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When My Therapist and I Disagree

 

My therapist and I usually agree, so when we don’t it’s jarring and upsetting, to me if not to her. Most often when we disagree it’s about how I’m doing. She generally thinks I’m further along in therapy than I think I am. And it’s annoying, because when I walk into her office feeling discouraged or overwhelmed by tasks I don’t think I can do and she says, Nah, that’s not a problem, I feel, suddenly, all alone. Because she’s not offering me any path forward. She’s telling me that I’m somewhere I know I’m not, and that means I’ll have to make the rest of the trip from A to B alone.

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“Alone?”

Usually, my therapist is able to hear me when I say that I’m struggling, and she’ll ask me questions to figure out what the real struggle is made up of. Is it a general self-esteem issue, or a wave of panic or depression? Is it a concrete problem that we can solve with some detailed plan of action, or a temporary low caused by a negative experience that will pass?

All of the years spent working through these things with her have made this process automatic for me, and I go through it a lot on my own, sitting down and going over an event to find out where the negative mood set in and why, or coming up with practical steps to address a problem that genuinely needs solving. But it still hurts when I tell her that I’m struggling and she doesn’t understand.

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“Harrumph.”

There are times when I’ve been on the other side of that kind of glitch. When I see my students struggling, part of me just wants to say – but look how smart you are! You’ll be fine! And you know who will be reassured by that? Just me. Not them. Because what I’m actually saying is: I trust you to handle this yourself, without any help from me. Why would I choose to say that? Maybe because their anxiety is scaring me, or frustrating me. Maybe because I don’t know how to help them, or I don’t really understand why they’re struggling and I don’t have the time to find out. But all of that is about me, and for me.

If Cricket, God forbid, got off leash and ran into the street, I would be terrified and I would be yelling at her and chasing her – because I wouldn’t be able to think strategically with my baby racing out in front of cars. Intellectually, I know that chasing her makes her run faster, and yelling at her makes her ignore me and act more erratically. But in my anxiety, I wouldn’t be able to think all of that through.

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“Grrr arrgh!”

I don’t know what it is that causes my therapist to not be on the same page as me sometimes. I know she always believes that she knows better than me, or has more perspective than me, because of her wider experience in life and in therapy. In those moments, she probably believes that I am temporarily thinking with the wrong part of my brain, and if she lends me her confidence then the right part of my brain will snap back online.

I think sometimes the gap opens up when my therapist is most aware of her own age, and my mom’s age, and she’s scared that I won’t be better in time to take care of myself. Her fear, for me, makes her try to push the therapy faster by brute force. But, if anything, that just scares me more and sets off my anxiety, and despair, and prevents me from seeing any path forward.

My therapist is very well trained and very experienced, but the horrible fact is that she is a human being. And it sucks. I preferred it when I believed that she was perfect and all-knowing and that I could rely on her to tell me everything I needed to know.

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“You know everything, right Mommy?”

The thing is, a lot of things are harder for me than they seem. When I tell people that I need two naps a day just to function, they think I’m kidding, or exaggerating. It used to be one nap a day, and it will probably go back to that eventually, but I’m in a two-naps-a-day phase at the moment, and it makes everything hard to do. Like laundry, or driving or teaching or writing.

I tend to schedule my naps so that I can have the most possible energy when I know I’ll need to be around people, which means that they then think I’m fine, because I look my best when they see me. And most people, including my therapist, trust what they see with their own eyes over what I tell them about myself. My therapist only believes that I’m struggling when she can see me looking exhausted or walking badly or she can hear me slurring my words or forgetting simple words in front of her.

Mom and the dogs, who see me in every mode, have a better sense of what’s going on with me, but even they get confused sometimes, between what I can do and what they want me to be able to do.

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“Huh?””

And the thing is, I don’t want people to lower their expectations of me. That’s probably why I try so hard to be at my most functional in public. I hate how it feels to be around strangers when I can barely hold my head up, and I don’t feel safe being away from home when I’m so close to the edge. I want there to be a way for people to adapt their expectations of me to fit both what I am capable of and what I want to do. But maybe, and this makes my head spin, I’m expecting other people to be able to do more than they can do, and I’m being just as unreasonable in my expectations of them as they are being unreasonable in their expectations of me.

Now my head hurts.

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“Mine too.”

 

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

Assistive Technology for Dogs

I want someone to create a device for me. It needs to be big enough to accommodate paw sized buttons, with pictures on them and maybe even sounds attached. Cricket needs a device like this, next to the front door, so that when she races across the apartment barking her head off, she can press a button to identify the source of horror. Is it the mailman? A neighbor? A leaf in the wind?

“Why don’t you understand me?!

“I am a very articulate barker!”

The device would have to be on the wall, rather than the floor, to avoid the possibility that Butterfly would pee on it.

“You want me to pee on something?”

I read about assistive technologies in a class about exceptional children, by which they meant children with disabilities in vision or hearing or cognition or other physical limitations that required adaptive methods for communication. But what if some of these adaptations could enhance the other kids’ educations as well? What if using pictures as part of education for longer than we do, or concrete objects for examples, or music, would create more thorough and sustaining connections in children’s minds? Just because a child can jump to the theoretical level, and imagine an apple or the color red without seeing it in front of her, doesn’t mean she would no longer benefit from those inputs. What if your understanding of a poem or a story would be richer if you could see a picture of the ocean, or smell the sea air, or hear the sound of the waves that you’re reading about on the page?

I think Cricket would benefit from having these more concrete connections available to help her organize her thoughts. If she hears the mailman, she can run to the front door and press the picture of the mailman with her paw and hear the word “Mailman” ring out. This would also help me, because instead of barking in the abstract, I would hear the word mailman, or “Bird! Neighbor! Leaf! Car passing by!” And I’d have a better idea of what she wanted to communicate, or complain about.

My fear, though, is that we would just replace the incessant barking with a chorus of “Mailman! Mailman! Mailman!” all afternoon long.

“Where’s that mailman?”

I don’t think Butterfly particularly wants to talk, like Cricket, but maybe she could have a little music center so she could press a button to pick a song that matches her mood. One time when we were watching Dancing with the Stars (don’t judge me) Patti Labelle was dancing to “When You Wish upon a Star” and Butterfly was entranced. She likes Princess Songs. But sometimes her mood is darker, so she’d have to have a button to press for punk rock, or singer song writers on acoustic guitar for her sad days.

But really, the only assistive device she wants is one that gets her extra food. Her ideal would be to have a room full of treat dispensers, one for cheese, one for peanut butter, one for chicken, etc. She’d at least get exercise running back and forth between her favorite treats.

“Treats? Where?”

What I really need, more than assistive technology, is another person to take over with the girls when I’m tired, or run out of ideas. Someone to take Cricket for long walks, or bring Butterfly to the zoo, or spend an hour a day teaching them new skills.

This is the level of exhaustion I'm looking for.

This is the level of exhaustion I’m looking for.

Oooh! That’s it! I need a robot to train the girls! I’m sure someone is working on this right now. Would the robot be human sized or dog sized? Maybe a robot in the shape of a golden retriever? The robot could be programmed to take them for walks and maybe have an attached pooper scooper?

Do you think this would work? (not my picture)

Do you think this would work? (not my picture)

“I think Mommy’s gone crazy.”