Tag Archives: psychologist

Abandoned again: psychological irresponsibility

I really had hoped I’d seen the last of “psychological irresponsibility” in my life, but it seems I attract mental healthcare professionals who like to end our professional relationships with cruel abandon. Thankfully, I have the rest of my far more reliable care team backing me up – though the shock of D’s departure was enough to increase my depression to the point where hospital was required. (Yes, I’m back in hospital. No, I don’t want to talk about it.)

Am I angry? You betcha.

This time, the news was broken in a phone call. His tone was chipper: “I told the hospital last week that I’m leaving to focus on my private practice.” I accessed his services through my hospital’s outpatient outreach program, which is designed to help people stay well and prevent admissions – yet here I find myself again; ironic much?

He didn’t even suggest we have a final wrap-up session. I asked for one, and we made a time, but I was certainly left with the impression that this was something of an imposition. Would you believe he sent me a text asking to reschedule that session because he had a lunch to attend? Mate, sometimes it’s best to give a little less information: I don’t want to know that finishing up our work together is less important to you than a social outing.

I called his supervisor the day after the news. (The psychologist in question wasn’t available, or I would have had a conversation with him.) I reminded him that, about a year ago, he’d asked me to “give [this psychologist] a go” after an administrative reshuffle meant the excellent worker who had had my case was re-assigned. I reminded him that I’d had reservations about welcoming a man into my home, that it had taken a great leap of trust on my behalf to make that OK. I also let him know – since he seemed unaware of the fact – that my mental health had been deteriorating over prior three weeks. He asked that I give the next worker assigned to my case “a go”. I put down the phone with a shiver: those words no longer inspire confidence.

Having left the supervisor in no doubt as to my displeasure, I tried to put the matter out of my mind; but, as I was driving to the post office nine days ago, I suddenly remembered the original phone call with awful clarity. I remembered how cheerful the psychologist has sounded, how he delivered the news as though he were commenting on the pleasing results of a sports match.

If you’re new to this blog, you won’t know my history with abandonment and health care professionals. I had a close professional relationship with my first psychiatrist who treated me for almost five years, then stopped with five days’ notice. The rupture of that therapy came at a time when I was vulnerable on many fronts, and eventually resulted in a complete breakdown. This psychologist knew of that history. I’d made sure of it, and included it in the PowerPoint presentation I made summarizing my medical history when we started work together.

Anyway, I was driving to the post office, and I heard his voice on the phone again in memory’s ear. My reaction was immediate and physical. I felt numb. I walked into the post office and stood at the counter with my parcels. The clerk said something to me from across the shop, but the words didn’t penetrate the fog which had wrapped itself round me, filling my ears and eyes with thick whiteness. I mailed the parcels, walked back to the car, and started the engine. I was only as I approached the corner that I realized the clerk had asked if I was all right. I’d completely ignored her! I drove around the block and walked back inside.

“I’m so sorry about before,” I said, and felt tears on my cheeks. “I think you were talking to me, but I didn’t hear what you said. I probably seemed rude.”

“That’s all right,” she replied, looking at me carefully. “Perhaps you need to go home now?”

“Yes, I think I do.”

“Should you be driving?”

“No, probably not; but I don’t have far to go.”

“OK. Take care of yourself.”

I turned and walked back to the car as though I’d received a full-body beating.

It seems as though my trauma, like my preferred name, is something this psychologist “can’t be expected to remember”. Yes, sadly, that’s a direct quote when I reminded him I prefer to be called “Catie” rather than “Catharine” … three months into treatment.

So: here I am in hospital again. Is it wholly because of the rupturing of that professional relationship? No; my mental health had been deteriorating before that. On the other hand, would I be here if he had handled things differently? No, almost certainly not. This trauma, re-opening the door to that historical hurt, is what precipitated the events which landed me here.

I understand that I don’t know all the details surrounding this incident. I acknowledge that there may be factors beyond anyone’s control which contributed to D’s sudden departure. However, what I do know is this:

  • D had been given the knowledge that an event like this would be extremely triggering to me
  • D had told the hospital a week before he told me that he would be leaving (which implies that he had been planning the move for longer)
  • the therapeutic relationship we’d had was terminated abruptly, and without closure
  • I am now in hospital.

My issue is not that D stopped treating me, nor even that he stopped treating me suddenly. My issue that that he had been given the information that this would be a destructive event in my life, and yet did nothing to mitigate the damage it may cause.

Here endeth the rant.

Have you ever been the subject of psychological irresponsibility? How did you recover?

Therapy ruptured

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Lots of news this morning

This morning was always going to be a big morning: I don’t like confrontation, but I knew I had to talk to my psychologist about something; then, I learnt that my grandmother died.

She was unconscious, and slipped away peacefully, I believe. Some of you might remember that we had thought she may die the other weekend, but she pulled through. For me, that was a wake up call: I had thought I was prepared for her death, but grief surprised me. Today the news came as a surprise, but I felt more able to see her death as … well, as something natural and expected, I guess.

I got the news not long before my appointment with the psychologist, whom had upset me at the end of our last appointment by the way he responded to me correcting my name. I went ahead and had the courageous conversation with him before saying anything else. He claims not to have remember saying what I believe he said; my recollection seems fairly vivid, but I accept I could have been wrong. He also said that although I have a strong preference to be called by my preferred name, the name he knows me by is my formal name – he said that, for him, is my name. He said that we were two different people with two different names for me. I said that I thought it was not unreasonable for a psychologist to remember my preferred name, and he said that if he slipped up in the future he would be more aware of it.

I would have preferred an apology, or even an assurance that he would try not to slip up in the future, but at least we’ve had that conversation now.

The progress for me in this was being able to have a calm, sensible and assertive conversation with a person in “authority” without crying or becoming either submissive, aggressive or passive aggressive. I think I conducted myself well, especially within an hour of hearing news of a bereavement.

I could write a lot about the grief I’m feeling, but I won’t, except to say that I loved my grandmother very much and am very sad that she is dead. Some might say I “shouldn’t” feel sad, because (a) she had “left” us some time ago, when she lost her senses to dementia; and (b) she is no longer suffering the pains and indignities of her physical condition. However, I am sad. What I feel is what I feel.

Finally: thank you to everyone who offered support this morning before my courageous conversation with the psychologist. Even a text message! I am really lucky to have people who care that much.

Be well, my friends.

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Preparing for a Courageous Conversation

I’m seeing my psychologist today, and unfortunately, there’s something I need to say to him. Something happened at the end of our last session which needs to be addressed.

We’ve only been talking for a few months. We don’t see each other every week, but during our first session – a transition from his predecessor – I did make it clear that my name is very important to me (my actual name, that is!). I wrote it down for him, the correct spelling, in both long and short forms.

During the last few sessions, he’s been calling me the wrong name: my long name, the only I only use on forms. This annoyed me a bit, and then I corrected him, but still he kept doing it. I went away and thought about it, and decided that as I had made it clear what my name is and how much it means to me, and I had corrected him, so whenever he called me by the wrong name I would gently point it out to him using these words: “You can call me ___; that’s OK.” I thought that would be an appropriately mild yet succinct reminder.

As our last session was drawing to a close, he used the wrong name, and I spoke the above formulation. He snapped at me, with a briefly-glimpsed flash of his canines, “I can’t be expected to remember all those details.” I politely bid him goodbye, but actually I think he was rather rude, almost aggressive.

Of course, as timing would have it, I haven’t seen him for a fortnight, but I am going to begin our session today by saying that we need to talk about what happened at the end of last session. I don’t expect him to think it’s as important as I do, but I don’t feel that I can trust or feel comfortable with a man who pays so little attention to something so fundamental and so important to me.

I’m feeling apprehensive and anxious, alongside my determination. I don’t enjoy these conversations. However, I have been working on my self-respect, and I want others to respect me, too. I don’t think it’s too much to expect a psychologist to remember one’s preferred name after a few months. It’s not like he’s a checkout chick: we have a regular, meaningful relationship. He has to write my name on forms, for goodness’ sake! Maybe that’s part of the problem: he has to regularly write out my long name. Well, mate, it’s not too difficult to write yourself a cheat sheet. For goodness sake, write it on the back of your hand if you need to!

Do you think I’m being too precious? There’s still three hours before the appointment; I’m open to constructive criticism …

Preparing for CC

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What is it about me and men?

I’ve got real issues with male authority figures. This time, it was my psychologist. I think he’s pretty good – our first couple of months together have been quite constructive – but today he reduced me to tears.

I was so excited explaining the breakthrough I’d made with my therapist last week (complete with diagrams!) that he asked me to take a breath and slow down. I took the breath, but then felt tears pricking, welling, falling … The rational part of my mind knew he didn’t intend to rebuke me, but that’s how my inner child reacted. Thankfully, eventually, I could speak with him about this.

Perhaps today’s episode was a case of (female) hormones clashing with (male) pragmatism; however, I have had a sad history with male authority figures in the past. Of course, I hope to transfer my psychologist from the “authority” category to the “work alongside” category, but he brings a bracing, energetic energy into the room, which I find unsettling – other men I’ve worked with in a therapeutic session have been gentler, less obtrusive.

The good thing about all this is that the issues have been brought into the therapeutic space and can be dealt with. The revelation is that certain types of men in certain types of situations still push my buttons.

Onward and upward!

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A therapist and a psychologist walk into a room …

No, I shouldn’t be joking; or perhaps I should. Thing is, it’s Wednesday morning as I type this. I saw my therapist on Monday, and he suggested hospitalization. I saw my psychologist on Tuesday, and he suggested hospitalization. So – you might be asking – why on earth am I still at home?

Yes, I’m surfing waves of suicidal urges – but I’m surfing them, not succumbing to them. Yes, it’s a bit of a battle not to harm myself – but I’m fighting the good fight, and managing not to do those things.

It’s quite exhausting, managing all these things at the moment, but I am managing them, and while hospital is a wonderful place to be when you need to be there, I don’t feel that I absolutely need to be there right now. So I’m still at home.

I love my professionals, and I’m also completely honest with them, so if I’m having suicidal thoughts I talk about them. Thing is, I’ve been living with this stuff for a long time. Perhaps that’s part of my problem! My capacity to tolerate psychic pain without succumbing is quite high. They must take a conservative approach; it’s part of their code of ethics. I know that if they believed I was definitely going to harm myself, they would take action to prevent that. I love that they trust me and my self-knowledge enough that if I say: “It’s tough, but I believe I can manage it” they believe me.

For me, urges to suicide or self-harm are indicators that my mind cannot cope with what’s going on for me. At present, I am facing a whole heap of horrible psycho-social stressors, most of which are out of my control. This means that the best thing I can do for myself right now is focus on controlling those things I can control, and actively put the other things out of my mind, for the time being. In other words, I need to be taking positive, proactive steps to reduce my stress levels, doing nurturing things to bolster my sense of self, and constantly monitoring my thoughts and mood for negative trends. For instance, last night I had the stray thought: “What on earth will my next job be, and how on earth will I get it?” which instantly started a cascade of negative thoughts and feelings and urges. I’m proud to say that I noted the thought and feeling, noted that it was a valid concern, but also pointed out to myself that it wasn’t a problem I could solve last night, and deliberately started a new task – cleansing my face and then reading a book – to distract myself. I won’t lie, it took about twenty minutes to calm down, but I managed it. Yay me!

See? I can handle this.

Having said that, if you’re in my situation – experiencing waves of suicidal or harmful thoughts – I trust that you will seek out some help. You’ll notice that I’ve made the decision that I’ve made with the support of two professionals, and (although I haven’t mentioned this already) I’ll be speaking with them both today, and I have another appointment already made for Friday. Even though I am feeling terrible, I also feel supported and believe I have the skills to get me through. I have my crisis list drawn up, with phone numbers written down of the local CAT team and Lifeline and other people I can call to talk to.

It’s not so much that I’ve ignored the advice of my professionals, but more that I’ve worked with them to create a survival plan. If you’re having suicidal or other destructive thoughts, I’d suggest you do the same, and follow it – even if it means doing something you don’t want to 🙂 Yes, I am prepared to go into hospital later this week, if that’s what it takes!

Stay well, sweetlings.

xx DB

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