Added note: I’m sure this won’t all make sense, I just had to let the teen part of me talk even though it feels terrible and rude and annoying.
To my therapist.
I must be a challenging client.
I know that I am. I know that I am asking for the most difficult kind of therapy there is. I am asking the world from you and you are trying so hard to give it to me.
But I know that doing therapy with me is challenging. I am difficult. Not because I’m not opening up or I’m volatile or even confusing (though sometimes I’m sure that’s part of my difficulty). I am the opposite of that. I have felt intense safety with you, and I am so sure of your care and love for me that I have opened up as many dark corners that I can reach. I have peeled back as many layers of the onion as is humanly possible, I have given you honest and authentic access to my whole self in whatever condition it arrives in, whenever possible.
I am both the dream and nightmare client. Because as much as I give, I expect to take. And I know that I take a lot. My process is long and slow. I take up six hours of your face-to-face time almost every single week. And then I steal minutes throughout the day, every single day, through other routes of communication. And then, there’s the time you spend on me that I can’t even add up trying to simply be paid for all of this hard work, because my insurance is a nightmare. Add in notes and any emails or phone calls to other team members, and it would seem as though I am single-handedly a full-time job.
The teenager part of me doesn’t quite understand all of this. But you already know this. You already know how (internal family systems) parts work and how inner children show up in therapy. You know my parts fairly well.
Except you don’t really know the teenager because she refuses to show up save for the occasional participation in light-hearted banter or to shutdown and protect other parts. It’s as if you get to see her silhouette but no real substance.
The rest of me is begging me to not write what my teenager thinks or has to say or feels. So this is hard. But I’m not backing down from an assignment: I am going to push through the fear because today has been rougher than I feel it needs to be and the major reason is teenage emotions.
Fuck therapy. Fuck skills. ARE THEY EVEN WORKING? Do they ever even really work? Or do we just convince ourselves that that they work just enough to say out loud that skills helped so everyone can feel good about progress?
Know what I needed today? I needed you to use your skills so little-me could scan the room and see that everyone is fine and that she can be not fine.
But how can you use skills if they don’t work? That’s right, you can’t. That’s why when I breathe deeply I feel anxious instead of calm. It’s why when I throw things to release anger it merely feels good for a second, but doesn’t help anything in the long run. It’s why when I write I feel depressed or worried or anxious after, and when I run sometimes I can’t breath.
When I am in distress, most skills don’t work. I have been open and willing and tried dozens and dozens, over and over.
What does work is human connection. But not just any human. You are at the top of a minuscule list of humans that are capable of providing coregulation. It’s because I need now, and needed my whole life, the coregulation you get from a mother. I, even as a teenager, am capable of grasping this concept and believe it wholeheartedly.
I can’t understand why you’re not available, like a mother, in stressful times. I become resentful and angry when I know what I need and cannot even reach out to get a hug because I know it’s not a good time. Sometimes I think I just need a caring human to love all parts of me, not a counselor. But it would be practically impossible to find a human to adequately and intelligently meet those needs since the complexity of which I am is astoundingly terrible and broken and complicated.
I especially could not comprehend why in session I was feeling the way I do out of session when I cannot get to safety. Get to a hug. Get to physical connection and coregulation. Panic is residing and building right now and I am beyond irritated as well as heartbroken, that I am pushing it down and making it worse for myself. If skills worked, I’d be using them right now. Because I feel absolutely awful. I want to fall asleep and never wake up because it’s that overwhelming. I am angry that I felt unheard today. I am mad I showed up willing to let little-me out, but wasn’t shown the space to. I’m upset (teenager-me) I’m swallowing up the little energy I have to gate-keep my roaring emotions.
I wanted the fuck it bracelet to be your opening to actually say fuck it! And jump in with me. All in, like I so often do. Maybe I am giving myself too much credit. But I wanted to have hope that skills can work, and you can overcome fear, and we are doing it together. But that didn’t happen, and it just all seems like a load of hypocrisy I find hugely frustrating.
I love the way we do therapy. I feel safer because you show you are human, and because you let me into your authentic self. Maybe today I wasn’t good at making it clear I needed you to prompt me a bit more or dig or push a bit more so I could get what I needed out. It’s hard to write this because I don’t really want anything to change. I just know, for me, it didn’t feel good to hold on to big emotions that wanted to escape so badly but couldn’t find a way out. And it just didn’t feel like it was totally my fault or even responsibility to create that opening.
I feel abandoned and fearful I won’t find that space in time before it turns into depression I can’t come back from. Just like when I was little, and nobody paid attention, because, after all, I’d be fine.