No, it’s not Friday yet, but I am giving thanks that I have therapy to look forward to. Not sarcastic, quite sincere, and very grateful.
Last Friday (the second session) was draining and difficult, but not so much from what was covered. I wrote earlier that on the way home from the first session, my son(S3) asked me if he could drive me again, but the second time around it didn’t go well at all.
He was tired. He’d had quite a bit of caffeine and not much food. I’m not sure if there were other factors, but he was terse and edgy. Since I’d pushed through a small mountain of anxiety to get out again, I already felt drained by the time I buckled my seat belt.
I’m not sure how to condense details that are possibly inconsequential, or is the devil in the details? I think he was irritable before we had conversation. I said, “Hey, did you talk to Dad this morning and hear that —”
“…yes… isn’t that awesome! She said his blood panel looked like a two year old cat! So I’m going to bite the bullet and pay for the dental work he needs. I know it’s crazy, but he’s old and dependent, and I’m pretty sure he’s the kind of cat that would get it done if he could, so I guess Tiger will get to the dentist before we will. We better get ourselves there soon!”
(My son and I both need to go to the dentist, but as a result of his traumatic brain injury, he’s in danger of losing teeth if he doesn’t get there soon. He and I have had calm discussions about this, and while he had allowed me to make an appointment for an exam and estimate, so far he’s procrastinated on getting another estimate or choosing which dentist. I can understand why this possibly irritated him, but not what followed.)
I could hear him almost begin to steam at the steering wheel. He glared and curled his lip and talked about he hated the word ‘we’. I can’t remember his exact words, but suffice it to say that he was angry that I used the word ‘we’.
Fair enough. I apologized for doing that, then sat quietly and looked out the window. But then he turned and said, “I notice that whenever you start to get well, you start talking about something like the dentist.”
Closed my eyes… breathed… said, “I understand why you were upset that I used the word ‘we’, and I apologized for that. Your comment just now feels unfair, unmerited, and out of place to me.”
He replied, “That’s not a feeling. It’s not about you. This is me expressing a boundary.”
I said, “To me, it feels more like I irritated you, and now you’re trying to take a poke at me somehow, and that feels hurtful.”
He replied, “That’s not a feeling, it’s a thought. I told you that this isn’t personal, it’s a boundary.”
I asked, “How is making a comment about me that’s an opinion, a seemingly judgmental opinion, a boundary?”
So on and so on until I just stared out the window, he drove too fast past road signs, missed a couple turns, and we were almost half an hour late. As I was unbuckling my seat belt, he was already out of the car and responding to the therapist’s greeting by telling her that we’d gotten into an argument on the way there. My knotted stomach clenched a little more tightly in pain, but I got out without knowing how to respond to the questioning look in her eyes.
She asked if he’d like to join us, and so the beginning of the shortened session began with her showing us how to both stand and run our hands in synchronized motion and deep breathing on the same horse. She asked my son how he was feeling, and he said that he was angry, and began a rant about me that included accusations about codependency, excuses, and not doing anything to get help. She asked him what he thought I felt about him. He paused and said, “I think she’d give her life for me.”
The therapist nodded and said, “You believe that your mother loves you very much, and I think that you also love her. It seems strange then that you have all this anger, why do you think that is?”
He didn’t really respond to the question, but added more to the rant. I pressed my face with closed eyes into the side of the patient horse, and almost went … somewhere else. Just somewhere where it was just the comforting horse and me.
The therapist had to answer a call briefly, and I could palpably feel the anger next to me. Very quietly I asked, “S3, would you like to have the rest of the time to be able to talk with her? I don’t mind waiting, like you did for me last week.”
That made him more angry. I could hear it and feel it. He said, “Are you saying you don’t want to be here?”
“No, I’m not saying that. I’m asking if you’d like the rest of the time to talk with her alone.”
The therapist came back, asked him how he was feeling now, and in his response he used the word ‘rage’. He told her that I’d offered to let him use the rest of the session, and that made him feel rage. She asked him if there might be another way to look at it.
Well… there’s more, bits and pieces and details, but this was the gist of it. Around this point, my son started walking the horse around, and the therapist and I had a few minutes together. She asked me if my son was like this before the head injury, or if this was something since the accident. I told her that I thought.. a bit of both… possibly.
I told her that I felt as though there were a thousand thousand things (intentional repeat of word) that I wanted to say to her to hear her perspective about, but that much of it was just lost in fog and fatigue, and the rest I found myself second guessing. I said, “I felt like I couldn’t even choose a horse again today.”
She said she was aware of that (so had chosen one for me to push on with the session), and one of the first goals was to build confidence in me. She said that she saw what looked like conditioning, and that she’d once been in a bad relationship, one that had sapped all confidence in herself.
The session ended with her giving me a hug, and off I went to the car. With my son who was still quite angry. We took one more long and convoluted conversational spin around what had happened on the way to the appointment, but he said again that it wasn’t about my feelings, but also said, “I don’t give a damn about your feelings. (pause…)… I mean, I care about you… but I don’t care about your feelings.”
I said, “I don’t think it works that way… to care about someone is to care about what they’re feeling. Not to take responsibility necessarily, but definitely to care. It’s not about fault or responsibility in the caring, as much as it mattering if someone you care about is sad, happy, in pain, excited, discouraged, or afraid.”
This trip ended with a long silence, going straight home without stopping for lunch, and since then, like a low-grade fever despite normal behaviors and pleasant words, I sense a below the surface resentment from him.
This was a long post, but it’s about a small window of time that seemed to sap so much from me, that the days since have been like a gray blur. If it took so much out of me, it seemed that perhaps I should try to write about it. There’s probably no way I could have ever explained to my therapist about my relationship fluctuating with this particular son, but maybe the silver lining is that now I don’t have to. Becoming a better and healthier me is a lot of work.
In case anyone is wondering, I’m car shopping. I may not have it by Friday, but I’m doing my best to find a car that I can afford and feel safe in driving myself.