Goodbye Allison

Last week I had my final session with Allison. The person who has listened to my secrets, encouraged me to talk, tried to understand my experience, and connected with me on many levels; is no longer in my life. I’m not sure how to deal with that reality… or, if it’s even possible to deal with at the moment.

We departed on amicable terms, in that I’ve moved from the area; but, that leaving was oh so difficult. I’m not sure that I fully comprehend what it meant to work with Allison. We formed a therapeutic relationship that allowed me to explore my experience in a safe environment. There were times when we got frustrated with, or misunderstood each other; but there was a desire to keep working on that relationship and find out why things were difficult. This gave me a valuable framework for my relationships outside of her office. I came to understand that people could be frustrated with me, but not want to hurt me… I learned that people were affected and effected by my actions and my past… That realisation was incredibly difficult, and I’m still not sure that I fully accept or understand it.

Allison walked with me as I tried to heal. At times I lamented that I hadn’t made any significant changes in my healing or reactions… but, then we would discuss seemingly little things like now being able to identify and talk about things that are causing me anxiety. I say this is “seemingly little”, but it isn’t. To put it into context, a few years ago when Allison would ask me what issues were affecting me, I’d say “everything… work, neighbours, family, relationships, healing… everything”. I meant it… everything seemed so overwhelming and beyond me, that I wanted to give up… it was all too big to deal with… But, more recently, I’ve been able to break down that overwhelming “everything” statement into more manageable and accurate descriptions of the problems. I’d be able to name the issues associated with that stress; rather than bundle it all into this huge “everything” statement that wouldn’t be able to be addressed until much later – if at all.

Addressing the issues within a therapeutic framework is difficult. I’m not used to being the focus of a safe person’s attention… I’m not used to the empathetic responses that Allison exhibited… I often railed against her attention and response; but, that was about my inability to cope with my emotions. I’m still learning how to cope with that safety… I hope that one day I’ll be able to understand what safety is, and what it feels like to exist within a safe environment…

During my last session with Allison, I began to get an understanding of some of the fears about no longer seeing her, or going to her office… There was a young and vulnerable fear that everything I shared in her office would disappear… At the time, I thought that meant that there was a fear that the secrets that I shared with her would be forgotten. On one level this forgetting was considered an advantage, as it would mean that the pain the secrets held would no longer have an impact on Allison. Another advantage of the loss of the secrets, was that Allison wouldn’t be hurt or bothered by the people who hurt me – I was told that the people who knew the secrets would be hurt, or killed. Then, there is the flip-side to the secrets disappearance/being forgetten… Does that mean that the telling didn’t happen?? Does it mean that the events described within the secrets, didn’t happen?? Does it mean that we don’t exist??

The question “Does it mean that we don’t exist” is still the hardest one to contemplate. Allison bore witness to many of my secrets, and has reassured me that she won’t forget me or my secrets… A part of me doesn’t believe her reassurances, and another part is hopeful she will remember… But the fear that my time with Allison was all a fabrication and didn’t really happen is very present. I have a dissociative coping mechanism where I quickly forget people and places… especially if they mean a great deal to me. This dissociative coping, means that I’ve already lost most of my memories of being in Allison’s office. I can see glimpses of it, but nothing lasting or meaningful. It’s crazy-making… How can I so quickly lose something that was important to me?

This brings me to another of my huge regrets during my time with Allison… I can only remember looking at her face once in all my time with her. I know that may sound silly, or even impossible, but it’s true. I have so much shame, that I can’t bring myself to look people in the eye… especially someone, like Allison, who knows some of my secrets. I can usually look people in the eye at work, but rarely in any other setting. I tried to talk myself into looking Allison in the eye during our last session; but couldn’t do it. I wish I had…

So now, I find myself in a strange city without a therapist. I initially rejected the idea of finding a therapist soon after arriving here, as I wanted time to grieve my relationship with Allison. But now, I’m not so sure… I seem to be coming apart at the seams… Denial and dysfunction are high on my list of coping behaviours… So I’m struggling to look for ways to move forward within my new life…

Please let me find a way…

Now playing: Enya – Only time


10 thoughts on “Goodbye Allison

  1. CG, I read this twice & I’ve cried both times. I can’t think of not seeing my T. I know the importance and significance of that safe space and that safe person. We spent our lives trapped inside ourselves with unbearable pain and unspeakable thoughts. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, this random person enters our lives who sits with us, waits with us and stands beside us as we slowly, cautiously, fearfully poke at this thing called safety. And, even after years, we’re nowhere near convinced it’s real.

    But, maybe it is real. Inside that safety of your relationship with Allison you’ve been able to build a strength infused with hope. You’ve made changes in your life and relocated to a new city. You’re moving forward and into life and into your future. This is all so big! (and really scary, which is why I’m glad it’s you and not me!) It’s understandable to feel as though you’re coming apart at the seams, but I think you’re likely stronger than you’ve ever been before.

    I’m sorry part of moving meant leaving Allison behind, but she’ll always be with you. Her words are written on your heart and in your mind. And, you’ll always be with her -in ways you can’t begin to realize. A few weeks ago I had an experience with my T that taught me a bit more about this thing they call relationship. I realized that I might matter to him. But, even more significant, I may never know or understand why I matter to him. You might think she could only be affected negatively by the secrets you shared. But, we don’t know how we affect our therapists because we aren’t them. We don’t know what is important to them. Your trust in Allison to share your secrets may have been the most beautiful and treasured gift she’s ever experienced.

    I understand and can relate to losing that connection with people and places when they’re no longer in my life. Could you ask her for a picture of herself or a certain object in her office? I’m certain she would understand the request. (I’ll admit to you and only you that I swiped a picture of my T from his Facebook profile and saved it to my desktop. Sometimes I need to know he’s real. I’m sometimes tempted to ask if I can take some pictures of some of the items in his office. I focus so much on them during sessions sometimes -the elephant figurines, the Buddha, the duck picture- but still I’d have trouble describing them right now.) It’s so understandable to be afraid and saddened by the thought of such an intensely important person and place slipping from your memory.

    I know how much my T means to me. So, I can imagine how much Allison means to you. But, now we know what is possible, right? We know there are therapists like mine and Allison and we know therapeutic relationships are real. You’ll never find another Allison, but you’ll find someone right for the you that you are now. That therapist and that therapeutic relationship is out there and waiting for you when you’re ready. The safety is out there. We know it is, right. We’ve experienced it. You will find your way.

    Take care,

    • Hi rl,

      Yes, our T’s provide so much by their acceptance, listening, and being “themselves” in a genuine way… They’re such an important part of our healing and learning of new skills and ways of being. I can see why you would want photos and reminders of your T and his office to remind you of that safety and relationship when you’re struggling…

      Allison showed me that she cared in the ways she reacted to things I said, and that she kept seeing me through the misunderstandings and difficulties we experienced within the therapeutic relationship. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand that fully, but I appreciate it and am trying to learn from it.

      I hope safety is out there, and someone who will be able to help me keep on learning new ways…

      Thank you for reading and responding… thank you for telling me about your reactions… I hope you are able to keep seeing your T and developing those connections elsewhere as well…

      Please take care,

  2. I salute your courage Castor Girl!! Having the attachment to Allison and being able to move cities, knowing you have to grieve ….. you are amazing!! Can you perhaps use some strengthening coping strategies from your toolbox? Like walking, exploring during daylight your new city, taking photos, perhaps artwork – you have many talents!! It is a hard call moving as you have to find a new GP that is supportive and that may involve Mental Health services, or not, and of course the therapy question as you enter a new phrase of your life. Keep blogging your journey! Thank you for your sharing – your posts make so much sense and say what I cannot!! Go well!! Date: Sat, 23 Nov 2013 02:35:35 +0000 To:

    • Hi,

      Thank you for reading and offering your support πŸ™‚ I am slowly starting to work my way through the chaos of the move and beginning to feel more settled. It’s difficult and raised so many different things for me… but, it’s also good and positive in so many ways…

      I’m glad you have found my writing helpful… I’ll probably be doing more as I work through these big changes in my life.

      Please take care,

  3. I’m a silent reader, but I was wondering if you’re (relatively) okay so I’m leaving a blog comment for the first time in my life πŸ™‚ My English isn’t good enough to react to the content of your post (or maybe I was just a bit shaken by what you wrote and for that reason out of words). I recognize a lot of your struggle with comprehending (therapeutic) relationships.
    I really appreciate your way of writing and reflecting on what happens in your life. Sometimes it helps me to recognize what is going on inside myself. Thank you very much for that.

    I hope you’re safe and okay.
    Take care.

    • Hi Sanne,

      I’m so sorry that it’s taken me so long to reply to your really brave and caring comment! I’m ok, but a great deal has happened since I last posted here – I’m in the process of immigrating, I’m trying to find a new therapist, and experiencing the confusion of being in a safe relationship for the first time in my life. I’ve also started studying again… I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the changes, even though they are positive ones. I’m not used to positive, so find it difficult to trust.

      I’ve been meaning to write another post to keep my reflective awareness of all of the changes and experiences that I’m going through… I don’t want to promise anything, but will try to write again soon.

      Thank you so much for taking the step of commenting, and I found your English to be perfect! I hope you’ve managed to find a positive therapeutic relationship… It’s such a vital relationship for so many survivors!

      Please take care,

      • It’s good to hear from you. I can imagine how overwhelming all the changes must be. I think you’re very brave for doing all these things. It’s like you said: positive changes can also be hard to deal with when you’re not used to positivity. (And maybe also if you are, by the way.)
        Hopefully you’ll find a good therapist soon. I’m lucky to have a good therapeutic reltionship now and it’s a great resource indeed.

        Take your time.
        All the best,

        • Hi Sanne,

          I’ve just had a first appointment with a therapist who seems to be a good match… will see how it goes! πŸ™‚

          You’re right, a good therapeutic relationship is so important! I’m glad you’ve found a positive match and are working on healing…

          Take care,

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