Opinion: When you are having an affair watch out for judging therapists | Mary Duncan

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

*This is a work of nonfiction and opinion based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.*

I’ve had a therapist on and off since 2012, but mostly on, mostly dependent on a person to talk to every week to augment the ridiculous amounts of psych meds I am on to keep my mental health in check.

I depend on the medications I take so much.

I know that without the handful of pills I take in the morning I’m a weepy, useless lump of a body without purpose, and I just float through life without any real meaning to it, and certainly without joy, or even comfort.

I’ve felt great these last few years — which is exactly why I no want to stop taking any of my meds.

Some people are like, “I don’t want to be dependent on medications / I don’t want to alter my personality / I just want to feel everything.”

Then, there’s my dad who just says “Be tough.”

Because of course there are people like him in the world who think those of us dependent on meds are weak in some way, without considering how hard we fight, how much we battle with just getting out of bed some mornings.

So, I’ve always believed in doctors who told me that mental health outcomes are best when you do talk therapy in tandem with meds, and so I’ve been a good girl, I’ve kept seeing therapists for ten years even when it was an inconvenience to me, even when it was annoying, even when I felt like I wasn’t getting anything out of it, I went.

I had a great therapist named Lisa for years, until she moved away in 2019 and left me heartbroken, but not before helping me find a new therapist first.

Rachel wasn’t just a therapist, she was a licensed clinical social worker, a yoga instructor, and a life coach.

She seemed to offer everything I thought I needed and more, and after the first few awkward weeks of getting to know each other, Rachel and I settled into a good rapport and started doing EMDR therapy together within the first year.

And then…

Then I met the love of my life on Twitter — which sounds great at first, right?

Except he’s married.

Of course, for the first few months that he and I were seeing each other, I didn’t tell anyone about him or his marital status except for Rachel and one of my best friends who’d also been in an affair.

My friend was always supportive of me — after all, she ended up marrying and having two children with her affair partner, she got the fairytale ending.

My therapist on the other hand…was not supportive.

Mary, he’s married,” she would always remind me, as if it was something I could forget.

But he’s married,” she would tell me when I talked about my hopes and dreams for the future.

Always reminding me, always my mind in the direction of thoughts that it wouldn’t work out, that we would steering never be together, and that I needed to prepare for that eventual outcome.

But I just didn’t want to hear that kind of negativity in my life, and eventually I told her so.

“I feel like you’re judging me for my choices.”

She immediately defended herself and said that she wasn’t. That she just was throwing out possible scenarios that I should consider, and she was constantly, constantly asking me:

“Mary, how do we protect you?”

And I wanted to say:

“If I knew that we wouldn’t need to be talking — you tell me!”

Meanwhile, I was struggling with writing, struggling with motivating myself to find some path forward in my “career” and she was of no help to me.

Where were her life coaching skills that would help get out of its funk and back to writing again?

Where was her exuberance to help me like she made it seem she was so good at and committed to doing on Instagram?

Why did she just stare at me quietly and sigh all the time?

Maybe she thought I was beyond help — a lot of people do.

But her job was to be impartial, to be a safe sounding board for my issues that would bounce back some advice or words of wisdom to guide me on my way, but all I felt after getting off the phone with her was shame.

I started to dread my therapy sessions with Rachel.

Like, dread them.

I would actually get anxious before our chats, knowing that I had nothing new to tell her — nothing in my life has changed, and so therefore she must be disappointed in me in some way, or so I’d come to believe.

If I didn’t come to my senses and leave him, how could I be helped?

That’s what I believed she believed.

Maybe it wasn’t true.

Maybe I was projecting my own thoughts and fears and insecurities onto the situation a little more than I should have, but it still made me feel awful, to sit on camera week after week and look at her face and know she thought I was doing something wrong.

So, I cut her loose.

Well, sort of.

I told her I wanted a break from therapy, which is true.

I told her that I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of our sessions lately and that I wanted to re-evaluate what I wanted to get out of therapy, which is also true.

I told her I’d call her when I was ready to come back… which is not true.

She didn’t seem very concerned to see me go.

There’s a part of me that wonders if she even felt relief.

I know I did.

I’m not done with therapy, that’s for sure.

I know that I need it, I know that it’s an important part of managing my mental health and that I can’t go too much longer without looking for a new therapist.

But this time, I’ll be looking for something more specific.

I think I’ll be looking for a therapist who specializes in relationships and couples therapy, because certainly I have trouble maintaining healthy relationships, as evidenced by the fact that this is where I’m at.

I’m not looking forward to starting over again — it’s the pits, having to spend weeks or months catching a new therapist up on your life story, getting to know them and getting to feel comfortable with them.

But it’s a necessary evil, I suppose.

They can’t help us if they don’t know us.

I just hope the next one who gets to know me can accept me the way I am and where I’m at in life, and be willing to work with me, without judgement, but with genuine care and compassion.

That’s not much to ask for from your therapist, right?

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