All of These Relationships... in Staying Connected

  • April 14, 2021, 12:07 p.m.
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  • Public

Yesterday I had my first therapy session with a black therapist. It was awkward and uncomfortable and, while I love being a mental health professional, I really don’t like how it seems to make finding a good therapist for myself such a difficult task. Still, I plan on staying and seeing if we can build rapport for at least a couple of months. I definitely felt hyperaware of the fact that I was talking about my discomfort around black people to a black person (again), and every facial expression and inquiry had me on high alert that this woman thinks I’m a terrible person. I struggled to navigate between wanting to be authentic and wanting to explain myself clearly. I’m pretty sure I did a lot of rambling. At the end of the session, her reflection was that my work will be in accepting that I can be a privileged white person and allowed to have problems of my own and be considerate of other people’s issues (that I will never fully understand), all at the same time.

Last night was date night. When we dropped my daughter off with my mother-in-law, it was brought to my attention that my father-in-law wasn’t going to be home because he was staying with his dad overnight. Apparently his dad just had some kind of surgical medical procedure done and needed some caretaking. There has been a lot of drama surrounding my father-in-law’s father, because he is old and deteriorating and also extremely volatile, angry, and ungrateful. He often physically and verbally attacks people, tries to “run away,” and engages in other difficult behaviors. Anyway, apparently my husband knew this was going on, offered to postpone date night, and my mother-in-law said no. She said we should go through with it. This all happened without me knowing, mind you.

To compound the issue, last Friday when my husband picked up our daughter from their house, there was a huge emotional explosion. My mother-in-law was crying, and my husband came home all puffed up and angry. It was an accumulation of things. My father-in-law had coached our daughter on how tattoos are bad, (especially on unmarried women - eye roll), which was how it started. My husband was confronting him about it, in a somewhat playful way, and then things spiraled out. The potty-training thing came up again. Everybody was yelling at each other. His parents said something about how I don’t trust them. Again, I wasn’t there.

So there we are last night, dropping off my daughter, and the room is filled to the ceiling with tension. Jesus, Christ. I just smiled, thanked my mother-in-law for watching our little girl overnight, and then gave my girl a hug and a kiss and said goodbye. As soon as we got in the car, I was like, “did that feel awkward to you?” and my husband was like, “Yes! My mom! UGH!!”

We decided to try our best not to spend too much energy on that. I just talked a little about how his mom seems overwhelmed; she hasn’t been holding boundaries for herself, and we haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not our responsibility to make her feel good. With that, we arrived at our favorite local spot, enjoyed delicious food, talked about miscellaneous stuff, and laughed.

We went home and decided to watch My Spy on Amazon Prime. About halfway through the movie my husband said something about wanting a treat, and we decided to put the movie on pause and make an impromptu trip to the grocery store. My husband picked out some frozen Nestle’s Drumsticks, and I got a chocolate danish. We agreed it felt like we were young and childless again, since making late night trips to the grocery store for junk food was something we used to do often back in the day. We came home, finished the movie, (agreed it was exactly the type of movie we needed at the time—light, predictable, cute), and I went to bed around 10pm. He stayed up until 1:30am.

In conclusion, it was a lovely date night!

I didn’t hear anything from my mother-in-law last night or this morning. No pictures. No updates. Silence. Around 9:30am I sent a text checking in. She sent back a choppy text of incomplete sentences: “Went to bed at 10. Woke up a couple of times. Did not eat carrots.” Etc. The passive aggression is palpable. I mentioned that there seems to be some unspoken tension, suggested we get together for a dinner “to connect,” and left the date and location open to her preference. She responded by denying there is a problem. She says she’s just tired from dealing with her father-in-law. She didn’t acknowledge the dinner suggestion. I decided now doesn’t seem like the time to push the matter and let her know I’m here to help if she needs anything.

I’m still going to push the dinner when things lighten up on her end.

The entry I really wanted to write this morning (that I am clearly not going to have time to get to in greater detail) is one about the barrier that I feel between myself and people who don’t seem to value mental health the same way that I do. It’s very frustrating to watch people (like my mother-in-law) sit there and suffer, to have a relatively good idea of what would help (eg. healthy boundaries and communication), to see them actively avoid taking that path, and to know (from experience) that they are not interested in my unsolicited advice. While this is generally the pattern, it manifests in different ways in different relationships in my life. People who come to mind are my brother, my sister, my in-laws, and a few of my friends. Originally I was thinking of going into more detail on each of these people, but we’ll see if I ever actually get around to it. I’m already juggling a bunch of shit, so there’s a fair chance it’s not going to happen anytime in the near future.

Another thing that’s been on my mind, more and more as time passes, is the way I’d like to run my future private practice. Maybe I’ll start another book to write about this stuff in more detail. I really just have an urge to write lately. I look forward to a time in my life when that is a more realistic objective.

Until next time <3

Last updated April 14, 2021

JustSurviveSomehow April 14, 2021

I am curious to see how that goes with your therapist. I literally just watched (as in a few hours ago) an episode of This Is Us where a black character requests a black therapist because he didn't feel comfortable talking to his white, female therapist about his issues. It immediately made me think of an entry you wrote awhile ago. Such a difficult path to navigate as a professional.

Evelyn April 14, 2021 (edited April 14, 2021)


"At the end of the session, her reflection was that my work will be in accepting that I can be a privileged white person and allowed to have problems of my own and be considerate of other people’s issues (that I will never fully understand), all at the same time"

Holy hell, Really?!
Her skin color shouldnt bother you. Why does it really matter if she's black? She's a therapist who listens to your problems for a living and I can't believe that her skin color makes you too uncomfortable to share yourself with. I find it very strange though that she'd even mention accepting your "white privilege".

What white privilege? You're in therapy for Christ's sake. You've obviously had a hard life to need it.

I know I'm gonna irritate a lot of people but just wow. If I was in therapy, their skin color wouldn't matter to me one bit as I shared my life's troubles with them. They're supposed to be non-judgmental and she's throwing accepting your white privilege at you. Idk, it's just weird.

Original Rose Evelyn ⋅ April 14, 2021

There is a back story to this therapy session that I think might be missing from your perspective. I sought it out specifically to address racial tension. I chose to see a black therapist because I needed to speak with someone who would be able to provide me with certain insights that a white therapist would simply not be able to provide. I'm not there because I've had a hard life or because I need to share my life's troubles.

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