I want to describe my therapy session from yesterday before I completely forget what happened.
I was nervous driving to the appointment, and when I walked into Ron’s office I was really anxious. Ron was wearing a suit, kind of a funky style really but nice, and looked very alert for some reason. I like alertness in a therapist.
We sit down across from each other, and he fixes me with that challenging grey-eyed stare. It’s kind of an odd way to start a session, but that seems to be his personality. He doesn’t ask any questions or say anything, and waits for me to start talking.
I plunge in despite my anxiety, and talk a bit about my mother being ill, the emergency surgery and how she’s in the ICU. Ron looks concerned. I talk a bit about my challenges with my family, and try to describe the Easter dinner I went to at their house. My family confuses me, I say. In what way? Then I don’t know what to say.
I mention that I asked about the fish pond and tell Ron the story about that. Then I wonder why that memory I had of it came back like that, whole, like a traumatic memory. Then I ask Ron if he thinks some kind of sexual abuse happened, because I didn’t think it was likely, but because of my other memories maybe he thought that. Ron seemed a little horrified at my asking him that, and said he’d not thought that at all. We just knew that I’d been happy there, then all of a sudden was being punished. Then he said anything can be traumatic, even being shouted at, for a child. Which I think is stupid. I’m not going to therapy because I was shouted at as a child. I guess you could, but I’m not.
Therapists do have to be careful not to suggest things to clients – it has to come from the client. I’m not very suggestible myself, so it’s not a problem he would need to worry about in my case, but I know it can happen. Maybe that’s why he was so taken aback.
Then we stopped talking, and then Ron asked me about something I’d said in an email when booking the appointment with him, where I’d said I wanted to discuss something and could he remind me. I’d forgotten I’d written that actually.
What I’d wanted to discuss was the way therapy was going.
Me: You know how you’ve said several times that I’m dismissive of my emotions, treating myself the way my family treated me? Well, I don’t think it’s really true. But it is true that I’ve switched ages a couple of times in your office, and I’m embarrassed when that happens, so I’m spending a lot of energy preventing that, so then I seem unemotional.
Ron: Therapy is where we do bring parts of ourselves that we don’t like, and it feels like a risk to do that.
Me: Well I’m trying not to do that because I want you to like me.
Ron: So have I indicated I didn’t like you when those things happened in a session?
I don’t say anything to that, because I’m not sure. Then I feel stupid for saying this stuff, so I add that I’m saying it so I won’t keep doing it, because therapy is too expensive for me to waste my time. Which he agrees with.
Ron: I’d have to be ‘mad’, and he taps his head for emphasis, to be a therapist and not like clients when they get into difficult emotions.
I feel a lot better for having brought this up. It’s amazing how satisfying it is to raise something that bugs the hell out of me, and have it be accepted and addressed. And for Ron to agree that if this is what is happening it is worth discussing. He is good that way – I can bring things up and he doesn’t get angry, in fact he is interested in talking about it.
Me: What is this kind of therapy actually doing? What are we trying to do here- I’m a little confused.
Ron: I could go on for several hours about that.
Me: Give me the short version.
Ron: Well, you are trying to be very honest about how you feel and what you experience.
I laugh at the briefness of this.
Me: OK, give me the slightly longer version.
Now Ron goes on for a while – he talks very well.
Ron: We are looking for patterns in your life, which could come from experiences at work, or with family, or from memories, and then looking at the patterns and with my help, changing them. It doesn’t matter which part of the puzzle we go into – anxiety at work, or family problems, or anything else – they are all inter-related, so working on one will affect the others. And you learn to be kinder to different parts of yourself.
While he’s talking I’m feeling the anxiety I came in with, which really hasn’t abated at all. But now that I don’t have to talk, I can kind of relax into it, breathing into it a bit, and it’s kind of easing. When Ron has finished talking, I don’t say much, and after a bit he asks what’s going on. I explain about the anxiety, and how I’m taking the chance to rest while he’s talking.
Ron: You can rest anytime you need to, we don’t have to talk.
Me: Ah, a silent therapy…I don’t think that would help me.
Ron: It’s OK to sit and take time while you feel or think of what you want to talk about.
So then, sitting and relaxing the anxiety, I realize a bit of a memory is trying to emerge. Sigh. But that is what I’m there for, not to go into them alone by myself. So I sit with the memory for the remaining ten minutes of the session. My legs tingle, and I start to feel really bad, and I remember the relative’s apartment where the abuse happened, and Ron’s rug in his office reminds me of a rug they had, and it’s after the assault happened to me, where I’ve been put to bed, and my aunt is bending over me asking what’s wrong.
Luckily I don’t fall right into the memory, so I stay the same age. I tell Ron what I see, I clutch the pillows he has to my stomach, which is amazingly comforting. It’s odd, but until a few weeks ago I never noticed these pillows on the therapy couch. They are excellent things to clutch when feeling distressed.
So then the session is over, and I kind of stumble out the door. The memory doesn’t get stronger at home, so things have been OK for me on the flashbacks front. I felt almost peaceful when I got home actually.
A good session for me. I mentioned some things that were bothering me and it was OK. Ron was really on top of it too, paying a lot of attention the whole time I was there. I feel I got his attention now for whatever reason. Or he was very well rested that day perhaps. I didn’t try and get him to like me, so I felt good about that. And I dealt with a bit of a memory without falling into it, and just because it was there to be dealt with. I didn’t pretend it wasn’t there. We covered a lot of ground.
My mother is a lot better. She is breathing on her own and talks and is totally with it, thank God. It was such a painful sight to see her with a breathing tube and so many lines going into her body in the ICU. Did you know the ICU is a very busy and noisy place? I’d thought it would be hushed and darkened, but there are about 20 beds there, and a long nursing station spread out all along the other wall, and residents, nurses and doctors coming through all the time. It’s a bit of a circus. Every patient has their own dedicated nurse, and we had a very bright, very competent nurse for my mother there. I felt so much confidence that this woman was on top of it and would not miss anything.
Now she is on the regular ward, with only one drip dripping into her, in a semi-private room. It is very peaceful sitting there with her.