Posted by: Marie | August 10, 2009

(122) With or without you

Post #122
[Email sent to my therapist on Sunday, April 5, 2009]

Hi, Dr. Barb –

I’m really struggling . . . I feel I’m at a crossroads. As I’m processing and journaling this week, I find myself filtering everything I write – I feel I cannot share the ugly stuff with you because I’m not supposed to be thinking/feeling ugly stuff. I feel that I can only say positive stuff – otherwise I risk your disapproval – and your continued disapproval will likely cause you to end my therapy.

In our sessions, I keep getting the message that I’m supposed to simply stop thinking/feeling negatively and switch to thinking/feeling positively – all I have to do is decide to do it and then do it – it’s that simple.

On the Hike by Martin Chen

On the Hike by Martin Chen

The problem is that I don’t know how to not be such a perfectionist. I don’t know how to not be so cynical. I don’t know how to stop the feelings of failure and fear of disappointing others that are showing up in my dreams. I don’t know how to start approving of myself. I don’t know how to relax. I don’t know how to feel love for myself. I don’t know how to do all the things you are asking me to do. If I did, I wouldn’t need to be in your office, I’d already be doing it.

I have no idea how to make those changes with the tools I currently have – and I don’t seem to be getting the tools I need from our sessions. The tools I’m getting (like the ANTS paper, visualization, behavioral contract, etc.) are so riddled with triggers that I can’t imagine utilizing them. I feel ridiculous always saying, “I can’t” – I’m afraid it makes me look like I’m not committed to healing – which would be yet another reason for you to end my therapy.

I know I have many destructive behaviors – I use them to cope with life – it’s the only way I know how to function right now. I’m dealing with so many triggers, so many fears – and I am paralyzed by them. I need to figure out why I do what I do – look at each destructive behavior and figure out the payoff – and find a new way to meet that need. Then, I will have the tools to do what you are asking me to do.

I have found a really neat book (“The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse” by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis) that walks through that process. I believe their approach would be helpful for me. Part of their process involves looking at and coming to terms with what happened. It means giving some attention and energy to the negative stuff in order to honor its existence and impact.

I have decided that I’m going to work my way through the book – with or without your help. I would prefer doing it with your help.

However, I keep getting the message that the only way you are willing to give attention and energy to negative stuff is in the context of visualization – and only if I’m ready to leave it all behind, never to be discussed again.

That doesn’t work for me. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what happened – I’m still dealing with the shame and the sense of “badness” stemming from those experiences. I need to grieve and to feel/express anger (not avoid it). Every bone in my body says I have to make that journey. However, I keep getting the message from you that you see it as an unacceptable path.

If that is true, then I don’t see a reason for me to send any more status reports and journal entries, or to come back to your office.

So, right now, I don’t feel good about this – it seems that one or the other of us is going to end my therapy soon . . I need to know what you are thinking/feeling and I need to hear from you in response to what I’m experiencing. I’m looking for a reason to come back.

I acknowledge you for the work you have done for me already. I am thinking about the life balance wheel, and the support I very much needed to start exercising and eating well . . . . thank you for those tools . . they are working for me and I appreciate your help and guidance. I also appreciate your compassion and gentle spirit – I do feel that you truly care for me and are really “pulling” for me. I wanted to make sure that you know there has been a lot of “good stuff” already.

Thank you . . .
– Marie

Quotes 032


  1. so …. are you using the book now? is it helpful? it certainly made a difference in my life … oh, it seems such a long time ago …

  2. I’m sorry that your t was not able to give you skills that were not triggering to you. That is a big issue for me as well. How is the process of using the book coming?


  3. Hi Marie,

    I think the how is a big deal in any therapy. I think a therapist can help a client find their own way. (Usually what we have done has at least some positive in it – we are still alive.)

    Look forward to hearing more about the book if you did work with it.

    Once again I’d like to say that I like your honesty and how well you write.

    • Hi, Isabella, Kate and Evan –

      May I reply to all of you at once since you all asked the same question, LOL?

      Yes, I am still using the book . . . in fact, it has become a key part of my blog . . . I highly recommend it as I have not found anything else quite as helpful.

      Thanks for stopping by and for writing such encouraging words! It is always a pleasure to hear from you!

      – Marie

  4. Wow, I can’t imagine my T telling me I could no longer talk about “it”. I haven’t even remember all of it yet. I’m glad to know you found something that helps you, tho and that you are still using the book.

    • Hi, Ivory –

      I agree . . . I’m still remembering, as well . . . and I’ve hardly talked about it or written about it . . . how can I just “move on”?!?!?!?

      Thanks for your input!

      – Marie

  5. You are very brave for writing this, and for standing up for yourself. YOU GO GIRRRL :p

    You have a whole paragraph to all the things you don’t know… Maybe you don’t know the way other people are telling you? Maybe what people think you should do just does not work for you?
    But it is evident to me that you do know much more than you give yourself credit for.

    You are fighting for a better life for yourself. You have a wonderful spark of humor. And you have laid your vulnerabilities, fears and painful experiences bare not only for your healing but to help others. I applaud you and wish you all the best.



    • Hi, Evanlee –

      Thank you for writing such kind and encouraging words!

      Yes, I do think this email was the beginning of the time I really started following my own understanding and my own instinct . . . instead of trying to make other people’s ideas fit my situation. So, you are right on the mark.

      Thank you for stopping by!

      – Marie

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