It happens. Sometimes a therapy session is just a waste of time. Sometimes this is my fault. Sometimes it's my therapist's fault. Sometimes it's a mix.
But this time it was bad. This time it was wounding.
I usually see him every two weeks. This time, due to a scheduling problem, it was a month between visits. I'm sure this contributed.
My last visit was rough. My PTSD had been triggered. I finally revealed to him an incredibly difficult memory from my past -- the memory that's held more power over me than anything else. Ever. One I only have vague images of. One that's left painful muscle memories. One I've been cautioned not to share openly because it could be dangerous for me. One that causes me to feel like a small child and to cramp terribly.
It was a very intense session for me. He listened and validated me. He helped get me through the worst of the PTSD. We formed a plan for working through it. He assured me that I could heal from this even without the entire memory. I left that session hopeful.
Over the course of the next month my PTSD was triggered two more times; my husband went through two anger cycles; I went through a deep, week-long depression; and I had a two-hour conversation with my mom which triggered that memory again. That dark and painful and frightening memory.
I spent a few days cramping badly, my uterus and my back, almost like labor. Constant. No relief from anything I took. And I knew it was directly related to this memory.
I knew I had a session coming up. I knew we were going to work on it and I would feel better afterward. I held on.
But the session didn't help. I gave him a quick recap of the month and told him I was ready to work. I needed to work so the pain would go away. And he went a different direction. He wanted to focus on something else. It's not that he was trying to avoid what I wanted to talk about. It's that he didn't remember. I tried to redirect it a couple of times, but since he didn't remember that memory I had revealed last time, he thought he knew best what we should work on.
Sometimes I am strong and when he goes off on a tangent or chit chats too much I can pull it back where I need it to be. This time I couldn't. Like I said, this memory makes me feel like a little girl. I am hesitant and scared and timid. All I can do is politely go along.
When we had about ten minutes left, he asked what direction we should go next. I reminded him of what had happened last time. And I could tell he immediately realized his mistake. And it was too late to do any work on it. In reminding him about it, I had reopened it. I was raw and crying. He tried to salvage things. He tried to give me something to work on before our next session. And I did my best to reign in my emotions. Our time was up. I had to leave the office. And I was trying not to make him feel bad.
But I was not okay. I made it out of the office and twenty yards down the hall to the bathroom before I crumpled to the floor sobbing. I got it under control enough to leave the bathroom and practically ran to my car, hoping no one would notice my red eyes and shaky breathing and ask if I was okay. Once in my car the sobbing returned, stronger. I sobbed in a way I have only done once or twice since I was a child. Gut wrenching sobs. Devastated cries from deep within me.
Over the next few days there was a lot of crying. And there was still the intense physical pain. But worse than that all my old, unhealthy coping mechanisms reasserted themselves. Things I thought were in my past. Things I thought I'd overcome. Things I thought no longer had any power over me. They suddenly slammed me to the ground and repeatedly kicked me.
My husband and I went out a few days later. As we drove I told him about the session. After approximately 10 minutes of yelling and swearing, I had to admit I was angry. And it wasn't getting any better. So when I got home I wrote my therapist a letter.
I told him what the experience was like from my side. I told him how difficult it is to know I only have one hour every two weeks. I told him how hard I prepare for that hour so I can use it wisely. I told him it costs me $100 every session because our insurance doesn't pay for it. I told him it's a real sacrifice to pay that, but when it's necessary and helpful I am okay with it. I told him I felt like he'd stolen from my family that day. I told him that session wounded me because at such a vulnerable time he didn't listen to me. And I wasn't strong enough to fight him if he wouldn't listen to me. I told him I wasn't sure if I'd be able to come back. I wasn't sure I'd be able to work on this with him after all. I'm not sure he's a safe person for me anymore.
And then I took the letter to his office and gave it to the lady at the front desk.
I have not heard from him.
I have a little over a week until my next appointment. I'm examining my options. I've spent a lot of time trying to decide if I will go back. I know he sees lots of patients. I know it was a month in between visits. I know he's human and makes mistakes, like we all do. And I can forgive those things.
But forgiving them doesn't take away the wound. If you hit me with a rock and then apologize, I will forgive you. But the bruise will remain. It will take time to heal. And any time I see you with a rock in the future I will worry about whether or not you're going to hurt me.
Unfortunately, our session was the rock.
If you read this post, please read A Possibility of Healing for the resolution.