Monday, January 30, 2012

The Three Terrifying Words of Therapy: I NEED YOU

January 30, 2012

I was driving back home on the highway this morning after my appointment with Dr. B., feeling a mixture of relief and vulnerability, and not surprisingly, I wanted to hang a U-turn and spend the rest of the day on his couch talking to him and listening to him and maybe even allowing myself to really cry.  This morning, in a rare moment of suspended control, a few tears managed to eke their way out of the corners of my eyes—genuine sadness began to surface.  But then I squashed it back down. 
Dr. B. brought his new puppy with him to the office, a very well-behaved, very calm Labradoodle, and the puppy was content to snooze beside him in a curly heap.  Dog lover that I am, I was resolved to remain unmoved by this adorable cuddly puppy, would remain invulnerable, would not succumb to such easy tactics.  In fact, I didn’t even reach out to pet its head.  Why?  I mean, I am a Mom to two beloved dogs and I volunteer at the Humane Society for goddsakes.  So why such resistance?  I suppose it has something to do with the squashed tears.

Commandment Eleven: Thou shalt not collapse in puddles of sadness or longing or neediness.  Especially not in front of your therapist.
How insane is that?  Isn’t that exactly who I am supposed to be collapsing in front of?  Isn’t that the point—that Dr. B. is the person I feel safe with (I do), and trust (I do), and so I can let go with all else, but this—why?  Why? Why not?

It’s why it is so hard to tell Dr. B. that I need him.  Desperately need him.  To say it out loud.  Easy to write in an email which I did last week.  The typed interface doesn’t require eye contact.  Can’t reveal vulnerability.  Doesn’t expose all the conflicting emotions running rampant beneath those three little words: I NEED YOU. 
Three easy words to say to the people I love who love me back.  Christopher and the kids.  My close friends.  I need you.  I love you.  I’m fairly confident that when I say those words, the words will be returned in kind.  I love you, too, Kerry.  I need you, too, Kerry.

I’ve had my fair share of therapists and psychiatrists—starting at age sixteen.  All of them, up until now, only got bits and pieces of me, half-truths, evasions, downright lies.  I was always too afraid that they’d judge me as too crazy or too much to take on or that I should be sent away to permanent psychiatric incarceration if they knew all of me, all of what went on in my head, if they saw all the damage I inflicted (besides, most of the time, I believed that was probably where I belonged—locked away from the sane world that I could and would damage). 
I’ve been working with (you might say attached to) Dr. B. now for seven years.  Pretty hard to dodge, manipulate, lie, or artfully conceal anything from him.  Nor do I want to.  I think he knows me pretty much inside and out.  Has seen me at my very worst—and is hoping to see me at my very best. 

But actually telling him that I need him—looking him in the eye and saying those three words?  Panic sets in, chest tightens at the mere contemplation of such a crazy idea.  Any of you who have an important relationship with your therapist might understand.  Needing your therapist is difficult, sets off a complex tangle of emotions: Needing my therapist is terrifying because a) my therapist could end our relationship and then where would I be? Needing without having that person = abandonment; b) “needing” at times feels more like “desperately needing,” hence more than I should feel for someone who I am in an essentially professional relationship with, so am I becoming that crazy, Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction? c) I am doing all the needing; my therapist maintains professional distance; there is no reciprocity—so it feels sickeningly scary to feel this much on one side.
Therein lies the risk with therapy, but, too, the path to repairing my broken mind and heart and soul.  Dr. B. can help guide me out of my terror of trusting and feeling.  He hasn’t cut and run, nor committed me to the State Hospital, nor said I was too much, nor said I was hopeless (unlike a previous therapist and psychiatrist this past summer, who, in a tag-team throwdown, said that they thought I would never recover from my Eating Disorder, thus was beyond help).

This morning, after my few drip-dry tears, I told Dr. B. why it was so frightening for me to tell him that I needed him.  And told him that I needed him.  I think.  Maybe not.  Maybe I just dodged it in my roundabout discussion of my fear of telling him.  So I guess I have to have a go at it again on Thursday.  Maybe my challenge is to tell him at every session.  To normalize my needing him, his help, his hope for me.
Afterwards, when I was leaving, Dr. B (his puppy in his arms—it needed a pee outside), and I walked out of the office together.  I watched them from my car for a few moments as they tramped around in the snow.  Even though Dr. B. has only had the puppy for a few days, it is obvious the puppy is already whole-heartedly, without reservation, devoted to him.  No leash needed.  He scampered by Dr. B.’s feet, doing that joyful puppy leap at his knees with every few steps, unabashedly needing to be right by his side, trusting Dr. B. to lead the way.