Vacation Reply: Therapist on Holidays

ErinRelationships, The Big Picture, Therapy10 Comments

needI’m running out of photos since I’ve been posting so often lately. It makes me want to apologize to your inbox, if you’re a subscriber. It makes me want to thank every commenter profusely for even bothering to come to my blog.

And it’s not just my writing that I’m super self-conscious about right now. I’m over-analyzing everything. I’m pretty sure I’m apologizing way too much; I’m overly polite with every cashier and stranger on the bus; I’m wondering if the person I’m talking to secretly hates me; and I’m repeatedly and spontaneously telling people how much they mean to me. I exhaust myself and, of course, I’m worried that I’m exhausting you, too.

Anxiety, anxiety, ANXIETY!!!

Obviously, I haven’t been the picture of mental health for some time now, but I’m connecting this current anxiety with the fact that my therapist is still on holidays. Today marks two and a half weeks without my dual appointment per week routine.

To make it worse, my last session with my therapist wasn’t good. I’d been feeling very depressed and I felt hopeless about the upcoming break and then to top it all off, my therapist didn’t even say, “Merry Christmas” when it was time for me to go. Some years she’s given me a handshake or a hug before vacation time, but this year I got nothing.

Who gives a fuck about Santa Claus when even your therapist can’t give you the gift of plain courtesy before kicking you out of her office?

I called and left her an angry phone message after leaving my appointment that day. She returned my call later on and said that she thought any seasonal gesture might make me feel like she was making light of my situation. That helped me to understand, but I didn’t feel much better on hanging up the phone.

It can be really hard not to take a therapist’s absence personally. Isn’t Christmas the time of year when you’re supposed to spend time with people you care about? So if my therapist takes a holiday, I often resort to thinking, “HA! I KNEW SHE DIDN’T CARE ABOUT ME!

Do you remember my previous post on Coping While Your Therapist is on Vacation? It’s this blog’s most popular entry, ever. So, I’m not the only one who knows the significance of a therapist going away for holidays.

If we’re struggling, we need more support not less. Unfortunately, we people in therapy lose one of our biggest supports a few times a year. No, it’s not fair. It’s one of the hard truths about therapy that few people talk about. It comes from the same place the fear in our gut whimpers, “But I shouldn’t have to pay someone to listen to me!” 

Payments remind us that it’s our therapist’s job to listen to us, and that can hurt to think about. But remember that our therapists chose this line of work out of every other job out there. To go to school to become a therapist takes years and years and years. Therapists listen to some of the saddest stories on the planet, from multiple people, day in and day out, almost every day of their adult lives.

That’s one hell of a commitment and they couldn’t do it if they didn’t care about each and every one of us. Truly. And they care so much that they do take their work home with them sometimes, considering our stories long after they leave their office. Sometimes those stories might even distract them from other people they care about like their spouses or their children.

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. I’m trying to explain this all to myself, because it’s scary to think that my therapist is human. She isn’t indestructible, as much as I need her to be. She’s mortal and that means that sometimes she needs a break to keep doing the work that she does.

Maybe when March Break or summer vacation comes along I can scroll back to this post. Maybe it can remind me that my therapist isn’t the same as all the people who have ever turned their backs on me. She isn’t trying to hurt me on purpose by going away and just because I’m out of her sight temporarily, it doesn’t mean I’m out of her mind.

She comes back from vacation, every time. After almost a decade of working with this woman, that consistency means a lot. It pays off. It pays me back in bigger ways than $100 a session. It pays me back for life.

ErinVacation Reply: Therapist on Holidays

10 Comments on “Vacation Reply: Therapist on Holidays”

  1. Kez

    I really liked your thoughts here Erin. I know exactly what you mean, how it’s not like every other person who’s abandoned you but rather, they commit to helping you (even though it is their chosen profession).

    I hope we get together soon. I need a hug from you, and kisses from Digby!

  2. hope4sanity

    Your picture really touched me Erin. I feel that way ALL the time. Especially with friends. It often seems like everyone I meet is too busy and I feel like the mythical “healthy” people don’t have time for me. I overpersonalize and start thinking that nobody likes me and that people are ignoring me or don’t like me or I’ve done something to make them angry.
    I HAVE learned though to check in and ask them. Usually they aren’t angry, they are just busy. But sometimes it hurts just as much. I often feel that if friends really cared they would make time. But in the same way, I do know people who really care DO think of me from time to time, even if they don’t have time to spend or time to call.

    I can say from being of the flip side of therapy that people working in mental health certainly DO care and often do take their work home and do think about their patients/clients.

    But it is that feeling of anxiety that it doesn’t matter all the good excuses and reasons and justifications in the world. It still hurts inside to feel alone and abandoned. Sending hugs. I DO think of you.

  3. Jan

    I dont hate you. I am grateful for your posts. It makes all the difference in the world helped me get through a rough time Just letting you know that I understand your feelings and send you healing hugs

  4. destroythequeen

    My last therapist was fantastic. She really seemed to understand me. And I could text her if I was feeling anxious or depressed, she’d call me last thing at night to make sure I was ok if I needed.

    She was great. Right up until I found out she was going through IVF treatments. After I found out, suddenly she started cancelling appointments. Running late. Having sessions with me whilst drinking some funky green stuff, and being all over the place from the hormones she could barely remember half of what I was telling her.

    So I decided to cease our professional relationship. But I was too chicken to tell her to her face so I made my GP do it. I’m all for therapists having lives and children if that’s what they want. I respect how hard their job is, and as such needing time off and to have their own lives. I also feel it’s important to learn things about the lives of our therapists, just as they learn about ours. It helps humanise them in our minds. Makes us remember that they too get sick and need holidays.

    But I decided that as her life wasn’t stable, she wouldn’t be able to adequately help me. I need someone, desperately, but I don’t know what to do.

  5. Anonymous

    Erin, my therapist is on a month long vacation and I have been seeing her for only 6 months now so I am not familiar with these feelings and found you here. What scares me about your blog is that you have been seeing the same person for 10 years. Now you know I am a newby so I don’t understand these things. Are therapists like husbands and wives that we need to keep for a lifetime? Should we change them up now and then? Tell me I really want to know. I am 63 next month and am hoping I don’t need to see the same therapist for the next 10 years as much as I like her now and am experiencing the patient/therapist relationship but I think after a while I would quit or find someone new just to know if I am getting the best I can for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been married for 45 plus years to the same man so I don’t change partners frequently, if you get my drift.

    1. daisiesandbruises

      Hi! I’m glad you found my blog. :) I have met some therapists who say that one should only stay with a therapist for 2 years maximum. Others say that time is not a factor. I’ve had the privilege of working with many different kinds of therapists throughout my recovery, from psychiatrists to social workers to horticulturists. So while still having this primary therapist, I’ve been exposed to many different treatment options and I’m always reading everything I can on different therapeutic subjects. I agree that you can’t rely on a single person to help you; it takes a village, as they say. I’ve been able to trust my therapist the most over this long period of time, but I do appreciate you voicing your concern. I hope you continue to read along with my blog – this is a subject I feel like I should post about so that other people can have this question answered, too! Watch for it soon!

      Take care,

      <3 Erin

  6. Kari

    My therapist is going on a two week vacation. I don’t want to feel anything about it because it makes me needy. But I am scared. I feel abandoned. I feel like she will never come back. I feel so alone in the world. I need her even though I could never say that. I feel like doing something drastic to show her how I feel. I feel so messed up.

    1. Erin

      Hi Kari,

      Thank you for your comment. I definitely recommend talking to your therapist about your anxieties around her going on vacation. It’s very common for patients to be upset about a therapist going on vacation, so I don’t think you’re messed up, like you said. Here are some suggestions for coping with your therapist going away. I don’t know if they will help you but they could so I’m writing them here. You’re worth protecting. Hold on!

      When there’s something I’m really scared to talk about with my therapist but need to talk about, I write it down and let my therapist read it. Maybe you could print out your comment to me for your therapist to read. A few other things I’ve done before to help myself cope with my therapist being away is to write letters to her, as if she would see them. Sometimes I show them to her, other times I don’t.

      If you feel in danger of doing something drastic, as you described, please reach out for help from a crisis line, website, or hospital instead of hurting yourself. There might even be a therapist your therapist could recommend you see while she is on vacation. Remember that your therapist IS coming back and that she will most likely be thinking of you while she’s away.

      Take care. You rock, okay? Hold on. You’re worth it!

      <3 Erin

  7. Kari

    I will talk to her next week. I am just so confused about all of my emotions about this. Maybe she won’t come back. Maybe she will realize that she doesn’t want to work with me. I am scared and angry and confused. I just need her to care about me. I need her to see how much I am hurting. What do I have to do so that she understands this? It makes me want to hurt myself. Will she understand this?

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