Note: This post was created on 8-10-12, before the previouspost , but has just been fine tuned and posted.
We are fast approaching the anniversary of Dave’s attempt last year. I am acutely aware of this anniversary date, even though the sixth year anniversary date of his previous attempt passed without a thought.
One thing I’ve noticed is that August is a stressful time of year for Dave regarding his job. I can see how exhausted he is and his difficulty with setting limits and wanting to please others has him stretched to the limit.
At home, he’s lost patience with Beth multiple times. He’s having a harder time battling the I’m a failure self-talk. These are all red flags.
One problem is that he believes he’s handling it. I’ve asked him “Do you need to call “Doc (our therapist)?” “No.” “Do you want to go in for an extra session?” “No. I’m okay Kate.” But is he really?
During our couples session this past week I talked about how hard it is when Dave doesn’t take his meds. I asked Dave “Do you understood what I go through?” He said he did, he gave details, which evidenced that he was listening to me and understood the impact the attempts and a completion if the act would have on myself and Beth.
After the session when we arrived home I expressed my upset about his pattern of tardiness to sessions, which I brought up at the start of session when Dave arrived 15 minutes late. I probably should have expressed more of my angry feelings during the session in the safety of “Doc’s” office but instead I tell Dave at home how I waited 3 weeks to discuss my fears and concerns about what happened with his meds, and how his coming late, feels like he doesn’t get how important the session was to me.
He appeared upset. He lay down in bed and covered his eyes with his arm. His wall was building up. He said he didn’t want to talk. He needed space. I gave him some.
In checking in with him he said that he felt “hated on” in the session by myself and “Doc.” This type of distorted thinking is a red flag for Dave. He said that because he came late he felt that he didn’t have a right to speak. He felt that “Doc” was irritated with him. It’s true that I was irritated with him and I expressed that in our session and asked what was going on with the being late for session. But I didn’t get that vibe from “Doc.”
Dave said that “Doc” let us out “early” as a statement to him about being on time next time. I tried to disconfirm–that we were let out on time (it’s just that he came late and we started late), but Dave was not open to hearing this.
I worried. Dave engaged in multiple red flag behaviors. So I texted “Doc.”
I gave him space. I exercised. He came out of his room and said he was going for a walk. I heard him watering the plants.
Then he came back in and asked me to go for a walk along the ocean. That surprised me. He was inviting me back in. He didn’t keep his wall up very long. Unfortunately we couldn’t walk because we were expecting Beth’s friend over for a sleepover.
He leaned against the couch and opened up to me. He said “I don’t know what I’m feeling.” I said “just throw out a feeling.” “Sad, but I don’t know why.” I said “That’s okay, just keep talking.” He talked and started to tear. It turned out that ultimately he was feeling overwhelmed at work. He was running late. He felt pressured to finish his work. But then he felt pressured to come to couples therapy because he knew how important it was to me. I reflected his conflict back to him, and said, “So that must have been hard to have chosen to come to couples because you knew how important it was to me, even though you really felt pressure to finish your work, and then to show up to couples and have me question if you get how important sessions are to me.” Dave nodded.
I asked him what he needed. He didn’t know. I said that it was okay for him to tell me that he was having a situation at work and ask if it was okay to not come to couples. I said that I had other things I could have talked about in an individual session, my own work stress, my individual work that could have been picked up if he couldn’t make it. It would have been okay if he couldn’t come.
“Doc” didn’t text back until later in the evening–at the exact same time I was sending him a text that everything was okay.
We got through this.
It took him less than a couple hours to reengage with me and he opened up and talked about what he was feeling. Very hopeful.