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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Playing "Therapist Says" once again (also, this is a whiny rant--you have been warned)

I think it's normal to feel disconnected from people sometimes. We become overwhelmed with the struggles in our lives or very busy or we feel drained in a number of ways and emotional connection with loved ones becomes difficult rather than joyful. I've been in this spot for awhile now.

Several people in my life have told me it will pass, and no doubt, they're correct. There is a difficulty to this prediction, however: When the lack of connection has lasted for quite awhile, I become accustomed to it. The feelings of loneliness and longing subside. Eventually I find my desire to connect with anyone has diminished to the point where I find it bothersome to even make the attempt. I'm irritable when emotional intimacy is initiated by anyone in my life and I just want to be left alone.

I'm managed to circumvent this process several times over the past few years because I understand it's not healthy nor does it help me as I work toward managing PTSD on a regular basis, and as I try to understand how to have lasting, rewarding, joyful relationships with members of my family and other loved ones to whom I might not be related. It is important for me to avoid the "please do not ask me to feel anything for you because I don't want to" place inside of me because while arriving at that point takes little effort, leaving it behind is enormously difficult for me.

That being said, I'm there again. I've been approaching this place for at least a couple of weeks, and in my defense, I've tried to avoid it. I've tried to talk with people and spend time with them. I've made time for meditation and relaxation. I've tried to incorporate moments of closeness in my personal interactions and invited the same from others. So I've tried. I just haven't been successful.

Naturally, there are a million reasons for my arrival in this spot. I've been a bit stressed about people and relationships and other such things lately. I think, too, I've been feeling a bit like I'm not needed by anyone (yes, I know that's not true--still the feeling persists), that I'm a casual convenience for some (yes, I know I'm not cheap entertainment created solely to alleviate another's boredom--again, I'm talking of feelings, not reality), and that no one really feels anything about me other than passing interest followed by nothing at all.

I told Therapist that it's clear I'm just feeling sorry for myself. He asked me why I thought that. I didn't have an answer--because I don't know.

Therapist says I'm not feeling sorry for myself, I'm just not having my needs met by the people I love. This is completely unhelpful and I don't really agree with him. I don't think I really have that many needs to meet. People talk to me and they treat me nicely. I'm unsure what other needs he believes I have.

Therapist says that above paragraph is me being defensive--in essence, I'm saying this, "I don't know how to meet my needs through interaction with other people, therefore I refuse to acknowledge those needs so I cannot be disappointed or hurt."

He's probably correct. At this point, though, I'm not sure I care. Where is the good in telling people, "Hey! I need this from you!" and then they give it to me, but not because they want to. Maybe they do it because they feel sorry for me, or because I'm more annoying than I suspect and I'll go away if I don't need things from them anymore, or because they're just really nice or non-confrontational...

And anyway, isn't that a form of emotional blackmail? Find people just because they can fill needs? Isn't that using people? And why would I do that to someone I care about?

Therapist says those questions are defensive, once again. He says I'm processing the fact that I rarely had my needs met as a child and I found ways to fill the voids those unmet needs created in my life. I became unhealthily self-reliant. While it's good to be self-reliant (says Therapist), to never acknowledge the fact that I need people to spend time with me, touch me, express love to me, is an extreme form of defensive self-reliance. In essence, I convince myself that I am the only person I really need, which forms the initial disconnection with loved ones, which escalates into isolation, blah...blah...blah...

I find it fascinating that Therapist says all those things, but never seems to offer any suggestions of how to remove myself from my current state. It feels like I'm being accused, tried, and sentenced because I'm a lost cause--there's not really a way for me to bail myself out and express to people I love the things I need from them.

Therapist says that's not true. He says I'm not listening yet, so talking about helpful strategies right now is probably not going to have good results. Then he says he cares about me and he's sure I'll get to a point soon where we can deal with the current difficulty and continue to make progress toward managing the stress in my life.

I feel a great deal of antagonism toward that man right now, and part of me wants to scream that he doesn't care about me and I want him to stop saying that because it hurts.

But there is another part of me that desperately wants to hear that from him--from anyone.

I think it would be prudent for me to go to bed now.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." ~Lao Tzu

About a month ago, when I was least expecting it and definitely not strong enough to receive it, Therapist sent me an email letting me know his job was changing. He was being transferred to a place where he would be working with a select group of clients and his supervisor expected him to transfer his current clients to whomever would replace him at his current job.

In 2006, when I first began seeing Therapist he worked as a satellite therapist. He traveled to various areas in our region to serve clients who didn't have access to mental health providers as they might in larger communities. A year later, Therapist was offered the opportunity to transfer to Utah for a more stable job--and he took it.

When Therapist told me of the upcoming transfer, he asked if I would like him to recommend me to a different therapist in the area or if I'd like to seek one out on my own. I thought for a moment, mentally reviewed the amount of progress I'd experienced in the last couple of years, and decided it was enough. Therapist had been incredibly helpful and the level of emotional healing he'd helped me achieve was enormous. I smiled, wished him well, and thanked him for his help.

Three weeks later I was in the mental health ward of the hospital on suicide watch. Apparently I was wrong. It wasn't enough.

I tried counseling with a couple of local therapists with fairly disastrous results. There are many reasons for this, but I finally decided I needed to track down Therapist and finish what we'd begun together. I knew it would be difficult to make the long trips, but I also believed the time and expense would be worth it. I contacted Therapist, told him I was coming to Utah and asked if he had time to see me. He said yes.

I think Therapist thought I was just checking in or visiting him socially. He seemed very surprised when I told him I wished to continue seeing him as a client. He mentioned the distance and cost of travel. I said I was prepared for that. So Therapist told me he'd love to continue our work.

That was many counseling sessions ago. I'm incredibly grateful for friends who have housed and fed me to help defray lodging costs. I've put more than 100,000 miles on my car and I don't even want to think about how much I've spent on fuel. In spite of that, I have no regrets. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

During those years I've threatened several times to fire Therapist. I've been incredibly angry with him. I've sometimes even made fun of him as I pretended to know what he might say to me, or predicted his response to the newest predicament of my life. There have even been times when I thought maybe he wasn't helpful anymore, or I no longer needed him. In the end, however, I've always been sane enough to recognize the help I was receiving from Therapist, I've been grateful for his willingness to let me call or email when life felt overwhelming or too stressful to manage, and I think I've always known that Therapist cares about me a great deal.

Knowing that your therapist cares about you--authentically, not just in a professional sense--is empowering. I've made harsh statements about Therapist, pretending that the only reason he cares is because I pay him to do so. I knew I was wrong. He's told me often how much he enjoys working with me, how glad he is to see me when I come, and he's even said that he feels happier after our sessions. That's a nice thing. I don't make my therapist crazy.

So when I began reading Therapist's email last month, my heart sank. I was worried. I didn't want to begin again with another therapist. I felt that I was so close to the "maintenance" part of my therapy, that to start over would set me back in many ways, and I did not have the emotional energy to work through that.

There was a part of the email, however, that I want to put here:
"... I don’t start there until January. There is a chance that I could, from time to time, continue to meet with you.  I don’t have an answer back on that, yet.  I’ve only asked for one exception and that’s you.  J  Do you feel special, yet? You should. After all, you ARE Samantha Stevens!"

Being Samantha Stevens really isn't anything remarkable, but I was grateful that:
1. Therapist had asked his superiors to approve his continuing to work with me
2. Therapist wasn't simply letting me know he was leaving and I was on my own
3. Therapist seemed to understand that this would be a big deal for me, and was willing to ask for an exception for the client who would travel more than 600 miles round trip just to see him.

I replied to Therapist's email, congratulating him on the promotion and letting him know I wished to continue as his client if the exception was granted. His response:

"Thanks, Sam.  I’m impressed with your ability to be flexible with all of life’s changes.  Hearing that your therapist is perhaps becoming unavailable is not one of the things you probably wanted to hear today.  I’m so sorry for the craziness.  I have an appointment this afternoon with my ‘current’ boss where I’ll ask her again what can be done.

"I believe in you, Samantha– you’re an amazing person.  I’m impressed with all that you’ve been able to accomplish.  I hope to continue being able to work as we’ve done to this point."

I spoke with Therapist a couple of weeks ago. He says the exception has not been approved, but his supervisor seemed in favor of it. His plan is to proceed as if he'll be continuing to see me, as needed. I suppose I'm thinking about this today because I'm realizing that Therapist did not have to make accommodations for me. He could have cut me loose, or referred me to his replacement. It feels nice to know that I'm important, in a way, and that Therapist understands how difficult such a change would be for me. And I'm glad he cares about me. A couple of years ago that would have felt strange; today it feels nice.

What this means to me is that I'm learning to accept that it's okay for people to care about me--and many people do--and some people might even love me as deeply as I love them. Someday I think I'll not only know how to accept this, but I'll do so without feeling stress or guilt.

However, I might need Therapist to help me get to that point. I think I won't fire him, after all. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I haven't been writing for a little while because recent days have been unusual and unpredictable, and quite honestly, I just haven't wanted to. So I'm writing just a bit tonight while I try to decide if I want to delve into anything in greater depth later.

This week I applied for a job. I'm going through training and testing right now and on Monday I should know if I'm hired. While I need the job, I'm okay if I don't get this one. Quite honestly, I'm just happy that I've finally found enough emotional stamina to apply. That's a big step in the right direction.

Last week was very good. I even had some days when my hip was functioning normally and without pain. However, there are always reminders that I'm still recovering. I found that reminder when, on Saturday, I spent two hours at the gym and came home to find a message on my phone reminding me that I was supposed to be judging a music festival. It was 10:00 a.m. I was to have been there at 7:45 a.m. Somehow, I forgot. These are the kinds of things that let me know I still have a ways to go before I'm myself again.

In two weeks we'll visit Tabitha again. Adam and DJ are planning to join us for this visit so we can have Thanksgiving together. We'll be staying with my cousin, Jeff, and his family--partly because we enjoy spending time with them, but also because Jeff is not doing well. He had his first flashback last June and has had difficulty staying sober since then. I don't know how I can possibly help, but I'm hoping it will be comforting, at least, to know I understand much of the pain he's experiencing. We'll see how the visit goes. I'm wishing there was more I could do to help Jeff. Then I remember how, regardless of the help I've received, I've had to do the majority of healing work myself. I also have to remind myself that I'm still healing after more than seven years of therapy. It's a very long process.

In the meantime, my time is filled with rehearsals and performances and the unending work of trying to put my life back in order. Some days are better than others. And now I'm going to bed. Good night!