How the pandemic has caused my therapist to re-traumatize me

I feel like a broken record that no one is listening to. I guess this is in line with why I rarely express my needs. The fear that my needs don’t matter, as was my daily life in my childhood. Ugh, that sounds victimy, and I hate sounding that way.

Let me be perfectly clear. I have multiple mental illnesses that significantly impact my daily functioning. 33 years ago I had my first Major Depressive episode. 32 years ago I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (then called Multiple Personality Disorder) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I have had periods of high functioning, and also periods requiring psychiatric hospitalization and heavy outpatient support during difficult times. I have successfully worked for periods of my adult life, and I have been on disability twice in my life.

My symptoms I currently struggle with the most are amnesia, confusion, no sense of time passing, thoughts of suicide and self-harm that seem to come out of nowhere, inability to feel most things, disorganized attachment that affects my ability to parent, chronic anxiety, and flashbacks that make it extremely difficult to function.

I have come to accept that I will have a life-long problem with mental illness that needs to be managed in different ways depending on how I am doing. I no longer believe the delusion that I will be cured if I only find the right therapist or do the right therapy. This is not me giving up, but instead gaining wisdom with age.

Patience is something we have all had to learn during the COVID pandemic if we wanted to survive. The world was turned upside down, and life as we knew it was gone overnight.

Unfortunately, those of us with mental illness still have our mental illnesses and need extra help surviving in this pandemic world that is actually quite triggering for many of us with trauma backgrounds.

I care deeply about my therapist, but she has kind of abandoned me during the pandemic. I have tried to be understanding and empathetic that she has her own fears going on through the pandemic. But then she got vaccinated as a first responder. Then I got sick and realized that medical providers all over town were showing up for work and seeing patients without any problems. And then my teenager’s therapist started seeing her clients in person.

I talked to my therapist in one of our not-very-useful phone sessions, and I pleaded with her to come up with a plan for what she was going to do to see clients who needed to be seen in person. I was honestly shocked that she didn’t have any sense of a plan, and seemed to want to just continue doing phone therapy with people, despite the fact that she was vaccinated and had returned to normal life in other areas of her life. She promised me she would come up with a plan. Two months later, nothing.

Over the phone, it is quite easy for my therapist to ignore when I am suicidal and need her help. It is easy for her to say it seems like I am doing better when I am actually having a horribly destabilizing day. She doesn’t have to see my emotions, my pain, fear, dissociation, and need for her help. She can just pretend that she is doing her job and everything is alright, despite those moments when I gain the courage and tell her I am not ok and need her help.

My therapist is retraumatizing me.

She is gaslighting me when she pretends like I am ok even when I tell her I am not. She literally doesn’t even acknowledge those rare times when I tell her I am suicidal or struggling with self-harm. She offers me nothing.

She has abandoned me. I definitely agree there was a time when it was right for her to isolate in fear of COVID, but that time is long past since she has been vaccinated, I have COVID antibodies and have been vaccinated (solely in hopes that I would be “good enough” for her to see me then). This rejection of me sets off a cascade of attachment craziness no matter how understanding I try to be.

I have come to the conclusion that either my therapist just won’t get help with facing her own fears about COVID, or she has realized that she can get away with doing this half-ass teletherapy so it makes her life easier (she often runs errands in her car during our telephone appointments, and she doesn’t have to actually sit with my pain).

My therapist, whom I love dearly, has become more like a close friend whom I pay so I can periodically confide some of my secrets over the phone. We aren’t doing therapy, and for a while, that was ok. But I have held on as long as I can.

It’s not clear where I should turn. My therapist may have abandoned me, but I struggle to abandon her (hello attachment issues). There are few therapists in my area who understand dissociative identity disorder. And because the pandemic has created its own mental health crisis, most therapists aren’t even accepting new clients because the demand is so high.

My first go-to is to decide to give up. To end this lifetime of struggle and suffering. Then I argue with my selves that I will not abandon my kids. My kids need me to help them get to adulthood.

So this leaves me in the familiar childhood quandary of there being no right answer. Nothing that is going to save or even help me. So I am on my own, spiraling downward when I shouldn’t be if I just had some help. This isn’t fair, but I know the very first lesson of my life was that I should not expect my life to be fair.

4 thoughts on “How the pandemic has caused my therapist to re-traumatize me

  1. I am so sorry! This sounds horrifying. She has not made you or your health a priority during your time with her and I am sure that brings up so much abandonment issues (among many other things). AND you have tried to talk to her about this with no change. Your health IS very important, even though her actions say other wise. Even though counselors may be slammed during this time, you never know, someone out there may have a space waiting just for you.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this. I know it wasn’t easy. I wish I had some words of wisdom or comforting words to offer that might help you through this. But I want you to know I hear you.
    This pandemic has been brutal for those of us with DID (in so many ways and for so many reasons). I’ve always struggled with isolation but I managed to at least get out to see my therapist 3 times a week. But for the past year being in quarantine and living alone, I’ve basically become agoraphobic. At this point I can barely step outside the door of my house. It’s paralyzing. I desperately want and need to see my therapist in person. This is especially hard for my younger parts who don’t understand any of this. But fortunately my therapist has been meeting with me on Zoom so at least we can see her…although it was extremely difficult adjusting to it. And the little ones still don’t get it. I’m wondering why your therapist has not set up telehealth using Zoom or FaceTime? I’m actually shocked that she actually runs errands while doing therapy with you on the phone. Definitely not ok. But I get that it’s hard to be angry at our therapist. I’ve been through that myself with previous therapists.
    Thanks again for sharing. And know you are not alone. Sending positive vibes your way.

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    1. Sorry you are suffering with agoraphobia. I was dealing with that at one point during the pandemic, but fortunately my son’s baseball team started back up and that forced me to go outside and have some interaction with the world. I realized it was getting so bad for my mental health that I actually started working as an Uber Eats driver just to get out of the house. It was really helpful for a while.
      I actually got Covid a few months ago from letting a worker come in my house without a mask. Anyway, after I had it, it actually made me feel more safe for a while because I knew I had some antibodies to protect me.
      I think my therapist offered video therapy me in the beginning, but due to my trauma history, I was uncomfortable with it. If I had known it would last this long, I probably would have tried to work through it. But, I know my therapist prefers the telephone, so I haven’t said a word.
      I guess I have reached some level or enmeshment or something since I seem to be making more decisions based on what she wants.
      Thanks for sending the positive vibes my way. I definitely could use them. It’s tough being so alone with all this.

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      1. It helps knowing that there are people out there who truly understand. Helps me feel less alone. I can definitely relate to every aspect of your experience and I just want to reiterate that you’re not alone. Feel free to reach out any time. My email is hope72epoh@gmail.com
        Keep holding on.

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