Tag Archives: hope

Therapy and Holidays

imageTherapists need annual holidays to remain at their best for us. They also deserve time to connect with their families. Our adult parts know and respect this. The younger parts? It’s much more complex.

HH is on holiday for three weeks. We are missing six sessions. On the one hand, I am relieved he is taking a break. I am exquisitely aware of underlying energies. His office, body and mannerisms have REEKED of chaos for the last month and it’s been challenging working with that. While he kept his therapist exterior on, I was not fooled and could sense he was wearing out from juggling so many balls with depleting energy.

I told him I could sense he needed the holiday and he smiled in a way that felt I had hit the mark.

To give or not to give?

I had pondered whether to give him something small for Christmas. I know gifts in therapy are loaded with meaning and had thus never given a Christmas gift to DS, especially because we were in the grip of some weird transference. As it turns out, HH’s gift came about quite by accident. My friend invited me to her home to bake and decorate festive gingerbread cookies. The whole way through, I was aware of voices telling me I was going to mess something up. My friend was super chilled and encouraged me. It felt okay to make mistakes. She left the icing decorations to me and it turned out I had quite a knack for it. It was my first time and she was impressed. The experience was very healing. I got a gingerbread man tin and decided to set some aside for HH because it was personal, inexpensive and  heartfelt. He got the cookies before the last session because I wanted them to stay fresh. He took them, thanked me and never mentioned them again. I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t tell me whether he had enjoyed them. Maybe there was some childish longing there. It felt like this was one of many gifts he had stashed in a pile and forgotten about.

Will you remember me?

In some ways, I feared this would happen to me too over the break. Was he looking foward to discarding his clients and responsibilities? Would it be easy for him to forget about me and the work we were doing? Some very young parts wanted reassurance but I told HH that I knew he couldn’t offer this to me as a therapist. I told him that DS had given me books over breaks as transitional objects and these had really helped me remain connected to him in some way. I shared with HH that I had wanted to email him before our last session to ask him to bring something I could hold onto during the three weeks. But I had felt foolish and not sent him the message. HH encouraged me to express what I/these parts needed. After what felt like an eternity of silent back and forth in my head, I quietly asked if he had something I could hold onto. I was cringing with vulnerability and the possibility of rejection. “How about holding onto words and memories here?” he asked. I sighed.

It’s not easy to do that because it feels fleeting and of little comfort. We have had a number of ruptures lately. I don’t think we have had any fuzzy, warm moments where he has shared personal, comforting or reassuring words. I still struggle to call up his face at will. How practical is it to ask me to internalise this as comfort?

Soft toy shame

I told him I needed something physical to hold onto. He asked about soft toys. At the time, I thought he was asking because he had something in mind. If I recall his words now, I think he was implying I should find a soft toy at home that someone special had given to me. He was implying he did not want to be too much of an attachment figure. I was losing hope at expressing my needs and being understood.

“Is giving objects over breaks something you do for other clients?” I asked with increasing dread. He paused. “I usually do this for children in play therapy,” he responded. I burnt with shame. Why had I even brought this up?

“I wonder whether you are going to be angry if I don’t give you something?” he continued. “Angry?” I asked. It was more disappointment, foolishness, rage at myself.

In any event, I felt I had to be okay with his decision because our time was up and I didn’t want to cry as I left. Who wants to open up a can of worms without a holding space?

He didn’t wish me a good break as we parted ways. I felt like nothing in that moment. Discardable.

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Longing, loss and looking forward

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Last night I dreamt of seeing a new therapist. My mind may have been playing tricks… He felt like my old therapist in different form. It’s been five months since DS closed his practice and left the country. He’s popped into my nightly adventures at times since then.

In my dream, I felt hopeful as I knocked on the door of the new guy. The building was in town and he consulted on the third floor. He had the same initials as DS but had a bit more of an exotic aura. I remember chuckling at this. We sat for a session but I could not recall what he looked like or what we discussed.

Mostly I felt hope. It popped into my head that I had found finally someone to be present at my side again as I worked through feelings of despair and anxiety.

Loss revisited 

And then the oh-so-common theme of abandonment reared its head. I pitched for a session at 6pm and there was another therapist and client in his room. They asked me to wait out on the street. I decided to phone the new therapist and see what was going on. Out on the pavement, I scrolled through my phone looking for his number. Maybe I had forgotten to book a session?! Hearing his soothing voice was all I wanted to hear in that moment. There I stood, looking for him but not finding his contact in my address book. I became more panicky. “Had I imagined it all?” The pain of losing a therapist surfaced sharply. Eventually I left. Upon waking I felt the same loss as when we said goodbye.

The dream, I think, is just part of the natural cycle of processing and grieving. For the most part, I have been strong. I just really miss DS as a person. How he’s doing often enters my mind.

Feeling

I imagine him bundled up against the cold with his dog and a petite, dark-haired woman at his side. They walk hand-in-hand through frosty fields. Their pooch runs after something in the grass and they laugh.

At our last session, he promised to send me his contact details once he had set up his new practice. I was a bit disappointed that he never did. He probably thought I could get it off his new website and that emailing wouldn’t make sense.

May we both be in a good space.

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17 days without DS…

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Our last therapy session for the year was terrible. I had wanted to reflect on our work together and strengthen our connection so I would be okay over the break. I envisioned a warm session where my walls were down. Us ensconced in a rich and infectious aura of Christmas hope and thankfulness. A snowglobe of memories and feelings to shake and eye in wonder while apart.

Instead, I sat in front of DS (Deep Soul) with an inexplicable headache, feeling irritated by the pain and my own low feelings. I struggled to concentrate because the pain was unrelenting. We spoke but I felt disconnected.

He remembered to give me a book to hold onto during the vacation, called “A Tale for The Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. Such a magical book. Two weeks before that, he had surprised me with another book about two orphan girls caught up in a tale of transience and loss. I was taken aback that he was giving me a book before the break, as I thought this would be the only one to hold onto. He said he would give me another if I finished it in time, and I did. Such thoughtfulness on his part. During our last session, I explained how meaningful the first book had been and how many things had resonated. DS confessed that this was unintentional and coincidental. He  said he hadn’t spent time thinking about what to give me but had picked stuff based on a gut feeling. Covering up my feelings of surprise and disappointment, I said: “Yes, I know that obviously”. I didn’t know. I envisioned him running his fingers carefully over the spines in his shelf, a slight furrow in his brow and a biting of his lip indicating the concentration and thought about what best to leave me with. Why do I feel like an idiotic child for thinking this?

I had also contemplated making a Christmas card for him because I knew he had a strict policy on gifts and would not accept even a small token of appreciation. Actually, I bumped against this boundary a few weeks earlier when I handed him a science magazine I received in the mail. I said he could read it and then pass it on. I told him at the time that he could place it with the other mags in his waiting room when he was done but he said he would give it back to me afterwards because he did not accept gifts. I understand why his policy is in place but it wasn’t a gift. Nonetheless, if keeping those boundaries in place keeps him sane, then I can’t really complain. Going back to the Christmas card, I wanted to draw something cool, color it in with bright khokis and leave a small but meaningful message for him. I felt like the card would be a good way to close the year. I ended up at the session empty-handed because I honestly couldn’t face the possibility of rejection so close to a break.

So here I am, 17 days in, and I miss him with every inch of my being. It’s been a bit easier than I expected and I have had the support of my husband and family. We flew to see my mom, dad and sister at the coast and it’s been wonderful catching up with them the last two weeks. We fly back home on Monday and I see DS in the evening for our first session of the year. I want to be braver this year. I want to ask him what he did over the break. I want to open up about other things in my life. Maybe, at some point this year, I will be able to shake off these feelings of being unworthy, of time flying by too quickly and leaving me in its dust. Maybe, this year, I will find peace.

 

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Showing up

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I told DS last night about my end-of-year ballet show. It’s a lifelong dream to be a ballerina on stage and I have been rehearsing A LOT. Two weeks ago, I sent an e-mail out to my family with the dates and advised them to get back to me as soon as possible so I could book tickets. My dad said he had a business trip and wouldn’t be able to make it. I was bummed because he had known about the trip for a while and never said anything despite giving him dates ages ago. I know he didn’t raise it earlier though because he hates conflict.

I worked through the anger and sadness around this with DS and then remarked that it was funny because I’d also been meaning to invite him to the show for the last 5 or so sessions. I had been putting it off because I expected he would say it was not his policy to attend client functions. Who wants to feel disappointment and rejection around that anyway?! And yet, I knew on some level that if I felt disappointment early enough, it would be easier WHEN my dad ended up disappointing me (I am clearly psychic). Nonetheless, I’ve made peace with the dad issue. I told DS what my husband had joked about when I told him I wanted to invite my therapist to come and see me.

Husband: “You should tell DS that there’ll be a special therapist box in the concert hall. It would be slightly separated from the rest of the audience and have one-way glass so he can see out but no one can see in. Complete anonymity guaranteed. And he can chat with all the other ballerinas’ therapists and swap notes!”

DS and I had a good chuckle about this.  He then asked me what it would feel like if he came to see me.

My legs were crossed on the couch like a child and I rested my elbows on my legs in thought. When he asked the question, my whole chest filled with energy and my eyes welled up. It was overwhelming. I was trying to pinpoint the emotions. For a short while, I sat there not knowing what to do with the sensory overload.

Eventually I stammered: “It feels like you have touched my heart. Not literally. But metaphorically. I would be touched. And I guess I would feel pride. Yes, I would feel so proud if you were there!”

I explained that being on stage and being “SEEN” was one of the most anxiety-producing situations I could think of. And yet I was finding ways to cope with the anxiety to achieve a dream. He said it took courage to be up there. We chatted about my roles in two of the dances and the costumes I was making with my friend. The one is a glamorous burlesque-style costume, which I described as very revealing. DS said “and powerful”. That made me laugh inside. Note to self to chat to him about why it’s so difficult to see my sexuality as being powerful.

He wrote down the dates of the show and wished me well with the rehearsals. The session felt like it ended on a high note. Thinking about our session afterwards, it dawned on me that I had not actually ended up inviting him. I felt buoyed by our chat and decided to sleep on it. This morning I sent him a very short mail:

Hey DS,

Following on from our chat last night, I have decided I would like to formally invite you to my show. Here are the details:

[I attached the poster]

See you next week,

Jay

——

This is the first non-admin email I have sent DS in the 1.5 years we have been working together. I went with what I was feeling this morning, which was absolute trust in the therapy process. This is my big leap in increasing the intimacy between us. I am letting him into my life. I don’t have expectations about him attending. It would be lovely if he did and that is why I invited him. But if he doesn’t… it feels like I tried. Yes, the childlike parts of me are very twitchy and scared at what is going to happen. But the adult part of me feels good to have initiated something.

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The emotional receipt of the world

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I look at the world and see things that need to be fixed. This to-do list of global wrongs is so long it would wipe out more than the Earth’s entire rain forests if printed out. But it doesn’t need to be printed out. I get an emotional receipt every time I stride through town. People’s lives swirl towards me in an assault of rattling tin cans, discarded newspapers and petrified sweat mingled with drips and drabs of despair.

Images sweep me up and away to a place where I’m left asking why some people are born with a head start and others are placed three miles behind the start line.

To the lone woman trying to sell magazines on the side of the road late last night, wearing a flimsy garbage bag over a dress to protect against the rain… I am sorry. I didn’t have coins on me to help you out. I saw the longing in your eyes for a dry, warm spot in my car. Where would you have liked to go if I let you in?

To the man who battled to make a bed in the space between two outside pillars a few days ago. I watched as you unfolded your plastic sheet and tried to lay it down on the wet grass, with nothing else to protect you from the elements. You looked so vulnerable out in the open, and yet so resigned to the fact that you did not have four walls of your own to protect you in fading light. I am sorry that not everyone gets their own piece of land to call home. What would you have built if that opportunity was given to you?

To the teenaged street kid with the body of an eight-year-old and the weariness of an 80-year-old. I am sorry your first experience of life was a womb swirling with wine, methylated spirits and methamphetamine. I have no answer as to why so many other children first opened their eyes in an amniotic sac of pregnancy vitamins and happy hormones. What would you have aspired to be if you were in a classroom and a caring kindergarden teacher asked you that question?

There are too many questions and not enough answers. I feel their pain but I also feel remnants of hope. And perhaps that is the human condition. That despite everything, we are wired to survive and to persist. To beat the system. And our own demons.

If we exist in something like The Matrix and we’re a coded DNA heap of 1’s and 0’s, I cling to the hope that we’re all noughts striving to be ones. One with ourself and one with others. To think of a lesser reality would mean it was all for naught.

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