Therapy hurts. It hurts and hurts and it hurts some more. Two and a half days since my session and still I’m in pain.
I worry that this is bad therapy. This is exacerbated by a book I’m reading, a memoir written by a psychologist about her placements during training. It’s not a bad book, but her type of treatment does not involve having the patients suffer. The author is empathetic and listens to her patients’ stories….but any good she does happens pretty much right away, it’s obvious, and it doesn’t involve anyone going off for a week to feel worse than ever.
My therapy is not like that. At all. Nothing is obvious, everything moves by inches, if at all. It’s like a mess of stew where you can’t really tell what all the ingredients are, as opposed to a nice steak and baked potato.
The psychologist/author provides insights, but those insights do not seem to cause pain to her patients. Most books seem to skip over this part. Insight causes pain. Or at least, emotional insight does. It’s why people generally don’t wish to change, despite the level of suffering that’s brought them to a therapist. The pain of feeling this stuff is just too great.
As usual, we cover a bunch of stuff. Ron waits silently for me to begin. I cast around, usually say something about the traffic or the weather. He responds minimally and continues to wait silently. Sometimes I wish he would launch into some therapeutic topic, but no, he just waits.
I’ve been struggling with my job search, so I talk about that a bit. I tend to shut down when I’m trying to force myself to apply to things, which makes looking for work tricky. I shut down, then can’t remain upright, so I lie down and actually sleep. Which makes me more depressed, so then I spend the rest of the day trying to feel better.
At the same time, I have been doing activities again after the Christmas break. I tell Ron about three activities I went to, which I rated good, OK, and pretty bad.
The good was a choir I think I’ll join. It’s an unauditioned choir. They sing without written music, instead they learn songs from recordings. I’ve struggled with a choir in the past, but was amazed at how I was able to sing with this one without the stress and anxiety I’d had previously. I think it’s partly that it’s a very low key choir where the emphasis is on fun and enthusiasm rather than skill. But also, I really seem to have changed. I could still hear some of my anxious thoughts, but they didn’t take me over, so I was also able to enjoy singing out without worrying too much. The women around me were super nice, ensuring I got copies of the lyrics and chatting a bit. A good experience.
I was trying to tell Ron how I really could see I’d made progress, with about a decade between today and the last time I’d tried to be part of a choir. That gap really let me see a difference. Not sure he really got it, but to me it was a great sign that I have changed.
The OK was a book club I’d been meaning to attend for ages. I didn’t love it – not everyone got a chance to talk, and you kind of had to seize the spotlight if you wanted to give your opinion on the book. I did speak for a minute or two – I hadn’t liked the book much actually. Tried to come up with the reasons. I had reasons, but a big one was that it just didn’t grab me, which isn’t a great reasoned argument. So I felt awkward, but at the same time, I felt it was OK for me to sit there and listen, even if I didn’t feel part of it in quite the way I’d have liked. I wasn’t overcome with anxiety about what everyone else thought of me, and this too is progress for me.
And the bad. The bad led to some discussion of what my family is like, which is what seems to have set me off into this depressed bad time. Or maybe it’s mourning. Whatever.
The bad was a games afternoon at the pub. It’s a meetup group that plays boardgames, which sounds like a nice, low key endeavour, but isn’t. I had been to it before though, but this time the triggery parts of it just took over. It’s a large group, maybe forty people. We break up into smaller groups to play various games. The majority of participants are young men, tending to the nerdy socially awkward side. There were maybe two or three other women there, and I think I was the oldest person overall.
The people there seemed to be experts. Most new a great number of games already, or could relate the games to others they’d played, unlike myself. They were nice enough about teaching me the rules though. However, the rules were complex, and also the games needed a fair bit of skill – logic, or probability, or strategy. I became very anxious that I couldn’t remember all the rules, and then, that I would play badly. Which I did. It’s hard to be learning complex sets of rules for two hours, plus play with any degree of skill. And my fellow players were looking to be challenged. They took the games pretty seriously – they certainly weren’t an excuse to drink beer and chat.
So I got anxiety. I think I was likely switching a bit to kid space, and I know my voice got quite childish at times. The leader of the meetup actually came by our table a couple of times with a worried look asking how it was going, and later, I suspected he was worried about me perhaps. Who knows.
Anyhow. Nothing much happened. I left after two hours (they mostly stay for many hours apparently), feeling anxious and depressed. I felt like I hadn’t kept any kind of dignity and had been hijacked by really hurting young parts.
I try to explain to Ron. It’s as if I feel overwhelmingly stupid and incompetent. I am so afraid, when I hear the instructions, that I won’t understand, that it’s a self fulfilling prophecy.
This is an issue I also have had in my jobs, when I’ve been working. Young techie guys will explain what they do in their jobs, and I have to get it down as a procedure. It is massively stressful for me, because I’m afraid I won’t understand and they’ll look down on me. Which happens sometimes. I struggle to take in what they’re telling me.
We start talking about my family when I was growing up. I start to feel like I’m going to go to sleep, in my usual shut down mode. It’s as if I see them down at the end of a long tunnel. Ron wants me to describe specific things I remember related to feeling stupid. But I can’t remember specifics. There was a huge emphasis on academic achievement. Do I remember report cards? Not really – my parents never said much, neither praise nor blame really. I try to remember. I can’t. I remember it felt like a kind of a fog. There were no such things as feelings, and things felt a bit unreal to me I suppose.
Later, trying to think, I just have a sense that my family didn’t seem to care about me. Any problems I had were my own fault, so were therefore shameful, and so couldn’t be mentioned.
It was just a very strange atmosphere. I suppose I was a kind of scapegoat. I fought the hardest, and had to be made an example of. But it’s hard to grasp how I was made an example. I suppose never praised, while my sibling sometimes were. Generally considered inferior.
Anyhow. One of my difficulties is trying to pin down what went on. It’s very hard for me to get a grasp on what it was. Whatever it was, it made me feel ghostlike and inhuman. And confused.
So, since the session, I’ve felt bad. I just hope this is going to help me somehow, because to fall into a depression like this when I’m doing my best to climb out is discouraging.