“So how are you doing?”, my therapist asked me as I settled in on his couch.
A million things ran through my mind although almost all of them were connected.
I started with something mundane, about how physically, my body’s been out of whack this week since I’ve been sleeping until noon a lot lately and I’ve been forgetting my medication a lot. So I told him how I don’t know what’s going on. Plus, my repetitive stress injury is back and I’ve started playing video games again. He said that he didn’t realize that I had even stopped. I told him I did because I felt like it did nothing for me anymore and I no longer found much pleasure from it. But the fact that I’m getting back into it somewhat worries me because whenever I play my video games, I switch off and stop feeling. So it would make sense now for me to get back into it because I probably am trying to prevent myself from feeling or thinking.
I then continued and told him how I felt emotionally and I hesitated before bringing up the guilt and shame I’ve been feeling. It was hard to put into words. It’s hard for me to verbalize things and having him in front of me, looking at me with his usual look of concern and care, is almost too difficult for me to handle. It’s weird because I seem to have a fear of real love and affection. I always feel like I’m not worthy.
Anyway, after some stumbling and stammering, I finally choked out how I have been feeling guilty and ashamed of going over time last week. I told him how it had triggered a bunch of thoughts and feelings that I haven’t thought about or felt in a long time. I also mentioned how the guilt had led to me feeling worthless and how I feel like I’m always responsible for anything bad. I also told him how my mind went so far as to thinking that he was mad me and that he was justified. I even thought about how he might terminate our therapy! I was terrified of rejection and abandonment.
It was then that I realized that I now understand why I can’t confront people or speak to them on an emotional level! I realized that my mind can’t distinguish between a simple argument or confrontation of an issue to fix it and a confrontation that ends relationships. So I’ve always just avoided confrontations because if there’s no confrontation, there’s no end of relationship or fear of it.
I realize that I can’t handle rejection and I have a major fear of embarrassment which stemmed from the way my teachers had treated me when I was a child (multiple teachers had pulled me up in front of the class to do problems and I couldn’t, thus causing me humiliation). I’ve always internalized the guilt and blamed myself for not being smart enough and not feeling like I can understand anything. I remember not being able to look my teachers in the eye anymore after such humiliating encounters and so I cannot speak to a person in a confrontational manner without fearing them.
I then wanted to steer the conversation into math and what happened last week when I had realized who my “pit guy” was but my therapist steered us back to the topic on hand. Perhaps he knew I didn’t want to deal with what came after.
“Now before we go into the math, I want us to talk about this a little more. How do you parents handle conflict? What did that look like in your family?”
A half laugh blurted out of my mouth. A response that I now realize is a defense mechanism. I get into almost hysterical kind of laughter or half laughs that betray my true feelings. I knew this was coming.
I sighed before explaining to him that my parents had many bouts of silent treatments. The times that they do get mad at each other, they’re usually loud and explosive. I also related to him about how my brother and my father don’t get along and when I was living with them, a simple argument would devolve into shouting matches all the time. I remember feeling extremely distressed all the time. Now I know it’s because of the anxiety.
“Maybe in some ways, you felt like your father was saying the things he said to your brother to you as well…”
Of course, I was bawling through all this. I can’t control my tears. I can’t stop myself from crying when I’m sitting in that couch.
It made sense. I’ve always felt like I could never measure up to my parents’ expectations and I’ve always tried. My brother didn’t so it probably didn’t hurt him so much. I’ve never known what they want from me or what they expect from me. I went to explain that in my family, we don’t communicate very much. We don’t say how we really feel. It was all just assumed meaning. And when we do communicate, it’s with anger – to shout at each other.
I realize now where all my rage comes from. I used to pride myself in being able to keep things under the lid really well. I now don’t think that had been (or is) a healthy response to anger. I now understand that because my parents modelled negative responses to anger that that is how I now relate to others – especially my husband. I don’t understand what it’s like to express anger well and I don’t understand that just expressing anger doesn’t automatically mean rejection and abandonment.
Anyway, at the end of the tearful session where I had also expressed verbally what it felt to find out who my “pit guy” really was and how it felt to confront my ex high school math teacher, I felt spent. In fact, I feel exhausted now. I think today I’ve just poured out a lot of pain and fear I’ve had contained for a long long time. I can’t express just how grateful I am for my therapist and for his wisdom and patience.
In the end, he also explained to me how keeping time is his responsibility and that because of how he felt that our progress is going strong that he thought he would let me add one more thing at the end of our last session. He thought that it would’ve helped me to get another emotion out but he said that he realized that he had done more harm than good as I had been fixating over the guilt for an entire week. He told me that he is taking the responsibility from me. That he is not mad at me and that I shouldn’t feel guilty or bad anymore. He did commend me for taking steps to acknowledge my feelings. As I’ve said before, I like hearing him say, “Good”. It felt good.
Today was definitely a good session – a satisfying one, and one where I had also come to many realizations about myself, my background and why I feel the way I do. I also learned that I needn’t blame myself for everything and that just because something seems like it’s my fault, doesn’t always mean that it is. I need to practice not jumping to conclusions and blaming myself for everything. It’ll be a work in progress, definitely but I always feel like identifying the problem is the first step to recovery. In that respect, I’ve definitely identified a lot of problems today.
On another note, 5 days ago today marks 6 months of therapy for me – 6 months since I first met my therapist. Looking back, a lot has changed for me and sure, while I have become more depressed since September, I have also learned a lot about myself – more in the space of 6 months than I have in the space of 29 years and 11 months! It has been a painful journey but it’s also been a journey filled with positive affirmations from not only my therapist but also my husband and friends (especially the ones who keep coming back here to read what I write!). I am amazed at how fast time has flown. A part of me hopes that I will be able to finish out the next 3-4 years of school with my therapist there to support me but we’ll see. I doubt the school will want to let me keep seeing him if I’m better. But that’s a worry that I don’t need to concern myself with yet.
PS: I have a feeling that if my parents read this post, they might be really mad to discover the thoughts that I have had for them for the longest time. Like I mentioned in the post… We don’t communicate at all… So I have no idea how they really feel about me or what they expect of me and vice versa…