(or Do I Stay or Do I Go?)
Sometimes I really wish my therapist would just fire me.
Then she can give my spot to someone else.
Someone who will pay her 100-300% more than I can pay.
Someone for whom one, or even two, 45-minute sessions a week will be enough.
Someone who doesn’t need to push past that boundary of time over and over and over again.
Someone whose emotions can be contained inside the therapeutic frame.
Someone who doesn’t need more than any reasonable therapist can be expected to give.
Someone who shows up to session willing and able to talk.
Someone who is able to take a professional’s advice.
Someone who wants more out of life.
I can’t help but feel that I’m wasting time and energy – hers and mine. Or that I’m taking up a spot that could be better used by someone else. Maybe this is it. Maybe she’s taken me as far up the mountain as she can. Maybe I have to take the final steps on my own.
This bridge will only take you halfway there
To those mysterious lands you long to see:
Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fairs
And moonlit woods where unicorns run free.
So come and walk awhile with me and share
The twisting trails and wondrous worlds I’ve known.
But this bridge will only take you halfway there-
The last few steps you’ll have to take alone.
~ Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic
Leaving is hard. I know this, which is why I sometimes wish she would just fire me: tell me she’s had enough and that I can’t come back.
I know she will never do this though, and that if I want to go, I have to leave under my own accord and that we have to have a good, clean ending – for once in my life.
I feel caught in an internal pull of emotions – love or hate, stay or go, talk or be silent, show up or no-show, accept or reject, submit or defend. The tension between these extremes is such that I often feel caught in the middle, and if I make a move towards say love, hate snaps me back in place, or vice versa. So I’m there caught, trapped, unable to do anything but make the tiniest of baby-steps, in an effort to not throw off the delicate equilibrium I am trying to navigate.
I know if I give voice to these tug-of-war feelings, I will be met with this question: “Do you need me to help you stay or help you go?”
I don’t know. Maybe both. At the same time. Maybe there are parts of the therapeutic relationship I need to jettison, while keeping other parts intact. Maybe I need to rebuild the bridge while simultaneously relying on it to keep me from falling into the murky waters below.
Therapists seem to love this rupture/reparation routine. It makes me roll my eyes and groan. Surely not this again. Please, anything but this. I’ve already ridden this roller-coaster more times than I would like. Can’t I get off now?
So it leaves me right back where I started, questioning my own motivations. I am such a slave to my Outlook calendar. If I really need to do something, I just put it on my calendar and when the reminder pops up, I do it. Meetings, Deadlines, Yoga, Lunch, Therapy.
There are so many times I leave a session, silently swearing to never return, threatening, to myself of course, to be a no-show. And inevitably, the next session arrives, and being the creature-of-habit that I am, I find myself making the trek to her office. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like my conscious self is behind my movements. I’m not sure how I got here, to this path that leads to her door. But I’m here now, I figure, so I might as well go in.
I often feel like I’m running on auto-pilot. Just the other day, as I was leaving my yoga class, I used my ID to swipe out of the fitness center. Now, you don’t need to swipe out; you only need to swipe in. But I did it purely as a reflex of seeing the turnstiles – and because you do have to swipe out of the building. The instructor noticed this behavior and then suspiciously also swiped out, but stopped to question why. “Habit” I replied. She responded, “Ah, you’re on autopilot. Just like what we were talking about in class.” Wait! What? We were talking about that in class? Was I really on autopilot in yoga too? Probably.
I know that there is a, perhaps largely unconscious, need for space and attachment and room to breathe and understanding and care and concern and even, dare I say it, love – and that those needs are what bring me back to therapy week after week, even when it’s hard, even when my conscious self wants to run away.
I think sometimes this wish that my therapist will fire me masks the fear that she will. Sometimes I both simultaneously hope, and fear, that she will give up on me – thereby freeing me to give up on myself. I know it’s probably more to ask of one human being, much less a professional caregiver who is more invested in me than I can fathom, to hold me in this way.
Do you know that feeling when you are on a bridge and it begins to sway? Bridges are designed to withstand the force of nature. Well-designed bridges are meant to bend and twist, otherwise they would just snap and crumble in the face of gale-force winds. I wish people and relationships, or perhaps more specifically me and my relationships, had more bridge-like properties: secure and reliable and supportive, while also flexible and adaptable, especially in the face of stormy weather. I know I’ve got work to do, to build such a bridge to take me to the other side.