I've been having a hard time lately. My unemployment and personal failures, wrapped in mood and anxiety disorders, have essentially reduced my self-esteem to nothingness. My confidence interacting with the world is moot.
I recently left a psychiatric hospital where I was put on a slew of medications to dull the blows, and I had a few sessions with my therapist after being released. I liked my therapist and looked forward to our encounters; however, resistance and inaction on my behalf had been straining our therapeutic relationship for months. We had a fairly good working relationship and functioned well — that is, until I stopped functioning. I also had a bad case of erotic transference — that's when a client has sexual feelings toward their therapist — that made me act pretty crazy and propose a lot of unethical things.
The fact that my therapist toughed out all of my craziness and stood by me while I was going through one of the most difficult periods of my life made me feel indebted to him in a different way he routinely assured me was inappropriate given the circumstances and boundaries of our relationship, I still didn’t get it. I still couldn’t help but imagine a future where we could be more than therapist and client. I dreamt of a time when our conversations could slip past cursory acknowledgements and we could talk to one another as friends, which I couldn’t help but to feel we were.
I am embarrassed to admit that I am one of those people who became infatuated with my therapist. Chronic longing and lack of satisfaction in one’s own life seems to precipitate being easily infatuated. I find this characteristic of falling for people easily subverts logic and instead goes deep down into the core of our defining moments and whether or not we had whole childhoods and empathic parenting. I am one of the unlucky ones who had little of either, which makes any kindness — particularly from older men — ripe for misinterpretation by my limbic system on a primal level.
Recently, I began to consider EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy as a means of undoing some of these instincts and talked to my therapist about it. This kind of therapy has been proven useful for a whole host of issues, including trauma and addiction — both things I struggle with immensely. It seemed like a good investment for me to unwrap some of my history of emotional abuse.
This was his chance. He told me he knew a therapist that was very good at EMDR and trauma, and that I should see her. I could no longer see him, he decided, because the relationship was “enabling” for me.
And just like that, my therapist dumped me.
To be fair, my therapist was adamant that he was doing it for my own good and not simply trying to unburden himself of a difficult client. But to be honest, I do not believe this. I'm aware that I'm a challenging client; I do not blame my therapist because I think that there are ways I either personally or through my pathology make all relationships, including the therapeutic one, very difficult. However, I have found the mental health field to be occasionally re-traumatizing for me. Anecdotally, it seems like the more and more trauma someone suffers, the easier it becomes to be traumatized, and navigating the mental health field can mimic many of the relationships that created the trauma of the past.
I hate the feeling I get thinking that my therapist knew going into that session that he would try to make it our last, whereas I had no clue. We had a couple more tense sessions, but they proved futile. I felt abandoned, and my therapist felt he had no choice — I refused to gather any progress.
So, in the midst of more crises than ever, I lost my therapist. This does not feel like a good thing, but perhaps it will be. I have been writing more and focusing on figuring out a way to fix my life without therapy, which has made me more involved in my own betterment than I have been recently. It still hurts and sucks, though.
I have had four therapists thus far, and this is the first time I have been dumped. I did not even think it was even possible, especially because this specific therapist assured me long ago that this would never happen, that he would never force me to leave or tell me I couldn’t come back. It triggered all my trust and abandonment issues.
Like all good breakups, I asked him to tell me it wasn’t me and that we could still be friends. He soothed my fears, but more began to crop up in the following days. I woke up crying several times. In my mind, I went from being a difficult client to being the ugly waste of space that no one (as I had always thought) could handle for very long. Letting someone get to know me had proven a poor decision.
I decided not to go through with the EMDR therapy, the threat of another intensely intimate relationship making me a little nauseous.
Interestingly, I think the circumstances have proven useful for understanding myself and the world a little better. The world did not end because I cut ties with someone I felt dependent on. My abilities and drive did not disappear. I did not fall into irrecoverable depression. I was strong.
Part of the problem I have with relationships is that I tend toward codependency and making others responsible for my self-esteem. Perhaps I had begun doing the same thing in my therapeutic relationship. Although it hurt at first, I have some hope that ending the relationship will turn out to have been the right thing to do.
Either way, losing this therapist has taught me as much as therapy has in some ways.