Today’s therapy session got “real”. It got so real that I was stunned by the realizations that were rushing towards me and knocking me over throughout the session. To those of you who have attended or are attending therapy, you know the feeling I’m talking about.
It’s that feeling where you reached a point in your therapy journey that you realize a bunch of really important things. Things that you may have been avoiding, things that you may have suppressed, things that you may not have ever wanted to think about, things that you never realized you were doing, things you didn’t think had much consequence, things that were at the crux of your problems… Those things. The “real” reason you’re in therapy.
Well, after almost 6 months of therapy, I’ve finally reached a stage where my therapist can say that I’m “ready” to dig deeper and work harder. He has told me before that he is not a fairy godmother who will wave a magic wand and “fix” all my problems for me and that therapy requires real hard work and a willingness to work. Of course I knew that he wasn’t going to just magically make all my issues go away. At the same time, I don’t think I was really ready to go that deep into these issues. So for the past 5 months, I’ve been hemming and hawwing, resisting and subtly changing the subject by saying “I don’t know” whenever we touch on something I really don’t want to think about.
Today though, somehow, I was smacked in the face by multiple revelations that were really startling and stuff that I “knew” but didn’t (if that makes sense at all). I had entered my therapist’s office today with no real issue in mind since I had been dissociated (numb) last week and hadn’t really thought of anything. I did realize from hearing Ross Szabo’s talk that I actually hate myself – hence the depression. So I mentioned that after a short rant about work. We continued to explore that and what hating myself meant or felt.
It was an interesting exercise because for once, I could put my finger on what it is that I hate about myself and why it is that I say that I hate myself. Turns out that when I say I hate myself, it’s because I hate that I’m not good enough, I hate that I can’t seem to focus, I hate that I can’t seem to function like a normal person can, I hate that I am such a bad wife, I hate that I’m so emotionally distant and unable to connect, I hate that I keep suppressing my feelings…
I also learned that I hate myself for being excited or happy about something. That every time I’m happy or excited about something, even just a smidgen, I quickly am hurt or disappointed. So I’ve learned to quit feeling happy or excited about things. I went to a huge convention this year and felt nothing but bitterness and anger through it all because I looked around and saw all these people being happy and excited about all these geeky things and I can’t feel any of it. It made me realize as I related the story about the convention to my therapist that what I was really feeling – the anger – was not only anger at myself but also jealousy at the people around me who were not only able to enjoy themselves at this convention but also couldn’t care less what others thought of them as they traipsed the halls in their flamboyant costumes and excitement.
Our session continued as I related other things. Then I brought up how 3 times last week, I had either ranted about friends or written about friendship on this blog. That somehow, despite me saying that not really having friends don’t bother me, that it actually does. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t have brought it up so many times. As we hashed out my feelings about friendship, I realized that my best friend (who is now thousands of miles away and virtually out of reach due to her hectic schedule) is my best friend because though we don’t delve into deep emotional topics, she actually allows me to be myself. Not only does she allow me to be myself, she actually encourages the “weirdo” side of me to emerge. Thanks to her, I got pretty deep into anime and trope-culture. (She often expresses her apology for getting me into the deep dark world of anime).
Then it brought to mind someone I recently just got to know better. Someone I spent hours talking to until 12.30am. I told my therapist how effortless our conversation was and how comfortable I felt talking to her. I felt liked and heard. And I hoped that she in turn felt the same. I told the therapist that the only other person I felt as comfortable like this with the exception of him and my husband is the best friend I just mentioned. It was then that my therapist realized something important and made a connection.
He said to me that he is now starting to see clearer that my depression and anxiety are the result of my suppression of my excitement and feelings because I feel the desperate need for a friend and a desperate need to fit in or be “normal”. I argued that I liked being different and unique but conceded that I do want to also be liked by everyone, be accepted and be understood. I felt frustrated because I felt like those two things are mutually exclusive in some ways and that though I want to have a friend, I also don’t necessarily enjoy socialization. It was then that I realized again how effortless the socialization was for me and my new friend. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks.
The realization that the suppression of my feelings and excitement which further aggravates my depression and anxiety is due to my extreme need to feel wanted by society was huge. Nobody ever wants to admit to being so needy like that. I didn’t – I still don’t but I’m trying not to fight my therapist.
Of course, there were other things we talked about and other things I learned today but that I felt, was probably the most significant. It’s the most significant I’ve had in a long time. And somehow, after figuring that out today, I felt a little lighter.
Near the end of the session, my therapist asked, “What would it be like for you if everyone around you accepted you for who you are and you didn’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not?”. The reaction he got from me was immediate and wasn’t something I controlled. Tears sprang to my eyes and I could barely breathe as he finished his question. What would it be like? I asked myself as I wiped away the tears. I felt overwhelmed and I couldn’t speak. My therapist told me that I didn’t have to answer him then – that he’ll remember to bring it up again for the next session so that I can have the time to ponder that question through the rest of this week. I pointed out that he had elicited a strong reaction from me. He nodded his understanding – no one could’ve missed the sudden tears I got as soon as he finished his question. Especially not someone as perceptive as my therapist.
Before I left too, I had asked him a question that I had been wanting to ask many many weeks ago but never got the guts to. I asked him how he felt therapy was going for us. It was a question I desperately wanted an answer to but at the same time, didn’t want to be ashamed to hear.
He told me that he feels that therapy is going ok. That we’re making good progress despite the sharp decline in my mood (I did slip into a major depressive episode in late Aug/early September that I’m still trying to crawl out of). That despite how I feel, that we’re actually making progress because I’m finally ready to delve into the “real” stuff. I was glad to hear that because I felt like we’re making headway too. Sure, it took a while but I’m finally cognizant of the fact that I have been resisting him and am now going to be more aware whenever I put up my defenses. Being aware of something to me, is the key to defeating it. So the next time I get defensive and resistant, I’ll know to back down.
For the first time in a long time, I also smiled a genuine smile – one that actually had happiness behind it. He had validated me big time today and said to me that he has a high regard for me and that he highly respects me. He said that he hopes that I will someday see it (my positive qualities) for myself.
So there it is. One of the most honest and raw sessions I’ve ever had. One that’s so intense that I had to share it. [I hope I didn’t reveal too much – I am trying to be careful about being semi-anonymous but still talk about enough to show my sincerity.]