A Debate About My Future

What determines my worth? Who determines whether I will make a good therapist or not? Because I’ve been through trauma, will that hinder my ability to be partial when providing care for a patient? I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions. Going back to school to study counseling is a major undertaking and not for the faint of heart. It has been a dream of mine to become a therapist for many years. My brother asked me the hard questions. This is what brothers are for. If I don’t have energy to study because of depression, and I am only just barely passing my classes, is that what I want to be for a therapist? A just-good-enough therapist? No, I want to be the best therapist that I can be. But I have limitations. I spend entire weekends just coddled up in bed. I don’t do anything. I just wait for the time to pass. I don’t spend my time studying. Of course, I’m not in school yet, but when I am? Do I want to be a just good enough therapist? Is that all I am destined to achieve?

I’m looking for a new job right now. A new job that will pay the bills, since my current job does not pay the bills and I am left scrambling to use my savings. It’s disheartening to say the least. And my lovely brother, the truth sayer in all of this, tells me that if I leave a new job after a year to pursue school, that I’ll be burning bridges. It’s very possible. That I would be burning a bridge if my new employer invests training into me and then sees me leave after a year.

I don’t know what my future is going to look like. I have anxiety just thinking about it. I mean, come on. If I can’t even bring myself to shower more than once or twice a week, due to depression, do you really think I am capable of showing up for a client, week after week, helping them to not end their life? I mean, you’d think I’d be capable of at least that. But of course I don’t want to be “just good enough.” I want to be the best that I can be. Help! Training is expensive. It doesn’t stop at grad school. There are so many hurdles to overcome. I need someone rich to adopt me so that my struggles for money don’t have to be so pervasive. I have friends whose education has been paid for them. They are the lucky ones, whereas I’ll be going into tremendous amounts of debt. But I have to take my situation into perspective. I can’t wish for something that I can’t have. That which I can’t have is financial security. How do people make ends meet? It’s a mystery to me.

There are days I just want to stay in bed and just not show up to life. I feel as if I could spend a year sleeping, just sleeping for 365 days straight and doing nothing else and that still wouldn’t solve my problems. My problem is that my past trauma prevents me from enjoying my life. There are days I just want to be, yes, I’ll say it, dead. There are days I don’t want to exist. There are hard days. There are not-so-hard days. I really, honestly, don’t know what to do with my life right now. I’ve been going through a series of job interviews, week after week, but is that really the answer? Should I just keep my current dead-end job for now because it has good health insurance, keep using my savings, and apply to grad school? I don’t know what the future holds. I know what I want and all I can do right now is to fight for that which I want.

My Life Status and the School Debate

Life is really good right now. I’m not sleeping away my weekends. Having a job has gotten easier, after having been unemployed for six months last year. I’m not suicidal and when those thoughts come up I am able to tolerate them and know that they eventually will go away. I know I haven’t done as much writing in this blog at all really, but I have been writing poetry and for me, poetry is Life.

I’m really torn at whether or not to go back to school in the Fall of 2022. Which would mean I would be applying this Fall, a year ahead of time. My aunt and my mom and several other people who are important to me do not think that going back to school would be a good idea. The main reason being, the topic and subject material. I want to go into clinical counseling and then become a therapist. I would be going for the track of Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, or LPCC. It’s something I’ve had my heart on for a very long time. But the main reason I want to become a therapist? It’s because I love my therapist. I love my therapist of 12 years. It’s possibly been 13 years that I’ve been working with him now. I love him so much. He’s been like a father figure to me. The father figure I never had. The friend I never had. The person who sticks by my side and never leaves me. And I want to be just like him.

My aunt, whom I love very much, says I am not my therapist. I am my own person. I would have to go back to school for the right reasons. Not because I want to be like my therapist but because… well, for my own reasons. I can’t think of any just that I want to help people. There is a lot to be said for that reason alone. Helping people is a passion of mine and I want to do it professionally. My aunt says that I don’t know what a healthy relationship between a couple looks like. Well, that’s true. I had a shitty run of a six year marriage which turned out to be an abusive relationship. I haven’t been in a relationship since and it’s been, how long? Nine years. Next year will have been the decade mark since I left my abuser. He’s in another relationship now, married again, and this time with a child. I shudder to think of the abuse that might be occurring. But it’s not my problem anymore. I got away, alive, with my life and I’ve managed, after all of the psychological trauma I endured, to not die from suicide attempts. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve attempted suicide. I just have managed to not die from the attempts. No need for any details there.

So the dilemma. What are the reasons I want to go back to school to become a professional helper, a therapist? Well, I have this burning desire to do something meaningful with my life. I hate my current job, absolutely hate it. I’m an administrative assistant at a company, so I do administrative work, and it is not fulfilling whatsoever, and it pays shit too. I don’t get paid much, barely enough to cover my bills. Oh, another consideration of going back to school would be the debt I would incur. It would be about $80,000. Kind of like having a mortgage, it’s a commitment. I don’t think having school debt is such a bad thing and I’m not worried about it. What I worry about, what my family worries about, is the emotional toll the subject material would take on me. A lot of the psychology material can be triggering for me, given my past history of trauma. I don’t know. I’m in a conundrum. I will have to sit with this discomfort of the not knowing what to do, and ponder. Really think hard about what I want to do with my life.

Here’s the other thing. I want to have a child. I may not end up having a child but I would like to have one. I would be starting school at the age of 38 and not finishing until I am 40 or 41. That’s pretty late in life to think about having a child. So that’s another consideration I really have to think about. I have a bit of time left in my child-bearing years and technology and IVF can help along the way. I just don’t know, don’t know what to do right now and will have to give everything some more thought. Talk to people. Get more opinions.

First Day Back in the Intensive Care Unit

I feel like shit. I didn’t eat breakfast and I’m hungry. I ate a whole think of bran flakes. Now I feel better. Group is about to start. I went to group for ten minutes and then walked away. I put a phone chord around my neck. They took me into a back room and said I need to make better choices. By the time I got back to group it was over. My back and neck and head and arm are in the hot sun. Another patient is asking if everybody is going to kill or poison her.

Afternoon, shift change. My one-on-one has been very nice to me. A few times earlier today she had to take the telephone chord away from me because I was wrapping it around my neck. Here is an imaginary conversation:

Dr.: Why do you do those things?

Me: I don’t know. I want to hurt myself.

Dr.: Yes, but why?

Me: I don’t know.

Dr. Are you looking for attention?

Me: Maybe.

The truth is that I do want attention. I also want to hurt myself. I want all of the attention I can get when I want it. If I have a need which needs to be communicated I am most likely, at this time, to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Maybe I just needed attention earlier. Maybe I needed to be verbally reassured that I am safe and the primal emotional id part of me took over before my ego could stop it. In many ways too, misbehaviour is a choice. I have a choice to engage in unhealthy behaviours, ones which harm me. What do I gain from it? Love and attention? Or at least the latter, minus the first.

When I was a child I learned that love included anger and the only way to get physical affection was to act out, even if the attention was negative and the physicality punitive. So why is this behaviour showing up again 25 years later? I’ve felt like I have been punished so much in my life by the bad things which have happened to me and so I have to continue this cycle of abuse and punish and hurt myself. Don’t I deserve better than that?

From one perspective, acting out on my impulses, testing boundaries, and finding out the consequences within the boundaries of a controlled hospital environment is safe. Out in the real world if I were to exhibit any of these behaviours I could lose friends, lose my job, or lose my life. Then who would take care of Samuel?

This realization elicited a long and forced sigh followed by putting my head in my hands and bowing forward. It causes me to feel much more deeply depressed. The consequences of my actions is that I am coming to some realizations which are sobering, as I apply and integrate my emotional growth with my mental intellect. These are things I don’t care to intentionally look at because the realization of the truth hurts like a punch to the stomach and reverberates for some time. There is a part of me which would prefer to continue to act out on my emotional impulses and behaviours without reigning in my cognitive functions.

I regress, literally. I received a phone call from my mother. Talking with my mother often causes frustration, especially lately. I don’t know how to express the anger in a healthy manner. It’s not something that she says, necessarily. It’s just her. She agitates me and I am realizing I don’t want to talk with her. I almost wrote that I “don’t want to talk with me.” Maybe she reminds me of myself. I doubt it. It’s more about the relational pattern we have established which has been developing since birth. And to tell you the truth I don’t have any bandwidth to deal with other people’s problems. So at the end of the call I was kicking the wall. Then I went to sit on my bed, hugged a pillow, and took deep breaths. I had to lay down for a while before I could continue to write. Writing is helping me processing. I’ve been up since 6:00 AM and I don’t like getting up that early. My hour-long nap before shift change helped.

A Reflection

To my Therapist,

I have been needing to write you a proper email since yesterday. I could have written to you several pages worth of material. The last two days have been very trying. Full of things to think about. Lots has happened. I won’t even know where to start in therapy tomorrow.
You know it’s strange not feeling suicidal when I get overwhelmed now, these days. I think about how I used to obsess about the idea of jumping off the overpass over the freeway by my house, or even longer ago, about jumping off of the big bridge near downtown. I think about having really wanted to take an overdose in the past and being really convicted that it was the right thing to do.
Now I don’t think of dying or wanting to end my life. I came very close to telling my program director about my history of sexual abuse and trauma. I told her some other things that maybe I shouldn’t have said. I even volunteered to tell her about my fertility treatments, because she is a mom and a therapist and I thought she would understand. Did I want empathy? No. I just wanted to share something very personal with her because she had participated in the expressive arts team building exercises and I felt closer to her. But maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I did.
I have to talk with you about what to do with my volunteer job and whether to quit. I need help in thinking this through. I would also like to cry and have some healing tears with you because I feel like I have a lot to cry about, but who knows if I will even cry at all in the next couple days. I almost cried twice today at university. One was when the mentors were talking about finances and funding the education because I feel like I failed since I got denied the second loan. If I had gotten it each year I could have stayed on the three year graduation track. But wasn’t it me who said to myself just the other week that I have a lot of personal growth to do and if I can spend an extra year in personal therapy working through my own issues then I will be doing my future clients a favour and that I won’t have so much countertransference?
I just need tomorrow to come so that I can sit with you in therapy. We only have one hour. Let’s see what we can accomplish in one hour, 50 minutes. It’s never enough time yet it’s exhausting and more than that in a day wouldn’t be good for my health.
I just want the end of tonight to come so I can finally go to bed and just let go of everything I am holding on to and just dissolve into the night. Can you help me to disappear for just a little while from my busy, complex, over committed and over involved life, just for a bit? I was really hoping we could do more therapy soon again but I remembered my Mum is coming to town on Monday. I still want to try to get her to meet you next week on Saturday if you are available, just like we tried to do last time that first week of December. Does she really live to where she moved? Has it only been nine months since she was last here, in my home, in this city? Does she really still deliver food for a living and how can she even tolerate her life with that awful husband who is less than even a roommate in terms of their interpersonal connection to each other?
I have to stop now. See you very soon.

In Learning About Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

First week of grad school, done! I did it. I made it. I am here. One of my classes is Theories of Psychotherapy and Counseling. Chapter 3 is about psychodynamic psychotherapy. At the end of our first class, after we had gone over the first two chapters, the professor asked who would like to do the role play for psychodynamic psychotherapy (yes, it is a mouth full to say). My hand shot up. I was the very first person to volunteer. You see, I have an inkling that part of the type of therapy I have been in for the last nine years is just that, based on that theory.

I met with my therapist today to get help on my assignment and do some role play practice. It was very helpful. You see, I read the entire chapter, which took me about 4.25 hours over two days, and if I had to recite or recall anything from the chapter, well, I don’t think I would do so well.

Here is the scenario that we came up with. I am the therapist and my client is AM (Adult Male). AM is married to a woman who works in the theater industry and is always gone at night doing plays. AM works in the banking industry at a 9 – 5 job and when he comes home at night the house is always empty and he feels lonely. In addition to that his wife recently made them get a dog and she is never home to take care of the dog so he is always walking the dog. AM is not sure if he wants to stay in this marriage. I tell him I can imagine that this must be very difficult for him.

I ask him if there was ever another time where he has felt like this before. He reflects and tells me that when he was a kid his mom and dad worked very hard at their careers and he knew they loved him but that he was self-sufficient and a lot of the time he took care of himself. He says again that his parents loved him very much but looks down and to the side while saying it. As a therapist I notice this nonverbal gesture and realize that what was said may not be accurate as per AM’s perception, but this is his defense mechanism by defending his parents.

I tell him, “I notice you looked down when you said that and shifted your position. Tell me about what is happening on the inside for you.” He says, “I don’t know, I guess this topic makes me uncomfortable.” I say, “what is it like sitting with this discomfort?” “It doesn’t feel good,” he replies. “No, I bet it doesn’t.”

Shift of topic. I ask him what the experience was like when he was left alone and he says it was fine, really. I point out that just as AM’s parents were often gone, his wife is often gone and what does he think about that? I don’t know, he replies. “I think there might be a connection there, that maybe it is no coincidence that you chose to marry a person who is very involved with and focused on her career, just like with your parents.” It’s just something to notice, maybe a pattern.

This scenario happens during the working phase of treatment, not the initial phase. The scene with my scene partner only needs to be 10 – 20 minutes long. We can record it on video ahead of time, which is what I will be doing, or we could present the scene live in class. Either way the professor is going to help us to interpret the style of therapy, point out elements of the theory which were applied noticing interventions used.

I used empathy in the beginning when I said this must be hard for him. I guess what the intervention would be at the end is providing some insight as to the connection between the past and the present. I just added in the paragraph of how the therapist focuses on the here and now moment and his reaction to telling me about his past, insisting that his parents loved him even though he may have felt abandoned or neglected by them.

For each case, I am to come up with a case conceptualization and then a treatment plan. The treatment plan goes over the goals for the initial, working, and closing phases of treatment. For each goal listed there needs to be a set of interventions which I am going to use. Just the term itself, “intervention” is new to me and although by definition I know what it means, to intervene in a way which provides a positive outcome, I barely know what the interventions are. I know that using empathy might be a type of intervention but I don’t know what else is. I will have to refer back to the textbook.

Love letter to my dear friend

To my dear friend,

I am not going to ask you to write a love letter to yourself. I’m just not going to do that. What I am going to do and what I can do is to write a love letter to you from me. I am going to speak words of wisdom and courage into you. I am going to lift you up out of your anxiety. Why? Not because I care. That’s obvious. It’s because you deserve it. You fight so hard every day and your strength, the strength that you may not always have the perspective to see, is awe-inspiring. If there were to be any woman I would want as a role model, that would be you. Because guess what, we are not perfect. No one is. And sometimes we fuck up. But when justice comes into play, you don’t have to cognitively admit to yourself that you are right. You know it in your heart and your body knows it for you. That’s why somatic issues creep up and tears emerge and restless nights occur.
But you are not alone. If there’s one thing you take away from this letter, it is that you are not alone. It’s not that you’re amazing, and that the value that you bring to this world and my high opinions of your morality come into play. It’s that you are simply you. You deserve everything. You deserve justice. You deserve to have other people fight for you and to support you when you become weary and want to give up. You deserve to know that what you are going to do in trial is absolutely the right thing to do.
This isn’t just for you, you know. I know you want justice to be served, as much as a detriment this would be to the recipient of the consequences and possibly the short-term public opinion of you in the field. Notice that I said, short-term, because in the end, justice always prevails. The law and binding ethical standards exist for a reason. It is to protect the consumer from getting taken advantage of. Because in a therapist-patient relationship, who really has the power? It’s the person who is acting upon their professional license, the person getting paid for their service. The mere fact that you were paying for a service, for this woman to be your couples counselor, gives her a huge responsibility and those people who hold responsibility in their hands have power. She had jurisdiction over her ethical obligations to you as a couple and to not take sides and to not breach confidentiality. She made an active choice and an active decision to choose one party over the other and not just that, but to write a damaging letter which had detrimental consequences.
What were those consequences? I wasn’t the one living that life and going through the motions and trials and tribulations and heartache and shame and disappointment that you went through, but I can imagine the consequences you had to endure. Any compassionate, rational human being would realize that this letter had damaging consequences, but you are the only voice you have for yourself and no one other than you can say it on stand under oath. You are all you’ve got when it comes down to it. How do you want to look back upon this time in your life when judgement day comes around? Do you want to feel confident and relieved that you did everything in your power to ensure that this woman did not do damage to any of her other patients?
People don’t lie once. Because if they’ve done it once, and with such ease, the chances are they’ve done it before and they will do it again. Why would they choose to speak anything but the truth? That’s not for you to know and it is not for you to judge them. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. Of course it will. This event was the catalyst of a storm of events which occurred which then culminated into a tsunami. It could have killed you but it didn’t because you are resilient and strong and you fought for what you believed in, part of that which was believing in yourself as a mom and fighting for the custody of your child. If you didn’t fight, could you have lost your child, thus causing extra damage and trauma in his life due to your absence? Absolutely, but that didn’t happen.
What did happen is that your son suffered the consequences of an unfortunate series of events which weren’t his fault but which he probably grappled with in blaming himself for, which all children do. They blame themselves. The ripple effects of this one breach of confidentiality and smearing of your reputation reached far and did not stop for years because of the PTSD which you endured. No one should have to go through what you have been through and I want you to stand up for what is right and know that when you are on the stand at trial, you are representing all women whose voices go unheard and who get taken advantage of by “the system.”
Do this for your fellow women, and sisters all over the world who are moms. Do this for me. Do this for you. Do it for your mental health and for your future. Do it for the people who’s lives this woman will damage if you don’t tell your story. Do this for your son and for the pain you endured and the sleepless nights it created, the anxiety, the fear, the trauma you experienced. Nothing can make right what happened to you because of that letter, but knowing that you can finally do something about it, even all of these years later, can be somewhat of a consolation. And a confidence-booster. Knowing that the nights you spent feeling that the whole world was against you were not in vain and were not right. No one should be made to suffer so much. You can’t take back the suffering, but you can take back your life. You can take ownership of your past and rewrite your story. Write your story in a way that you would want to be remembered for the rest of your life. Let justice take its course. All you have to do is tell your story. Nothing else. The judge, the general attorney, balance of good and evil, and fate will take care of the rest. And God is behind you lifting you up because you are his child and were made in the image of him.
Lord, anything that is evil, I cast and bind it away to the foot of the cross, Amen. May my dear friend be protected by your ever-lasting love and be infused with the peace that passes all understanding. Please let the strength and the courage which are already within her shine through and give her a sense of knowing that standing up in trial and telling her story is the right thing to do. Please give her the wisdom to choose her words carefully and not let anxiety get the best of her. Please let her rest and prepare for this important occasion you have granted her and challenged her with. And please bless her for being just who she is, because who she is, is just enough.

Letter to an Unprofessional Psychologist

To the Psychologist,
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me to go over the MMPI-2 results. It was an informative session and I appreciated your willingness to do it. I hope that everything we discussed in our session will remain confidential, as we did not discuss confidentiality and limits thereof.
Although I did not feel comfortable telling you this at the time, I was indeed shocked at the price you presented to me as we had not discussed this prior to the session. As a student attending graduate school whilst working full-time on an average salary, I may have declined the session had we had this discussion prior to going through with the it. I was under the false belief that I might have only been paying for the cost of the test because when we spoke at the end of the case conference, you had stated, “I’ll just do it.” I had not received the e-mail you stated that you sent to me and it would have been good to have touched base before our appointment.
Please feel welcome to contact me at any time.
With warm regards,