Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Therapy’s Not Comfortable

I had one of my hardest therapy sessions last night, and I have to write about it. We talked about my visit with my mother this weekend, and although it went well, it was so uncomfortable at times during the visit. I don’t feel like when I’m with my mother that I’m myself, as she’s not really warm, and we don’t really know each other very well. Honestly when I showed up to my friend’s house after my time with my mom, I felt such a relief to be at my friend’s – it’s just so much easier! So my therapist asked me why I felt this way, and I talked about how I feel like I have to be so polite, don’t rock the boat, don’t make anyone mad. And I tried to talk to my mom, but she kept interrupting me and changing the subject.

I talked about how I would ask a question of my step-dad, who is a doctor, about medical stuff, and what doctors think of patients with self-diagnosis and asking for tests, and mom would change the subject. My therapist asked how my mom deals with grief and loss, and if maybe she doesn’t want to talk about stuff like that. I really don’t think that’s it, as she talks a lot about people that she’s lost. She talked for 30 minutes about her cat that she lost! Laura asked me yesterday if mom doesn’t like to talk about it since she was infertile too. Maybe. It’s interesting – I once asked her about her own infertility, and she’s very against fertility treatments. She thinks it’s against God. That if God doesn’t want you to have children, that you shouldn’t. I had to remind her that she couldn’t have children either… Then she changed her story and said that God was telling me to adopt. Maybe all this is why she doesn’t want to talk about it.

Anyway, my therapist said that I really didn’t need to worry about why my mom kept changing the subject. Instead, I need to be assertive and ask for what I want. When my mom changes the subject, I need to say, “Mom, I would really like to hear what step-dad has to say about this. I’m going through a lot of medical stuff right now, and I respect his opinion. So please, I’d like to ask again about what he thinks as a doctor.” And persist until I get what I want. My therapist said this is a recurring theme for me. I don’t insist on getting what I want. If someone says no, it disappoints me so much that I back down, and just stay with the disappointment. I don’t stand up for myself. She said that I do this with my husband, and my mom. She thinks this relates to my abandonment issues. I was abandoned as a child – I was in 18 foster homes before my parents adopted me. So I was abandoned by my birth parents as well as the different foster parents. All this before age 4. And then I was adopted, but by two people who didn’t understand how to “re-parent” a child like me.

She talks about re-parenting quite a bit. She says when you adopt a child older than a newborn, you have to re-parent them. Basically reprogram them with the things that they didn’t get, like in my case, feeling secure, asking and getting what I need, and simple things like assuming I’m going to eat again, and not having to binge food (I could tell you stories…). My parents didn’t know how to do this, and there weren’t a lot of programs in the 70’s and early 80’s that taught people these skills. And even if there were, I wasn’t adopted through a traditional adoption agency or anything, so I don’t think my parents went through any training, counseling or anything!

My therapist kept saying that since I didn’t get what I needed as a young child, and then didn’t get what I needed from my mother, and my parents emotionally abandoned me and physically abandoned me at times as well, that now I need to work on my skills of being assertive and asking for what I want. And if someone says no, I need to calmly ask again, and explain my needs. It’s all about the delivery. I’m just so afraid of being disappointed. What if I ask – calmly – for what I want and never get it? I was so distraught last night in therapy with this conversation. I’m so afraid of being disappointed that I tend to not put myself in positions that will make me even more disappointed. She kept pushing me to come up with scenarios when I’ve been disappointed by my mom, and walking through how I could have handled it differently. I kept getting more and more upset. At one point I said, “I’m not very comfortable with doing this.” And she said, “Therapy’s not supposed to be comfortable.”

I’ve been going to this lady since December, and I’ve been so wrapped up in letting her know what’s going on with my fertility stuff, or with my husband, or other stuff. We really haven’t started working on the big issues, like character stuff. I guess we’re starting that. And I have a lot to work on. She told me that I need to start being more assertive, and if people say no to something I really want, I’m supposed to calmly explain why I want something, and push it. I’m supposed to realize that sometimes I’ll be disappointed, but that’s ok.

Last night I tried to have sex with the hubs. It’s that pre-ovulation time of the month… He said no, but he said to wake him this morning for a little action. I said ok. I woke him this morning at the agreed upon time, and he said he was sleepy – the dogs had been up all night, and he couldn’t sleep (no kidding – I was the one up with them!!!). So he wanted to keep sleeping. I calmly said that he agreed to have sex this morning, and I was really looking forward to it. And he said no – he was tired – how about tonight. And I was disappointed, and I didn’t push it. BUT – I didn’t get upset, and we’re still in a good place, I’m just disappointed. I don’t think I did what my therapist said to do. This is hard.


  1. Wow, this is so hard. I am so sorry that you are dealing with this. I agree with your therapist, that therapy is not supposed to be easy (I am a therapist myself) and it sounds like you guys are really getting to do some good work together. I do not pretend to understand what you are going through, but I can only imagine how hard all of this IF stuff is on top of everything else you have already went through. Please do not give up on yourself. Keep pushing through. changes like this take time, you will get there eventually.
    Sending love your way.

  2. Those are definitely some big issues and some big, difficult steps to take. I'm proud of you for being willing to take them and sharing your path with us. I know it isn't easy to talk about it all.

    Don't beat yourself up about this morning. It seems like you definitely took the steps you were supposed to. They won't always lead to exactly the conclusion you're looking for, but I think half the battle is just making sure others really understand what you mean, not necessarily getting the results.

  3. When I read the title to this post, my first reaction was, nope, it's not! Mo and I did a little couples' therapy back in the fall of 08 and it was ROUGH. I had a crappy therapist, though, whose only solution to our problems was for me to leave my husband (which I wasn't willing to do). So, we stopped going. I'm contemplating finding another one in October, though, when my insurance kicks in. This time it will be just for me.

    I'm proud of you for standing up for yourself. That's something I am slowly working on as well (and I didn't have the traumatic childhood you describe). And I agree with your therapist, sometimes being direct is the only way to be. Have you thought about asking your Mom why she changes the subject every time you bring it up? It sounds like she hasn't resolved her own fertility, or at least isn't very open to solutions that differ from hers.

    I hate being shot down in the bedroom, too. It hurts, it's personal, no matter how valid the reason. It's especially tough during O-time. Kudos to you for keeping calm -- and I hope that he comes through in a BIG way tonight.


  4. It is so damn hard to know something logically but to have your mind take you in a totally different direction. It's easy to step back and say "ok, I know I need to do Y" and then, when in that situation, all you can think of is X.

    Thanks for sharing your therapy experience. I can't imagine how hard it is to deal directly with something that is "wrong" like that but I hope I have the same courage if it gets to that stage in my therapy.

    I'm sorry about the disappointment regarding your husband. I don't know that this is the case in your situation but I do know that it's very hard to change when the effort is one-sided.

    Sending *hugs*!

  5. It sounds like you had a good, important conversation with your therapist. I've had a lot of similar conversations with mine over the years. She's so right when she says that it's okay to push back.

    I would provide a caveat to that push with this...it's also important to pick your battles. Yes, pushing back is good. But, it's also important to decide - is this something I want to push back on right now? Is it important to me? Don't feel like you have to push back on everything...that's a lot of pressure. Just the things that are very important to you.

    I also look at it another way. I call it the What's the Worst Thing That Could Happen technique.

    If I push back to my Mom about this, what is the worse thing that could happen? And typically, the worse thing isn't all that bad. She may get uncomfortable or a little upset, but it's not horrible...and it IS okay to push back a little bit.

    Often, I make things seem so much harder and I'm so fearful of things until I ask myself, "Hey, Louise, really...what's the worse thing that could happen right now?" Maybe he/she says no or not now...but at least you asked, you engaged and made the effort!

    Good luck with your journey. You're not alone. And, I know there are a lot of feelings from your childhood that maybe you haven't discussed, but you're a strong, capable and loving woman...you can do it! :-) Life is messy...and we only go this way once. You can totally conquer this!

  6. I think that a lot of women have this issue- and maybe a lot of men too. I don't know. But I definitely was nodding in agreement as I read this. I have assertiveness problems as well. Standing up to people is HARD. And I have no clue how to approach the issue of sex. If someone figures this one out, she should let us all know. As I can't seem to insist on sex without it turning into a fight!! Assertiveness doesn't seem to work at all when you are trying to get someone to sleep with you...

    Do you think your husband is particularly averse to saying yes at ovulation time? Because that was how E was getting-- his way of escaping the drama (or so he thought-- soooo not effective of him!!!).

  7. This is really difficult, but I think it sounds like your therapist has some really great (and really difficult) suggestions on how to get what you need from people. I tend to do the same thing - let things slide, don't rock the boat or upset anyone else. It's so difficult to fight for yourself and push the limits.

    I think after those first few times of you insisting that you get to have the conversation you want to have with your mom, you'll get to the bottom of why she's been avoiding the topic with you at least.

    You can do this - just focus on what YOU want and need and don't care about making others feel uncomfortable. Good luck.

    Also - I bought my charm bracelet online yesterday! It should get here tomorrow ~ i'll post pics on the blog when I get it :-).

  8. I love your charm bracelet....neat way to honor/remember important life events....As far as the therapy session...really getting into the core of things....My hubby and I have been seeing on since this IVF sometimes together and I see her sometimes individually....I grew up in a divorced family and thus has caused me to be very independant at a young age and I have a somewhat controlling personality so Im waiting for this conversation to be brought up but like you most of the time has been spent on current issues/problems....Im glad she is giving you some tips on how to be more assertive even with the people you love because your needs need to be fulfilled too....in every relationship:)

  9. I think for the amount I have to pay for therapy they should be able to snap their fingers and fix me. Ok. That may be a little unrealistic. another thing to bring up in therapy. Overall I've had difficulty finding a good therapist. I've even done a therapy group but it didn't last very long. It is hard but I hope eventually it has to be all worth it so hang in there. It is hard to be assertive because you don't want to appear too assertive. Ok. It is all just hard. I'm not a therapist - can you tell? I've been completely unhelpful. :0) ((hugs))

  10. Wow - you are dealing with some really tough stuff. It sounds like you have a great therapist - one who pushes you to make changes for the better. I'm impressed with your dedication and open mind on how to deal with your mom and step dad and others in your life. Hang in there.

  11. Your therapist sounds very good Alex, and I think you need to be patient with yourself as its so hard to change the habits of a lifetime overnight. You have to look at yourself as a work in progress I guess.
    As for the not wanting to dissapoint people stuff, I really felt like you were in my head when you wrote that. I remember speaking to my therapist about my relationship with my mom and I always wondered why we werent as close as I would have liked. I feel very awkward and unrelaxed when I'm alone with her (just like how you described). My therapist said that the first few months of a babies life is when they bond the most with their parents so if there is something that disrupts this process (ie adoption in your case, or being in hospital for 2 years in my case) then the bonding is significantly impacted and its sometimes impossible to make up that ground further down the track. Somehow just knowing this made me feel better. I don't know if you'll feel the same way, but it took the blame off me because i always felt like I must be somehow to blame for my distant relationship with my mother.
    Anyway, this is a long comment, but I feel for you and I hope you continue to ask for what you want and make your needs known. xxx

  12. It is so very hard. And one of the things that makes IF and loss particularly hard is that it get so wrapped up in the other things we're carrying. Your therapist's point about examining how you react when people say no (or behave badly) makes sense...BUT I also understand what a tall order it is. I also think it comes down to this simple fact: you are so worth getting those things you are asking for. You deserve them. And my hope is that once other people realize how important these things are that they'll be a little more forthcoming.

    And, personally - and no offense to your mom - I think the "God doesn't want..." line is a crock of $hit. Obviously, I HAVE to think that. But even if I were on the outside of IF and loss, I would still think so.

  13. Alex, sounds like therapy was tough, but good because you now have things to try to work on right now. I also agree with what Adele said about your mom making the God comment, it wasn't necessary and just kind of brushed off your feelings. I am sorry that you are dealing with these issues in addition to fertility. I really wish that all parents knew how to support their kids without letting their issues influence them. Remember that you have all of us to talk to and to validate how you are feeling!
    Best of luck with being assertive... it takes a little time, but once you start doing it you will feel so much better about it!

  14. Good on you for pursuing therapy. I am probably in desperate need of it but have avoided it for so long. I hope it continues to help you.
    Much love xxx

  15. It's hard enough to go through this without having issues to pop up. I have to say that only BORING people don't have problems. Those issues are what make us interesting, fabulous people. And, working through them to the other side builds character more than a crazy person with a chisel attacking a mountainside.

    All of this is hard work and extremely difficult stuff. I wish I could sweep it away, but it's just rough. There will be ups and downs but the ups are worth it and I am hopeful that you'll stick to it. People like to say that all of this therapy is here to make you feel better, but it's a lie. It makes you feel a LOT worse. But, that worse is only as you do work through things and there is a better out there. And, it's a much BETTER better if that makes any sense.

    Life is really good and you deserve to live it the happiest way you can.

  16. This sounds like it was a really hard session. I'm so impressed that you have the ability to face all of this with such determination (and I think you do.) I also had - albeit in a much more minor way - a conversation with my therapist (well, she's a social worker, not psychiatrist) - about this idea that it's sometimes really hard to ask for what you need because you're afraid of being disappointed that the person you're asking it of won't be able to or won't want to deliver. For me it was sort of revelatory - that maybe that's what I was afraid of. But, I tried to think about this. It wouldn't be my fault or my failure that the other person couldn't deliver, would it? I don't know if that necessarily made me feel better, but it seemed to give me some perspective on it. Take care of yourself through all of this.

  17. I have only beeing to therapy for one year when I was 17 and from what I remember it was a lot of hard work and at times I would just go in there and come out feeling worst then how I went in. Maybe it's not meant to be easy but if you do feel like it's too much at times, it's withing your rights to take a breather or a break during the sessions. Having said that I always found that my therapist always knew when to push me and when to let something be.
    You are doing something great for yourself and maybe this break from fertility related issues will give you the time you need to work through your personal issues. BIG HUGS!!!

  18. YOU are awesome ! I need to work on this same issue. I was not in foster care, but had the same time of parents. I pretend "I don't care" so that I don't get disappointed. i am really looking forward to seeing your progress :o). My husband and I are trying to adopt from foster care, I will make sure I learn everything I can about reparenting out child

  19. My blog reader has not been updating me on your posts. What a fantastic session you had with the therapist. It makes a lot of sense about the abandonment issues. I am so sorry that you had these things happen, but I am glad you can learn from them now.