Breaking Up With a Therapist
We've all been there. You start seeing someone new and they see you, get you, ask questions and are invested in your stories. You do little things to test their boundaries - things you can joke about, how deeply you want to go into detail about a particularly traumatic experience.
Little by little, the walls start to come down, you become more vulnerable, share more, cry more, discover more - all the while never feeling judged. You learn all their little ticks and facial expressions. You relish at the notion of them laughing at one of your jokes, because it feels like you were able to see a little bit past the curtain.
Then the weeks, months, or even years go by. A slight passive-aggressive comment here, a judgmental look there. A snippy answer or unclear solution… or lack-thereof. You start to look at the clock more when you're together. Then you start to question whether or not it's working. That place that initially felt so safe, that got you through so many bad moments and memories, now somehow feels like an interrogation.
Okay, I think opening this thing with "we've all be there" went a little off the rails in that last paragraph. I'm sure you've gathered that I'm talking about a therapist by now, per the title. But you, know, it was really fun see how many romantic relationship comparisons I can hit. And wow, I got three whole paragraphs out of it! (Pat yourself on the back more, Chris.)
Now that I've broken the fourth wall, today's post will be about my decision to break up with a therapist. Now, I you may be thinking that the term "breaking up" is a little harsh. But let me break down my history of therapists:
First and foremost, I celebrated 10 years of psychotherapy this year. Let's face it, for a cisgender, straight, white man born in the mid-80's, that's quite the chip (what are you getting cute with me? Stop the fucking self-congratulatory bullshit.) Eat shit, inner monologue! (You're arguing with your insecurities on your own blog. Why don't you go cry about it on Xanga.) Fuck you! (No, FUCK YOU!)
Sorry, I had to separate the children.
Anyway, I've had three therapists before the one I'm with now. The first two were great. I spent a couple of years with each of them and both relationships (?) ended amicably, because I switched jobs and they no longer took my insurance. When it came time to jump back into therapy in 2018 after a hiatus, I had no health insurance. My girlfriend referred me to a sliding-scale clinic that provided uninsured people with affordable therapists.
After my intake, they scheduled me an appointment with someone who they saw "fit" for me - and it was ultimately my choice, after one session, whether or not I wanted to work with them. I had the option of speaking to a man or woman. My first two were women, and my track history of being vulnerable around other men ain't fuckin' great, so I opted for another female-identifying therapist.
I saw her for two years. At first, everything clicked. She was different than my first two - quieter, did a lot more listening, didn't jump to solutions but would rather ask me questions that challenged certain belief systems within myself. I actually applied a lot of her methods to my own teaching and coaching actors.
She took a sabbatical in the summer of 2019, when things got really bad for me. She gave me the number to one of her colleagues, in case I wanted a fill-in while she was gone. I wasn't interested in that, because, truthfully, I liked the idea of "my therapist is away, so I now have license to spiral if I want". Ugh. Warning signs, am I right?
She came back just after my suicidal episode that same year. And to her credit, she got me through the transition into getting medicated. She was crucial in my recovery. But something was missing after that. No matter how much I resisted, I couldn't help but feel abandoned. When I watched the Blue's Clues Steve Video this week, it wrecked me. Like my therapist, Steve needed to be somewhere else during that time. While a large part of me feels abandoned, the explanation she gave made it clear that she didn't have a choice. I have to respect that.
At around the same time, I finally qualified for the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan, after years of not having insurance. It was a huge milestone for me - making enough money in a calendar year as a working actor to earn this…. insurance that let me way the fuck down during the pandemic, but that's another story.
Now having health insurance, paying out-of-pocket weekly for a therapist I was beginning to have lukewarm feelings about began to take its toll. In turn, my expectations began to rise. Then the pandemic happened. We were all doing the fucking best we could.
Experiencing Zoom fatigue from all of the classes I was teaching, I opted to speak to her on the phone for our sessions. At first it was nice - I would walk around the park and get fresh air during our sessions. Then, as more time went on, I found myself sitting in my bedroom, curtains closed, staring at my alarm clock, counting down each minute of our sessions.
The incident, if you even want to call it that, that put us over the edge is not something I want to share, because it's between her and I. There was nothing inappropriate, or line-crossing. I just felt like I was boring her. And, truth be told, it was me who was bored. Loyalty kept me there for months, and now I was just getting by. Those belief-challenging questions that piqued my curiosity in the beginning were now beginning to feel cryptic and judgmental. I left sessions feeling more confused and upset than when I came in.
I would never settle for that in a romantic relationship, so why am I paying hourly for that experience?
The next couple of weeks were very similar to every awful past experience I had in breaking up with someone. I talked about it with friends. I fretted over the notion of "starting over" with someone new. I got really nostalgic for the beginning of the relationship, wondering if there was something I could have done differently, or if there was something we could do to get back to that place.
It ended with an email exchange.
I won't hide my disappointment in how it all transpired. I also won't withhold my gratitude for all she did for me. She's human. She also lived through Covid-19. Like any breakup, there's a mixed bag of good and bad. Some obviously tilt more in one direction, but this is one of those cases where the two are not mutually exclusive. It's a shame it had to end, but I'm better for it now.
Anyway, you guys, I'm seeing someone new now! It's a MAN! New terrain for me, as I've said before. I've never felt comfortable opening up to men, giving my childhood history of getting punched in the mouth by the neighborhood boys for showing any form of vulnerability. But he's awesome - we're about the same age, have a lot in common, and I really like his approach.
I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I think this could really go somewhere…
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in getting help:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.