I can’t believe how much I’ve changed and grown as a person since starting therapy last year.
The Jules last year would have freaked out, felt thoroughly ashamed, beat herself up, and be devastated had she heard what S told me yesterday because the last-year-Jules was a different person then.
When I walked in to therapy yesterday, S quickly said, “So before we get started, I wanted to mention something real quick. And I really appreciate you bringing me Starbucks multiple times but it’s probably we need to… Keep a lid on it for now. I don’t want to be like, shaming you or anything. It’s really not a big deal…”
I had been bringing him Starbucks quite a few times lately. It’s more because I’m trying to show him gratitude for his hard work more than anything.
“No no no… Gotcha… I know. Yeah, it’s not a big deal either you know? But yeah, gotcha!” I said. I started to feel heat creep up my neck. I wasn’t necessarily feeling embarrassed or ashamed but I do have seemingly automatic physical responses to embarrassing moments even if I’m not fully experiencing that feeling at that time. It’s really strange. I didn’t know if S noticed or not. If he had, he might think that I was just lying.
“And again, I… I really appreciate the sentiment behind it. There’s really not any guidelines about that sort of thing… But just kinda a general consensus is, it’s like, on a regular basis, just…”
“Right! Right… Gotcha!” I said, interjecting because I was feeling uncomfortable with the situation.
“Yeah…” S said. I knew what he meant, and he knew that I knew. “Any reactions or…?”
“No. I think that, that it’s good that you mentioned it,” I said. To be honest, I had started to wonder how many more times I could do what I was doing before I would be told to stop. I’m actually glad that I’m told to stop – only because I keep spending money when I probably should be saving.
“Okay. As long as you’re cool with that…” S said. He seemed a little uncomfortable, bringing up the subject. It’s funny how sometimes we both act so uncomfortable and awkward around each other despite having worked on such an intimate level for a year and a half now. “In that case, how have things been going?”
I for one was glad that we were done with that initial topic and was able to talk about what was really burdening me for the past week. That said, I wasn’t trying to be dismissive on purpose. I think I still need to work on being able to handle uncomfortable situations.
I explained to him today, as we saw each other again for the second time this week, that I really didn’t feel ashamed when he told me not to bring him anymore Starbucks. I told him that every time that I did, I was feeling good after therapy and when I feel good, I want others to feel the same – so I always try to do nice things for people. One of the ways I show my love and appreciation is through buying people things. So the Starbucks, I told him, was really just an extension of that. I wasn’t in any way trying to control or manipulate him in session. I wasn’t trying to make him feel like he owes me more than he does to his other clients. As I told him all that, I realized that I was calm.
I told him that if this had happened last year, last-year-Jules would have been so devastated to hear that he wouldn’t accept any more gifts. Last-year-Jules would’ve considered it a sign of rejection and she would’ve withdrawn, which would’ve affected the course of the therapeutic journey. I told S that I feel much more mature, much more secure in our therapeutic relationship. It seemed to me that I now consider him my partner and though I still deeply respect him, look up to him, and still adore him, he’s no longer on my pedestal as he used to be. I now see him as a regular guy who works just as hard as I am in therapy. I’m still curious about him – like how old he is, why he decided to work in a college instead of starting his own practice, where he lives, if he uses social media and stuff like that – but I’m not as desperately dependent on him as I used to be.
I’m not independent yet either but I’m at a spot where I know I am depending on him but at the same time, I’m no longer ashamed that I am and that I’m ok with the fact that I have to use him as a crutch for now until I can walk on my own. I’m not there yet. We both know that. And he’s even told me before how it’s ok to not be there yet.
I told him all that today. I told him my observations. “I feel like I still have that really great respect for you. I still look up to you and think highly of you. But it’s less desperate…”
“Less desperation. Less dependence even…” S said, “It’s interesting. It’s almost paradoxical. Sounds like last year I was more up on that pedestal but there was actually more desperation and less trust on your part…”
“Yeah, more fear,” I added. It really took me a long time to trust S enough to be truly vulnerable with him.
“More fear, okay. And so now, I guess there’s more of a partnership. But you don’t idolize me, there’s less desperation, I’m not as on the pedestal…”
“Yeah, I have quite a lot of difficulty with accepting that you’re just as human as I am… Whenever I get those drinks at Starbucks though, I’m just doing it like I would any other friend. I get 4 every single time – ok, one for myself, one for CG, one for D because I really like her, and oh, one for S. If I had done that last year, it would have been like ‘This is a gift, this is a big deal. If you don’t take it, I’m going to be so ashamed’ but it feels different this time. It’s more like, ‘Wow, that was a great session! I feel great right now! I want to do something nice!’ almost like a, ‘Hey you worked really hard with me today. Here’s a little something. It’s not a big deal. It’s not to ask for favors, but it’s more like I feel good. So I want to pass it along. Pay it forward I guess…'”
He then said something that I wasn’t expecting. He said, “As you’re saying this, I wonder if I haven’t been giving you enough credit. Or I haven’t seen as much of a progress. And what I mean by that is, I was kinda nervous about talking to you about this because I thought to myself, ‘Oh no… She’s going to be devastated or ashamed or something if I bring this up’. I was worried about what it would be like for you when I go on vacation. But hearing you talking, it sounds like you’re farther along than I thought! You’re less dependent on me than I thought. That feels really good for me to hear! I wish I had given you more credit!”
I wasn’t expecting that at all because that was just another reminder that the psychologist that I used to put on a pedestal before is also as fallible as I am – that sometimes, he does make mistakes, that sometimes despite his years of experience, he does overlook things. And he admitted that he overlooked my progress – that I am a little more stable than he had thought I was.
I did explain though that though I can be very positive and calm, the child also takes control away from the adult very quickly whenever triggered. So I can go from telling him how I’m starting to depend on him less to telling him that I desperately need to see him again tomorrow in a matter of moments. Yes, there is definitely progress but there is also definitely setback.
“You’re talking to the adult right now,” I reminded S. “The child is in her room right now. She’s not out and so the adult can take control”
I’m not trying to negate the progress I’ve made but rather just to face the reality that I am struggling with myself on a daily basis. As we talked about that more and also hashed out some things I could do for myself while he is gone for vacation for the next two weeks (Boo!!), I realized just how far I’ve come. I’ve still got a ways to go ahead but wow, I am amazed.
Since the adult is still in control right now, I can continue to be positive about this day despite the fact that I was still hit with negative things that triggered the child. I hope that someday, I’ll be able to get the child to trust the adult and that for once, all three selves will come together and be truly united.
For now, I’ll take whatever good and positive moments I can get!
Oh, uh, and yes, I won’t be seeing S until August 3rd. I forgot to mention how kind and considerate he was to think about me because he’s still very concerned about my emotional state and my suicidality. So, he actually spoke to a colleague of his who’d seen me a couple of times before during walk-ins (I’ve spoken about him as well here) and set up appointments for me to speak to J while he’s away. It felt good when he told me that he’d talked to J and that J had agreed to take me on for two weeks because S wanted to make sure that I had good support while he was gone. I think that’s probably also why I’m a lot more stable than I was last year – I have a buffer in a manner of speaking, until S comes back.
Still… I can’t wait for August 3rd.
** Note: We talked about plenty of other things too (and I did spend yesterday’s session just bawling my eyes out and a little bit of today’s session doing the same thing) but this felt like the most important and the biggest epiphany I’ve had this week so that’s why I wrote about this instead of the whole session.