I’m still in the middle of recovering from my knee surgery, which has gone much slower and has been much more painful than I expected. I ended up needing 2 weeks off of work – I just came back this week. I’m back in physical therapy again, which is very painful, however I am realizing that I seem to handle pain better than I realize. During that time, I also cancelled my appointment with new T. I cancelled because I truly could not make it..I was not in any shape to be up and about for the day we’d scheduled.
I’d left her a message saying that I needed to cancel the appointment because my recovery was taking longer than I thought and that I’d call when I was able to come again. When I did this, I was very well aware that I had the perfect out – to just never call her again, never come back, never go any deeper.
The entire three weeks since my previous session I thought a lot about not calling her back, but I also didn’t entirely decide not to go back, mainly because I’d given her my word that I would not just quit without talking about it with her. She asked me for my word that I’d talk about it with her prior to quitting, since I had told her that I’d ended very abruptly with old T.
She called me on Monday, more than a week after I’d left the message, to say that she got my message and apologize for not calling earlier. She said she hoped I was recovering well and that she wanted me to know that she was thinking about me. Given that it was so long since I called her, I was not only surprised that she called, but I was surprised that she cared enough to call. I don’t entirely trust and believe everything she said, since it seems counter intuitive (to me) that she’d waste her time thinking about me when she barely knows me.
She hadn’t asked for a call back and seemed surprised when I called her back nearly an hour later and asked to schedule an appointment.
I went in yesterday and rattled off some of how the past few weeks have been. I was embarrassingly sweaty, because I was not only a bit anxious, but the pain medication I’ve been on makes me unreasonably hot. We got to a point in the session where she asked if I had anything specific I wanted to talk about, so I dove in and told her that I was VERY tempted to never call her again but that I had told her I wouldn’t do that, so I didn’t.
She smiled and thanked me for telling her. She also thanked me for giving her another chance and for allowing us to talk about it, and for being brave enough to bring it up. I told her that it seemed like I didn’t want to come back because there was a part of me that just wanted to numb out and not delve into anything deep and not be vulnerable.
She asked me to pay attention to my breathing and what sort of feelings, sensations, etc., I was having when I was talking to her about coming back and being vulnerable. I told her that there was this sensation that a part of me was scurrying around, trying to find a place to hide. She asked, if that part had a voice, what would it say? I sat for a minute and told her that I didn’t know if I was comfortable sharing, so I wrote it down and held onto it. She then asked me to stay aware of my present self but to also go back in time and think of the very earliest time I could remember feeling that way.
This became quite hard for me. I haven’t even begun to tell her all of what happened in the past, so I did not feel comfortable explaining to her the first thing that popped into my head, which is something that involved my father. So, I told her the second thing that popped into my head, which was from kindergarten. A very benign memory that I could handle her knowing.
She asked me to try putting my hands on my chest as a sort of hug to that little girl in kindergarten, like wrapping her in a warm, safe blanket. When I first started, I felt very silly, but it didn’t take long before I started to feel quite emotional. I didn’t say anything, and I’m not sure I even expressed much in my face or body language, but she picked up on this. I couldn’t tell her why it was so emotional for me, though. I couldn’t tell her that it was because the little girl I was hugging felt so dirty and unsafe and wrong. So I just said that she wasn’t used to that.
I was shocked at the depth of emotion I felt, just by putting my hands on my chest and visualizing hugging that little girl. When new T started to talk about rocking her, stroking her hair, talking to her, it became too much. I nearly started to cry, but new T picked up on this and asked if that was too much, which it was, so she told me to just visualize having her sitting in my lap, which I was okay with.
We sort of gradually transitioned out of this. She asked if I noticed how much deeper my breathing had gotten. I felt a release in my chest and a sense of relaxation that I’m not used to. She told me that it’s hypervigilance that keeps my breathing so shallow all the time, although I told her that I didn’t think I did that because it seemed like I’d be aware of it. She just said that I may have done it for so long that it’s become a new normal and that I’ve become habituated to it. She asked if I could describe how the little girl was feeling after the exercise, and, shockingly both to me and to her (maybe not shocking, but she seemed pleasantly surprised), I said that she felt an okay with being open and vulnerable because she had a sense of safety. She seemed so happy at this and said that all she wants is for her to feel safe and cared for here. I’m not sure why but it was both a warm comment to hear, but also disconcerting, maybe even slightly triggering, just because I don’t know her well enough to believe her.
Throughout the session, she kept talking about, “…if you decide to come back…”. I told her at the end that I was glad I came, which was the truth. I appreciated her openness and willingness to let me stop if I wanted to. We scheduled a session for next week, and as I walked out the door, I handed her the piece of paper that held what the little girl is afraid of. It said, “I’m afraid you’ll hurt me.” Truer words have never been spoken.