Enough Already

I have encountered surprising difficulties in enforcing the decision I took a few weeks ago to stop going to therapy. Not difficulties for me – I am ever more convinced that it is the right thing to do. No, it’s my therapist who seems inexplicably determined to hang on to me. I’ve been going for almost five years now (I can’t believe it either; where does the time go?) so I can hardly be said to be running away, and I feel the strongest and sanest I’ve ever been. But today I will be going for the fourth attempt to discuss leaving with my therapist. I feel he’s trying to break me down by a process of attrition, that if he is stubborn enough for long enough, he’ll get me to change my mind. He is reminding me of Mister Litlove, who believes that if he makes a suggestion to me repeatedly, I will at some point miraculously forget I’ve turned him down ten times already. It’s sort of funny, and then again it’s actually beginning to annoy me a lot.

Does my therapist really have so little faith in me? What does he think will happen if I stop going? I pointed out that I was in now in good mental and physical health. ‘Oh you shouldn’t think that you can only come here when you’re not in good mental health,’ he argued. Eh? So, what would we be working on, I wanted to know? Well ‘other things’ may come up. The problem here is that my therapist refuses to show any sort of personality, any hint or indication of his real feelings in order to act purely as a mirror to me. This puts him in a real bind, as I’m finding it impossible to understand why I need to keep coming, when he refuses to call it in case it influences me. It’s very hard to have a debate with someone who wants to pretend he’s not actually in the room.

I’ve been irritated by the artificiality of this in the past, and I went through a little phase of finding it fun to disconcert him by pointing out all the things I knew about him through little clues I’d picked up. I’m not exactly unobservant. But he refuses to agree to my leaving. The last time I saw him, he ended up saying he thought there was ‘something big’ perhaps on the horizon, and I was unconsciously running away from it. And it struck me that this was a classic suggestion from him; he always wants me to wallow (to my mind) in any bad feelings I manage to dredge up and I think I simply haven’t emoted enough to satisfy him. I’m not a big public emoter; I’m very private that way and choose always to work only in words. I think the point is that I need to be in touch with my own feelings, but whether I display them to others or not is my decision. As I say, this whole situation is making me very annoyed.

And alas, this year, my experience has been one of falling out of faith with therapy. I have always been an ardent supporter of it, and credit where it’s due, it has helped me tremendously in the past. But those of you who read here regularly will recall the problems with anxiety I suffered in the early spring. Looking back, I felt they were exacerbated by therapy. My therapist was convinced this was something I needed to work through, whereas I am equally convinced that it was something that needed to be boundaried and brought under control. Those of you who commented here that anxiety feeds on itself in biological ways and can be soothed by breaking the cycle with medication were absolutely spot on. I took the very small dose of anti-anxiety medicine the doctor gave me, and have felt increasingly better since that time. I’ve also benefited enormously from reiki, and from the sage counsel of my reiki practitioner. I still recall with some delight her saying to me: ‘Oh Litlove, on and on about whether you are a good enough person or not! You’re a person, so you do good things and bad things, get over it!’ There’s six months of therapy right there, and it made me laugh. My reiki practitioner booted me out long ago as too healthy to work with.

If there is anything (obvious) I need to work on still, it’s ordinary self confidence. All chronic illnesses leave you lacking in confidence to do the everyday things, and chronic fatigue is designed to undermine your sense of having a dependable body. I think I can do much better now by letting life teach me, by gradually building up on seeing people again, working, going out. I want to take my time and be gentle with myself, but practice and familiarity is all it needs. I think therapy is working against this desire now, with its implicit insistence that I’m still a project, still a problem. I’m grateful to my therapist for having taught me all kinds of things about myself, for helping me accept my feelings and trust my instincts. It seems bizarre if I am now not allowed to act on them. I guess the therapist’s point of view only goes so far; the day comes when I just don’t get in the car and drive over. But I hate ending things on a bad note, and would so much rather seek consensus. Mister Litlove thinks this is the last thing I have to learn – to follow my own desires even when the people around me disagree (and let’s see how well that stands up in court when he’s the one I disagree with!). He may well be right, but like all emotional growth, it feels horribly uncomfortable, and I wish I didn’t have to do it. Wish me luck this afternoon.


32 thoughts on “Enough Already

  1. This is an excellent post! I don’t think you should see your therapist to discuss no longer seeing your therapist. If he hasn’t accepted your decision, I would just make no more appointments. Hell, seems to me you’ve processed things just fine.

  2. I agree with wordsfallfrommyeyes – were I a more cynical person, I might be inclined to suggest that he is prolonging the treatment for his financial gain! So glad to hear that you are feeling stronger and better.

  3. Good luck Litlove! And I also think you should just refuse to schedule any more appointments. 😉

    (Chronic illnesses are so evil for confidence aren’t they?! For some reason, in the last couple of months I’ve suddenly felt much more at peace/confident in myself, in a way I haven’t felt since my fibro got super bad. I’m not sure what caused the change, but I’m hoping it lasts! It’s so much easier to not be constantly worrying over myself, treating myself as a project as you say.)

  4. I took a six month introductory course in counselling a few years ago (I know the basics, but not that much, take all this comment with salt) and the standard advice is for the counsellor to keep all their feelings inside for fear of telegraphing judgement to the person receiving counselling and preventing them from sharing the truth they need to get out. Now that makes sense to me and I tried hard to work on that when we practised, but it wouldn’t work if I were receiving counselling at all. I need people to reply with related experience so I don’t continue thinking I’m the oddest person in the world, which for very good reasons (risk of dominating and turning focus, privacy issues) is forbidden. And as this post kind of proves the inability to explain their reasoning can cut someone off from their therapist and doesn’t necessarily stop the person receiving treatment from feeling they’re being judged as ‘wrong’ in some way.

    All that to say good luck cutting your therapist off. You really are best placed to know if therapy is providing any benefit to you as long as you can be very honest with yourself (and you’ve no problem with that). Remember there’s always the chance they have their own reasons for wanting to hang on to you (not creepy ones, but still issues of self-interest). You have to be uber well adjusted to be a therapist and even then you need to actively work on stuff all the time with the help of other practitioners. So maybe once you leave they’ll have space to work on just why they were so invested in you staying, despite your clear insistance that you go. Pressure of that kind sounds unusual to me…

  5. Good luck, LL! I think four sessions of talking about ending it is probably enough. And this is after five years and you are in a good space. One option might be to stretch it out to once every fortnight and so on but that sounds unnecessary in this case. You can always come back if you change your mind!

    I would also find it slightly annoying that your therapist tries to keep himself anonymous in the therapy. I much prefer the idea of the therapist bringing him or herself into the room in a way which is helpful for the client. Last week I heard a talk in which the speaker made the excellent point that the same client can have very different therapies with different therapists. Even the problem that gets identified is different. So if your therapist is able to reflect on his own separation issues and how that affects the therapy then it could be an interesting discussion. If not then you’re stuck in arguing about whose issue it really is.

  6. This type of thing is exactly why, when I stopped therapy, I prefaced my talk with my therapist with: “This is my last session. I respect and am deeply grateful for the work we’ve done, but for now, I’m done.” One thing that baffles me about your therapist is the implied sense that if you go, you can’t come back. So what if something big comes up in the future? Will he be unwilling to work with you again? It’s kind of a weird “threat” to make.

  7. I’ve only recently discovered your blog, so I don’t know your history, but here are a few things I learned from my own experience.

    1. Your mind really DOES try to run away from the tough bits of therapy. Sort of the way depression convinces you that you’re NOT sad, but that everything REALLY DOES SUCK, or that schizophrenia convinces the sufferer that the meds are part of the problem. That’s the mental illness protecting itself. This is pretty well documented in mental health literature, so he’s not necessarily making it up.

    2. However, it is completely and totally your right to end therapy at any point that you choose, regardless of the reasons, unless you are an imminent danger to yourself and/or others. One of the things therapists help teach is how to set boundaries, and this is a very good practical lesson in how to do so gracefully, while being strong and true to yourself. He would not be a responsible therapist if he just said, “Oh, okay, I’ll just cancel all your appointments, have a nice life!”

    3. Some therapists do try to keep patients in therapy for longer than necessary, for financial or other reasons. This is pretty rare, and there are usually other red flags before it gets to that point though.

    In my own case, a few years ago I successfully ended therapy by wrapping up a number of loose ends over a few weeks. I found the book When to Say Goodbye to Your Therapist to be incredibly helpful in detailing the “when” as well as the “how”.

    Good luck.

  8. Sounds like your therapist is having a bit of separation anxiety 😉 Hope it all went well. And if he still couldn’t agree to let go, there is absolutely nothing wrong with just not making another appointment.

  9. Funny you never forgot to go to see him, or did you? In such cases my subconscious always plays very eloquent tricks and I know – it’s over and I move on.
    You don’t owe him anything. Be grateful for what he did and that’s it.

  10. Hope it went well. I don’t know all the background, but it certainly sounds to me as if you have really thought it through and decided it’s for the best and, as someone else pointed out, it’s not an irreversible decision – if your therapist is right and you do have some mysterious issue to work through, you can always go back. So go for it!

  11. Oh I wish I had chimed in before your appointment! I hope it goes well and you’ve truly said thanks and goodbye! I agree with what was said above that you know best what you need. You really do. If nothing else, going to therapy is time and money it sounds could be better spent doing something else. Good luck! (and thanks for the recent anecdote on Victor Hugo… encouraged me immensely!)

  12. It is my theory that when a medicine is no longer effective, it’s time to try something else. In this case, it seems like therapy with this therapist is just not working any more. You may find that switching practices or just taking a hiatus all together is in order. If you’re experiencing anxiety stemming FROM your therapist, that, to me. See,s to be a sign that he, at least, if not therapy in general, may not be the right choice for right now. Hope you get over this hurdle and don’t feel too harassed by him for much longer. Good luck!

  13. Good Luck Litlove! I don’t think Arti’s suggestion is too crude. The therapist has a mortgage and car payments etc, but that is no reason for you to continue with treatment you no longer need.

  14. I hope your afternoon went well. Perhaps it is less an issue of self confidence than of trust. You believe that you have accomplished what you needed to with this man at this time and that should be enough. Else how could you trust him? They are in the room, whether or not they care to admit it. Ridiculous that they pretend they are not; it’s a conversation, after all…
    You are strong. You can do this.

  15. Dear blogging friends! Thank you so SO much for all your wonderful comments and good wishes. They were immensely sustaining and encouraging. Here’s an update: finally, my therapist agrees we can stop – that’s the good news. The slightly less good news is that we now have to do a ‘leaving process’ so I am not quite finished yet, but the end IS in sight. Today, not so cross with my therapist, I think he is just a very cautious and thorough sort of person. But I do have a lovely light feeling of freedom – cfs has kept me tied down with so many guy ropes that it’s a good feeling to hear one snap every now and then. I’ll let you know how it goes, of course, and if I turn out to have made a dreadful mistake, well, it’s easy enough to go back, isn’t it?

  16. Richard – so nice to hear from you! That was such a great encouragement to see your message – expect an email soon.

    wordsfallfrommyeyes – thank you! I have had many odd discussions in the course of therapy, but these took the biscuit, really! I’m good cognitively but I don’t always know what to do with my emotions – think that might just be a side effect of being human, though… 🙂

    readingwithtea – thank you so much! If this had happened last year, when my therapist was building an extension on his house, I might have agreed with you! I think he is just being cautious, but, well, I’m glad to see the end in sight.

    Eva – I am SO glad to know that you are feeling so much better in yourself! I’ve been worried about you these past few months. All these chronic illnesses have this awful caption to them – why can’t I do what everyone else can do? Now, I feel that, no, I’m not like everyone else, but that will just have to be part of my charm.. 😉

    Jodie – It was freaking me a bit, because I felt it was unfair – I’ve come so far in the past few years and really, I couldn’t see what was left to do! But still, breathing a sigh of relief – end in sight. What you’re saying about the visible subjectivity of the therapist is really intriguing. I’m reading a fab book at the moment One to One by Rosemary Dinnage, which is a compilation of individual accounts about time spent in therapy. There seems to be a strong correllation between recovery and therapists who seemed to be really there for their patients. Of course, this doesn’t mean at all that they have to be discussing their children’s grades at school or what their political preferences are. It must be a tough line to tread, between too much and not enough for the person in the other chair, but it does seem that so much depends on it.

    Pete – so glad to have your thoughts on this. My therapist seems particularly thorough and cautious (I managed to talk him down from a five month leaving plan – a month for every year in therapy – is this normal??) and I’m attributing his resistance to that. He did say yesterday that no, I didn’t really need to be there (What took you so long to get that out? I wanted to know) and that was reassuring. I think teaching and therapy can be so close in many ways, and my students don’t want to know about my life (well, not always) but they do want me to be there, in full flow of personality. It’s a tough one, isn’t it?

    Caz – oh sweetie! You just made me laugh. 🙂

    Cornflower – thank you so much for that vote of confidence. I needed to hear that. 🙂

    smithereens – it’s been great for me and I’ve got a lot out of it. But everything changes and the fact I’m not getting anything out of it has to mean something too. Thank you, dear friend for being there!

    David – I probably expressed myself badly there – he’s fine with me coming back (and now I wonder whether he is placing bets on how long it will take me to haul my sorry ass back over his threshold – this thought should keep me healthy for years). I get the feeling – well, I was about to say he’s the sort of man to drive back home from holiday if he’d left a plug switched on, but I cannot imagine him ever leaving home with that sort of mistake behind him…. Other people (like you) do seem to have a knack of being assertive that I lack… should I talk to someone about that? 😉

    joyofbooking – that’s so nice of you – thank you so much for those excellent thoughts. Well, I feel I have had some very good practice at holding out for what I want… which I admit is not something I actually enjoy doing. He’s a good therapist and a kind man so I suppose he was just testing my resolve. But I’ve always wanted to be in therapy and felt that I was learning from it up until this year. So I feel that change must be significant. And today, testing myself out, I find I’m just feeling happy. So I hope that will last a bit.

  17. Stefanie – lol! Before a break he would always say ‘And have you thought what you will do without me?’ and as often as I thought I could get away with it, I’d reply, ‘And have you thought about how you will manage without me?’ You think he’d be glad to see the back of me, wouldn’t you? 😉

    Lilian – thank you, my friend!

    Caroline – no, I never forgot to go! Or even turned up late – I have very deeply ingrained good girl habits. 😉 But it’s very nice to feel a bit more free today. I don’t think a change can do any harm.

    Arti – alas, I don’t think he’ll ever get rich on me! I think he’s just an extremely thorough type – but in any case, I seem to have secured my freedom, and that feels good.

    Andrew – that’s just what I think! If it all turns out to be some horrible mistake, I can just go back, can’t I? But here’s hoping it’s actually just the right time.

    Melissa – I do hope you are feeling better too! These things are such a nuisance. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Therapy is great and useful, but as soon as I didn’t need it, I felt it had an influence over my sense of my self and who I am that I wasn’t altogether comfortable with. I would indeed be much rather spending money on books and using the time to write!

    iwriteinbooks – you are so right. My gut feeling was that it was no longer working and what is the point in going and doing something like that with three-quarters of my self left on the outside? I hope too that a hiatus will clarify exactly what’s left for me to sort out in my life – if indeed anything is. It’s not looking too bad at all to me.

    Ruthiella – thank you for your support! Happily I do seem to have negotiated my break now and it’s feeling very nice today to have that little bit extra freedom!

    ds – as ever you always put things beautifully. It IS about trust. I want him to show some trust in me, too, and all the work we’ve done. I often think he would do better to accept that he’s there and giving off information signals all the time. It makes me think of my cat who is convinced he can hide behind a blade of grass…. But it’s been a good process for me overall, and I’m grateful to him and to my circumstances for allowing me to do it. I do feel stronger than I did. 🙂

    Charlotte – I remember a comment you left here ages ago about the importance of gut instincts and I thought back then that your words were very wise. I make good decisions about me, when I turn off the interference and listen. Here’s hoping this turns out to be a good one, too. Thank you, my friend for your support.

  18. You make more sense to me than almost anyone I’ve ever met…well…figuratively speaking “met.” Somewhere I read a quote that went something like, “Every once in awhile we need to take a break from our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

  19. I had a therapist (briefly) who refused to reveal anything of what he was thinking, and it was unbearable. It’s just the therapist’s style, I guess, but I was much happier when I went to someone who didn’t worry about unduly influencing me by, you know, telling me her thoughts about my situation. Which is the whole reason I was going to therapy! Which is to say, I hope you don’t go off therapy because of this one guy! I hope you will effect your therapist break-up successfully next time.

  20. I have been in your position, and I am a therapist. As a patient, I had a therapist who became enraged at me when I got into Harvard for graduate school and would have to leave her practice in New York. Therapists in private practice like to keep their schedules filled with reliably paying patients, so they don’t always act purely in the interest of the patient. Patients can be manipulated when you introduce the topic of the “unconscious,” where anything can happen and you might be the last to know. It can be used to completely disempower a patient. As a therapist I have to say that what your therapist is doing sounds completely unethical. When my patients want to quit, I validate the work done and review what they might want to work on in future therapy, not necessarily with me. I tell them they can learn different things from different therapists. Your therapist acts like he’s your only last chance for mental health. DUMP HIM FAST. I’d do it in person, but very short and quick so you are in control of the session and you can end early and look at your watch and say “Oh, my how time flies. My time is up.” I believe strongly in good therapy, but there’s unfortunately more bad out there than good.

  21. Grad – that is a wonderful quote, and it speaks precisely to how I feel right now. I’m feeling very blessed, and there isn’t much to say in therapy beyond the fact that I want to enjoy this while it lasts (because nothing lasts, right?).

    Jenny – oh no, don’t worry, I think therapy is a very Good Thing, and for four years out of our five, we have done great work together. No, I’m sure that my dissatisfaction stems at least in part from my sense of wasting my time there at the moment. Although I do wish that he were a tad more forthcoming, I have wised up and grown up a lot in our interactions.

    Squirrel – I was hoping you’d come by and leave your thoughts. I am always a bit miffed by the concept of resistance, which may well have a firm grounding in reality but seems to me to be a cheeky catch-all in therapy. If you don’t want to do something, or don’t feel something, then you may be resisting. But it can completely exclude the highly likely possibility that you just don’t want to do it! Anyway, now that we have agreed that I can end my sessions, I can step back and think (mostly) good thoughts about therapy again. I’ll bet there are a lot of therapists out there who hang onto patients. Have you read the book One to One by Rosemary Dinnage. It’s my find of the moment and is completely fascinating. A series of portraits of people who have been in long-term therapy, the good, the bad, the ugly. I feel sure it would interest you!

  22. Glad to hear things went well and the end is in sight! He sounds like he’s become a little dependent! 🙂 I suppose he is just overly cautious, but I am sure you will feel so much better when you really feel like you can move forward!

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