Hey guys, remember this incident: Walk-In Therapy Session That Bombed? It was the first time ever after a year of sessions at CAPS that I had ever had a somewhat negative experience with a therapist.
Now, this is not a reflection of the therapist’s skill or personality but rather my incompatibility with her and how I wasn’t able to relate to her. And of course, the last post that I’d written all those months ago had been written while I was in a lot of distress.
Today, after a rough session with S, I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically. I could barely contain myself in class and kept bursting out in laughter – it wasn’t anything funny at all. I just found everything “funny”. It was less humor than it was just pure stress.
I think the session had triggered a lot of instability in me – stuff that I’d been trying to keep in check for a week now. And it was just stuff that I’d not been able to deal with for the past week because of how I was just literally going to school, going to work, and then sleeping. I didn’t have time to process my sadness, pain, anger, dismay, despair and so on. So when I saw S today, everything just came out all at once and it was not only difficult to contain, it was also difficult to stop the dam once it had started gushing water.
I sobbed through the entirety of the session, stopping only to laugh hysterically when I related an amusing incident to S. I had told him, “Here’s something I wanted to bring up that I feel you would find very amusing… So yesterday, as I was in the middle of the anguish over being divorced, your voice popped into my head – there was no prompting or anything at all. And in the same tone and same voice that you would use, the you that resides in my head said to me, “Jules, what would it be like if you didn’t see X and Y for a while?” I don’t know why that suddenly came up but it was apt”
Before I could continue any further, S and I were in fits of laughter. His laughter made me laugh even harder. He was definitely very amused.
“It’s ironic because I was just about to ask you the same exact thing! I guess you do know what I’m going to say to you or how I’d react to certain things!” (PaperDoll, this!! It reminded me of our conversation – I pointed out to S your wisdom and he nodded, agreeing with you that yes, he’ll be giving me less quality attention if I keep seeing him so much).
Anyway, that little laughing fit that we both dissolved into helped me regain some stability before I walked out of his office. But after that, when I was alone again, I started laughing again, loudly and hysterically. It happened off and on, of course. It wasn’t like I was just walking around just laughing the whole time.
I knew that the laughing wasn’t quite right. I knew that because it was the same kind of laughing fit that I’d had back when my paternal grandfather passed away. My father drove us to the funeral home and on the journey, I couldn’t stop laughing. I was joking and laughing – even when the coffin entered the furnace. My father was enraged by my “disrespect” and snapped at me. I was hurt – he didn’t understand just how anguished I was over my grandfather’s death. He didn’t realize just how badly I was hurting inside. I couldn’t control the laughter though – I didn’t know why I was laughing so hard myself. It was the same kind of laughter that I had today.
Deep down, I wanted to sob. I wanted to keep sobbing. I was in so much pain. But instead of sobbing, I laughed. I think I lost my marbles this afternoon/evening. I couldn’t take the stress any longer, perhaps.
I was confused with my reaction so I decided to give CAPS another visit. As I skateboarded there, I kept laughing off and on. I almost couldn’t keep quiet while I waited to be seen. D said to me, “Don’t worry, Jules. We haven’t forgotten you…” I laughed hard. And then I said, “Oh it’s ok. I’ll just fade into the background” to which D responded with, “I guess we have new wallpaper!”
Then, the therapist that I hadn’t had much success with the last time walked out and greeted me. I was hoping that it would be somebody else. I took a deep breath and just decided to give her another chance.
She asked me as I sat down what had brought me in. I explained to her that I was concerned about my uncontrollable laughter and how I felt like I was losing my mind. I wondered if I was having a nervous breakdown. She said to me, “Oh well you were happily talking with that person over there so I thought to myself, ‘Wow, she seems pretty happy… Why is she here for a walk-in?'”
Just moments before she came out to greet me, I was talking to a friend of mine about some things (he had come in to CAPS to provide moral support to his friend and I just happened to have been there) and we had been laughing over those things. Sure, I must’ve looked just fine.
I told the therapist that I wasn’t okay and that I am just very good at pretending. I felt a little annoyed that she would say that, to be honest. But I also realize that I do fool people very well. The only person I can’t fool is S because he knows me. This therapist didn’t. Publicly, I’m very well put together. I’m successful, I’m intelligent, I’m extroverted, I’m confident, I’m goofy… All the things that you would associate with someone who has their life together and who is happy. I’m none of that – I just pretend like I am because I not only don’t trust people very well, I am also paranoid that people will judge me or not want to be around me if they knew who I really am.
I explained to her how I’ve been almost delirious all afternoon. I couldn’t figure out why I was the way I was. I realize now that she’s a more action-based therapist. She doesn’t really let me explain or rant or vent. She just wants to know what brought me in so that she could give me a list of things I could do to overcome how I was feeling. Perhaps this is a different approach to therapy? I don’t know.
I didn’t have as negative an experience this time though because her action-based style was what I needed this time. She noted that I was very anxious – I kept tapping my left foot on the floor. And she said that I seem to have a lot of nervous energy. So she suggested that I do some relaxation techniques. I told her that I’ve tried but nothing has ever really worked. She said, “Have you ever tried relaxing each part of your body as you think about them and breathe through them?”
I said that I had heard of such an exercise but had never really attempted it. She suggested that we do it together. I internally groaned because the socially anxious part of me didn’t like the idea one bit… But I gave her a chance.
We then spent the next 10 minutes doing the mindfulness exercise together. By the end of it, I did feel more relaxed and the nervous tics were gone. She encouraged me to practice this technique every day and to remember what that feeling of relaxation was like so that I could have a basis for comparison the next time I did it. Before I left, we chatted a little about the Peer Educator program.
I left this time, feeling less judged, and actually felt like I was helped. It also allowed me to learn that how she administers therapy is just very different from what I’m used to with S (and a few of the other staff members). Perhaps there are others who benefited from her more aggressive action-based style. I certainly don’t like it very much myself and prefer S’ patient, kind yet firm style of allowing me to vent and express myself.
At least this therapist got me to stop laughing though. I felt more stable and more grounded when I left CAPS than when I had entered.