“You set up these impossible situations…”

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.



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15 responses to ““You set up these impossible situations…”

  1. Can you contact her and ask for recommendations? Sounds like someone like that would be ideal.
    And we all get negative – for those of us blogging about mental health it’s pretty much par for the course. We all get sick of our own negativity but that doesn’t mean others are sick of reading. I hope you can find compassion from your readers when you aren’t able to feel it for yourself.

    • She’s given me recommendations, but unfortunately none of them take my insurance. Most of them don’t take insurance at all. actually. It’s frustrating. I have searched and searched for therapists, and A was the only one who was even decent. I guess that’s what happens when you’re poor and have Medicare and Medicaid. They apparently make it really difficult for therapists to get on their panels and don’t reimburse well, so most therapists don’t bother with them. I understand why, but it sure does screw over those of us who can’t afford private insurance.

  2. These are such important insights, Hope. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  3. i’m awful at leaving replies because i feel like i sound so stupid when i do – pick any cliche that you can apply. it’s almost like hearing recordings of my own voice. but i do try to read blogs as much as i can.

    i had a therapist years ago, and she was the best. i saw her for a couple off years – and she got to know so much about me. i also had never stayed at one therapist for more than six months. it’s a pain in the ass to look for a new one, and then have to go through the whole back story, which is exhausting. that being said, if you don’t like the one you are with, try your best to find another. i know that isn’t easy. i’ve had so many therapists in my life, and i have noticed that if i just don’t vibe with them after 2-3 appointments, it’s probably not going to happen.

    keep it up. keep writing.i love the honesty and it’s a good spot to vent all the shit you want.

    take care.

    • Thanks. I know what you mean about feeling terrible at replies. I feel the same way about myself, but no one else seems to think so.

      The problem with therapists in my case is I live in a small town with very limited resources, and I have crappy insurance to boot. So my choices are very limited.

      • oh, i totally understand that. i know it always sounds so easy, but we both know just how hard it is.
        i hope you are able to get that stability with somebody. i saw 4 different therapists in the past year. i finally had to take a break because the stress of seeing a new doctor sadly became a huge anxious struggle for me.. such a pain in the ass.
        it’s strange how the people that need the most help, have to fight so much harder for care than people with a head cold.
        it isn’t right at all.

  4. People often just want to be heard, they do not always care to hear solutions. So I think what you were told about setting up no win situations applies to so many, many people. People without any mental health labels. I can whine just as loud and long as anybody. Recognizing what the pattern is will hopefully help you whether you work on things independently or whether you do decide to try to get whatever you can from a therapist who is less than ideal.

  5. Hope, maybe I’m not understanding this from your post, but is it no longer possible under any circumstances for you to go back to this therapist that you liked?

    • Unfortunately not. She’s over an hour away, I don’t have a car, and public transit doesn’t go there.

      • Damn. That’s too bad. I guess there’s no chance that you could eventually move and live closer to her? Something like an electric scooter or bicycle might be worth the risk. Just thinking out loud the things I would have thought, in terms of doing whatever it takes to get what I want in a given situation.

      • Probably not. It’s over an hour by car, so I can’t imagine how long it would take by bike. And a lot of days I’m just not even physically capable of even walking very far.

        She also doesn’t take insurance, and I’m broke.

      • Sorry to hear. I’ve read some of your posts and feel sympathetic, although I know that doesn’t make it better. You sound like you need a buddy. If you need someone to listen to what you’re going through and discuss ideas with, email me at bpdtransformation (at) gmail (dot) come. I don’t have the answers for you but I can listen, and because of my own difficult experience I’m sometimes able to help people think of new approaches to problems.

      • Thanks. That’s very kind of you.

      • I really mean it too, and I’m not looking down on you.

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