Well, I’m continuing anxious with periods of calm. Found out my operation will be on Friday, so at least I’ll be through it in a week or so. Then to recover. And hopefully that will be that, though I won’t know for a while.
I’ll describe my therapy.
I’m too anxious to work, so I log in and then abandon the attempt entirely. I set out for therapy early, and stop at a coffee shop on the way there. Being around other people, whom I imagine don’t have cancer, is soothing.
Ron’s office building seems emptier than usual – lots of people are still on vacation. Ron looks very serious today. I wonder if something happened to him over the vacation, but don’t ask specifically. He says his vacation was fine. I guess I’m wondering about other clients, like one borderline client who has a history of suicide attempts. Well, I’ll never know.
E. How was your vacation?
E. I’m feeling pretty anxious. I got my surgery date – next Friday. It’s made me more anxious than before. I mean, I knew I was going to get surgery, but getting the date made it seem more awful somehow.
E. So…I wrote to you about the walking. I’ve been walking every day to be more fit for surgery, so I’ll recover better. But then, I guess I walked too far, and I ended up dissociated. I’m going to keep walking, but I don’t want that to happen.
R. Did you notice when this happened during your walk?
E. No. I thought I was getting better at it, that I was noticing when say I’d start feeling sad, or a part would be talking, but this time, nothing like that happened. Maybe it’s the stress of the operation, that I’ve gone backwards with this.
E. So….what is a therapeutic way of dealing with this, having cancer? I mean, do I just tell you my feelings?
I’m not sure what Ron said to this. I know he seemed to find the question strange….he probably said something about talking about whatever I needed to. My thought was, well, he certainly can’t help me not have cancer, so what am I doing anyway. Which is stupid. Ron can’t directly help me with anything in any case.
E. I was thinking about A last week. I still feel really betrayed by him. Which seems excessive for what it was, just a brief friendship. So I was wondering if it was a pattern I have….It kind of reminds me of problems I have had with other people. I had this kind of magnetic pull towards A, so I pursued him. Not very hard, but I did a bit. I was wondering if I mostly do that, pursue people who have no real interest in me.
R. What people?
E. Well, boyfriends I guess. I haven’t had a lot. My ex, that boyfriend who had a girlfriend on the side. They both were people that needed a lot of time on their own, that had a fear of connection…..And my friends too I suppose. I remember, about a year ago, I emailed a friend I’ve known for years that I was feeling lonely. She didn’t respond, and later told me that she was worried I was trying to manipulate her into spending time with me. She doesn’t have a lot of friends either, but she likes to deal with everything on her own….Just maybe, I’m approaching the wrong people.
R. Your family is very distant. Maybe those are the people that seem familiar to you.
E. Yeah, maybe. So now, I exchanged contact info with Y, so we’ve written each other a few emails. It’s so different – he seems to just like me.
E. Man, I’m so anxious.
R. Try and speak from that anxiety. What are the thoughts, fears….
E. I don’t know. I think it’s coming from the kid actually.
R. Let the kid speak.
I switch to the kid.
E. I got a dragon. And…..we have to change dentists! I like the old dentist we used to have but now we have to switch to a different dentist….And….And I have to have an operation.
R. How do you feel about the operation?
E. I feel like I’m scared. They’ll cut me open….there’ll be blood all over the place. There might be spurts of blood. I saw it on TV. I might get dead. They might……they might cut out my heart, by mistake.
The kid is crying and miserable about this.
R. Well…I don’t know much about the operation you’re going to have, but I can tell you, they won’t be cutting out your heart.
I start laughing at this. Switched back out.
E. Oh God. No kidding. I just…..I know they won’t do that.
R. Well, those are thoughts a small child could have.
E. Yes. Well. It’s exhausting actually, having that going on. I do feel better though, now the kid has had her say.
And I do. I feel less anxious and a bit of calm. Fear has been dogging me throughout the session, so this is a relief.
E. I brought in some dreams. Would you like to hear them?
E. The first one is a dream about A. I don’t usually dream about people in my life. Do you think everything in a dream stands for something else?
Ron now talks about dreams. I am interested, but I instantly forget everything he tells me. I think it’s something to do with sometimes things stand for other things, but sometimes for themselves….I wish I knew what he said. Anyhow.
E. This is the dream: A is the CEO’s son and I am a lowly office worker. He strides through the halls and pretends not to know me. He leaves with a group of friends. One tall, dark haired smiling woman takes his hand, seems to be his GF. I feel angry with him and betrayed.
R. What associations do you have to the dream?
E. Um…don’t know.
This is the interpretation Ron comes up with. It kind of blows me away, because I really had no insight into what the dream might mean, besides the obvious part of my feeling ignored and betrayed. Ron wonders if it might not be about the group. Ron is the CEO.
E. Yeah…that could be. I did have that feeling in the group, that you had a special relationship with A, and that I was left out. He seemed kind of like your son, and I was an outsider. Wow, I never thought of that at all.
R. And you are leaving the group for a while, it will go on without you.
E. Yes, that’s true.
R. What about the dark haired woman?
E. Don’t know. Maybe I’m jealous….
R. I wonder if that is you.
E. Me? She didn’t look like me.
R. You have dark hair and dark eyes.
E. Well, she had long dark hair and was attractive. I did used to have long hair as a child.
R. How old were you then?
E. Maybe twelve. Then I got it cut.
R. Was it your choice to get it cut, or your mother’s?
E. I can’t remember. Mine probably. That was a hard time in my life. I wasn’t popular at school, the kids teased me…
R. Why did they tease you?
E. I don’t know. Well…the popular girls – they teased me about my clothes for instance. I wasn’t very aware of my body at all. I was dressed in hand me downs. But even if my mother had given me a bunch of money to go and buy clothes – I wouldn’t have known what was fashionable, what kind I should get….
I start to feel all that pain of not fitting in at school, having the wrong clothes, looking wrong. It feels really awful.
That’s as far as this goes. I’m amazed though that all these feelings and meanings can be lurking in this one little dream fragment.
E. That’s really interesting what you say about the dream. I’ll try and bring in more. I find I don’t want to write them down, it’s a struggle, but it’s good when I do.
Ron nods agreeably.
I wonder if part of this pain about A is a memory of how I was treated in school? After all, I know him through group, and school is one of the first groups that we all have. I did feel for a time that members sided with A and not with me, though that feeling did pass.
That about wraps up the session. We briefly discuss the other dream, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Ron suggests meeting again next week, the day before my surgery.
E. OK, I guess we could. So I’ll see you one more time before I go under the knife. Just…it’s hard to know what to do in therapy for this. I mean, I don’t want to stir up some childhood traumas, as the surgery is enough to deal with.
R. You can talk about whatever comes up for you. You may need to talk about traumas, if they come up with the stress of the operation. Or you may need to soothe everything down. It depends.
E. OK. Well, I’ll see you next week then.
I walk out. I’m not upset the way I have been from other sessions. I do feel a bit calmer and have less fear. I go home and do a few hours work.