Breaking up with your therapist – Schapa

So I’m in week 3 post breakup….. break up with my therapist that is! And whilst I have never broken up with anyone having married my first partner, I hear the words in my head and see the likeness to what others describe as have going through a breakup!I am being playful, but actually I don’t find many resources when you google ‘ending therapy’ from the recipients perspective that truly encapsulate how this period of adjustment feels, and yes I am trying to bring my Compassionate Other (P) to mind, when I view this as an adjustment period, rather than the view that I ‘failed’ at therapy, or that I am somehow lacking because I still want to see her or because I’m not ‘fixed’. I hold her in such high esteem that I am willing to respect her professional judgement, that she deemed it time… time for me to try being in the world without the weekly hour that in many ways for the last 3.5years has been the cornerstone of my week. 

If I do google breakup feelings what do I get; sadness, anger, denial, fear, loneliness, grief, desperation and eventually peace and acceptance. 

We discussed it….Ending that is, the process of ending, how it might feel as part of our sessions, it wasn’t just dropped on me that it was the final session! Her first raising it many, many months ago, perhaps tentatively, given from the very beginning of our work I was waiting for her to say she’d had enough, she was bored, I wasn’t ‘fixable’, I was too needy, too much, too everything….. My insecurities as ever driving the conversation such that perhaps at times she felt stymied into not bringing it up sooner. That in itself is evidence that she cared, but for me with my most aggressive version of my inner critic, with an enormous loud speaker just shouting at me …‘see she never did really care…’. Literally her words set my anxious self off into overdrive… you’re going to leave me, leave me like this, when I’m not ready, when my life is so hard and I’m so sad and I still get so anxious and deal with it ‘badly’, I felt attacked, angry … ‘How can you do this to me?’ I thought you cared?’ I trusted you, like I’ve never trusted anyone else, ever…. and you’re going to leave me!?!’ 

Then the internal barriers go up, defensive, like a spitting cat… because they have to… ‘Fine, I can manage without you, you’re not so special, I managed before, I will again…’  I will do something, make some changes, sort my life out, you’ll see…just watch me – cue fist waving and metaphorical strutting out of a room with my head held high! Small defensive barriers to help myself feel less vulnerable, until I realised that after all this time, all the work I had had to do to be able to trust her and let those barriers down- did I really want to waste the last few months, verbally jousting with her?  Or did I want to try to remind myself of all the things that had shifted and/or all the things that had changed and continue along that road even though I knew it would end. Perhaps as the ‘dumpee’ the view of ‘take as much as I can get while it lasts’ could be construed as a bit pathetic, I’m choosing to see it as I was there for her professional experience and time, that hadn’t changed and I still valued it, what could I work on as we worked towards ending that would help… help with the ending and help with what’s next… didn’t make it any less sad or fearful. 

I am fearful of the future, perhaps if the ending of therapy had come at a time in my life where I was happy in the world… the bizarre situation where, when I started my therapy, my view was everything was absolutely fine and dandy in my life, I was happy, I was lucky, all the external factors that someone looking in would say I was happy and lucky……  apart from this pesky, crippling, acute anxiety which was ‘only’ really about work, so if I could fix that, I would be fine! The lion sitting in my office daily, culminating each week at 5.30pm on a Friday for years as a massive sigh of relief that I had ‘survived’ the week without being eaten…. bottle of wine required to celebrate…. all perfectly normal and happy and fine!!!!!!! (Can you hear the chipper, high pitch voice that goes with ….I will be fine, fine, fine….). I needed a kitbag, an approach (which CBT had failed to give me given my extreme levels of shame and guilt) that would knock anxiety on the head and set me off into utopia! So fix me up and send me off, that’s all I needed. 

At the end of therapy, the journey had led me to question and unearth every part of me and leave me bare and I’m still putting my skin back on… I simply didn’t realise how expert I had got at suppressing ‘bad’ emotions, that I shouldn’t feel them, that I should be able to control them and everything else and then the world would be a safe place for me. And whilst I cry almost daily now for various things, for which I will blame her for always, and I find that incredibly hard as I can’t control it like I used to, I wouldn’t change it for at least I feel what is actually going on in my life – not a sanitised version. I have literally thrown up the pieces in the air and am still waiting for them to drop, and that’s pretty bloody scary, it’s normal to feel fear, it’s normal to wonder what’s next when the life plan or trajectory has been ripped up and you don’t know where you are going. 

I am grieving the end of therapy, I am lonely, I have amazing friends and good family, but in addition to what feels like the potentially slow end to a marriage at the same time as the end of this unique, working but intensely personal relationship we call therapy – it is exceptionally lonely. I miss her, there is no two ways about it, I miss spending time with her even though the balance of that relationship was so so skewed because of the very nature of it. I so desperately wanted her to drop her professionally held boundaries and become my friend, knowing she never would. It wouldn’t be right for me and it would never be a relationship on an even keel. I struggled with the power dynamic of therapy, to me it always felt like she had all the power, what she would and wouldn’t tell me, her schedule, her decision on when it ends etc… all normal if you do any reading from a clinicians perspective (which of course being the person I am, I did fairly avidly). I wanted her to see me outside of that space, see me when I’m fun, see me when I’m firing on all cylinders, see me when I feel for the briefest of moments that I am ok, can do things, am doing things, see me when I’m with my children… see me other than the person sitting in the chair opposite, crying with despair, fiercely angry, exhausted and frightened. I really wanted her to see the the other versions of me, that she spent so much time trying to get me to see… I am not just my anxiety, I am not just my sadness, I am not just my fear, I am not just my confusion…. she helped me to see the different parts of me but I wanted her to see them in real life, technicolour if you will. 

I have also read up on transference, attachment … when I choose to avoid places I know I may see her for a while, choose not to internet stalk as all of us are prone to do once in a while…. it’s not that, and I know it. This unique, transformative relationship I’ve had which I know deep down if I ever really needed again would be available to me, has come to end at a time when I wish it could have continued longer. The thing I miss the most is the very thing it took me months if not the first year or so to fully surrender to, was a space where I could literally say anything and be held safely. I could sob for all the years I had never been able to, I could get angry, I could show my feelings without fear, I wrote prolifically to her, to myself, sometimes inappropriately and eventually all was brought into that room. I don’t have access to that room anymore, something that was so painful to access, the door is now closed. I am allowed to feel sad about that, P says I’m allowed to feel sad about that. 

I also know, given my current life circumstances that my ‘end date’ could be never and that’s not a way to live your life. 

So what do I do? I have a inner desire to prove her right…. I can survive the world without her. I can be a person in the world without needing therapy. Be happy, be successful, be me! At the same time, if I’m not careful that plays into my old patterns of behaviour that feed I shouldn’t need therapy, even I shouldn’t have ever needed therapy,  I shouldn’t need to share, or talk about the things I find difficult, or the things I still struggle with, or be sad… even more so, after 3.5yrs of therapy I really really should have covered it all by now so I definitely don’t have the right to find those things/my lif/emotions… difficult! I lost that right somehow… Addicts get AA, people coming out of therapy with ‘conditions/predispositions/difficulties’ … don’t necessary have an accessible physical group of people to continue the work, or keep the reminders, have the prompts etc. that perhaps they need or simply to be able to share.

I historically have struggled with social media, aside from the constant FB life presented, particularly difficult when life is a bit tougher, the idea of putting something ‘out there’ waiting for responses, fills me with anxiety, it’s not the same as saying something and seeing someone react in the moment, their eyes, their body language, their words and tone… so you can then try to understand, or explain or mitigate or whatever – the social norms that get lost in short words, sound bite, social media responses where misunderstanding can be rife. All those Questions around – What will people think?  Will they have a go? How first world am I? Much worse off people in the world…  Why can’t I get my shit together? And on and on and on… my first tweet deleted because I over-thought if it could be misconstrued in any other way than the one I intended it to be…. 

BUT… I need community, I realised more than I thought, in breaking up with my therapist I miss her, but I also miss talking, sharing, owning my feelings, being allowed to feel what I feel and not needing to caveat those feelings… that’s what the room allowed me to do. Especially on days like today, when I feel an abject failure in all parts of my life and I am struggling to find solace anywhere and I want to curl up in a ball and give up on ever having a content and happy life with meaning. I don’t have the room anymore and I need some kind of connection to others, and that’s what my biggest compassionate self has to work with… So if I need that, and I want that then I have to try and find that somewhere else. So hear we are with my first ever blog… maybe the one and only I ever write!! Maybe social media isn’t the place for this, maybe it is, maybe I will find it too hard to navigate or maybe I will find some more of my tribe. Maybe I will always have to be slightly anonymous in this digital world, compassionate community or otherwise, I haven’t worked out how to feel comfortable with the the balance between privacy and needing to share – but I least I recognise I need something. 

If nothing else, 3.5years ago there isn’t a chance in hell I would have thought or allowed myself to feel any of the feelings I have felt breaking up with my therapist… CFT started the journey that is likely to be one of my most biggest journeys of my life… and for that, sad though I am at the moment I wouldn’t change the 3.5years I did have for one moment! It was a gift that I will cherish and that I was privileged to be able to access. 

Whilst the person seeking her help, filling ‘MY’ spot, I feel only empathy and compassion towards you for whatever struggle you are facing. At least I know, you are in good hands, as I was, so whilst breaking up is hard to do, it’s also rebirth to whatever comes next… maybe eventually peace and acceptance, let’s hope that isn’t too many months or years away.

Schapa

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