A Letter To My Therapist

Dear T,

I am wondering if you have been trying to make me angry during these last two sessions. I thought things were going well with us for the past couple of months, and I think that was due in part to the fact that I stopped writing in my blog, and also because I was focusing on day to day things.

But when I try to talk about larger issues, things fall apart. I feel misunderstood, minimized, and like we are on different wavelengths, despite feeling understood and like you are helping me when we talk about the smaller things. At our session two weeks ago I brought up that I was concerned that this time last year was very bad for me, and I want to avoid that happening this year. You asked if I can avoid or get past bad feelings by thinking about the future, thinking about how I will feel one hour from now, or one day, or one week. I told you that I don’t think about the future and I have no idea how I will feel in the future. You said that one day you woke up and felt very tired, but you thought to yourself that if you have some coffee you will feel better in a couple of hours. I commented that it’s not a very comparison to suicidal thoughts.

I have talked previously about how I don’t see anything for myself in the future. I can’t picture it, I don’t want to think about it, because it will just be more of the same, life as it is right now or worse, getting old and sick and more and more alone. So I don’t see how thinking about the future will ever make me feel anything but worse. I thought it would be better to talk about concrete ways to avoid a repeat of last year, some things I have come up with on my own, as we talked about last week. I stopped drinking so much, started running again, etc. I think real actions that I could take would work better for me than thinking about how I will feel in the future, and I felt misunderstood because I have told you before that I don’t see anything positive in my future.

This week I talked about how I don’t see any difference in myself or my life from a year ago at this time. You mentioned that you do see a change in me, that I am not so introspective anymore. I am confused about that, because I don’t see what is wrong with being introspective, and you have never mentioned before that it is a characteristic of myself that I should try to change. I would think that introspection would be a good quality, particularly when one is in therapy. Is the therapy just supposed to happen in one 45 minute block of time per week? I wish there was a more positive change, for example, being with and having fun with my friends again, feeling better about myself, having a better relationship with my husband and children.

Then we talked about what makes life worth living, and you told me that it is the little things that happen on a daily basis. That I need to be mindful and have gratitude and stop to smell the roses. Personally I think I do stop to smell the roses. There are lots of things in life that give me a good feeling – seeing the geese being born on the towpath, beautiful movies and music, or the change of seasons. I told you that I was looking at the bigger picture, and you said that is my problem, looking at the bigger picture and not seeing the details.

I feel that you are trying to convince me that I should think like you do. But this won’t work, because we think differently and because our lives are so different. It seems as though it would be easy to be happy with haircuts, and tulips and puzzle apps on the phone, when the rest of your life is fulfilling. You seem to have a gratifying career helping people, great relationships with your wife and friends, financial security, and you are healthy, young, fit, good looking. With a life like that a hair cut or a warm day is just icing on the cake.

As for mindfulness, sure I am mindful. When my husband comes home from work I am mindful of the fact that we haven’t done anything together for weeks. When I am at work doing menial chores like filing and picking up bananas at the grocery store I am mindful that I have never made anything of myself professionaly. When I see my son sitting in his messy room, unshowered, playing video games, I am mindful of the mistakes I made raising him.

I am grateful for many things in my life and I think about them every day. I live in a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood, I drive a safe and environmentally friendly car, my children are healthy, I have good friends who care about me, and lots of other things. But as I said, I guess my expectations are too high. I’m too idealistic I suppose.

When I compare my life with yours I know I can never measure up. I know this is my distorted thinking, but I imagine you laughing at me in your head. I told you that I started running and biking, and you are probably thinking “What kind of running and biking can an old, fat woman like her do?” And I feel like you are always trying to one up me, even when you don’t intend to. I started riding my bike this week, and I felt pretty good about it. But when I pulled into your office parking lot yesterday, what did I see on top of your car? A high performance road bike. Yeah, I peddle along on my dopey little bike on dirt trails, while you crank out 40 or 50 miles on the highway between clients.

I know you swim, and that you ran in a race not long ago, and had a great race time despite never having run before, and now you are biking. I guess you are training for a triathlon. Want to hear something crazy? A couple of years ago I had the idea of doing a triathlon, a sprint triathlon of course, because I thought it would be a good thing to do when I turned 50. But I never did it, because I thought I couldn’t. And now you are training for what is probably an Ironman Triathlon. If I even brought up the idea of doing a triathlon myself you would most likely laugh your head off.

Another thing I don’t understand at all, is that when I mentioned that I feel it is important to always be growing as a person you said, “That’s fine if you are 6 years old.” I felt so dismissed, as though what I had said was beyond ridiculous. But I do really believe that, for me at least, growing and learning is important. Learning new things, becoming a better person, whatever. And you reduced that to an old lady in a nursing home playing sudoku. I have no intention of getting a PhD, but what if I wanted to? Why couldn’t I? Why do I have to play sudoku?

I know I am being triggered by the same things my mother used to do to me. Even now, I am a grown adult, and she criticizes me for the way I am dealing with my children. I immediately get that feeling of being a failure. I’m wondering if you are doing this to me on purpose, if it is some kind of therapeutic technique, to get me to feel like I do when my mother does this to me. Or if you really feel that I will never be good enough, that I will never measure up to you, and my life will never be as satisfying as yours is.

I wonder if that is why you brought up the story about the hole in the plane. That you were purposely scaring me to prove that I am really not as fearless about flying as I thought I was.

Someone told me that I shouldn’t ruminate on this until the next time I see you. That is the purpose of writing all of this out, even though I have been avoiding writing so that I can actually talk. But hopefully by emptying my head on paper I won’t have to think about it until next Tuesday, and I can enjoy little things like seeing the baby geese.

8 thoughts on “A Letter To My Therapist

  1. Harriet

    This is an amazing letter because it expresses your frustration with J so well. Are you going to send it to him? Does he respond to things between sessions? or are you writing it down to try and put it away?

    I think you deserve a better life and I hope expressing your thoughts and frustrations to J about how he is during therapy helps you move towards it. I’ve been having a tough time in my own therapy lately in a different way but one of my constant struggles is talking about what I want to talk about. Today when my T directed most of the session on what he wanted to talk about (which doesn’t usually happen) I was really frustrated and my husband suggested maybe one of my goals for therapy is being able to talk about what I want to talk about. This may not relate at all to what you are expressing to J but it resonated with me.

    I’m always glad to read your posts.


  2. did you send it? it’s a really good, strong letter.

    what goes thru my head, and this is ridiculous i suppose, is that J. is a man and men are problem-solvers and fixers. and maybe you just wanted to talk and be heard and comforted.

    i am not a big fan of problem-solving for myself(although some people really are. it’s stylistic, i suppose) unless it’s what i feel i need. when i need finite suggestions and solutions, i ask for them.

    when i’m just blue and sad, i want to talk about what’s really making me feel this way. and it’s not about a hair style for me.

    so, you had a couple of less than satisfying sessions. that happens. it’s great and healthy to express how you feel. then see what happens. hopefully, he hears you and adjusts.

  3. Sanity – it did help. I didn’t think much about this at all today. I love the geese! They do seem to like to co-habitate with humans however. One thing I don’t understand about them is that they like to walk across roads. They are birds! Why don’t they fly? A few months ago I saw a horrible sight, I came upon a goose that had been hit by a car lying in the middle of the road. Its partner was pacing back and forth at the side of the road. A woman stopped her car, and picked up the hit goose, which was bleeding profusely from its head, and moved it off the road. The partner goose immediately flew away. So so sad.

    Last year at this time, when the geese hatch along the river, I saw a pair of geese that had 23 babies. I counted them. Everytime I went to the river I would count them, and it was always 23. How do they keep track of them all? It is so fun watching the adults with the babies.

    Di – I am not going to send him the letter, I think it is something better discussed during an actual session. I also had a lot of frustration at times in talking about what I wanted to talk about. I did get over that. Now if he talks too much I can interrupt, and he thinks it is fine. I was reading someone else’s blog and her t would ask her what she wanted to talk about and she would say, “I would like to continue our discussion from last week about xyz.” I thought that was great, so that is what I say now. Or some variation of that.

    Melissa – nope, didn’t send it. But I’d like to talk about with him next week. It seems that at the times I don’t want problem solving, that is what he offers, and at the times I do want it, he doesn’t give it. I would have loved some suggestions for what to do to avoid feeling like I did last year at this time, but he didn’t offer any. I agree with what you say, that it will be healthy to express how I feel about what is going on, it is good practice for doing it in real life.

  4. I think it is well worth giving to him at the next session.

    It is very clear. Lays out the issues well and addresses the process.

    It is a great letter.

    I’ll be interested to hear his response if you show it to him and want to let us know.

  5. I’m pretty much a lurker, but I’ve been following for quite some time. I wanted to let you know that this letter is excellent and I hope you get the response that you need, and deserve.

  6. I am not a word smith, and only found this entry because I googled ‘writing a letter to your therapist’ (in hopes that I could find some assistance as to how to word a very similar letter to my own t).

    I am not going to plagiarize your letter and call it my own, but will use it as an example of flowing a time line and listing specific issues that unsettling between my t and I so I can accurately portray to my t my perspective, and will share in sight as to my feelings about those issues as well.

    Thank you for sharing! I know it can be terrifying trying to talk with a t about how aspects of the therapy itself (or t themselves) is causing you to feel belittled, minimized, misunderstood, etc.

    I am going to attempt to write my first draft if you will of my own letter, and I wish you the best of luck with your t…. I don’t know if I will send my letter or not when I finish it, but it will be good as you said to just get it all out of the mind so it doesn’t all have to permeate through out the days leading up to my next session.

    Thank you for also posting that suggestion from the other blog you follow about how to answer the question the t usually asks “what do you want to talk about?”. I am freaked out about t etiquette and I feel that any advise or tips or examples help me get my bearings as I go through my own therapy.

    I really can’t thank you enough, can I?

    (oh and anytime I just typed the letter t it was supposed to specifically be the word therapist….see I can really suck at writing. Oh well)

  7. Kristina – I’m glad you found me! I had to go back and read that letter I wrote, I wonder if I ever sent it to him. It is quite scary to talk to a t about therapy itself, and my t doesn’t seem to encourage it which makes it harder. I think you will find it helpful to write it all out even if you don’t give it to him. How long have you been in therapy? It’s been three years for me, and yet I’m still confused by it. Reading about other peoples experiences has helped me a lot.

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