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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5798
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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follow-up: I was assaulted by 2 strangers when I was 21 and in college.

Resolved Question:

Dear Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC,
Please follow up with my 1/6/2012 accepted question.
Original Question URL:
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.



I received your request for follow up. I'm here if you have new or related questions.



Customer: replied 5 years ago.
No new questions, really. I did go see the psychiatrist yesterday. My psychologist had been able to speak to her and fill her in on some stuff. I told her up front I wanted her to be totally honest and not candy-coat things (like you suggested), and I think I believe she was honest. I also was able to ask her some questions about some things that happened medically, and some other stuff. So it went pretty well. I also had an appointment with my psychologist later, and I told her what I told the doctor about not candy-coating things. She asked if I was talking about the psychiatrist or her. I said I was talking about the psychiatrist, but felt I had to say it because I felt like she (my psychologist) tended to candy coat things. She admitted that she never would say something that would hurt one of her clients, and would not like to, but that she was being honest with me about the whole responsibility thing. I told her "How can I know that you're being honest when you do say things/not say things sometimes to be careful of clients' feelings?" She said she promised to try to be honest with me, and if I thought she wasn't being honest with me, I could call her on it. I am very frustrated about that. I really like her and feel totally comfortable with her, and I think she is trying her best to help me, and I think she is helping me. But I can't believe her on certain things, because she even admitted she did/did not do things in order to protect clients' feelings. Oh well. I'll sort this out at some point.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

I am glad your psychiatrist was able to respect your feelings about her being honest with you. It probably helped you establish a bond and assisted in you getting the questions and information you needed to progress.


I understand how you feel about wanting others to be honest with you. And it makes sense. But in a way, you are trying to protect yourself from believing in something and have it turn out to not be true. It is a way for you to try to be sure you can control your environment, which is not unusual at all with someone who has been through trauma like you have.


Your psychologist is right, she is going to censure some of what she says so she can help you. Telling someone everything about their situation is often harmful, until it is the right time or it is appropriate. This is not lying, it is using judgment to help someone. Her intensions, when it comes to you, are excellent. She is trying to protect you and help you at the same time. Her efforts are geared towards making you better and helping you cope and live a healthy life. This is not necessarily about whether or not you are responsible for the attack. You are trying to be sure that she does not feel you are responsible for the attack. But to what end? Think about it. What if she felt you were responsible? What would that change for you? How would that affect your therapy?


And you can look at that from two perspectives. What if she felt you were responsible for the attack and did not tell you? How would that affect you? And what then if she felt you were responsible then did tell you? How would that change things for you?


What you are expressing is very valid. And it says that you are concerned with hidden motivations of those you want to trust. It is an important part of your recovery to understand your reasons behind why this is so important to you. This is about trust and fear, both very significant to someone who has been through trauma.



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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thanks. That all makes sense. But are you just saying to blindly believe whatever people tell me, or to believe things just because it makes me feel better to believe them? I think my issue is that before this happened, I took everyone at face value, and I believed people and what they said, etc. I had no reason not to. And I believed certain things about the world. But when this happened, it told me that my reality in which I had been living was not real. What I believed was wrong. I also learned, from this and other things (I think everyone learns this at some point, just from life, and growing up), that people lie, and sometimes a lot. Usually, I think it's motivated by people protecting themselves and not wanting to get caught or something, but there's also the lying that comes when people don't want to hurt you with the truth. I want to know the truth -- about me, about hte workd, about other people. But I can't figure it out.


As for what it would change if my therapist thought I was responsible and what it would change if she told me that, it's an interesting question. I have never thought of that before.


If she thinks I am responsible and doesn't tell me, then how can I deal with the fact I am responsible? And eventually, I would sense or find out what she really thinks, and I would be upset because of all people, I should be able to believe her. She shouldn't try to make me believe in untrue things or pretend so that I will fel better. I mean, seriously --- this is an extreme example, but what if I was driving drunk and killed somoeone and felt guilty. Is it healthy for her to try to convince me that it wasn't my fault, that it was fine that I got drunk and fine that I drove, and wasn't my fault that I killed someone because I was impaired from drinking? No.


If she thought I was responsible and did tell me ----- well, a small part of me would feel vindicated because I was right. However, when I thought about this prospect, honestly, surprisingly, I think I would be devastated. So what does that mean? Does it mean that maybe what I really want is for her to tell me it wasn't my faultl and to convince me and make me believe her?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Did you get my last reply? I had accidentally pressed Accept instead of Reply, but it shows it is posted.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.
It just came through. I'll read it now and write as soon as I'm done.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

I agree, people do lie. And some lie a lot. Others lie only when they need to, such as telling a friend that their new hairstyle looks nice when it doesn't. But you are assuming that just because you have developed a desire to have total honesty, that everyone else is going to agree with you. Even if you order a person to be totally honest with you, they can still lie and you will not know it. The key to this is not to see this as a deception against you, but for you to develop a way to respond to people that does not leave you feeling vulnerable to everything they say.


For example, if you ask me do I feel you are a nice person. I can say yes, I do. But you are not sure if I am telling you the truth. What can you do about it? You can believe me, in which case if I am telling you the truth, you and I both are happy. But if I am lying, then you are being deceived. What then? So I don't think you are nice. What happens then? How is your world affected by my belief? Is it so important I tell you the truth that I do not think you are nice? And if I do, what happens? Finally, why is my opinion (truth) so important to you? Who am I in the scheme of things and why do you give me so much power over you?


I think you are assuming here that you will believe everything anyone tells you blindly if they are not forced to be truthful, which is not true. You have suffered a severe trauma and no longer are blind. When someone goes through such an experience, it changes them. They can react in many ways, but in your case, I think it made you aware of how others can be deceiving. Because of this, you will no longer be as easily accepting of a lie or deception. But you are taking it to the extreme in order to protect yourself. Now you are demanding complete honesty from everyone regardless of their motivations or intentions.


You mention the example of drunk driving. As your therapist, it is her goal to make sure you get what you came for, peace of mind and good mental health. Telling you that you were responsible for the death may be true, but is it helpful? You may already know you are at fault. Does her confirmation of that make your feelings real? And if she denies you are at fault, does it make your feelings less validated? The key here is what you feel. You are giving away your power to understand what is true and what is not. It is not other people's ability to tell the truth that is important. It is what you believe.


In the case of your attack, you are saying you feel responsible. But that is not the truth, it is a deception you tell yourself because that is how your mind is coping with it. It is hard to know the truth when you are trying to process so many strong emotions. Forcing your therapist to be honest with you about the attack is a way for you to be sure that you are not deceiving yourself. For if she is honest with you, you can be more sure that you are not responsible for your own attack, making it easier for you to heal.



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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Wow. Thanks. You are very smart and insightful.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Thank you! That was very nice to hear.


I am glad it helped you. I am amazed at your ability to see your issues and dig deep until you find the answers. It is a sure sign you will recover.



Customer: replied 5 years ago.
okay -- one more question today. Is it normal that I am starting to get totally overwhelmed and confused about what is right and what is real and what can be trusted and where I fit in to all of this? I've always known exactly where everything stands. I make plans, and I generally do them. I'm fairly black-and-white. I've always felt pretty competent -- but now I am feeling more and more confused and bewildered and clueless about everything --- me, the world, everybody around me. I feel like I've lost my footing here and can't figure out what's what.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Yes, it is normal that you feel this way. Even if you are the most even keeled person in the world, trauma is going to affect you. There is no set way that everyone responds, but feeling confused and losing your footing is commonplace with trauma.


When you were attacked, it changed what you knew about your world. Before that, you may have been aware of incidents like yours, but you kept them on the outside of your world. When you were attacked, it shook the foundation of your life, questioning your safety, your security, boundaries and self confidence. You may feel vulnerable and out of sorts. Here are other symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma:


Shock, denial, or disbelief
Anger, irritability, mood swings
Guilt, shame, self-blame
Feeling sad or hopeless
Confusion, difficulty concentrating
Anxiety and fear
Withdrawing from others
Feeling disconnected or numb


No one can come out of emotional or psychological trauma and feel just as they did before. You are trying to find your new normal and gain some sense of equilibrium again. This will take time. Plus, you are analyzing what happened to you and how you feel. The more you try to make sense out it and can't, the more confused you may feel. You are trying to apply logic to an illogical situation. The best you can do is accept what happened and work to gain back your sense of self. It is the only thing any survivor can do.



Customer: replied 5 years ago.
okay --- but it's been a really long time. why am I just feeling it now? Because I just started really thinking about it/dealing with it/trying to figure it out?
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

The effects of trauma can stay with you for years, particularly if you are just starting to deal with what you went through now. Think of the soldiers coming back from the war. They often experience symptoms for years before they are willing to consider counseling. There is a tendency to think that your type of trauma is not as serious, but any violation of your boundaries and sense of safety is going to cause the same reaction no matter what that trauma was. So your feelings are very normal.



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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Kate: Hi again. I just wanted your input on something, if you don't mind.


On Friday morning, I had called my psychiatrist (who I had met with on Thursday) and left her a VM message, asking a medical-type question, because I was trying to assess whether one of my decisions was good or bad, and which would have hurt worse and what may have happened. So she called me back Friday at the end of the day, and was explaining was organs/arteries/etc. were accessible or vulnerable through different parts of a person, and, well, I don't know how to put this -- we were discussing whether the pain and damage was greater with a jagged bottle placed in one entrance as opposed to another.


When I got off the phone, something snapped in me --- like I was thinking that I can't believe I was just having that conversation and it was for real and it was about things that happened to me. I don't know what happened, but I was suddenly shocked and really confused. Like all of the sudden, in addition to not knowing what the truth is, I have no idea what is real, and I had the distinct feeling that the world is not at all what I thought. That evening, I was driving through the local university campus, and was the first car stopped at a light. There were students crossing the street, and a few of them, guys, looked my way -- not even at me. And it totally freaked me out. I felt really scared, for no reason. That is a new experience for me. I have felt so upset since Friday, and feel like I have totally lost my footing. I don't know what's going on. I saw my therapist Monday and cried a lot, which is not a usual thing for me, then also saw her on Tuesday. I had a really hard time trying to explain what I was feeling, and how broad this change was, and she didn't understand. But on Tuesday, she was asking me some questions that made me feel like she understood more. She told me that the symptoms I am having now would be the things I "should" have experienced right after what happened. She said that she thinks that because I was able to put it away and compartmentalize so well, and I never had any of these reactions then, they are coming out now. She said she doesn't know why, except that something the psychiatrist said, she thinks, made is all of the sudden "real" to me.


Does this make sense? What do you think and what do I do about it?

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Hello, it's good to hear from you. I am here to help you so any question you have please just ask.


What your therapist said makes sense. What I think happened is that in your mind you held the attack at a distance. You did not allow your feelings in and did not see the attack as something real. You certainly knew it happened, I'm not saying that. But by putting your feelings and the attack at a distance, it was your way of protecting yourself. You thought of the attack like someone would think of a distant memory, it was there but not something you felt was real.


When you talked to your psychiatrist about the details of your attack, I think had a breakthrough. Your mind allowed you to see that the attack happened and it happened to you. The details were only something you would know and by looking at them closely, you triggered something in your mind to see the attack as real. You began to accept that this whole time these feelings and thoughts were about you. This frequently happens with abuse survivors as well. The have to put a distance between themselves and the abuse in order to survive emotionally. At some point they begin to allow the pain and sorrow in. But at the time of the abuse, they could not afford to let the feelings out. They would not have been able to survive otherwise. The details of trauma must be withheld until the person feels they are ready to let them out. And they come out when the person feels they can cope with them.


You probably reacted to the guys crossing the street because for the first time, you are seeing the attack as real, so seeing these guys and realizing that you were attacked made them a possible threat, even though they are not. But when your feelings from the attack are on the surface as they are now, you will become more aware of how frightened you feel. Being hypervigilant and cautious is common after an attack because you are acutely aware of what can happen, even though it is highly unlikely to happen again.


The important thing to remember is that these are normal feelings for what you went through. You are beginning to cope with your feelings in a very real way. It may not feel good and it is definitely not easy, but this shows you that you are on the path to healing.



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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

So - I had another appointment with my therapist yesterday. I did a lot of crying. She said these are normal reactions, like you said, but they are just really delayed. I had a hard time trying to communicate what I felt. There is so much, and I feel scared.


She said she was sorry she did not warn me that this all would come, but she said that since I react generally so different than other trauma clients she has, and deal with things so calmly and logically, that she sometimes forgets that I have this trauma. I'm not sure exactly what she meant, seeing as that is the sole issue for which I am seeing her.


I did feel like she has some understanding of what I feel, even if I can't communicate it to her. I can tell by what she says and asks that she knows.


She made me look at her and promised to tell the truth, and told me that I didn't do anything wrong and I wasn't a slut. I believed her. I don't feel that way, but intellectually I understand. I cried for most of the night (which is absolutely bizarre for me), and then got sick. But it did provide some relief.


She said she doesn't know how long these feelings will last. Do you have any idea? Are we talking days? weeks? months? And do you know what she meant when she was apologizing for not warning me, about forgetting sometimes ?


She said that this might last a while, but it will settle down eventually. It better. I feel like after 6 months of pretty difficult and frequent therapy, I'm much more of a mess than I was before.



Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.



Every person is different in how they react to trauma. How long your feelings last is also dependent on the trauma. For example, children tend to experience trauma a long time due to being so young when it happens and having to resolve it long after the event. It also depends on how you heal. Some people have an easier time accepting their situation and others take longer to adjust. So there is no set time. I know that is not easy to hear because you want this to be over with.


I know you are feeling overwhelmed by these feelings. If it helps, you are reacting very normally to what you went through. There is often a period of time that the person either doesn't react or reacts in a different way than expected. It is an adjustment time until the person can feel safe enough to get in touch with their feelings. When they feel safe enough, then the feelings come. I think this was your time to feel safe and let your feelings out.


It is ok to cry as much as you need, to feel as angry as you need to or to express any other emotions you have. You may feel bizarre at times or even out of control. That is ok and very normal.


Your therapist probably felt bad that she did not prepare you for how you feel now. She knows how overwhelming it feels and I think she wanted to comfort you and let you know she cares. Sometimes therapists just slip up and miss something. Or they simply forget to follow through with something they feel is important in therapy. It was good that she tried to make amends. She seems to care very much how you feel and she sounds like a competent therapist.


You may feel like you are a mess now, but actually you are better off than you were just a few weeks ago. Getting in touch with your feelings is a very good sign that you are moving ahead towards recovery. It was a good sign when you said you had the break through with your psychiatrist. It means you are getting in touch with the pain and working through it. It also means you feel safe with your treatment team and that has helped you to open up and feel, probably for the first time in a long time.





Customer: replied 5 years ago.

But what did my therapist mean by sometimes she forgets that I have this trauma??


I just feel like my emotional ractions are inappropriate and overdramatic, especially since this happened so long ago.


I have to function and work and be responsible. I'm finding it difficult this week. I can kind of turn it off and on, but not totally. Any suggestions? I will just get more and more anxious if I am not getting my work done.


And by the way, thanks. I really appreciate having someone else to bounce this stuff off of and to get a different perspective.

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

I'm not sure why she said she forgets, but it could be because you were able to shut it off so well she let it slip her mind. Not great, but it does happen.


You really cannot be too emotional or over dramatic in response to what happened to you. If you were not able to function, that is one thing. You would need extra help to cope or a medication evaluation. You are reacting in a normal way, though. It may feel that it is over dramatic if you are not normally an emotional person, but you are reacting exactly as you should be.


Finding ways to cope at work can be hard. Right now, you are dealing with the full force of your feelings so compartmentalizing them for work is going to be difficult but not impossible.


Is there any way to take a few days off? If not, then maybe some props would help. Take in some stress toys for your desk, keep a cup of coffee, tea or water with you to sip on when you feel upset, and try an affirmation plaque you can keep in sight, something you find comforting. If you have any beliefs, you can try bringing a Bible with you.


Try preparing yourself before work by telling yourself that it is ok to express your feelings outside of work but while you are there, that is work time and the past or current problems you have are not welcome. It may take a few tries but after a while it may help you focus better.


You're welcome! I am glad to help you. I am very impressed by the progress you have made and how you are coping with all you have been through. It is amazing to see.



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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hey Kate. I did want to respond to your last answer.

No-there's really no way I can take a few day off right now. I have my own practice, and thus, nobody to cover for me in Court, etc. and am already seriously behind. Plus, I have a super-filled-up week this coming week, and my legal assistant is going to be gone half the week for her husband's surgery. So there's absolutely no way. My therapist has been asking me to try for the last few months. Unfortunately, the only time I could take off was a few days between Christmas and New Years, and (1) my parents were visiting, so I had to act normal; and (2) I wasn't in this state then anyway, so it was okay.

And also, I do have much faith. I am a strong Christian believer (althought sometimes I have difficulty reconciling this, since I was not a believer at the time it happened). I have scripture posted around my office, but I think it would be helpful if I brought my Bible in from the car and read a verse or two when I started to get upset. Great idea!

I think next week will probably be better. I have so much court and so many meetings, and I seem to do okay when I'm interacting with other people.


Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

I am glad to hear that you are a Christian. I am as well so if you want to incorporate your faith in what we talk about that is something we can use to help you.


You sound so busy so I understand that you cannot take off time from work. The ideas you had do sound good and I think they will help. Sometimes it also helps to stay as busy as possible.


Have a good weekend! I am here if you need to talk.

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