I get it.
I really do.
Therapy breaks are shit.
Although we’d like to think our T will always be there, I think most of us can at least come to anticipate some types of breaks like holidays and vacations. I’d also like to think that when you’ve been with your T long enough, you sort of learn their patterns of when they will and won’t be there and can prepare yourself (as best as possible) for upcoming changes. For me, big changes in therapy still often feel quite catastrophic and when something unexpected happens that throws therapy off course, it feels as if the bottom has fallen out of my world.
As I write this now my heart feels heavy.
I received some news last Wednesday and it was one of those times where I felt totally blindsided. It was as though the world was suddenly knocked off of its axis. I could tell something was up with T as soon as I walked in the door. He didn’t ask how I was as I sat down across from him, but just started talking, ‘I know things have been really hard for you lately and I’m sure there’s a lot that we need to talk about but I want to let you know that I need to go on medical leave and I’ll be gone for awhile, but my plan is to get better and come back.‘ He explained that he didn’t expect it to happen until at least July so that meant we would have time to deal with everything that was happening. He also said that he had talked with his colleague and she had agreed to talk with me when he was away if I needed her. I’m sure he said more but I don’t remember all of it.
My first instinct was to get up and leave my appointment. All I could think was that it was hard to breathe and if I could just run away from all that was happening, it wouldn’t feel quite so bad. I was safest as a child when I was alone, so when intense emotions arise, my instinct is to isolate. Things got very quiet and eventually T mentioned that I was very far away. He then asked if we could talk about it but I shook my head no. I’m fairly certain I then spent the rest of the session crying on his couch. My Friday appointment wasn’t much better. There just didn’t seem to be any words to describe what was happening for me. It felt as though I was swimming around in the land of nothingness.
I’ve spent the last week absolutely agonizing over it. Since I knew nothing about what was happening and why he was leaving, my mind went to the worst possible scenarios which meant T ends up dying and I never see him again (I am seriously my own worst enemy). There were no other explanations or endings that even seemed possible to me other than T would never be back. I have been unable to stop myself from imagining the worst and had to force myself to stop reading horror stories about people abruptly losing their therapists.
I have also been feeling extreme anxiousness over the possibility of speaking with T’s colleague with questions constantly cycling through my mind. What is she like? Is she like T? Is she calm and quiet and patient? What does she know about the things that happened? What did T tell her so that she agreed to talk with me? Does she know about them or the nightmares or how it feels too scary sometimes? Will she just sit still and quiet when the world feels too big and loud and scary? Will she get mad because we don’t say enough? Will she think it’s wrong if we tell her we miss T? Are we allowed to cry? Does she know what T knows—that all of these things try to steal life, piece by piece? Smiles. Happiness. The ability to be present. These felt like such urgent things to get through before T went away.
By Tuesday, after many snot-filled hours of feeling impending doom, I thought we had hidden in our cave long enough that it was time to poke our head out and tell T what has going on. I wrote a letter and T and I talked a bit about it at my appointment yesterday. T said he’d like to tell me exactly what was happening because he felt that would make things less scary. I said I wasn’t ready. I don’t know why. I think a part of me felt that it wasn’t my business to know. Another part of me just couldn’t deal with whatever it was…big or small. He said he would tell me whenever I was ready. All I had to do was tell him.
Last night I got to thinking and figured that maybe T was right about it feeling less scary if I knew what was happening. So, this morning I decided I was feeling brave and started to write an email telling T I was ready for him to tell me. I was also going to tell him that if he was going to tell me he was dying, he could keep that information to himself. I was going to say that maybe it would be easier if he told me via email or over the phone. In my mind I thought that might be more manageable because then at least if I had a total meltdown he wouldn’t have to see it.
But before we could send it everything changed.
My work phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but I picked it up anyways. It was T. He sounded awful, like he had a hard time breathing or something. He told me he has to go off work right now. He might be back before July he said, but I don’t think he really meant it. He told me to remember that I could call his colleague, that she’s really nice, she knows that it’s hard for me when he is away and that she knows what’s happening with him (I don’t know if that means she’ll tell me what’s happening with him though). He did say he would try to answer messages if I wanted to text him over the next week or so, but I’m not sure. I just listened and didn’t say much. I didn’t cry until I hung up the phone and immediately wanted to text T ‘are you dying?‘ but refrained. He’s probably not feeling well enough to deal with any bullshit at the moment.
We feel lost.
Afraid. Fear is a tricky thing. We don’t know if the fear is real or if I’m just confusing it with something else. This is the sort of thing T helps us figure out but he can’t at the moment. And now we feel devastated again.
We don’t know how T became so important. We should not have been so broken inside that we needed to depend on him. It doesn’t matter where he is or for how long. All that matters is that he is gone…..until….well….whenever. There is nothing he can do about it, but that doesn’t stop it hurting.
Everything comes down to the bitter unfairness of the way life can be sometimes. Having to somehow keep moving on, and on, and on when you just don’t know if you can anymore. Sometimes it would be nice if we could turn back the clock and go back to the time before this, so that we wouldn’t even need T to begin with.