Group Therapy vs Mother’s Birthday Showdown

Just a quick post. I have got myself into a right disaster here. My mother was 70 in September, and not having a clue what to get her, I bought her a couple of days in Edinburgh for said city’s Christmas markets. My usual terror of the phone prevented me from having the bloody sense to ring one of her friends and ask if they would be available to attend. So, with a reluctance I shouldn’t be allowed to feel, I booked myself on the flights with her.

No problem. Not my idea of an exciting few days, but whatever. If my mother enjoyed it, that was the main thing.

Moving on. Having discussed the potential group therapy with my therapist, it was agreed that I would go ahead with it. At our last individual session last week, I said to him, in relation to same, “well, I’ll see you in a fortnight then.” The fortnight in question is up on Tuesday coming when the group assembles for the first time.

I was sitting about picking my arse yesterday when I realised with horror that the Edinburgh trip is from Monday to Wednesday coming. It clashes with the first group therapy session.

My therapist had been very clear – and the confirmation letter I received about the group reiterated the point – that (presumably aside from acute illness, bereavement etc) clients are expected to attend every week. Holidays and suchlike are, ideally, to be booked around the group – and where this isn’t possible, the facilitators should be advised well in advance.

That’s bad enough, but how can I miss a first session?!

The Man’s immediate reaction was:

Ring your mother. Get one of her friends to go with her instead. Offer to pay easyJet’s ridiculous price to change the name on the booking.

Readers, I would. But it’s my mother’s 70th birthday present, and she thinks we’re going to have some wonderful bonding mother-daughter love-in time (which translated into my language means booze and food.) If I don’t go on this trip, she’ll be absolutely gutted.

If I don’t go to my first group therapy session, I might not be able to go to the rest of them. And if would be probably this time next year before another one comes up – if it does at all.

I can’t believe how completely moronic I’ve been. The Edinburgh trip just went entirely to the back of my mind since I booked it in September. I never joined the dots nor added two to two. A clash never even occurred to me, because the two things existed in different parts of my head and in my life.

The logical thing to do, perhaps, would be to ring my therapist’s office and beg them to let me miss it but attend the second one (though that’s not ideal for me personally, walking in there to a group that’s already familiarised itself with each other – but whatever). My terror of the phone and of potential confrontation is strongly preventing me doing this, however. I could email them, but the disadvantage of that is that words on a screen cannot prove a person’s sincerity and/or enthusiasm. And, much as I’m petrified of this group, I genuinely do want to go to it.

Advice? Please?

14 comments on “Group Therapy vs Mother’s Birthday Showdown

  1. Addendum: in a difficult situation such as this I’d normally ask my non-phone-phobic mother to beg on my behalf. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know the nature of the therapy, and I don’t want her to – which ergo prevents her from knowing the organisation that runs it, and thus contacting it 😐

    I’m such a dick!

  2. Since you’re asking for advice, here’s what I’d do. I get the phone phobia problem, I struggle with it also. Assuming your mother is not toxic to you, I’d send an email to T, explain, beg forgiveness and the chance to go to week 2. Phone might be better, but anything done promptly is better than nothing.

    An annoying situation, but it could happen to anyone IMO. Good luck!

    • Thank you so much Ellen 🙂 I have a good relationship with my mother so couldn’t hurt her like this unless there was absolutely no way to avoid it (illness or whatever) – but gah! I’m scared shitless of this therapy but really think it’s worth doing too, so it’s difficult.

      Anyway, I’m taking your advice – I’ve drafted an email (below). It really would be better to call them but even thinking about it sends me reaching for Diazepam so agreed; any prompt action is better than none!

      Thanks again. I’ll let you know how it goes!

      Take care

      Karen xxx

  3. What about going/driving to the therapy centre & talking to them in person? (If I were in your shoes, my mother’s birthday would trump the therapy session, although the choice you have to make here is very, very awkward indeed.)

    • Thanks Gitty.

      Yep, Mum’s birthday has to ultimately trump it, I agree – I just wish I’d realised the clash earlier, at least my therapist would have been aware of it. He might even have been willing to put it back a week if he’d had plenty of warning because the dates were only relatively recently decided upon for certain 😐

      Anyway, I’m going to email them first, but if they want to talk about it more, I’ll certainly go and see them in person. If I could even get 10 minutes to talk to my therapist, I’d welcome it – he’s not an unreasonable man, but obviously that’s seen better in person rather than over the internet. I’ll see what the secretary says – if he’s interested in talking to me, that would be great.

      Anyway, thanks again 🙂

      Take care

      Karen xxx

  4. Karen, goodness, that is quite a dilemma! First, no need to beat yourself up over a scheduling snafu. It happens. Also, I totally and completely and entirely understand your phone phobia!!!! I feel your pain!!!!

    I’m leaning toward you going with your mom. I know that is a putting someone else before ourselves decision, but sometimes it’s just the nice thing to do. I have TONS of mom issues, but I still love her dearly. Therapy groups come and go. Most of us only have one mom.

    I would give calling my therapist a try. Typically with my therapist, on the rare occasion that I call, I tend to reach the receptionist who takes a message and then my T calls me back in-between patients. Waiting for his call is almost as brutal as phoning in the first place! But, I know that when he does call back an hour or two later, it’s my T and I know I’m safe. (Of course, I’ve been going to my therapist for three years and know the office staff well. So there is a higher level of comfort.)

    Regular attendance in groups is obviously important, not only for the attendees, but for the group as a whole. So, skipping group sessions for no good reason is unacceptable. However, who in the group would want you to miss a birthday trip with your mother knowing it would hurt her and you?

    I could easily make the argument for skipping the trip and going to the group therapy session. Both decision would be very valid and understandable. You are definitely in a tough spot!! I just happen to be a bit of a sucker for family -so I lean toward choosing mom over the group (and perhaps yourself).

    But please don’t beat yourself up so badly. It was an honest oops. And, you are definitely not the only person with a phone phobia!!!!! I can’t tell you how utterly entirely I can relate!!!!

    Good luck!!

    • Thanks so much rl 🙂 You’re right – only one mother. And I’m extremely neurotic about the fact that she’s 70 now; I said something to The Man about how this could be her last “big” birthday – obviously, I really hope that that’s not the case, but either way it’s important to her, and by extension it’s important to me to not disappoint her.

      I’m going to send the pitifully begging email and see what happens. As I said to Gitty, if my therapist wants to talk about it face-to-face, then that’s fine. You make a good point that the group probably wouldn’t want to start on a note where both my mother and I are hurt indirectly by its very presence, so I could tell him that – whilst still blaming myself, of course 😉 What an idiot.

      Thanks again – really appreciate it. As I said to Ellen, I’ll keep people updated 🙂

      Take care

      Karen xxx

  5. Thank you for the comments, everyone 🙂 I’ve drafted this email – what do you think? I’ve deliberately tried to hit a desperate tone – but I suppose that is representative of how I’m feeling!

    Thank you for this email [confirming my attendance at the group], and I’m sorry for responding by email rather than by phoning ([my therapist] knows I hate the phone!) but I had to contact you about this. I have made a major faux pas here – [my therapist] may remember that it was my mother’s 70th birthday this year and as a present I arranged for her and I to spend a few days together in Edinburgh. Because I booked it just before her birthday in September, it completely went out of my head until this week. Unfortunately it is between Monday and Wednesday next week – and the group starts on Tuesday.

    I was absolutely horrified when I realised this upon reading your email today and am furious with myself for not realising there was a clash sooner. I really, really want to work with this group but I also can’t really let my mother down at this short notice (which is completely my own fault, obviously). Is there any chance of me being able to join the group in the second week? I know that’s really not ideal – for the group or for me – but I also know it could be some time before a similar group comes up again. Obviously I would commit to attending other sessions (could you please send me the dates/calendar please – it didn’t come through in your first email).

    I am really, really sorry about this and understand what an inconvenience I must be causing. I understand if there is no way this can be accommodated, particularly given that it’s entirely my own fault. I would like to say to [the facilitators] though that I am genuinely enthusiastic about the group and would still really like to take part despite this setback. I would be endlessly grateful if there was some way that I could be allowed to still attend. Again, however, I do understand the difficult position I am putting [the organisation] and other clients in.

    I can only apologise again. Could you please pass this message to [my therapist] for me? Thanks in advance.

    Sorry again, but I look forward to hearing from you.

    All the best


    I’ll get The Man to have a look at this too – I hope it hits the right note and doesn’t sound like an excuse to get out of the therapy. Every time I was sick or something during my individual therapy I convinced myself that they would think I was making it up because I couldn’t be arsed, and that’s my worry here too. Is that justified or is it paranoid nonsense?

    Thanks again everyone ❤ xoxox

  6. Karen, not sure if this’ll come up, my attempts to comment recently have gone into the intervoid.
    And I’m not sure you’ll agree anyway!. I absolutely believe the information had gone to different parts of your brain (I def. relate to this situation). I think the email is too long for a receptionist. (they need to know “really, honestly, sorry about this, please let me know options” in about a paragraph, so they can easily and quickly identify what’s required and get on and do that. of course the staff will be sensitive enough to read through) I suspect, actually, that you’re writing to T. Suggesting 10 minutes speaking to him to explain the situation (as you outlined responding to Gitty) seem to confirm it.
    But I do think you’d have to accept that if you were to be speaking to him, he’d be hearing (if not questioning you) putting your mother ahead of yourself (ie the therapy). Repeating “of course this is my fault” (whilst I know it’s a genuine expression) so many times is def something he’d be picking up on.
    So -given that I think you’re actually communicating with your therapist- you need to say what he/the group’d need to know. That you recognise the mistake. That you are committed to the therapy and the group (but appreciate it might not look like that-hence wanting to not make a bad impression) That you are concerned about the impact it’ll cause for you and the group by not attending. That you’re prepared to think about/discuss with the group how the mistake arose and what meaning it has for you/other people. (I know it’s a completely different way of working for you, and my experience of group work has been variously un/successful, but it’s the way I’d approach it)
    But separately something that’s been bothering me for a week or so.. T’s said you should be having 2days/week individual sessions for 2 years. Is there really no way of getting that? How much are you looking at? If it’s possible to get you back into paid employment, is there no way of affording it as an investment? I’m going to shut up, I think there’s a certain well-known figure who could earn some brownie points by using a cash windfall s/he doesn’t need to good use, but (out of respect for you rather than s/he!) I don’t want to go into detail here…

  7. Totally get the memory blanks, have had that on many an occasion, along with the resultant moment of profanity when it dawns on me.

    Anyway, having read your email draft, I’d say it’s a good one, send it off and keep fingers crossed

  8. Hi there, i’ve done this sort of think myself in the past, it is like you’ve stored the 2 things in different parts of the brain. When i’ve done it I haven’t known what to do I usually stick my head in the sand when that happens, until the last minute then have ended up panicking and forcing myself to ring someone, which isn’t a good outcome I know. I hope you manage to sort it, obviously i’m not going to try to give you advice given what i’ve said, all the best!

  9. Wow, how late am I to this discussion!? Sorry 😦

    I think you knew what your priorities are and you did what felt right. I think the email was very good; sincere but taking responsibility. Even though I totally get the brain lapse and I don’t think it’s your fault at all for forgetting.

    Have you sent the email? Or got a response back? I really hope they let you go to group. It would be sad for you to miss the opportunity.

  10. Pingback: This Week in Mentalists: the Leveson edition « The World of Mentalists

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