Friday June 12th
"You don't take the piss out of my mentor; my mentor takes the piss out of YOU.
This woman will have none of your bullshit. She's just not having it. She is not afraid to give you what she refers to as “tough love”. She's not afraid to be hard on you, if she thinks it's necessary.
In this session, she told me that the negative part of me, the part of me that's mean to myself, is very clever. It's quick, and sharp, and highly manipulative. It is, according to her, just as clever as I am. Most people would have figured out how to silence their negative part ages ago, and would never have allowed it to get this bad in the first place, because they're simply not clever enough.
Basically, the negative part of me runs the show, and because I'm clever (according to my mentor), it is clever. At every turn, it outsmarts everything else, so it's going to be very hard to take control over it. I would say it's impossible, but my mentor would tell me what a load of rubbish that is, so I won't, because you don't mess with my mentor.
“Imagine you were out riding your pony,” she said at one point. “You suddenly find yourselves stuck in mud, and you're sinking. Is it helpful to just sit there and blame yourself while both you and the pony are drowning in mud?”
I told her that I would never let my pony sink.
“But you'd let yourself sink? Why?”
“I actually care about the pony. The pony matters to me.”
At the end of the day, it always comes back to the fact that I don't really matter. Everything is my fault, anyway, but I'm not going to let that affect the pony!
She told me that I am too busy looking down at the shit I am currently standing in. All I can see is the crap I'm stuck in now, and if I keep looking down I'm never going to get anywhere. I need to start looking ahead.
“If you're going for a ride, how do you go about doing that?”
“Um… I get into the saddle and kick my pony in the sides so he starts to move?”
“And do you look ahead or are you busy looking down?”
“Well, if I didn't look ahead, that would be pretty irresponsible…”
“Thank you!” she exclaimed.
So I need to look ahead. I need to focus on the future. If I don't, nothing is going to change.
Needless to say, she did not approve of my negative credit thing. “That's complete rubbish!” (Haha.) I mean, of course it is, but it's how I feel. I feel a strong sense of debt, both to myself and to those around me, and yes, I am aware of how destructive that is. It's not helpful; it's detrimental. It does me no good and a world of harm. It stops me from getting anything done. I want her to help me put an end to this line of thinking.
Towards the end of the session, my mentor told me that she knows she is being hard on me. She said she was being a bit mean, and she's not normally that hard on her students, but she's hard on me for the same reason that she was hard on certain people as a riding instructor: those who show the most promise are usually the ones you're extra tough on. That's how she seems to feel about me. She thinks I'm intelligent, and that I have the mental strength to handle her “tough love”.
I told her that I don't think it's “mean” at all; I see it as necessary. I really need it, and I appreciate it.
My mentor calls them as she sees them. Most therapists, including my own, are gentle souls who just want to listen to you and maybe subtly guide you with questions and observations from time to time. THIS woman doesn't do that; she reads you like an open book, and tells you exactly what you're about with terrifying accuracy. She is completely revolutionising my life.
Without her, I would still be banging my head against the wall."
Saturday July 4th
"I'm so angry with myself.
I have this irrational fear of showing my work to my mentor, and until now I've thought that it's just about my fear of scrutiny, and of being judged, but that's only one part of it.
My mentor told me, “You need to get over yourself,” which is a statement that has been bothering me for two days now, ever since she said it. I've been wondering if it's true, even though it doesn't sit right with me at all. And I've finally realised why.
It's not myself I need to get over; it's whatever my screwed up relationship with my mentor is that I need to come to grips with, because it's not real, and it never will be. And it's almost as if she's pushing for the transference to happen. It's either that, or she has a serious case of countertransference going on, which doesn't seem very likely. The whole thing is so messed up, and I'm really struggling with it, because now I need to kick it to the curb, somehow.
I'm not sure if I should bring it up or not, because the thought of it is so uncomfortable. At first I was angry about the pretence of it, but now I'm angrier with myself for actually buying it. I'm so annoyed for letting it get to me.
She told me that she thinks we have a very special relationship, and that if she were my mother she would be so proud of me. HAH. Yeah right. The only reason why she is even able to say such a thing is precisely because she's NOT.
Also, it's highly unlikely that she would have raised someone like me in the first place. In the five months that I've known her, we've had fourteen sessions, and during those sessions she has said more nice and encouraging things to me than my mother has during my entire life. I love my mother, and my family, but giving compliments is not really something we do very often. It's not our speciality.
So in a way, I think it's about that, to some extent - it's about how this person has come into my life and is telling me how great I supposedly am; how funny, and lovely and intelligent, etc., and once I show her what I've been working on the illusion will be shattered, and she will join the ranks of people who exist to provide criticism and tell me what I'm doing wrong. I don't want another person like that in my life, and that really irritates me because THAT is the only thing she's really there for. I need to get over it and accept that.
The compliments make me feel uncomfortable, and part of me wants her to stop doing it because it feels wrong. But there's another part of me that doesn't want it to stop. There's a sad little part of me that needs it. It feels really pathetic to admit that.
There's also this overwhelming feeling of not living up to what her impression of me is so far, if her constant stream of compliments is anything to go by; I can't possibly live up to it, so whatever I do will ultimately be a disappointment. But why the fuck does that matter? This is nothing new. I've been a disappointment my whole life, so I'm used to it by now. Why is it, then, that I can't face being a disappointment to this woman who has no real place in my everyday life? And why do I think that it even remotely matters to her in the first place?
It's completely fucked up. I am fucked up, and it makes me so angry."
Monday July 6th
"A letter to my mentor
My default position when I am approaching a task is that I'm most likely going to disappoint someone as a result of completing it. I have always been told, directly or indirectly, that I'm supposed to be intelligent, mostly by my dad, and it's always been, “You could have been so great, if only…” or something along those lines. Basically, I cannot live up to whatever other people seem to think I am somehow capable of.
And now…. there's you.
You keep telling me that I am this intelligent person who is capable of greatness, so now, in my head, you are just another person I am going to disappoint, which is monumentally stupid because, of course, you do not give a single fuck about how well I perform. You're simply paid to make sure I somehow do the work.
And yet, I have also allowed myself to believe (unconsciously) that whatever this, our relationship, is, is real. As much as all the compliments and words of encouragement make me uncomfortable, there is a small, pathetic part of me that really needs it. I have needed to believe that you actually care about me as a person, and I am so angry with myself for not realising this earlier. There's a part of me that hasn't wanted to share my work with you because it would shatter the illusion, and you would inevitably join the ranks of people who exist to provide criticism and tell me everything I am doing wrong. And because I don't want that, I've been stopping you from doing your job, which isn't fair, and this whole twisted mess is so stupid I want to cry.
You keep saying that you would be proud of me if you were my mother, which kind of breaks my heart because the only reason you are able to say that is precisely because you're NOT. You're not, and you probably wouldn't have raised someone like me in the first place.
You've said more nice things to me in the five months that you have known me than my mum has said to me during my whole life, and that terrifies me, because it's probably all completely meaningless. I'm just a student you are trying to help, which makes the imbalance even worse, and it really shouldn't be the case, but it is, and it sucks. Why can't you just be mean so I don't have to worry about any of this?
If your goal has been to make transference happen, then congratulations: you've succeeded.
And now I need it to stop. Now I need you to be honest with me about how much I really suck, and what an enormous failure I actually am. You can't be nice to me anymore. You just can't."
Wednesday July 8th
"I'm so frustrated with myself.
A crack has opened up for this pathetic little part of me that needs some sort of affection, whether real or imagined, and it is now getting in the way of the rational part of me, preventing it from being efficient; keeping me from being productive. Basically, this pathetic tiny part needs to shut the fuck up. It ruins everything. It mustn't be allowed to have a say in anything, ever, because it's nothing but a stupid nuisance that serves no real purpose whatsoever.
Pathetic little part of self just wants to sit around and pathetically pine for real affection, which is not something I'm going to get from an academic mentor. That isn't real, it's just an illusion, and it needs to end.
It's always better when the bubble bursts."
Thursday July 9th
"The mystery of my mentoring situation is fucking with my head.
On several occasions, my mentor has told me that she feels she has been “mean” to me, by pushing me to talk about, and reflect upon, my severe emotional struggles. She has told me that she knows she is challenging me a lot, but she does it because she thinks I can handle it. And while it has most certainly been challenging, I would never refer to her behaviour as “mean”.
My mentor is never mean. She is overly nice. She is too gentle - too “nurturing” - to qualify as “mean” by any definition of the word. There doesn't seem to be a mean bone in her body.
This is actually part of the problem for me.
I need mean. I need harsh criticism. It's how I operate - how I get shit done. Lately, however, there has been a lack of “active criticism” in my life. I used to get it from my parents when I was younger, but I don't anymore (it's mostly passive now); I also used to get it from myself when I was undiagnosed and horribly depressed, and then my level of self-hatred would eventually reach a point where it pushed me to do my work, telling myself, “Just do the work, you useless piece of shit! No one cares about you! Stop being such a horrible waste of space and such an enormous disappointment to those around you and just DO THE WORK. GET IT DONE.” But nowadays I don't get this kind of harsh “active criticism” from anyone, which has resulted in very little progress when it comes to my university work. And my mentor's version of “mean” is all about pushing me to realise how much I abuse myself.
I fear it is too late to do anything about that, though, because she has now established herself as this kind and caring figure in my life, which I have tried, but failed, to reject. In fact, it has actually awakened this sad, pathetic part inside of me that now actually wants it, and this makes me so angry because I feel helpless about it. I think the abusive, bossy part of me is beginning to resign, and that CANNOT HAPPEN. I am at a critical junction right now, and I need to go in a direction that somehow halts the development of this “pathetic self” before it gets out of control.
Maybe I need a new mentor. It's a thought that breaks my heart, and I'm wondering if it's a self-destructive one, deep down, but I need to put a stop to this imbalanced relationship that is ultimately keeping me from doing what I am actually supposed to do. It isn't fair to my mentor either, because she is not able to do her job, but at the same time I'm fairly certain that she won't be able to give me the realness I need at this point in time. I seriously doubt that I'll be able to make her treat me for what I am: a 26-year-old failure who is most likely going to continue to be a failure because she is incapable of getting her shit together. If my mentor had just seen me that way from the beginning, there would be no illusion to shatter at this point in time; there would be no reason for me to despair over the fact that I have to, rather painfully, burst the bubble myself, while that small, pathetic part of me is crying and screaming NO.
This part of me is so pitiful that it is becoming increasingly hard for the other part of me to tell it to shut the fuck up."
Friday July 24th
"It has become harder for me to write about this therapy/mentoring process lately, for some reason.
Last night, I felt this sudden worry that I might not continue to receive mentoring when I finish my BA. What if they don't offer me mentoring for my masters? I want to go straight onto the MA, to keep the momentum going, but I don't know what I'll do if they don't let me continue with the mentoring.
And what it comes down to, in the end, is that I don't want to lose my mentor. My stomach twists into knots whenever I think about it.
Why have I allowed myself to become so attached to her? I didn't ask for that. I'm not sure what I was expecting going into it, but it definitely wasn't this. I've almost started to cry about it a couple of times, because it's so stupid, and so very sad. I keep trying to push it away, but it just keeps coming back, even if my rational self knows that it's all in my head and that the moment I finish university, she'll be gone.
I will no longer have someone who regularly tells me to be kind to myself. I will no longer have someone who says that I should be proud of myself for everything I have overcome. I will no longer have someone who seems to really see me.
She makes me feel seen. She makes me feel heard. She makes me feel validated. She makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, I'm not a complete failure. My inner bully doesn't want to believe her, but the small, pathetic part of me desperately does. It's like she sees how much I have struggled, for years, just to stay alive; no one else seems to think this is something to be proud of, and to my parents I'm nothing short of a disappointment, but my mentor sees things very differently. The small, pathetic part of me is wrapping itself in her perspective. It's like a protective blanket, and it seems to be making my sappy side grow stronger. My inner bully is despairing, but I guess that's a good thing?
I don't know. She is doing her job. I bet she says stuff like that to everyone. I know I'm not special in any way, which is why I'm still trying to push all of it away; I want to distance myself from it, because it's an illusion. It's a bubble, and I can't allow myself to live in it. I can observe it, but I cannot inhabit it. It's too dangerous.
I can't feel these things, but I do, and it's scary. I don't know what to do about it. I can't deal with the idea of losing her, and that seems unhealthy, but I just… I can't. Will it ever get easier?"
Sunday July 26th
"Why am I of so little value?
My mum told me that she and my dad have been talking to my youngest sister about her irresponsible drinking. She was saying how worried they are about her, for her safety and wellbeing, and how it adds to her (my mum's) current depression.
I've seen my mum yell at my sister before, a few years ago when she was on the verge of an eating disorder. My mum tends to work herself into a state where she ends up berating us, making us feel judged rather than cared for. She did the same to me, when I was a teenager; she used to shout at me about how lazy and useless I was, and how I would never amount to anything, making me despair even more than I already did because yes, I did feel all of those things about myself. I was clearly failing at life, but I couldn't help it. So I hated myself, and I wanted to die.
However, my mum claims that they have been talking to my sister in a very calm and rational manner. They have apparently been very nice and friendly about it, asking her questions like, “Is there something going on that we don't know about?” “Are you upset about something?” and, “Is it something we're doing?”
It seems my sister's drunken shenanigans keep my mother up at night.
I guess my sister is valuable to my parents. They want her alive and well, and they tell her that, which is great, and I'm obviously glad they're doing that. It does, however, make me feel even more invisible (and I feel so ashamed of myself for even typing those words).
No one ever saw me. No one ever seemed to think twice about what was happening to me. I was worthless. They weren't particularly concerned about my wellbeing, and I guess I always thought that no one ever would be.
That's why what my mentor is doing to me is so very heart-breaking; she sees me, she tells me that she worries about me, that she is concerned, and she generally just seems to understand that I'm actually really struggling. She gets it. Or so it feels, anyway, and that's where the heartbreak comes in: no one has ever made me feel this validated before. No one has ever made me feel like I matter, to this extent. No one else has ever taken the time to look beyond my protective shell, but she does, and I'm sick about it because, at the end of the day, she is nobody to me. She is just a person who drew some sort of cosmic short straw and got stuck with me. She can tell me otherwise until she is blue in the face, and I'm sure she will, but it's the fucking truth. I'm her job, so if she is the first person to ever really see me properly, that is upsetting, and quite frankly terrifying. I can't have that. That is messed up. Wrong.
But I don't know what to do about it. I'm so attached to her now, and my relationship with her is so temporary, and conditional, and it pains me.
It shouldn't, but it does."