Monday, January 24, 2011

The Short Fare-Thee-Well

Exactly how awful a client do you have to be for your therapist to dump you? Apparently, I am, indeed, that awful. The long-patient, ever-optimistic Dr. B. walked into our session on Thursday and announced that he thought it was time for us to “take a break”—aka, end the therapeutic relationship. Granted, it seems he and my psychiatrist have not been seeing eye-to-eye, and each has a competing perspective and prospective for my recovery process:to medicate or not; to hospitalize or not. But just like that, Dr. B. decided to end our five-years' working relationship.

I am trying to be a grown-up about this. Kowtowing to suggestions from friends and family that maybe this is a good change; that a new direction is exactly what I need to give a chance; that five years was long enough for one approach. So I act appropriately angry and cynically pissed off. “After all,” I remark, “he even said it was obvious I’m in the middle of a crisis and thrashing around. What ethically-considerate professional therapist drops his client of five years in the middle of a crisis?” Of course, the counter-argument might be: when am I not in crisis these days?

But truly, the past few weeks have been exceptionally difficult. I’ve made the decision (no, this is a mis-statement, as it implies active agency—IT forced this decision) to withdraw from teaching and go on Long Term Disability. I can’t even begin to articulate how terrible this makes me feel—like a failure, like a pathetic weakling, an embarrassment to my family, ashamed, utterly, of myself. IT has come to this: I am no longer able to function according to normal expectations; I am dis-abled-- the broken-down jalopy that skidded off the road into a snowy embankment and left to rust out, deliberately abandoned. Of course, I have my tow trucks—my husband and kids, important friends, family. But this newly-defined “disabled” self feels unrepairable, unsalvageable.

Today, I snuck up to “my” office at school to return the college’s laptop and was faced with a new sign on “my” door—no longer my name on the door, but someone else’s. So not “my” office anymore. The depressing, shameful truth: I am no longer a professor; I no longer have anything worth professing. Not a teacher anymore, but someone who is filing for Social Security Disability, someone who is receiving monthly checks from a Long Term Disability Insurance Company because even the penny-pinching bureaucrats deem me sick enough, incapable enough of meaningful, self-supporting work.

Whoop, whoop. I know, maybe I’m wallowing in self-pity. But allow me that for a few moments. Because while I might publically shrug my shoulders, claim that Dr. B. got his five-years’ chance, that I’m a big girl, capable of moving on (after all, haven’t I had 5 previous therapists before him?), I am, truthfully, without irony, devastated. How do I really feel? Abandoned, rejected, wrecked. I am not, by nature, a trusting person. It took me all of those five years to get at the shameful, distressing history—to allow myself to be vulnerable and needy. Honestly, I’m not sure I have it in me to start the therapeutic process all over again. Better to turn my back on the past, better to bury the pain, better to smile and blithely say, “I’m fine, just FINE.” (Remembering, all the while, Dr. B.’s long ago translation of FINE: Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Evasive.) But really, I’ll be fine. What other possibility is there?