and clawing her way into my bubble. My diversions and dismissive statements, her firm but gentle corrections. Each move she made pulsed with the underlying message of “I care, I’m here, I’m not going” in 4/4 time. And eventually, eventually, I concede.
I started completely closed off. And she was relentless in pursuing attachment. I was debating if I should focus on the cleaning thing and OCD or on the phone call… and landed on the phone call. My emotions have caught in my throat since it happened, whenever I think of it. But I couldn’t speak to her about it. I didn’t want to speak to her. For one thing, it was literally like her compassion and care illuminated all the relationship between me and my mother lacks. After one year of knowing me, she knows me better than my mother of 28 years. She knows how to care for me and be there and when she is attuned, especially when she’s firmly directively attuned, when she knows what I need before I do – it’s like living in a dark room and then suddenly experiencing light. Her compassion is blinding. Secondly, I just existed without her for a long time (for us), and to build that connection again… to have coped (albeit rather poorly) and withdrawn and isolated without her… having that care back is so – temporary. I couldn’t hold on to it for two weeks, I’m not there yet. And A pulled and I pushed and she kept asking me how things felt. She kept trying to get me to look at her, and I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.
And I was like “I don’t want to talk about it. It floored me. I was already out of coping mechanisms and it floored me. So I’ve buried it.” And she said “you should let it out, PD.” And I said to her “maybe I would have let it out if there was somebody here to talk to last week.”
And she sucked in her breath momentarily – what I said seemed to surprise her (I’m rarely that forceful) – and then seemed to regroup and said gently “okay, so there is anger here at me being away. And I’m really going to lean into that, and tell you that it’s okay you’re sharing that. That you are allowed anger. It hit me for a moment, and affected me, but it’s so important you feel safe saying that, and it’s valid. You wanted connection when you were hurting, and I wasn’t available, and that made you angry.”
And I told her that I felt awful for being angry, because my choices aren’t her fault ever and I felt like saying I was mad was saying that it was her fault I was upset. And she said “of course you feel that way. Because someone’s actions in your life, even when they weren’t your responsibility, were your fault.” And she was right, I was so worried about projecting that on to her. I told her it wasn’t so much that she went away, but that she didn’t give me warning, or space to talk about it. Which I had already told her but she reconfirmed that she will be doing better in the future. And I told her I trust her. And I do.
She asked why I trust her, and I said because she does what she says she will. And she said “like come back from vacation when I say I will.” And I said “so far”. And she said “I haven’t given you any evidence to the contrary, have I?” And I said “no, you do come back when you say you will”. And she said “what else do I do, that I say I will. What else can you trust about me? What are things that I do that differentiate me from other people in your life, maybe people you don’t trust.”
And I looked up at her. And we talked about her boundaries being so clear and firm that I never have to worry about if she’s holding them, and how she lets me be angry and doesn’t respond in kind. But how she also doesn’t just agree with me at every turn. She will correct me and tell me what she actually is seeing or believing regardless of what I think. And that there is room for compromise. And this is how she connected with me. And it was fucking brilliant.
So she rounded back and asked me the same question she had opened with – “what happened. I can see something happened, there have been tears under the surface since you got here, and I’m here to witness it. Can you let me in?”
And eventually I told her that my Mom shared my husband’s email. With my brother. And she latched on it and asked me how that felt even though I tried to change the topic. I swear every other sentence she said today was either “PD, stay with me” or “PD, come back.” Holding everything so contained has me exhausted and I can’t imagine how much work it was for her. She said that she got a big emotion from the fact my Mom shared the email and so she couldn’t imagine how I felt and I told her that I didn’t know, that I didn’t want to talk about it. And she said, “can I tell you what I felt? I felt betrayal.” And I cried and I kept telling her I shouldn’t be crying and she kept saying “I am so relieved to see those tears, they are good things, I am so happy to see them and they are so welcome here. I know I’ve really pushed today, but I felt like you really needed this.”
And I just sobbed. I sobbed. I sobbed the way I should have while I was shaking and silently screaming on my bathroom floor two days ago. And I let out all I can’t tell my husband and all I was afraid to say and the grief, it poured out of me. I snot-dripped ugly cried – tears streaming down my face sobbed. And somehow she knew, this time, not to move, not to come closer, not to say a word. She let me cry until I was finished crying. Observing. Being there. At one point she said “do you feel me here? Do you know I’m here?” And I nodded. And she continued to just let me sob.
After I was done crying she emphasized again it was so important to connect. She continued to be relentless, ensuring I didn’t float away. There was no way she was letting that happen.
“You’re so important to me PD. This relationship is important to me. It is unique. It belongs to us. Only we could have created it. And I think it’s important to emphasize to you, again, that you make me feel so valued by showing up, and giving me immediate feedback. I thought of you last week, when I was away because I noticed the lack of contact we had.”
I looked at her
“How does that make you feel”
Warm and fuzzy, duh, is what I wanted to say. Instead I said “I never think of that. I assume you spend the hour with me and don’t think of me again.”
“Well I do think of you, I did.”
We talked about one year and I said I was so grateful for her. I really struggle with positive emotions and I immediately changed the subject and she was like “wait, that was important. I want to thank you for saying that. It means a lot to me, you know. It means 100x more hearing you say you think I’m good at my job than it would a colleague or a friend. Thank you”
And then, because she was relentless in forcing presence today, she said “and how does that make you feel” and I told her I felt valued. I felt like we had a partnership in my care. Eventually I was silent for a second. I ended up sharing my husband’s feedback, which she also really appreciated. She asked how I felt, again, cause, A.
And I felt connected. I told her I didn’t really want to leave, that I felt like if we had another hour and a half we could get somewhere really good. I looked at her as we wrapped up and said “you were relentless today, in pursuing me, in forcing me to be present. In being directive. In keeping the container really small.” And she said “I know. I knew this morning. Something told me it was so important for me to be that way today. I knew you had something to let go of.”
And she was right. And I am home now, by myself, and it’s kind of nice. I made dinner and sang some songs from the Hamilton mix tape and I’m exhausted. But I feel as though I’ve stepped back into myself.
I spent the last two weeks – the intense cleaning, my brother’s business launch, his birthday, fucking ‘family day’s holiday, and then the damn phone call – holding it together. I was so far outside of myself when I got there today I didn’t even realize how far I had gone.
And I sat on the counter watching my homemade sauce bubble and took a deep breath and suddenly it was like I was okay again. Like I had physically stepped back into reality. Like I had stepped back into myself.
I’m crying again, but they’re tears of relief.