Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Love You

My therapist recently got fired from his part-time job as a high school councilor. He apparently led an evening bereavement peer support group. And he told one girl in this group that he loved her. That was the cause of his firing - that he told a high school student he loved her.

This leaves me with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. How can you say such things to a young person, a teen, and not anticipate bad consequences? It leads me to doubt his common sense. I assume that the teen was confused and uncomfortable. If she wasn't, I'm certain her parents were.

My therapist waved the firing away like a bad dream, and said, that if he can't be himself on a job then the job is not for him. I think he views his words as legitimate sentiment that is healing when said, healing in a double sense, both for himself and the receiver. I assume that for instance when he said "I love you" to me (about 4 months ago) I was supposed to take it just as if he said "I really really like you" and I leave it at that. Just the bubbling over of a feel good moment in therapy, where the two participants really connect. I know my therapist has a big thing about being authentic. He wants to be as much as possible true to his emotions and express what he is really thinking. I guess from his perspective when he feels a sentiment he thinks that in order for him to be healthy (and authentic) he owes it to himself to say it. Not saying it would be inauthentic and damaging to the self. Yeah, and my therapist sees another therapist every Monday.

In our society there are consequences to saying "I love you". It is such a strong sentiment that there has to be a lot of trust present to handle it. When he said it to me I had to think "He does not expect this to lead anywhere, he is not making a claim on me that conflicts with the claim that my husband has, and he is probably saying it as a brother would say it to a sister." I had my moment to consider myself mature in handling his outburst. However, in retrospect it was hard to handle and I wish he never said it. I feel like I am a healthier person NOT knowing that my therapist loves me, whatever on earth he meant by it. I mean, he said it was ridiculous not to be able to say it to the teenager without being pegged as a pedophile - his whole attitude was, when he brought it up, like, wouldn't that be ridiculous to think him a pedophile. But pedophile is I'm afraid exactly what the school system thought, and I would think it too, being a parent or teacher at the school.

I can't say "I love you" my therapist because I have a husband to be faithful to and my emotions are a mess when it comes to my therapist - I know I suffer from transference. I know that I have unwanted, unappreciated fantasies about my therapist that I have to keep under control and under wraps. Last session my therapist was talking about Jung and said that he had a patient who had such serious transference that she printed up wedding invitations that had him as the groom and her as the bride! Jung just ignored it. My therapists point was that Freud was quick to nip transference in the bud, he addressed it directly and tried to put an end to it. Freud was uncomfortable with transference while Jung was not. I also happen to know that Jung slept with some of his clients (while he was married). So Jung was so comfortable with transference that he went where countertransference led him. Attractions between therapist and patient can go both ways. It is up to both to ignore them, or else, sever ties. I knew a young man whose therapist ended their therapy by telling him that he had fallen in love with the young man and thus must end the therapy sessions. I like this falling upon your sword, it was very professional of the therapist, although it left the young man freaked out.

I would never tell my therapist that I have feelings for him, or fantasies, or anything that would put me in a weak, submissive position. I told him once that I had transference with him, and I think that was soon after I met him. He told me that there was zero percent chance of anything happening between him and me. So I mentioned it once and have never since referred to it again. Knowing that I was vulnerable to transference, his common sense should have kicked in and he should have known that he should never tell someone like me "I love you".

Driving home from our last session together, I wondered, does he tell men "I love you"? Or is it only pretty women? And then there was the disappointment. I thought for him to tell me "I love you", and the added admission that he knew he was breaking many rules of therapy by saying it, made me a special person. A patient unlike other patients. But since he told a high school student this, I doubt just how special I am. I am let down that he tells other clients that he loves them. Just human nature.

After he told me those three little words I told my friend Rocki who is a paranoid schizophrenic about the incident. She said that decades ago when she was institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital a female doctor told her that she loved her. It was meant in the spirit of "you aren't alone, there are people who care for you" - a sort of pity gesture. Unfortunately it did little good, it just got mixed up in the paranoid psychotic fantasies and obsessions that Rocki was currently having. On one level Rocki was sane enough to realize that she had been given a sincere and heartfelt gesture of friendship, and that the doctor was trying to give her a gift, but on another level the illness took over and manipulated the meaning of the words and the significance, fueling her psychotic ideas about the doctor.

There's a song that I call my anthem to my therapist. It's called "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. In one part she belts out "I don't wanta be friends" and that is what transference feels like, you want to be more than friends with your therapist but you know that there are rules surrounding the encounter and you must abide by those rules. Everything has to remain chase. You sit six feet apart and must always remain sitting six feet apart. Gaga also sings about how she wants to be stricken with the object of her love's "sickness and disease" and that's the way I feel about my feelings toward my therapist, like they are his sickness and disease and I want to play with the contagious. I have a loving, happy relationship with my husband, why should my emotions wander? How could I threaten the major stabilizing force in my life? Therapy, when there is transference present, feels like you are playing with fire. So you burn. And burn. And are never consumed, nothing is consummated. In my case you don't even confess to your fantasies. I've read about transference (on the internet) and it is supposed to be a driving tool in therapy, it opens your emotions up to the therapist, and it is a by-product of a good relationship.

Still, I feel like my therapist is a train wreck. Rules being what they are in therapy, if I don't permit myself the luxury of telling my therapist that I love him, he can't permit himself the luxury of telling me that he loves me.

My husband knows everything, and as a matter of fact, so does my mother. I told my husband about what my therapist said while my mother was present while we were vacationing in California during this last Christmas season. My husband was pretty much speechless, but my mother was furious. She demanded I confront my therapist and tell him that what he said was wrong to say to a married woman. But against my mother's advice, I never censured my therapist, because I suppose I didn't want to hurt his feelings. Now that he has lost his high school job, my mother said I must talk to him and reinforce that he is following a mistaken path, reinforce the error of his ways from yet another source. But I can't beat a dog when they're down. He's just lost a major source of income, and he probably won't find another job working in a school system, that's traumatic enough. I suppose that deep down in my heart I'm afraid to contradict him, or confront him, or disagree with him, because I'm afraid that he will drop me as a client if he finds me disagreeable. I know that because my father emotionally abused me I have trouble going up against male figures of authority. Fear is deep in my heart. My father put it there with all of his screaming at me about nothing. I can go as far as to tell my therapist that I'm afraid he will drop me as a client if he finds me disagreeable. An irrational fear, I know. And yet, it seems real and logical to me.

While I was painting yesterday I was thinking about my therapist and it occurred to me that if a woman said "I love you" to my husband I would wish for him to cut off contact with her, or at the least, I would be deeply troubled. My mother said I have to be careful with my therapist, that something "catastrophic" could happen, and I know that this is her code word for rape. I asked my husband what he thought about my therapist. He said he doesn't trust him, but it takes two to have an affair, and he does trust me. At least he has high hopes for my love for him. And then my husband said that he knows how hard its been for me to find a therapist who helps me and will take the small insurance payment that we can offer. We both agree that this therapist has helped me - after the third or fourth session I stopped being suicidal. My husband and I to some small degree see my weekly sessions as an antidote to feeling suicidal. So you don't turn your back on success.

There is something else that is weird, complicating things. My therapist hasn't been paid in a long, long time. For a year and four months of therapy once a week he has received about $700. The problem is on his end; he won't do the book keeping that would get either the insurance company or Medicare to pay him. This too is why I think that personally he has troubles. I once told my therapist that if he didn't get paid he would begin to resent me, giving away therapy for free. He assured me that it would never happen. I asserted myself and said that it felt flat wrong that he was not paid and he said with a big smile, don't worry.

Once he suggested that I pay him in a painting. I got a little upset and he dropped the request. But two weeks ago he again suggested it (I think this was before the firing) and I thought, why not? So last week I arrived with a painting. It was the black lady dressed in white with the naked man with the head of a stag. There is nothing violent or overtly sexual about this painting, it is one of the most benign I have ever done. It isn't my best but it is good. And it is appropriate for him to hang in a therapist's office, which is where he said he would put it.

Somehow I think with his reduced income and sudden spare time my therapist will bill me, going back to last March or April. I will know that I've been billed when my husband's insurance company sends me its decision on how much, or even if, it will pay him. If the insurance company doesn't pay then he submits this paperwork to Medicare and they should pay. I started seeing this therapist by telling him that I could only afford what Medicare offered (about $34 a session) and that I could not afford a co-pay. My last therapist wanted Medicare and a twenty dollar a session co-pay. I told her I could not afford a co-pay every week so I had to see her only twice a month. She changed her mind and said that she would see me every week and accept Medicare. I continued getting bills from her and she said just ignore them. It was an unsettling feeling getting the bills in the mail and only having a verbal agreement not to pay them. Oh, and it was terrible therapy, with me always crying in her office and talking about the Institute, where I was locked up twenty years ago. She didn't help me a spit.

And then to top off this week of I love you issues, I emailed my Lenten essay to my minister and did not hear back from her. It was a chatty email with the essay attached and I signed it Love, Karen, which I instantly regretted. She's going to think I've got a psychotic obsession with her, or some sort of unhealthy attachment and that is why she hasn't emailed me back. Or it could be the content of my Lenten essay. These essays are assigned one a day, to different people, spanning the whole of the Lenten season. They are supposed to be your inspiration after reading different quotes from the Bible. This is what I wrote;

When I was nineteen my brain changed because of schizophrenia. My brain was what had made me president of the debate club and on the dean’s list at Barnard College. I went from being a social shark to someone who was so pitiful that they crawled across the hospital floor instead of walking. I stopped talking, lost my ability to read, and sat under tables. I was institutionalized for two years on a locked ward.

When I got out of the hospital I tried to go back to college and failed. I tried again and failed. I tried a third time and failed again. Eventually I had to face that I was no longer the person I used to be. And I could not have a life like most other people had.

During the next decade, one after another, good people entered my life. They were mentally ill friends, a few nice boyfriends, and I was treated very well by the parents of one boyfriend. There was a strange balance in my life. I was limited and often in pain from psychiatric symptoms, but I had fun too. I was happy even though I had to be hospitalized again some seven times.

Today I am stabilized on medication. I married the kindest man I have ever known. There is a lot of love and laughter in my life but also a broken brain that sometimes doesn’t work. Truly I can say that I’ve been blessed. When I eat a pint of blueberries I feel blessed. When I play with my puppy I feel blessed. When I finish a painting I feel blessed. When I walk to the post office I feel blessed. To eat, to love, to work, to walk – all this is so simple and all this is a blessing. My illness taught me to take nothing for granted. My illness ground me down into dust and then I was made new. So I must wonder, was my illness a blessing in disguise?

So I'm afraid that I've outed myself to the church and the minister doesn't approve. Yes, this fear is all in my head but it was awfully peculiar sending her a friendly email (with talk and pictures of my puppy) and getting no reply.

I shouldn't have signed the email Love, Karen, but to this both my therapist and my husband think I'm over reacting and making much ado about nothing.

Tomorrow I'm drawing a really big bug on a drawing that is a composition for a painting. Its an ugly bug. I should draw a dragonfly because they are pretty, but I don't know. I'm afraid that ugly is the new pretty for me. Perhaps the painting won't sell because there is a big, ugly bug on it. I wish I could feel enthusiastic that I know what I'm doing but I'm not. Maybe I would be happier drawing a fairy with wings instead of a big ugly bug.

Have to wait until tomorrow to see if inspiration will hit. I'll look through some art books and try to steal other painter's ideas.

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