PTSD, Asperger’s, Therapy, and Therapists

I’ve been in therapy since 1984, with a few breaks.  That’s longer than some of my readers have been alive!  I first entered therapy in a panic in 1984 when I was 5 months pregnant with my son.  I had had a miscarriage the previous year, and I was very connected with my 5 month old fetus baby.  One night I realized with a bang that if I didn’t do something to end the generational pattern of abuse, it might continue in my generation–and I would be the abuser!  I was horrified by that thought, and the next day began looking for a therapist.

I had no idea how to find a therapist, so I picked one out of the Yellow Pages.  I will NOT go to a male therapist because of my history of serial rape and sexual exploitation, so I chose the only female one in the book, called up and made an appointment, and showed up at the appointed time.  She had a kind of icy exterior, but I was used to that, being in academia at the time, where everyone was in competition with everyone else and even the feminists with whom I worked tended to circle one another like female dogs sizing one another up.  So I thought that’s what it was.

Now, I didn’t realize at the time that my inability to judge character was in large part due to the fact that I am an Aspie (person with Asperger’s).  I’m notoriously bad at reading people, and it has caused me a lot of grief.  I should have just turned around and walked out of her office.  But I stayed, and answered her angry questions.  Since it was my first experience with therapy, I though perhaps that’s what therapists are like, and I should try it out for a while before I made any judgements.

As I was walking down the street on my way to my second appointment with The Cold Bitch, I suddenly doubled over in pain.  I knew what it was: a Round Ligament spasm.  The Round Ligament is part of the apparatus that holds up the uterus, and when the uterus is growing, it sometimes goes into a spasm that can be excruciating.  Mine was.

Since there were no cell phones at that time, I crawled the block back to my house–luckily it was only a block–and called The Icy Bitch to tell her that I was unable to arrive at her office because I couldn’t ambulate.  She scolded me for breaking the appointment–for ANY reason–and told me she would be sending me a bill.  I told her she was fired.

The next day, I did a more sensible thing and called up Student Mental Health, since I was a student.  They gave me an appointment with the most wonderful therapist I have ever had.  She explained to me that I am deeply wounded by the abuse I lived with as a child, and still lived with whenever I had anything to do with my mother.  She helped me immensely, and I stayed with her until I graduated from med school/grad school in 1987.  Leaving her felt like pulling a wisdom tooth without anesthesia.

After med school I started my residency, with a husband and two year old in tow.  The two year old was having trouble with his mom working 120 hours a week, which was standard in those days.  And the husband, who was emotionally a two year old (I have never been a good judge of character, but he had seemed very benign), was completely lost, as he suddenly became a single parent, essentially.  It took me two years to get him to go to therapy with me.  I told my husband that I felt we were having problems in our marriage; he asserted that I was the one with the problem.  It’s true that working 120 hours a week is very bad for bipolar disorder, which had not yet been diagnosed.  I had been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and was on medication for that, but it seemed to me that that made it even more important that we get couples counseling.  I had to choose between individual and couples counseling, because working 120 hours a week did not leave time for both.

So we went to the Ph.D. psychologist that Student Mental Health gave us.  She was a very strange one.  She dressed in low-cut, short dresses with dark stockings and high heels, not your usual professional attire; but I didn’t judge her on that.  She also had a love-seat instead of a chair, and no desk, and she sort of curled up on the love-seat during our sessions, which made my husband very uncomfortable because he became involuntarily aroused by this behavior, and to tell you the truth I did too.  I didn’t know what to think of it, myself, and tried to focus on what she was saying.

After a few months of this she announced that she felt our marriage was unsaveable.  I had been sure of that for quite some time, but it felt validating to hear her say it, even if she was a bit unconventional.  We stopped seeing her and tried to work things out on our own,  but the marriage eventually disintegrated.

Therapists came and went after that.  I experimented with my bisexual identity, and got a Lesbian therapist for a while, who completely confused me.  A succession of unmemorable ones followed.

Then in 1998, I moved to my present location (from which I have moved several times, but am now back due to filial duties) and over a three year period had a complete breakdown in slow motion.  I was in an insane relationship with another bipolar person at the time (I had been diagnosed, at last, and taking Lithium), and we were planning to get married because when things were good (meaning when we were both hypomanic at the same time), things were outrageously good, and we thought that we could weather the bad times.  But we wanted to get some premarital counseling so that we would be better equipped for our predictably rocky marriage.  I asked my shrink for a referral, and he sent us to B_, who specializes in couples counseling.

We had one session with her, and as we were walking out the door she asked if she could see me alone for a minute.  I stayed and she shut the door on A_.  She pulled herself up to her full four-feet-eleven and said, “I normally don’t do this, but I would like to see you individually.”  I made an appointment.

Predictably, the marriage plans did not work out (that’s another story), and I have continued to see B_ ever since.  That’s a long time.  All of this time I have been the good patient and spilled my guts weekly; but for some reason, for the past few months she has been pissing me off, and I have felt my PTSD kicking in, and dissociating.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  My conditioning as an abused child causes me to just want to run.  The thought of telling her how I am feeling about her makes my hair stand on end.  And yet, I know that’s exactly what I need to do: tell her that for some reason, suddenly she is pissing me off.  I just have to screw up the courage to do it, somehow.

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2 Comments

  1. You’re right…you need to tell her. Maybe the relationship has run its course, but you owe your long-term partner the opportunity to at least try and help you see why her attitude has suddenly become an issue. Heck, maybe you’ve had a major breakthrough and just don’t recognize it yet. 🙂

    I have to do the same thing this afternoon – I need to be honest with my NP about why I’m not too happy with my therapist. I have a good idea how to start the conversation but will probably just wing it when I get there. Awkward.

    Reply
    • I keep having the uncomfortable feeling that I HAVE made a breakthrough and she’s goading me into standing up to her and saying, “you know, when you say that kind of thing it bugs the shit out of me,” instead of curling up like a little abused girl and taking it. Mind you, she’s not saying anything abusive. Just harping on the obvious, almost like she’s trying to be annoying. I’m going to have to tell her. Good luck with yours!

      Reply

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