The Session That Triggered

I had to go for a walk in session at CAPS today. Does it make me feel needy and pathetic? Sure, it does.

But ultimately, I think if I hadn’t, things might not have gone so well for me for the rest of this week.

It was definitely one of the most intense sessions I’ve ever had – even more than the one that left me feeling this way 2 weeks ago (Roughest Therapy Session Ever). This post may be triggering as I’ll be talking about some traumas that I have experienced so I’m going to make this a post that you’ll have to click “Read More” to read more of.

Today, I managed to meet with my own psychologist again. It was a stroke of luck because he was the back up on-call clinician. He wouldn’t have needed to be the one who answered my request for a walk in but he did because he knew that I was probably back because I needed help. I was grateful that he decided to be the clinician to speak to me. It made it a lot easier to talk about why I was there.

I’m a lot calmer now since it’s been more than an hour since we talked but at the time, I wasn’t. It was a session that was so intense today that I had a panic attack in his office. This was unprecedented. Even I was surprised by what we talked about and surprised at my physical reaction. I hadn’t had a panic attack in a long time.

“How are you feeling right now?” S asked after I described to him a relationship that I had in which the man I was with had tricked me into being in a relationship with him while he was married and had a family. I described the things he would tell me to do and all the guilt and shame I’ve developed from being in that toxic “relationship”. After I described all that, I started to breathe really heavily. The realization that I was someone who had been involved with another woman’s husband struck me and I was floored by how heavy that realization was.

“I… I think I’m having a panic attack!” I said as I struggled to breathe. My thoughts were spiraling out of control.

“You’re in a safe place. The things we talked about, they can’t harm you anymore. You’re ok. You’re safe in here.” S said, soothing me as I tried to calm down. My limbs felt limp but my chest felt tight. As I listened to his voice, I tried to stop thinking about everything except for controlling my breathing. It worked because after a few minutes, I started feeling better.

“The guilt and the shame you’re feeling right now, you don’t have to feel that way. You don’t have to carry it. All the things that happened that we just talked about… You don’t have to feel them. What happened wasn’t your fault. You didn’t know, you had no idea of knowing. You need to let those feelings go…”

I hear people but my problem is, I have a hard time listening and believing them. So I just stared at S, my breath hitching, my tears still streaming as the thoughts in my head said, “But it was your fault. You should’ve seen the signs, the red flags and you should’ve ended it sooner. But you didn’t…”.

It was like S knew what I was thinking but he said, “This man exploited your weakness and used you. He was a sociopath who used you and took pleasure in perverse things. He made you do the things he wanted you to. It wasn’t your fault, Jules. I know it’s hard for you to hear that right now… But it wasn’t your fault.”

I started to understand what he was saying. “I guess… I guess it’s like I had been sexually abused all over again… What he did to me….”

“Is what you’re feeling right now the same as what you felt when you were abused as a child?”

I didn’t really know. I said that it probably was. I’m feeling the same shame and guilt that I did from before. It was painful and I hadn’t thought about this man or this relationship in 10 years.

The times that I have mentioned it to Hubster, I’ve always been angry, bitter and resentful but my mind knows that every time I walk into S’ office, that I was in a safe place that I could allow myself to be vulnerable. I let my guard down today and the memories and thoughts took over and wreaked havoc on me. I’m just thankful that S is so skilled that he could help me calm back down.

“I’m glad you told me all this, Jules”

“You knowing doesn’t change anything… What good does it do now that you know? It doesn’t change what happened!” I said, for the first time in 44 sessions that I responded that way towards him. Every time he’s talked, I’ve always just listened, nodded and agreed. Today, I actually told him that I didn’t think me telling him about this traumatic event in my life made any difference. I was shocked at my own response.

“My knowing doesn’t change what happened but the fact that you’re able to tell me this means that the shame that has been keeping things hidden from both you and me are starting to surfacing. It means that your mind is able to overcome a little bit of that shame to be able to bring it up and talk about it. I’ve never heard you tell me this before, Jules.”

It made sense. I realize now that when he tells me, “I’m glad that you told me this”, it really means, “I’m glad you’re able to tell me this”.

“It’s been 10 years since this has happened, S. I don’t think even I have really thought about this in a long time. I think sometimes when I come in here, I’m not the one talking…”

“It’s the other parts of you that do?”

“Yeah, I think so. I think my unconscious takes over sometimes and even I am surprised by what comes out of my mouth sometimes…”

“Yeah, I didn’t think you were a client who would get defensive while you’re in here because I know that you often allow yourself to be vulnerable while you’re in here. So I was just a little surprised that this was something that we’ve never discussed before. But I realize now how much of a trauma this must have been for you for your mind to have blocked everything out….”

Trauma.

I’ve never thought of this year of my life as a trauma. It makes perfect sense now. It makes so much sense. It makes sense why I balk whenever intimacy is brought up, why I freak the hell out when things start to get steamy, why I am so afraid of men or try so hard to act tough like a man.

I may not have classic PTSD symptoms but I have certainly experienced multiple traumas in my life – the childhood sexual abuse, the molestation when I was 20, and this traumatic “relationship”. I’ve never talked about any of this before in public. I’ve hinted at the sexual abuse but I’ve never been able to talk about it. This man that I was involved in for a year had turned my life upside down and I’m now convinced that it’s because of the things that have happened to me that I now have multiple issues with Hubster.

“It wasn’t your fault,” S iterated.

At the end of the session, he asked me if I was safe and if I could get through the weekend. I wasn’t sure. I felt weak and spent but I said I was ok anyway. I had promised him yesterday that I’ll try to keep myself safe.

“Please come in again tomorrow or Monday if you feel like you can’t get through the week, ok? Please don’t hesitate to do that…” He reminded me.

I nodded. I couldn’t speak because I was so exhausted and my mouth was dry.

“One more thing before you go… I don’t want to throw too many things at you all at once but I’m really concerned about you. Do you think you could talk to Dr W and seeing if you could get some anti depressants?”

I knew he cared for me deeply. He wouldn’t have suggested that if he hadn’t. I frowned because I’ve been working hard at keeping Dr W at bay with her suggestions for anti depressants.

“She’s been trying for a long time to get me on them…” I said, my voice hoarse.

“It doesn’t have to be permanent. But I’m concerned with all the things you’re dealing with right now that you’re not going to be able to fight it any longer on your own… Maybe we need to explore all possible options…”

“I’ve not been telling her about my suicidal thoughts. I don’t want to.”

“Would it be ok if I wrote her an email about this? I won’t tell her all the details but just that you’ve been struggling really badly with the suicidal thoughts. You can fill her in yourself if you’d like but I won’t tell her much more than that… Is that ok?”

I was still not happy with the suggestion. “I don’t want to take medication…” I paused. “But I guess maybe you’re right. I have been wondering if I need to be medicated recently…”

“Yeah….”

“I guess you’re right. We need to explore all the possible options….” I said, finally relenting. I know he cares. I can feel it now. I can feel it deeply and it makes me feel cared for and loved.

S gave me some time to collect myself.

“I’m sorry for taking up your time…”

“No, not at all. You’re fine…”

“But thank you…”

“Good work today, Jules” S said. I forced a smile on my face. “I know it’s not easy. And I can’t imagine what you’re going through but you did great”

As I left CAPS, I felt lost. It was the usual feeling. I stood outside the building for a while. The wind whipped my hair around and I started to feel better. I started to feel a little strength creep into me. I think I might be ok for the rest of the week.

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