Psychologists Are Humans Too

I find it ironic that therapists/psychologists are so very calm, collected, and seem to have their life so perfectly balanced when you see them in their office – their comfort zone. However, once outside of that space, they are just like all of us with insecurities, fears, dreams, hopes, and such.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that they’re just as human as we are, especially when we sit across from them in their office and we’re the ones getting their help and expertise. It’s so easy to forget that they too have their own preconceived notions, their opinions, their strong emotions, their principles, and their own lives essentially.

I hold my psychologist to a high regard because he has come through for me multiple times and he’s shown me that he deserves my trust and respect. He is also essential to my growth as a person, as it is because of his help that I am who I am today. Sure, I did a lot of the leg work myself, but without his gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) nudging, his patience, his calm and collected nature, and his great skills, I wouldn’t have been able to do the work.

I have developed a strong attachment and some very strong emotions towards S as a result. Initially, I saw him as my rescuer – the person who came through for me when I needed someone the most. I put him on a pedestal as a result. For the longest time, I couldn’t ever be angry with him, or have any emotions that in any way were negative because of how highly I thought of him. Even when he messed up one time and reacted in a way that made me think that he was dismissive of my thoughts, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him or to even accept that he had messed up.

Then, as therapy progressed and I started to learn and grow, I started being able to speak to him more about our relationship. Slowly, through the months and weeks, I lowered the pedestal until now, he’s someone who I deem as my partner in this journey of recovery. He’s finally on solid ground with me and though I still hold him in high regard, I am no longer idolizing him as I once did. I’m able to speak more candidly about how I feel about him when the situation arises. I’m actually quite proud of the fact that I could do that now.

At our session today, I was actually able to finally reveal my strong emotions towards him. I even said, “I have great affection for you, S. And sometimes, I even say to myself, ‘I really love S’. But it’s not the kind of love that you’d think. I mean, it’s like you’re someone I really hold dear but I’m not attracted to you – well, that’s the thing you see… I don’t think I am. I’m sometimes confused and that’s why I’ve never really brought this up before. I have a lot of fear that I may be attracted to you so I don’t want to be that person. I mean, first of all, you’re married. And secondly, you’re my therapist! I mean, I don’t want to be that client that crosses the line… So I’ve always been afraid of my own feelings towards you…”

S looked bemused. I was somewhat babbling because I felt like I had to make myself as clear as possible so as to not cause any misunderstanding. I truly did care and even love him, but not in that way, you know?

“So you have these strong emotions for me. This strong attachment with me. And somehow, you feel that it’s wrong. And that you shouldn’t have these feelings…” S said. He wasn’t reacting in a way that I thought he was going to (i.e. freak out). He was in his comfort zone after all – every week, he is in charge even if it may seem like I’m the one who brings up issues for us to talk about but really, he’s the one in control of the flow of the conversation. I wonder if the situation would’ve been different had I revealed this to him while we were outside of CAPS.

“Yeah… Because I’m confused you know? I mean, I don’t think I’m attracted to you but I didn’t want to take the chance… I was afraid… I don’t want to ruin this relationship!” I said.

“So you push the strong emotions away. You try to bury it. And you tell yourself that you shouldn’t feel this way,” S said.

“Yeah… Because transference seem to be a kind of stigma in the psychology community – that if your client has transference, it means that it’s bad… I mean, from everything I’ve read…”

“So you’re getting all this from the psychologists’ perspective,” S said.

“Well, not just psychologists but also clients who have  had bad experiences by crossing the line…”

“Jules, it’s okay to have these feelings. And I don’t think that it’s the case here with you, but even if it’s sexual, that it’s okay to have these feelings. What’s not okay is what happens after you have these feelings. It’s not okay, for example, for you to show up at my house. It’s not okay for us to engage in anything inappropriate. Or to blur our boundaries. But your feelings are valid. Those emotions are there so that you can better connect with people. When you push them all away, you don’t get to fully experience this connection because you’re holding back,” S said.

“We’ve never really established our boundaries before,” I said.

“Yeah, I was just thinking about that recently and realized that we never really did…” S said.

“Yeah, so I’ve sometimes been confused about that. Whether something is okay or not. And then I feel bad about stuff…”

“Well, it’s my job to set up these boundaries. It’s on me to do these things. Like the time when I told you that maybe you shouldn’t bring me anymore Starbucks. It was on me to make the call. It’s not on you to do that…” S said. It made me feel a little better because he was taking the responsibility that I had taken on myself. “I do want to check in with you about last week…”

Here we go, I thought to myself. I nodded.

“How did you feel that went?”

“Well…” I said, hesitating. “A part of me was thrilled. To be honest. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit… I mean…. Yeah… But I was thrilled because I don’t think we’ve ever been outside of CAPS together for a length of time”

“Nope!” S said.

“Yeah… So I was thrilled because I got to see you again. And this time, outside of your office. I wanted to talk to you again so that was nice that I was able to. But I’ll be honest… I was actually expecting you and so I was prepared because I overheard the grad students talking and they let it slip that you were coming to relieve one of them. So I had time to prepare myself… But it seemed like you weren’t expecting me”

“Yeah. I wasn’t expecting you. But ever since I found out that you were going to be a Peer Educator, I had already thought to myself that at some point, we’d bump into each other in one of these events.” S said.

“Yeah, I know. And I was determined to not make it weird. So I tried really hard not to be awkward. But… I did feel like you were awkward around me,” I said pointedly.

He sheepishly smiled and said, “Yeah… Yeah I was… Let me normalize this… I don’t think any of us are really comfortable seeing our clients outside of our office. I think it’s definitely awkward and that it’s normal. We usually just go with the client’s lead and see how they respond and we’ll act accordingly…”

Aha! I thought to myself, I knew it! He was being weird and awkward last week during the Alcohol Screening event. He seemed a little embarrassed by it. I then explained to him that I just wanted to be able to treat him normally, like I would any other person. I also told him that when I see him outside of the office, though he’s still my psychologist, he’s also at that point just S, who’s getting lunch, or S who’s getting a drink, or S who’s manning an outreach booth, etc. I said that I was fine with him interacting with me normally.

“Yeah. Well, we can say hi to each other and talk. Say we’re at the campus center and both of us are getting lunch. I can talk to you but I can’t be your friend. This means that I can’t go and sit with you and have lunch together. We can’t have dual roles – so that means we can’t be friends because I’m your psychologist.”

I nodded. I knew that. I’d done my research back when we first started working together and learned about the fact that psychologists aren’t allowed to be anything other than a psychologist to their clients.

Anyway, I then told him that I was glad that he outlined some of our boundaries. It’s going to make it easier for me to know how to respond to him or how to act around him. I was glad we had this talk because it’s been a long time coming. It only took a year and a half for us to finally address the elephant in the room. XD

After today’s session, it made me realize that S felt vulnerable last week during the event and so acted awkwardly around me. It made me realize that S too experiences these negative emotions, the way that I do. It makes him all the more endearing to me because it means that he’s as real as real can be. I appreciated our candor and our time together.

Today was a validating session – despite the fact that I still shed some tears because I had brought up some difficult emotions – I left feeling largely stable (though unsettled by how stable I was feeling) despite going in to the session thinking that I was going to leave with distressing feelings and thought as I usually do because we’d been “stirring the pot”.

It was a pleasant feeling. It was a feeling that I haven’t really experienced in a while now since my depressive episode had lasted 9 months now. It felt good to be calm and stable.

Alcohol Screening Test 

I was at the Campus Center again today to perform my duties as a Peer Educator. This time, we were partnered with CAPS to run a free alcohol screening test for the student and campus citizens.

The screening is to test for attitudes and behavior towards alcohol consumption. After a student writes down their answer to the questionnaire, they would be paired with a CAPS counselor/therapist/psychologist (take your pick as to what you want to call them, I usually just go with psychologist/therapist) who would then explain to them what their score means and advice them on the steps they should take while consuming alcohol.

I was very excited to be there at the event because I got to work with some CAPS interns/grad students. I already knew one of them because I had seen her for a walk-in session once so it was nice to be able to get to know her a little better.

About half an hour after I was there, in walks S. I didn’t expect to see him at the screening just because I knew that CAPS now has a fresh batch of grad students that usually come out for outreach events and the task falls on them most of the time though it wasn’t unheard of to see licensed psychologists at these outreach events either. When S walked in, I don’t think he expected to see me either.

“Hi S!” I said, cheerfully as he strode over to our table, which was placed next to the CAPS’ table.

“Oh hi!” He said, as he came over to join his colleagues over at the CAPS table.

“You get to come out of the office and get some fresh air, huh?” I commented.

“Yeah, it’s nice to be able to get out from time to time…” He said .

For some reason, I interpreted his body language to mean that he felt awkward and uncomfortable. I’ve never really had any prolonged interaction with him outside of CAPS before (except for the times that I’ve walked by him and just said hi) so I didn’t really know what he’s like in a normal social setting.

I was determined not to make the situation awkward because I am personally very open with the fact that I go to therapy and the fact that I suffer from mental illnesses. I self-disclose all the time and I’m not afraid to do so. In fact, S knows this because I’ve told him before that if we ever meet outside of his office to act normal.

Perhaps he was concerned that I would talk to him about things that we’d talked about yesterday? I don’t know.

Personally, I was ecstatic simply because I got to see him again and got to see him outside of his comfort zone. At the end of my shift, I decided to do a screening as well and asked him to go through the results with me. We sat down and told me that the results were consistent with what we’d previously discussed and said that he really didn’t have much to add. I took the opportunity to just fill him in briefly about my walk-in visit.

I don’t think I should’ve done that because I don’t think he was very pleased with the fact that I had brought up a confidential matter out in public. If he wasn’t pleased, and I gathered that he didn’t seem to be, then I know that I will hear about it next week. It’s actually giving me quite a bit of anxiety and I actually felt really bad for doing the screening for the sole purpose of getting a few minutes to talk to him. I will tell him all this next week of course but for now, I’m probably going to stew on it and it’ll probably make my weekend hell.

Another Walk-In Session

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.

Anxious for Therapy 

I’m anxious to see S tomorrow. I mean, later this morning. 

I’m anxious to see him because it felt like I haven’t seen him in weeks when in actuality, it’s really only been 5 days since I had briefly seen him on Friday. I am anxious for our session as well because I have lots to tell him. I feel like a child who has plenty to tell their parent and can’t wait to do so. 

I think my loneliness and sadness have made me wish that S and I could talk more. It’s made me go back to the person I was before – the one who gets stalker-like, who thinks about S incessantly, the one who wishes that he was my friend, the one who wants to break boundaries… 

Every time I bring this topic up, S’ answer is consistent, “Well, think about how we wouldn’t be able to continue this work if we had known each other personally as well… You’d constantly be wondering who else I’ve told about you. There’d be doubts. And we don’t want that, right?” 

He’s right. But the whole blank-canvas, I don’t give you advice or my opinion thing that therapists do annoy me sometimes. I want to see them as human beings who struggle, just like I do. I think doing so will help me to stop idolizing S and would stop me from putting him on the pedestal so frequently. 

But of course, he’s right. It would get messy and if we cross our boundaries, we’re going to kill the rapport and the hard work that we’ve spent a year and a half investing in would crumble.

I can certainly wish though, right? 

Reflections From Today

So I saw Dr W today, my psychiatrist. I told her how I don’t like being on Strattera and how tired it makes me feel. I also told her that it’s not working all that well anymore because I haven’t been able to focus or concentrate on anything lately. She asked me about my stressors and I revealed to her that I have many.

It’s the first time I’ve ever really been that forthcoming with her. I usually withhold just how badly I feel or how depressed I really am. I don’t tell her how often I have suicidal thoughts. All this because I know that she will prescribe me more medication.

I was right in my assumption because today, she upped my Zoloft dosage to 100mg because of all the things that I’m suffering through lately – with my move, my divorce, my terrifyingly difficult semester (which is only going to get worse as the semesters progress), my abandonment issues, my fears, my hectic schedule, my unstable financial situation, and work. She thinks that my loss of focus and motivation is due to these stressors and she hopes that by fixing my mood and anxiety, that the Strattera will start working again. She told me to give it 3-6 weeks and if nothing changes, then we should reconsider the Strattera.

To be honest, although I hated the heart palpitations, the sweaty and cold hands, the constant sweating, the flushed face, and the anxiety that Ritalin brought on me, I liked the other more positive effects like how it boosts my energy, how it keeps me going strong despite not having had a meal, how it helps me stop my sugar craving, and how I can control my diet better. Strattera makes me exhausted – all. the. time. – and I feel sluggish, my mind gets foggy easily, and my dry mouth symptom is the worst thing to deal with since I have to talk a lot – being a server, you can’t not be talking to your guests.

Anyway, so now I have to give Zoloft another try. It hasn’t really been doing anything for me. I doubt it will do anything even with 100mg.

After the meeting with Dr W, I headed to group therapy in which because the lead facilitator wasn’t able to attend, the co-facilitator was more inclined to let us rant instead of just focusing on how we feel at any given moment. One of the group members was having difficulty letting go of an unhealthy relationship, and the rest of us fervently encouraged her to love and respect herself first. To put herself first. As the session grew, we all started getting more and more “rant-y”. Near the end, the group member who had brought up her issue of unhealthy relationships talked about her career fears and insecurities now that graduation is approaching. She is Asian, like me, and we both share starkly similar backgrounds where our parents were concerned. Her rant about her parents brought me into the fray and before long, the two of us  were pretending to be our parents and saying things that Asian parents would say (things that people usually turn into memes). This prompted another member, a Caucasian, to express how angry he was that any parent would do that to their children and how it must be that his lack of cultural understanding is what is making him so angry while the other member and I are just accepting it as a lost cause.

As the group filed out the group therapy room, I said to T, “You totally just let us rant, didn’t you?” while chuckling.

T smirked and gave me a mischievous look.

“Well, it just seemed like Steph (not her real name, obviously) really needed it…”

“Yeah… She did… And I guess we all did…” I said with a smile. Most of the time, T had sat back and just listened, from time to time, he had an amused look on his face. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in therapists’ heads. I know S smirks to himself from time to time as I speak – it always makes me wonder what it was that he was smirking at. I never had the guts to ask him. I’m building up to it. One day, hopefully soon, I’ll ask him why he smirked or why he looks so amused.

When group therapy ended, I felt a great tug in my gut – I wanted to see S so badly. I saw that his door was closed with the “Do not disturb” sign hanging on the doorknob. It meant that he was with a client. I was upset.

And of course, like always, whenever I’m upset, I spiral downwards.

I thought about the rope that I had. I thought about the noose that I had tied last night. I thought about the anguished email I wrote to S. Then I thought about something I read on PaperDoll’s blog about how she realizes that her therapist isn’t her crisis line and that she shouldn’t be messaging her during crisis. I thought about the email that I had sent S this morning at 3.30am when I couldn’t sleep and the suicidal thoughts plagued me. It was a wonder that I didn’t get up from out of bed and hung myself then. I realized that I shouldn’t be sending him emails like that. He can’t answer me through email and technically, I shouldn’t even have his email address.

I want to hear from him constantly. It kills me that I keep thinking about him because I know that I shouldn’t be relying on him all the time. I need to grow up. I need to be the support I need. But of course, it’s easier said than done.

I waited until S was done with his session with his client. When I saw that his door was open, I took the bundle of paracord rope and marched to his office. I was going to ask the receptionist, K, if I could go talk to S but there was a line at the reception counter. I figured that if I didn’t go see S then, I probably wouldn’t. Besides, I am at CAPS so much that I didn’t think that anyone would stop me if I went down the hallway towards S’ office.

I was right because although T was walking down the hallway towards me, he didn’t make any moves to stop me. Neither did P, another psychologist that I had seen before for a crisis intervention session. In fact, she smiled at me. I think both T and P, who were both S’ office neighbors, knew that I was headed to S’ office.

My hands shook as I lightly knocked on his ajar door. S was at his desk. He looked up from his work and smiled at me.

“Hey…” He said.

“Hey… Um…” I started, not sure if I should explain what I was doing there standing at his door. I decided not to because I already felt quite awkward to stand there. My hand shook as I showed him the bundle of rope. “Can you… Can you please take this from me?”

His eyes widened a little when he realized what it was that I was holding. He quickly sat up in his chair and leaned over to reach for the rope. I had half a mind to pull my hand back as he reached. I didn’t want to be out of that option – if I were to die, I wanted it to be my choice.

“Yeah!” He said, as he took the rope from me. He then looked a little concerned. I clenched my jaw. My hands continued to shake. “Were you waiting? I just finished with a client…”

I wanted to say that I knew that but I didn’t want to come across as a stalker. Yes, S. I know. I’ve been watching you from outside of your window. Eee heee heee heeee heeeeee….

“Um, no… Yeah, I know. I saw that your door was open. So I thought… I could try to see if you were here…”

He hesitated and looked like he was going to say something else, but he didn’t and I could tell that he was gauging my facial expression and body language. Probably trying to figure out what it was that I wanted from him. I wanted to say more but I realized that I was standing outside of his office which is inappropriate. So awkwardly, I said, “Yeah… Okay… See you”

“I’ll see you next week, Jules…” He said.

“Yeah… Yeah you too… Take care…” I said as I wandered away, my hands still shaking. As I left CAPS, I wanted to punch things and scream in anger. I think I didn’t want my autonomy taken away – despite the fact that technically, I was the one who decided to give up that autonomy. I knew I had to do it. I’ve been toying with the suicidal thoughts too much lately. So much so that I learned how to tie a noose.

My week has been terribly hectic and when I pulled into my parking space last night, I had promptly burst into tears because thoughts of my ex crossed my mind, and thoughts of me being so lonely crossed my mind. They triggered an outflow of tears that were uncontrollable. A friend said that I am stressed. I feel like I’m at the brink of a mental breakdown. It feels like it’ll happen soon and when it does, I’m sure people around me will be surprised.

Thoughts From Therapy #78 – Craving Attention

I have found from today’s session with S that when I’m sleep drunk, I’m actually very effective and productive in therapy because it lets the child take over and talk more freely than when I’m fully awake.

I had woken up this morning in the middle of REM sleep which caused me to experience a moderately severe disorientation that lasted hours. I was so disoriented, I almost walked into walls and things like that. It was a wonder that I was able to drive. I thought for sure that I would’ve ruined today’s therapy session because of it. In fact, I had woken up 10 minutes to 10am and freaked out because despite now living closer to school, I would never have been able to make it to CAPS on time. Thankfully, S had an opening at 11am so I was able to push my appointment back.

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