I have a very good therapist. I know there have been times when I've poked fun at him, or been angry at him, but I'm aware that he is probably the best fit I could have found when it comes to therapy.
I've also come to understand in the past couple of years that he cares about me and he admires me for taking on the task of healing, sorting through all the yucky stuff, and enduring and growing beyond much of the aftermath. It's weird for me to think of him as a person with feelings. I have a very clinical view toward him. He serves a function. He gets paid. It is in his best interest for me to make progress. That he can feel emotions about me, or view me as more than a statistic or just another client, has been beyond my understanding.
This is partly because of my own social interactions. I have students. I have clients. I care about them. I'm interested in them. And then they go away and I don't really think about them anymore. At all. I suppose that's how I've believed that Therapist thought of me.
When Therapist took a different counseling position two years ago, he was required to refer all his former clients to another counselor-- which he did-- except for me. Therapist asked for, and was granted, an exception and allowed to continue working with me. Therapist told me he asked for that exception because:
1. I was no longer meeting with him frequently so my needs would not exceed his ability to provide therapy as needed.
2. He felt that, for me, having to find another therapist when I was fairly stable and self-reliant would be either completely overwhelming, or I would simply decide I no longer needed therapy. And he said I could be right about that last thing, but he was concerned that I have a therapist should my PTSD become unmanageable for some unforeseen reason.
3. He said it's actually kind of rare for clients to do the things their assigned. Many of them simply want someone to talk to, and they leave each session feeling stable, so they see no reason to do work that might make them feel worse. He said that working with me was good for him. It reminded him that some clients will work hard. Some will experience healing. Some will learn to thrive in spite of curve balls and stressful situations.
4. He said he'd miss me. Which, he added, is not a reason to continue therapy, just a personal reason he wished to continue as my therapist as long as he was needed.
I have worked with Therapist for almost 10 years.
When my life became unmanageable this summer, a number of things added to my stress. Key people who have been supportive during the past decade of my life, also encountered things that needed their undivided attention. They had to take care of what was going on in their own lives, and they trusted me to take care of what was happening in mine. Which should have been fine. I'm fairly resilient and even when I'm knocked down, I usually find a way to get up again, with or without support from them.
Except this was more knocks than I could handle. Major surgery (weakened physically), combined with encountering by crisis after crisis as I tried to prepare for teaching classes in the upcoming semester (weakened mentally), while being confronted with having to talk about being raped by my cousin in an official capacity (thus, weakened emotionally)-- I just didn't have what it would take to continue once the semester began this fall. I became very unstable. I have been unable to manage PTSD at all. I'm experiencing severe panic attacks that leave me vomiting and exhausted. And I have been severely depressed and suicidal.
Therapist, aware that I was in extreme distress, turned the tables on me the first week of September. Knowing that travel added to my stress, he drove the seven hour distance to see me, rather than vice versa. He met with me on his own time (Sunday evening), for more than two hours. He helped me put a plan in place-- asking people to check on me fairly frequently for a couple of weeks. And we talked about strategies I could use to cope with my stress load.Then Therapist continued to check in with me, himself, during that time period.
That was about four weeks ago. Things haven't gotten better, but they haven't really become worse, either. I'm still experiencing debilitating panic attacks, but I'm learning the best places to stop and puke if they happen while I'm driving. I don't really sleep because continuous nightmares are not pleasant, but I take 20-minute naps during the day when I can. I've not been able to sort through dealing with the changes in my personal relationships yet, but that's not really an optional thing because changes are happening regardless of my ability to deal with them. At some point I will figure out how to manage the feelings that arise because of those situations.
I don't know what will happen with the case against my cousin. I realized I'm still afraid of him in some ways. I don't want to be a witness at a trial, should that become a reality. I don't want to answer questions or be put in a position where I feel I have to defend my story. I don't want to think about this at all.
Things at work are stabilizing, but I still have a great deal to do to catch up. I normally have all my lessons planned out before the semester begins. Because of what happened with a bogus textbook and sound equipment woes and unexpected, time consuming distractions, I didn't have those prepared this semester. I'm slowly getting ahead, though. At some point I'll be able to take a weekend off.
I had a phone session with Therapist this week. He told me some things, some of which were helpful, and some of which were just sort of interesting:
1. He was surprised, given what I've been through in my life, that the severe panic attacks had not been an issue before now. He says that speaks of my ability to manage stress, my emotions, and use positive coping measures when difficult things happen.
2. He said I am capable of rising above whatever is happening right now. We talked about worse-case scenarios. Therapist said there is really nothing that can happen that I do not have the ability to sort through and deal with on my own terms. I may not like it, but my capacity to find joy regardless of my situation, surprises him constantly.
3. He said I see myself as dependent on others, and that might happen sometimes, but for the most part I am able to take care of myself independently. I don't always choose this, because I enjoy the people in my life and I like inviting them to be involved with me, but I don't need them. I just want them.
4. Therapist promised me that the depression and suicidal thoughts are temporary. I'm already seeing a lift in that they are no longer constant and I have fluctuations of happy and sad throughout my day. He said those fluctuations will feel less extreme as time passes and soon I will feel level and lucid, once again.
5. He said he would continue to check in with me until I am no longer "at-risk". I asked what that meant. Therapist said it means "until you know what the outcome of the investigation/case is." He said at that point everything else is just life, and I'm very good at dealing with life.
6. Therapist told me that no matter what the people I care about choose, in regards to depth of feeling toward me, frequency of contact with me, and amount of involvement in my life, I will be okay. He reminded me that for a long time I didn't have people who were close to me, and while that's not optimal, I know how to manage that situation, and further reminded me that this is something over which I have no control. Again, I would be okay.
Therapist is right. Most of the stress I feel is because things in my life are not as I wish them to be, but not because I can't manage what's happening. I don't want the difficulties that have cropped up in my classes-- but I do want to teach the classes. I will cope with the difficulties and I will teach.
I don't want to answer questions or be interviewed about past events that still cause me discomfort. But I want to tell the truth, and if it's determined that telling my story is necessary, I will cope with the discomfort and I will tell my story.
I have worked through a great deal of anguish as I've allowed people to become close to me. It has been exhausting at times, and painful, as well. I don't want to let those people leave to take care of the stresses and demands of their own lives. I wish them to remain connected and involved with me. But I also want them to be happy, and if happy means that they need to step away from our relationship in order to cope with what's happening in their own lives, then I want that, too. Because really, the reason I wanted them in the first place is because I love them deeply and purely and honestly. They need to do what is best for them. And I will be okay. Therapist has promised me that I will always be okay. It's who I am. It's what I do.
So right now I'm dealing with a whole bunch of I-don't-wants. Today, as with many days before, is daunting and a little bit overwhelming. I'm feeling some things I don't want to. I'm currently immobile when it comes to doing what I'm supposed to do for work. But Therapist will check in with me in about three minutes. He'll remind me that I'm very good at what I do at work, and when I'm finished with my to-do tasks, I'll feel better. He'll assure me that I can contact him if things escalate and I feel out of control. He'll remind me that he cares about me, has faith in me, and admires my ability to deal with difficulty. And he'll say something to make me laugh.
I'm very lucky to have him in my life. I think he'll stay awhile because, after all, this is his job and I am a golden client. Even if his life gets busy, his involvement with me helps pay the bills. I'm not being cynical, just realistic. People stay with the people who benefit them the most. Right now, for Therapist, I'm beneficial. I think he'll stay.