I’ve been meaning to write more, and today I have time. Today, and this week, I’m struggling with getting a chronic health diagnosis. And also, struggling with a lack of friends.
Six months after getting a concerning result on a lung test, I finally had an appointment with a specialist. The diagnosis is bronchiectasis, which is a chronic lung condition that worsens over time. So far, it’s actually not bad – I’ve had a lot of phlegm and some fatigue, but that’s it. The doctor is not going to treat it as it’s not very advanced, but I’m supposed to use a lung clearance device daily, and I ordered this today.
I never thought I’d have a chronic condition, especially when relatively young (I’m in my fifties). The doctor said it’s genetic. I do know I’ve had very bad coughs down the years, for which I didn’t seek medical attention, but now wish I had. I have scarring on my lungs which must have been caused by these coughs. To be fair to myself, my family doctor at the time didn’t tend to take respiratory symptoms seriously, so I didn’t think she’d be able to help. And I had no idea these coughs could permanently damage my lungs.
Well. I’ll get used to it. Just the first week since being told I’ve been freaked out and sad. On the plus side, I am health conscious and I think that will help me. I exercise somewhat every day and eat pretty well. I’ve been slowly increasing my ability to do more vigorous exercise as well, and am up to about 15 minutes of light aerobics as well as the walking I do. We shall see how far I get with this. Because exercise triggers anxiety/shut-down for me, I need to increase it gradually.
Today I also feel rejected by most everyone I know. Even professionals. I realize I’m likely being too sensitive in this first example, but I get to write how I feel here, so I will tell you. I have been consulting a naturopath for a few months, and he has been helpful. The supplements he prescribed reduced my phlegm by about half, and I think I have less fatigue. Yesterday, I wanted to reach out to him to make an appointment and discuss the new diagnosis to see if it would change my supplement regimen. I emailed, and the secretary emailed back, but then stopped replying. So this morning, I emailed again with specific times I’m available, and she hasn’t replied.
I’m taking this super personally. More accurately, a part of me is feeling completely rejected here. I had attached the doctor’s notes to my email, as the naturopath had requested my file. The notes were basically everything that was said in the appointment, and included a list of the supplements the naturopath had prescribed, but in the process, the amounts were not accurate. I worry there was something in the note that he didn’t like? Or some other thing about now having this diagnosis that troubles him so he doesn’t want to work with me anymore?
Rationally, I know things happen that have nothing to do with me. Maybe they are behind in their emails – though in that case, why did she reply to my first enquiry right away?
Also I know that my whole male attachment pattern is activated. This guy is pleasant, he seems caring, and he looks pleasant as well. Bingo, I care desperately what he thinks of me and am now spending an uncomfortable day checking me email every few minutes to see if they respond. Sigh. I don’t need this.
As for friends generally, I was feeling more secure on that front than in the past, as I felt I had about four friends, which beats two. Now issues have arisen with each of these, to the point where I don’t really feel I have anyone to call even about such a major event as a big diagnosis. One friend has found a boyfriend, and as is typical for her, now has little time for anyone but him. Though after over a month, she did make time for us to go for a walk on the weekend. And she treated me to some food she had made that morning, so we spent a few hours together before she went off to boyfriend’s house. So now I guess we won’t see each other for a few weeks.
Another friend has become depressed. She bailed on two small outings we had arranged at the very last minute and said that was the reason. I texted her this morning and she did not respond. I’m trying to give her the space she seems to wish for.
And friend R and I are just not getting along well anymore. She doesn’t share anything with me at all, really, so then I stop sharing much, so then we only talk about food or tasks. Which is boring and not what I need in a friend. This friend is very religious and wanted to convert me to her religion. Once I made the decision that this religion is not for me, we became much less close. So now I feel that I was more of a conversion prospect for her than a sympathetic friend and we haven’t talked for over a month.
So those are three friends that I was seeing fairly regularly, and all are now more distant for various reasons. I am trying to be friendly with a downstairs neighbour who is about my age and also lives alone. We’ll see how that goes. She’s pleasant, but reserved. I’d love it if there was friend potential, but I’m not sure. Some people aren’t really looking for friendships. But I will reach out again.
I won’t go on about the dismal state of my life any more. I still need to look for work, and today I was finally able to quell my anxiety enough to do a bit in that direction. Self confidence. That’s what I need to remember. It’s all about self confidence.
And of course therapy. I’ve officially switched to every two weeks, which will start after next week’s session.
I realized after my last negative post on my therapy that I really need to go in person. Martine is a somatic therapist and that depends on the body. And there is something that happens in person that just doesn’t via zoom, as all us pandemic weary individuals are aware. I had actually thought I was fine with online therapy, as I don’t have an intense attachment to Martine, but actually it wasn’t working. I’ve now had two sessions in person and will continue that way.
The first week in person, we agains spent half the time discussing parts, and again I was intensely triggered once I was at home. Martine had asked me to write to her if I was triggered, so I wrote her two short emails, on the evening of the session and again the next day. It actually helped to write to her and have her respond, it made the experience less lonely. However it seems to have shocked her a bit – in this week’s session she said how I’d been dealing with serious issues when I emailed her (no suicidal thoughts or anything) and she stopped wanting to talk about parts. So that was odd. I was more willing, if I could email, but she backed right away from this topic.
This week’s session was OK. I have realized that I do think about some of the things she says, which is different from when I went for therapy with Ron. With Martine, there is so much education and putting things in terms of her books and worksheets, that I can hang on to some of the content better. She was actually drawing diagrams for me with markers that were past their sell-by date, so I remember a bunch of circles and faded lines…lol.
For instance, I talked about visiting my parents, a visit which was fine in one way. We chatted, and I enjoyed chatting to my dad because he is so intelligent and eager to engage. However the visit brought me right down for a few days afterwards as well. Martine said that when we’re with people close to us, there are two streams of information – one is what is talked about, but the other is a bunch of feelings and memories of all kinds of things that occurred in the past. So even while we don’t broach those subjects, they are kind of flowing between us anyway. So that is an explanation of why these visits bring me down even though on the face of it they seem harmless.
She also said although I say I’m ‘depressed’ sometimes, she doesn’t see me as having depression per se, because this state leaves so quickly. It’s more like I’m in a ‘hopeless helpless’ part when I feel that way. I do feel ‘helpless hopeless’ a fair amount, so I’m acting more as if this is a part, and trying to see what help it needs to feel better, rather than accepting that this world view is the truth. It’s an interesting thing to do.
Then we ended in a fight, or at least a rough couple of minutes complete with raised voice on my part, and defensiveness on hers. As I’ve mentioned previously, Martine loves her textbooks and worksheets, and is constantly paging through books to find a section, or pulling up a worksheet that she thinks speaks to what I’m talking about. I have some issues with this, because she seems so eager to teach and find a helpful resource that she is not much good at listening to what I have to say. A lot of times I’m trying to talk to her, and she’s already paging through a text while I’m speaking, to find an appropriate resource.
I kind of wonder if it’s too hard for her to hear client’s painful stories all day long, so she does this finding resources activity as a way to block it out? On the one hand, I appreciate sometimes getting some tool or way of looking at things that applies, and which I can actually remember after the session, which never happened with Ron’s way of intense listening. On the other hand, having someone obviously following her own train of thought, even if it’s about my issues, paging through a text while I’m still talking, makes me feel uninteresting at least. Lets just say she is not a good listener in my opinion.
The fight was not about this though, but about her most beloved text, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. This is the method we’re basically using in her therapy. I do admire the text and have studied it a lot. I just – I do think about texts in a way that some others don’t. It’s an occupational hazard, as a technical writer. So I commented on something that, I’m sorry, is obvious. I said that I don’t like how this text, and this type of therapy in general, seems to ignore all the therapy knowledge that came before, and assume they are inventing a totally new thing in the twenty-first century. So for instance, they ignore the existence of psychodynamic therapy, and all the knowledge that has been acquired through the previous century. Then Martine started leafing through the references at the back, trying to find someone from the twentieth century. And she did – Winnicott, but she didn’t actually seem to know that he was from the 20th, she just mentioned him in passing along with others.
Then she accused me of black and white thinking. Which this just wasn’t – I told her I thought it was a good book, useful, just it has this weakness. I told her I thought she was using black and white thinking, being so distressed over an observation and assuming I was trashing the whole text. She then ‘asked or accused’ whether this was the way my father would criticize things. Which was hurtful, since we’d talked about my father in unflattering terms. I told her no, not at all, which is true – my father cannot analyze a text and would never have that kind of comment.
Sigh. Then our session timed out. We both softly said goodbye, and also scheduled the next appointment.
It’s an honest concern that I have about this therapy approach though. It seems to assume everything is always conscious and above-board, with little thought given to client/therapist dynamics. It’s seems kind of super-rational. Though to be fair, I have since discovered that in the introduction the author does address these dynamics, though this type of discussion doesn’t seem to occur in the text itself.
But…also on further thought, this habit Martine has of not listening well and diving into her texts constantly is also a real irritant for me, and it could be my feelings about that bled over into the way I criticized the textbook.
If only I could combine Ron’s ability to listen and not react defensively with Martine’s trauma informed theories that actually are helpful.
I again started to look for therapist websites. Now I’ve found two that are trauma informed and even say they work with dissociative disorders. Not sure if they’d work in person though with someone new in a pandemic.
I think I’ll try and just let it all be for now. I’m getting something out of the therapy. Friends’ situations may change. Work may come. If the naturopath doesn’t want to work with me, I’ll find another. I just need to survive as gracefully as possible. That I can do.