The best therapist I ever had once said, “You set up these impossible situations where no one can win, especially you.” She wasn’t accusing me or being judgmental, and her observation was accurate. Her idea about it was that I unconsciously reenact the dynamics of my childhood, where my life was an impossible situation with no way to win. That explanation resonated with me. Still does.
Her explanation of why I set up these impossible situations was laced with compassion for me. All of her explanations of my behavior were. I can’t find that kind of compassion for myself. I just get frustrated and angry. I berate myself for knowing the pattern but not changing it, even though it feels impossible to change it.
Like my therapy situation. I am so ANGRY at myself for it. Instead of summarily firing A, why didn’t I just tell her what had been going on, how I’d been feeling about the work we were doing, or not doing? Why didn’t I at least give her a chance to fix it? Why do I whine about not having anyone to talk to but refuse to fix the situation, either by going back to A or by finding a new therapist? Why do I whine about not being able to trust anyone to help me figure out the recent suicide attempt when I’m unwilling to do the work and go through the process of learning to trust someone?
It makes me hate myself. I want to slap myself across the face and say, “Either do something about it or shut the fuck up! Everyone is sick of hearing you whine about it when you’re obviously not willing to DO anything about it.” And by everyone, I mean me. I mean I’m sick of hearing it, of hearing myself. I’m sick of hearing and seeing and feeling the pain. I’m sick of feeling pulled in two opposite directions. I’m sick of feeling stuck and immobilized. My anger at myself then becomes, in my mind, the entire world hating me. I start feeling like I shouldn’t post or reply to comments because all I do is shoot down people’s suggestions.
“They’re all sick of you, Hope. You know that. You’re so negative all the time, and nobody wants to hear that. Nobody wants to listen to someone who’s always so negative. You push everybody away.” It’s my mother’s voice, an introject, repeating her reasons for why I was unlovable. I know it’s the things my mother told me, but this introject, she’s also me, and I believe those words because as much as they once came from my mother, now they come from me.
I can never quite manage to find compassion for myself.
I think what I need from a therapist right now is what that therapist could give me. She could see me almost completely: all the fucked up things I felt and thought and did, all the fucked up things that had happened to me, all the fucked up things I had done. She had this incredible ability to cut right to the painful, ugly heart of an issue, with scalpel-like insight. But there was so much compassion and kindness, too. I never thought someone could see me that clearly and completely but still be kind and compassionate toward me. That changed me, in some fundamental way I’ve never been able to articulate.
The memory that comes up right now, the closest I can come to articulating the way the relationship changed me, was the end of a family session. We’d been on the phone with my grandparents, and my grandfather had taken me apart with a saw. I can’t remember what he’d said, but it was brutal, and I didn’t feel like I could survive it. I was curled up on the couch, crying. My therapist said something to try to comfort and encourage me–I think something about how I was doing good work there.
“It doesn’t matter!” I said. It didn’t matter what she said or thought about me because my own family, the people who were supposed to know me and love me best, thought I was bad, evil, worthless. “None of it matters!”
“It matters,” she said. She had this way of talking sometimes that was quiet but fierce. “And you matter.”
That kindness felt unbearable because it was coming from her instead of from my family, the people I most needed to hear it from. I all but ran out of there, back up to my room. I felt like I was going to explode from all the pain built up. I needed to cut to let it out. Before I even really knew what I was doing, I had locked my door, and I was sitting on the floor of my room with my scissors in my hand.
But something made me hesitate. What if she’s right? What if I do matter? I wasn’t convinced it was true, not by a long shot, but she’d given me reasonable doubt. I didn’t cut.
Nobody has given me reasonable doubt about my self-hatred in a long time. They tell me I’m not bad, don’t deserve to be hated or hurt, but they don’t create that glimmer of doubt of my abusers’ version of me. I think it’s because I haven’t found anyone with that therapist’s level of incisive insight into me. If they don’t really see me, then their belief that I’m not a terrible person is flawed. I need a therapist who can see me like that, but I don’t know how in god’s name to find one. I wish I could have my old therapist back.