When I first met my therapist he asked me why I wanted therapy. I had a list of things I wanted to achieve. I memorised them before I went. To be fair he kept a straight face. He was good at not laughing at me, always. I don’t think I realised how important the ‘not laughing at me’ part was until now. I thought he would be able to tolerate me and wouldn’t be over familiar with me. That would make it easy for me to ‘ignore’ him and ‘use’ him to work on my issues and then go off and live in a more tolerable way.
It didn’t work like that. I think I did a lot of messing around. I was childish and that had nothing to do with my ‘inner child’. I was childish because I had never grown up emotionally. I just wanted to push the boundaries in whatever way I was able. I was fed up with being good. I was angry as hell.
I was always late, without fail. Sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes 15. He never said anything about it, ever. It annoyed me that he didn’t comment on it. I wanted him to be angry. He couldn’t win of course. Not with me. It was my game and I was going to win. If he had ever said “I wonder what you’re being late is saying” I would have stopped going. I can’t bear that type of phoney counsellor speak. It’s as though he knew. I left early too. Sometimes I left after 20 minutes. Once he asked me why I was leaving so early and I said that I was finding it painful. That was a lie. The truth was I can’t bear to be rejected. Saying ‘time’s up’ is rejection for me. Far better to reject him. It took me a long time to admit that. Maybe that’s because it took me a long time to realise that.
Quite often I could not speak. I would try to say something but the words wouldn’t come at all. It was like no other experience. I found it hard to deal with my emerging self. I felt embarrassed. Ignoring Mr Boundary helped me to cope with that. I never cry in front of other people. Yet here I was crying all the time. Very undignified.
I hated him looking at me. I’m ugly. Seeing my tears. I wanted him to go away. I told him. He still kept doing it. I still kept going. Brazen, that’s what my mother would have said. He never said much. But he paid really close attention to me, all the time. I hated it. I’d sit there and the tears would keep coming. It was like being tortured. The silence was killing me.
After a while Mr Boundary Man said to me “tell me what you need.”
How would I know?
“I need you ……….I need you to say more,” I said. “I need you to be more like a normal person.”
“What’s a normal person like for you?” he asked.
“They say more.”
I was furious with him. He was saying that I’m mad. After that he started to say more. He never let me sit ‘alone’ again. It was like having a Dad. That made my cry too, lots. Mr Boundary Man became a person. I tried to ignore him, but he seeped in anyway. Sometimes I’d catch an expression on his face and I’d have to look away. It hurt too much.
I felt shy. But I hid it well. Sometimes I’d have nothing to say. The fact that I’d turned up at all was enough. It was nice just to sit there. I felt less alone. I remember, after a difficult time, I sent him an email saying that I needed a break for a couple of weeks. He replied and said “take as long as you need, I am willing to work with you.” I cried when I read it, long and hard. It was like having an arm put around me. I stuck it in my journal. Proof that someone cares.
I tried to stop messing around. I was surprised to hear myself talking about stuff. No agendas, just me. I tried my best not to worry about what Mr Boundary thought of me. I assumed he thought I was annoying. But he never said. Completely accepted. Endless patience. I realised that this was up to me. My responsibility. It took me ages to get that. I started to see things differently. It hurt, lots, physically and emotionally. I started to unravel. My dad became very ill. In my therapy I had come to a new understanding about my past. It was the first time I felt able to try and get to know my dad. It felt too late. It was hard to keep going.
I needed to sort myself out. I told my therapist. He was so kind it hurt. It was hard to face the loss, the enormity of it. How I’d got it all so wrong. I felt understood. He never forgot the important details. His antennae picked up on all the stuff that hurt me most and he gave it back to me when I could tolerate it. It was the first time that I was allowed to feel my feelings. No censorship. No judgement.
I realised that messing about was only hurting me. I got angry. “There was a time when you wouldn’t have come back,” he said. It was as if he was me. I learnt what it was to have a proper relationship. To tolerate emotions, to repair damage. I felt the poverty of my past relationships. I started to stay to the end. I still couldn’t arrive on time. That would look like I needed him. Needy me, greedy me. I felt really attached. I started to panic about having to end. “It sounds like you’ve finally separated from your mother,” he said. I felt ambivalent. I was stripped right down to my nothingness. I dug deeper. Voiced my fears. I met my therapist, face to face, adult to adult. I grew up. I didn’t need to learn my lines anymore.