Tag Archives: Therapy

The end of Therapy

I often contemplated the end of therapy, anticipating a time of fear and doubt. Now that I’m here, the experience isn’t the Armageddon I imagined. This might be due to exhaustion, or it could be the wobbly relationship with my Therapist, Paul.

I would say that our therapeutic relationship has been a comfortable one. His calm, laid-back character oozed an impartiality and empathy that only encouraged conversation to flow effortlessly. The initial months of therapy were testament to a life that had wadded through its fair share of trauma. I don’t know whether to cringe or laugh at some of the dysfunctional beliefs and statements from those earlier days, but it’s comforting to realise that I’ve come a long way.

It will take some time to appreciate the finer details of the therapeutic journey, but one important element missing, is my Therapist Paul. His absences have littered our therapy space since the beginning of the programme. The first few didn’t mean too much, but the strain intensified slowly, as we climbed through six, eight, and then twelve cancellations.

I wrote about most of this in my last post, so I won’t go over old ground. By the time he returned to work last week, I had managed to plough through most of the transference and the anger dissolved into a minor irritation. His absences haven’t ruin therapy, but the constant dripping of disappointment, could corrode the trust within any therapeutic alliance.

When Paul and I met two weeks ago, it was obvious that he had been talking to the Psychiatrist of the therapy team. He knew already that I had seen him on his knees. Perhaps she asked him to justify praying during work time… on my therapy time. I pretended not to notice how our accounts seem to have different timescales. I’m not stupid and know exactly what happened that day.

He would’ve looked for me in the reception area at 2pm. I’m typically a couple of minutes early, but seldom do I run late. On this particular day, I imagine how he seized the opportunity for a quickie – a prayer that is – before returning to fetch me from the waiting room five minutes later.

I wasn’t expecting him to sit in a chair and wait indefinitely, but I arrived at the therapy room approximately three to four minutes late… this is hardly enough time to apparently form a conclusion that I wasn’t coming.

We had a frank conversation two weeks ago, but it can’t be easy for a Therapist to get an earful of transference, especially if they’re not okay within themselves. It would be so easy to assume that his unreliable history demonstrates a lack of investment in my therapy. I don’t believe he’s irresponsible. Some of his clients from the distant past, are as surprised as I am.

Paul said the therapy service is offering to extend my time, but my indecisiveness changed the subject quickly. Rather than leave on the 9th December, I can stay until the end of January. I was probably being flippant and bitchy when I doubted his ability to fulfil the commitment.

Two days later, Paul phoned to change the time of our next session. He called back five minutes later to say, “Thank you.” When our appointment day arrived, I received an email from his boss.

“Dear Cat,

Apologies, but your appointment today with Paul is cancelled. Please contact re any concerns

I should’ve been annoyed, but my time with Paul is over and that feels strangely satisfying. It’s not all negative. The value of our time together far outweighs his absences.

I replied to his manager’s email. My leaving dates are Wednesday 9th Dec with Paul and Friday 11th for the group. Paul’s still off sick and won’t be available for my last session tomorrow, but it makes little difference. The end is disappointing, but it has been a wonderful experience.

 

Transference with my Therapist

Wow, this feels weird to be back in the comfort of my own blog. I’ve been on the missing list while I battled with technical issues for a few weeks. Luckily the PC is insured, but why are insurers ultra-efficient at collecting the cash and then so slow to deliver the goods.

Taking a break from writing about my therapeutic journey wasn’t such a bad thing. I didn’t have much choice because my therapist, Paul, went off sick… again. He must have cancelled between 10 & 12 sessions, which make up a significant chunk of time within an eighteen-month programme.

I last saw Paul about four or five weeks ago, but he didn’t see me. I had arrived a minute late for therapy and was dreading the wait at reception, which is a long, narrow corridor situated between three busy mental health units. Paul’s already aware of how my PTSD and agoraphobia struggle to deal with this area, but I didn’t feel confident in his attentiveness.

On this particular day, the reception was crowded with an impending drama unfolding. My first reaction was to hide in the toilet where I stood in the silence, listening to voices escalate on the other side of the door. It was four minutes into my therapy time and I had two options; leave the building or go straight to the therapy room. I chose the latter, which transpired as one of my biggest mistakes.

I approached the closed therapy room door with caution and peered through the small window. To my relief, Paul was alone, fixing something on the floor. I gently tapped on the door. His head half-turned in my direction before turning back to face the wall. I didn’t twig that he was in the middle of some kind of ritual, so I tapped on the window again.

It felt like something had just smacked me hard between the eyes. I stumbled backwards, dumfounded. Paul was bopping up and down on his knees. I returned to the reception corridor feeling humiliated, like a naughty pupil who had just witnessed his teacher in a very private moment. I couldn’t understand why Paul was doing his own thing in our therapy space, while I was on meltdown in an environment that we both know is unsafe.

I sat staring at the reception wall for eternity, but in reality, it was probably only for a minute or two. In those moments, all the previous cancellations came crashing down, one disappointment after another. I thought about Paul on his knees, while I questioned his commitment and his investment in my therapy. I walked slowly towards the exit, looking back one more time.

Over the next couple of days, I couldn’t understand why memories of childhood abuse were streaming through my mind. It became one of the most challenging times of my therapy, but it was about to get a whole lot worse. Two days later, I arrived for group therapy, hoping I might see Paul in the building. Instead, someone handed me a letter to say he was off sick for the next week, which turned into three.

Even though I am vaguely aware of transference in therapy, it took a while to realise this is what was playing out between Paul and I. At first, I was just flat_out_furious and with a raging war imploding deep within, I stomped around ruminating for days.

Transference isn’t isolated to therapy, but it can happen to each of us in different situations. It’s when a person reminds us of someone or something from the past. This might be in a positive way, or it can develop into a very distressing experience.

I blamed myself for his unreliable schedule and felt guilty for sharing my anger in group therapy, as though I had somehow deceived him. It was my fault for going to the therapy room and I was completely responsible for reacting so badly to a catalogue of events that was rocking our otherwise good relationship.

When we experience abuse in childhood, it’s difficult to understand why our caregivers would cause us so much harm. The only way a child makes sense of abuse and trauma is to shift the focus of blame from the abusers onto themselves. We internalise the belief that we are fundamentally bad and the words of our abusers become the sand and cement of our self-blame, “You deserved it… You had it coming… You brought it all on yourself…” Unfortunately, the self-blame doesn’t stay behind in childhood, but progresses into our adult lives.

In my rational mind, I know this is not my fault, but it’s difficult to unravel and dissolve a lifetime of believing I am solely to blame for just about everything. Not so long ago, I would’ve dumped Paul. Why would I want to stick with a Therapist who conjures memories of an abusive past?

Paul certainly didn’t let me down intentionally and his behaviour is not of an abusive nature. I’m quite sure he’s already aware of the impact these absences have on clients, but there are obviously some medical issues. This part of the therapeutic journey has been the hardest, but I realise that it’s also an opportunity to work with the transference. I guess self-blame doesn’t go away overnight, but one of the first steps is awareness.

Therapy – Experiencing the Void

Rather than plan the usual agenda for therapy yesterday, I decided to turn up with theth1W15UEW3 same dissociative void that I wrote about in my last post “Find a Way Back to Me.” I didn’t understand why it felt important to share this moment with Paul because to sit with a void implies sitting with nothing, and that is normally a little too awkward in therapy at the best of times. Let me tell you, it felt weird, really, really WEIRD, but I did it.

We sat through most of the fifty-minute session saying very little. I don’t usually deal with silence too well in therapy, but perhaps I’ve reached a stage of feeling comfortable with Paul, or maybe the dissociation just didn’t care.

Paul said I look incredibly sad and tired when I sit quietly, but he wondered if this is more to do with dissociation rather than sadness. It must have been dissociation because I couldn’t think or feel much of anything, other than a strange kind of exhaustion.

thPTT3DKVLIt felt more painful to be sharing such an honest part of myself and it made me realise just how preoccupied I am with Paul’s thoughts and feelings during our sessions. I try not to bore or depress him too much and my final thought is always about the effect of my monotonous voice on his mental wellbeing. This also spills out into my personal life, where I feel responsible for other people’s feelings.

Half an hour into our time and Paul seemed pleased and comfortable with how our session was progressing. I couldn’t help wonder if it was because he didn’t need to listen to my voice. He said, “Not only were you prepared to come and sit with this void today, you are allowing me to experience it with you.” I knew this was probably significant, but it didn’t increase my sense of connection.

I told Paul that it feels as though I’ve hit a dead end. I don’t necessarily want to go over the same methodical details of the past, yet there is a fear and hesitation towards entering the present moment.

There appears to be a wall of painful emotion that I need to walk through first, so I am hovering in this void instead of moving forward. It is not all about fear, but also about the uncertainty of which direction to take because the options are not entirely clear.

This reminded Paul of a seminar he attended recently where the speaker used a line chart to demonstrate the ups and downs of therapy. When things are running well, with realisations and changes underway, a client tends to feel as though they are up and moving forward, until the stage when nothing much appears to be happening and they begin to question why. However, those times of apparent inactivity, are actually the periods when we’re absorbing what we have learned and preparing for the next leg of the journey.

After therapy, I thought about the comments from yesterday’s post. Some were suggesting that maybe it’s not so much about finding a way back to the old me, as it isthD3TGU6OE about getting to know the new me.

In truth, I don’t yet know what all of this means and probably fail to recognise some kind of healing experience, although I imagine that will come further down the line. I have no closing smart-ass statement, nothing to help guide another through something similar. I only have the facts of my experience… Me in the present moment.

PTSD – In Search of the Feelings

At Friday’s group therapy, one of the Therapists said she would like to ask methH941VB95 something about the previous week’s session. I had shared parts of my horrific experience of coming face to face with the psycho-killer from hell.  This is the root of PTSD and Agoraphobia, which I shared in my post, ‘Experiencing Dissociation’.

This was a very public story in its day and my life became an open book in the media. There was no other option but to be open and honest with those closest to me, even about the private and intrusive parts I would rather they didn’t know.

Rather than sympathise with the victim of an extraordinary violent crime, most people thought I was a fool for going home with a stranger in the first place, some openly said, “You were asking for it.” Why would you want to frequent a gay nightclub? Why did you not sense the danger? Why did you not see he’s a psycho? Why did you not realise when he drugged your drink? My Dad, in all his wisdom, said, “You should stay away from people of your own kind.” He meant gays, not psycho killers.

th4ECJ4EQZI nicknamed those ghastly responses the ‘Five D’s’. Disbelief: Disapproval: Disappointment: Devastation and Disgust: It was difficult to testify against my assailant in a High Court trial, but at least the trauma was over in a few days. That’s more than I can say for the cross-examination by condescending peers who would then cast their harsh, holier than thou judgements.

That was over twenty years ago. A short time later, I moved a few hundred miles away, changed my name and, of course, my so-called friends. I never did mention it again, not even to family… until now.

Other than some professionals, people in London don’t know of this secret part of my life and neither do they realise I’ve changed my name. I relocated here under the pretence of “starting afresh” when, in reality, I was running away. Does this mean I’m still running?

I was taking an enormous risk sharing parts of this story at last week’s group therapy. It felt strange to hear myself uttering those familiar words. There was every chance this could bring me face to face with the ‘Five D’s’ all over again, but it didn’t.

Everyone in the room listened intently and supported each word with empathy and, most importantly, non-judgement. They accepted my story as my own pain, rather than a sensational piece of news that somehow seems to affect everyone.

I am not sure where I should go with all of this now. I do recognise this experience as the root of my PTSD and Agoraphobia, but part of my mind thinks it is pointless to go over the same old systematic story without connecting to the feelings.

My detachment watches the reel of film roll out before my eyes and it feels more liketh2FR0ZCWV reading a script for the evening news. Without a doubt, healing partly comes from ‘observing the feelings’…but where the heck are the feelings?