usually people talk about their careers in terms of their professional or vocational life, but i don’t want to do that. i’m not sure my story is all that interesting, to start, and also, i’m aiming to maintain some tiny wee bit of anonymity here, and don’t much want to talk about what i do.
if we use the word career as it was meant to be used, to describe how we progress through a particular aspect of our lives, i think i’d like to look at my career in therapy.
it’s a decently long one, honestly. my first foray into counselling was talking to my guidance counsellor in high school. she was so completely kind and lovely to me, and despite the fact that one of my family members taught at the school, i felt safe enough to describe my crippling anxiety to her (though i did not use those words, not then), and she never made me feel as stupid and ashamed as i did at home. i visited her often, and i missed her dearly when she retired.
i think it was only in university when i realized that there was an actual name for the things i had been experiencing (panic disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety), and L honestly may have saved my life. she was an amazingly sweet, kind, caring, warm, soft and loving feminist therapist i met through being a peer counsellor (like i had been in high school) and i admired her so, so much. i was so early into things then; i didn’t know a single fucking thing about what had happened to me, but was definitely dealing with the consequences of the not knowing. i was struggling in my personal and family relationships, i wasn’t at home in my body, i was fearful and anxious and struggling academically. she was the first therapist i told about wanting to die. i was petrified after the words fell from my lips, and she let it sit there between us for such a long, long time. i could feel her watching me but i couldn’t look, could only hear my heart and her even, deep breathing. but then, i felt her hand on mine, warm and dry, and she said, i know you do, but the world would not be the same without you. and when i looked up her eyes had welled up and i felt her love then, and many other times after that. (i just googled to see if i could find what she’s up to. i can’t find a single photo of her face but i bet she hasn’t changed in 25 years. she is still working at the university. i wonder how many other young people she has saved.)
then i had a great campus doctor, dr p, and a couple not-so-great campus counsellors who really sucked at supporting me through coming out, and then i had b. yes, for five years i had b, who would never respond to my emails, who i couldn’t cry in front of without turning my chair 180 degrees. she was a writer and sometimes we drew and sculpted and talked and worked with clay. often we wrote. she was big on letters to oneself, i seem to remember. and she helped me a lot, actually, to realize certain things about my family, and my role within it. she supported me through our journey to conceive our kiddo, and my worries about parenting. in retrospect, i grew a lot with b, i really did.
but her rigid boundaries (no phone calls between appointments, not ever, and no emailing) shriveled my soul, and she spoke very sharply (and unfairly) to me one final time, quite out of turn, and i just never went back. i can still remember the feel of that moment, like the air got sucked out of my lungs and the room and the universe. i couldn’t even speak, nor look at her. i think i just went mute, wrote her a cheque, and then left, never to return.
and she never asked why. after 5 years, she didn’t even ask where i had gone. it was the right decision, to stop with her, but it hurt for a really long time. (and it was so interesting, within this past year, i wrote and asked her for all of the records of my sessions, because i was curious if i ever alluded to abuse, if i ever mentioned it.) (i did.) (though it should be noted that i gave up slogging through 5 years of handwritten notes because her writing was abhorrent and i honestly just couldn’t do it.)
and now i have current t. i went back in my emails to see if i could find out how long i’ve been seeing her, and it’s been nearly seven fucking years. SEVEN. YEARS. that is long. so long. (also, if i’m being complete in my career review, i did see another therapist, A, for EMDR when things were really bad, really intrusive, starting in 2016. and she was good, really really good, but she was also hard, because she really activated shame for me. she wasn’t all that gentle when i was young, and i felt really pushed to do bodywork when i was just not able to. so i stopped seeing her last fall.)
in any case, about t. recently, she made a pretty big fucking mistake. (i’m not going to go into it. just know that it was fairly bad.) so big and bad that i’ve hardly been unable to talk about it to anyone. to pocketbrit, to my wife, to anyone, because it has been entirely awful. i’ve berated myself fully for trusting anyone to the degree that i came to trust her; for being so stupid to let someone i pay feature so heavily in my life. i mean jesus, it isn’t real. i don’t count. what the fuck was i thinking, give your head a shake, pocketcanadian.
and, honestly, i don’t know what’s going to happen. i’ve never felt like this before. never actually thought, you know what, i might not be able to go back. it’s like i can only think of it in tiny increments, both ways – that i won’t ever have her again, but also, that i might be so idiotic as to let her back in. and then of course there’s the insidious mocking voice that says i didn’t ever really have her in the first place, i was just naive and stupid and misguided. just like they said.
i sent this email to her tonight, after she responded to something i had sent whilst feeling quite young. yet again, her last response referenced me being triggered (which, every time, has felt accusatory and disapproving) and made me feel really really ashamed. this is what i said:
i was triggered, you’re right, and i’m sorry. i wish i could not be triggered but i can’t promise that i won’t be, it has been a really shitty stretch, and this week has been particularly shit.
also, it feels minimizing when you comment that i am triggered (you have done that nearly every email). it makes me ashamed, like i should be able to control it, like i should be able to manage it. the thing is, that i’m kind of not managing it, you’re correct in that, because i am entirely fucking alone. with all of it.
i briefly felt you near, but i don’t anymore. i don’t feel or trust your love or your care. i know that if i am difficult i won’t get to feel it again, but i can’t help it, i am difficult just now. i am prickly and angry because i am hurting and terrified.
i am holding her and [pocketbrit] is holding her and [wife] is holding her and we even have a new rocking chair at the sea, where i have spent the vast majority of my evenings. but she is like the trees are tonight in the wind, she is wild and unbridled and frantic whispering and ever-moving.
i don’t want to be mad and sad and afraid anymore. i need to come back to you but i just can’t. it all feels different now. that’s not trigger talk it’s just how it feels. i know i shouldn’t keep emailing you, you are going to get impatient, i am going to push my luck. i just don’t know what else to do coz i’m too worried to see you.
so maybe, just maybe, my career in therapy is coming to an end. i’ve thought it, i’ve been scared to say it, but maybe, this gig is just not for me. maybe enough is enough. maybe i have a new career, in reading (or writing?) self-help books and trauma literature. maybe i’ll start an in-person support group on shame in my city. maybe i’ll just fucking yank up my bootstraps and stop being such a fucking baby about it all.
i don’t know.