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Accepting my Chaos

 

About 14 months ago, in May 2012, I decided to enter a residential treatment center for a variety of emotional issues – extreme emotional dysregulation, chaotic interpersonal relationships, and an unstable sense of self, to name a few. My life before treatment was quite a kerfuffle, and my ability to function in society was dismal at best. While I was aware that I needed the intensive help of acute care, I also did not want to be admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital. That is why I chose to go to a residential treatment center that revolves around daily psychodynamic individual therapy.

My original therapist at this treatment center was perfect for me at that time. Due to my history of running from treatment centers when the demands of “performing” in therapy became overwhelming, this therapist realized that I needed to know I was cared for before I could delve into my emotions in therapy. It took about a month to establish a connection, but that connection soon became very intense. I had never experienced this kind of care, and I became extremely fearful of losing the attachment. I went to extremes to test the boundaries of the relationship, yet he never gave up on me.

After about 6 months of increasingly blurred boundaries, my team decided that the best clinical decision was to switch me to a different therapist. I was devastated over the loss, and furthermore was struggling with opening up to my new female therapist. Being female myself, it is normal to think that I would benefit from having a female therapist; however, it has always been easier for me to open up to males. So, after a month with the female therapist, my team decided to switch me to a new male therapist, who I have been with for the past 7 months.

Within the first few months of seeing him, I developed an attachment to him that did not feel as overwhelmingly intense as my first therapeutic attachment. I was also making a lot of progress during those first few months of working with him. Our future of therapeutic work looked promising – that is, until I came across a wave of unfortunate circumstances in my personal life. During these hardships, I did what I could to cope. I admittedly slipped back into a few destructive behaviors, but held myself together in the bigger picture of it all. My therapist became increasingly anxious about my ability to stay safe, and he started threatening to terminate therapy if I did not agree to sign his controlling contract.

Meanwhile, the other members of my clinical team were beginning to observe that the therapeutic relationship was becoming enmeshed and unhealthy. They did not agree with the necessity of a contract and recognized the fact that I was taking care of myself – something I would not have been able to do in the past, had I found myself in the same circumstances. Despite their clinical opinion, they have allowed me to come up with my own decision about whether to switch therapists.

This process of deciding whether to switch therapists has been difficult. I have gone back and forth about it for the past month, but I am starting to see the reality that the relationship is already over. I have so many conflicting emotions about it. I feel overwhelmed with sadness that the relationship is beyond repair. Yet on the flipside, I am confident that this is the best decision for me.

My thoughts keep coming back to when I had to move on from my first therapist. At that time, it felt like the world was over forever. I honestly did not think I could possibly live without having my first therapist. In that termination session, he promised me that I would look back one day and be grateful for all of the difficult feelings about losing him. He turned out to be right, so I have faith that I will once again grow from the difficult feelings of leaving my current therapist.

Today, I am finally able to look back at the last 14 months and see the incredible progress I have made. I recognize that I have the tendency to only see my shortcomings, which inevitably leads me to feeling worthless, hopeless, empty, and doomed to forever carry the “borderline personality disorder” label that I’m not so sure I ever fit.

When I entered treatment 14 months ago, I admit that I could have easily been labeled as having borderline personality disorder on paper. However, I now see that my problem was more of an issue of low self-esteem/low self-worth due to my abandonment situation at the age of fifteen. For the longest time, I wasn’t capable of seeing my strengths. I have spent my entire life doubting myself, but my treatment team has always believed in me. Even when I appeared to be a hopeless case for any treatment center with my major rule-breaking incidents and manipulative ways of blurring therapist-client boundaries, my treatment team always cared about me and believed in my potential.

When I was constantly in crisis, I somehow found it in me to hang on to the fact that my team cared about me. Because they never doubted me, I am able to say that I am proud of myself for all of the progress I have made in the past 14 months. I am able to focus on how strong I have been throughout the hardships, rather than criticize myself for making poor decisions that got me into the hardships originally.

My first therapist taught me that I am always doing the best I can with my limited resources at any given point in time, even if it looks like I am a crazy failure on paper. When we had our termination session, he promised me that I would end up being okay, no matter the circumstances, due to the strengths I could not see in myself. Even though I found it close to impossible to believe such a thing at the time, I held onto the hope that he would end up being right one day.

Well, here I am 8 months after that termination session, and I cannot help but believe that he was right all along. This progress I have made is not a result of being forced to change by my team. Instead, it is a result of my strength in doing my own hard work with the guidance of my team.

Am I cured? Heck no! I have so much more work to do, and I am unsure of what the future holds for me. But what I do know is this: I am at my best when I know that others care about me and believe in me, even when I behave like a crazy person at my most embarrassing lows. Recognizing this has helped me realize that as much as I hope and wish, my current therapist doesn’t believe in me the way the rest of my treatment team believes in me.

For some perplexing reason, he isn’t able to see the real me with all of my amazing abilities. And you know what? It sucks and makes me really sad, but I refuse to let it defeat me like it would have a few months ago. Instead, I am using this pain to help me grow.

I am finally able to recognize that I am the one who defines me – not my therapist, family, peers, etc. The truth is exactly what my treatment team always knew about me: I am capable of containing my destructive impulses all by myself and I am stronger than I know. I have been through a lot of difficult times in the past, but I wouldn’t change any of it. It has all made me the strong woman I am today.

 

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Filed under: Life, Treatment · Tags: therapist, therapy, Treatment

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