Tag Archives: therapy

wordplay

I saw my new therapist again yesterday.  I’m getting a little better about not comparing her with my rose-colored memories of C*, but I’m still not clear on why I’m remembering him in such soft focus.  I didn’t like him so well when I was seeing him every week!  In fact, I was extremely frustrated with my sessions with him and grumbled about him constantly, including on this blog.  Maybe it’s that the last time I spoke with him I was in a really, really good place.  Maybe I’m just o’n’ry** and am predisposed to gritch and moan about whatever therapist I’m currently seeing.

My sessions with S are really different from the sessions I had with C.  I cry a LOT more now and we talk about completely different things.  It’s kind of strange because I’m certainly not trying to behave any differently in my sessions, and I’m not consciously directing the conversation any differently, but we’re just going to totally different*** places than before.  I guess the Story of My Dysfunction runs a little deeper than I had suspected.

Yesterday S asked me if I ever get angry.  I had to think about that for a minute.  I think there are two kinds of anger:  there’s Righteous Political Anger on Behalf of the Downtrodden, which I have in spades, and there’s the actual emotion of anger that people feel when something happens in their lives.  That’s the one I think I’m missing.

S thinks I’m angry whether I know it or not.  She thinks I reflexively take any anger I might feel, legitimate or not, and direct it right back at myself.

She does have a point.

Yesterday she called my self-talk “abusive.”  More than once.  And she only knows about the parts I’m willing to say out loud.

That woke me up.  Abusive?  Really?  If anyone else was saying to me what I regularly say to myself, I would call it abuse without a second thought.  Am I my own abuser?  There are no shelters for that.  But I don’t want to trivialize real abuse, what so many people (most of them women and children) face at the hands of people who are supposed to love and care for them, by using that fraught and powerful word for something that’s going on inside my own head.

So what do I call it instead?  And even if the word is off-limits, is S right?  And more importantly, how do I stop?

*Who understood me perfectly and always knew exactly what to say.  All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.  Ah, there’s nothing like a little revisionist history to get the blood flowing!

**How do you spell that, anyway?  “Ornery,” with its three distinct syllables, doesn’t really convey the tone I want but I don’t think randomly sprinkling apostrophes through the word really does it either.

***Evidently my mental thesaurus is out to lunch.  That was a lot of “different.”  Sorry folks!

why i choose him

My therapist has given me another assignment this week.  This one is much easier than the last one.

We were talking about relationships, and I confided that I’m continually amazed not only that my husband chose me lo these many years ago, but that he continues to choose me.  Broken, depressed, underemployed, boring, and fat…and he continues to choose life with me.  It’s an astonishing thing, really.

My assignment is to think about why I continue to choose him.

Isn’t it obvious?  Can’t everyone see what I see?  Why wouldn’t I choose him?  Wouldn’t everyone?

And the point, of course, is that everyone doesn’t choose him.  I do.  And my reasons for that are harder to articulate than I would have thought.

He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.  This is hugely important to me as a bona fide nerd, and he regularly blows me away with his insights.  Most people are either logical/analytical or intuitive/right brained, but my amazing husband does both.

He is openminded.  We have taught each other so much.  Both of us like to think about things from multiple perspectives, and he is always so open to another way of looking at a situation.  Even when he thinks I’m batshit flat-out wrong (as when we discuss religion), he respects my opinion and really listens to it.  Every time.  Even when he’s heard it before.  And when he decides he’s wrong, he learns and adjusts.

He is a gifted artist with a unique worldview.  His great passion is the connections between art and science (he very narrowly missed being a physicist and is a composer instead).  He has no patience for people who try to set art and science against each other.  In his mind, both are inherently logical and inherently passionate.  Both try to put the world into terms people can understand. Both are processes; both are bodies of knowledge.

He is, of course, monumentally sexy.

But the trouble with this list is, I don’t want it to sound like he has to earn my love.  He has it, just for being who he is.  He doesn’t have to continually say clever things or make good art or even comb his hair.  If he were to stop all of that, I would love him anyway.

deserts, part 2

I deserve the same rights as everyone else.  That means I have the responsibility to work towards human rights.  For everyone.  For me.

Everyone deserves these things.

But I don’t think that’s what my therapist was getting at.  She wasn’t asking what everyone deserves — she was asking what I deserve.  I, as an individual.  Not as one in six billion; as me.  Ginger and Lime.*  And that’s still the hard part of the question.  Who gets to decide?  How do I know what I deserve?  Is she asking me to guess?

It’s such a murky territory.  Do I deserve to live in a house instead of in a shelter?  Yes, I think I do, but so do the people who actually live in shelters.

Do I deserve to eat healthy food?  Yes, I think I do, but so do the people who live in food deserts.**

Do I deserve to have a job?  Yes, I think I do, but so do the 9.4 percent of Americans currently looking for work.

Every day I thank my lucky stars.  Or whatever deity may be out there.  Or maybe just my lucky accident of birth.  And now I get to the heart of the matter, the hard questions that I’ve been circling around all this time.

Do I deserve to make music, even hemidemisemiprofessionally as I do? Lots of people are out there practicing more, playing better, networking and fundraising better, and I count myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunities I’ve been given.

Do I deserve to be loved? I am monumentally lucky to have found my amazing husband, who loves me despite apparently neverending depression and the failure to adequately financially support his graduate school, not to mention my frequent lack of interest in anything but lying down.  I am also lucky not to have alienated my entire family, although I am developing an unfortunate habit of taking their kind gestures in the worst possible way.

Do I deserve to be a parent?*** This is the big one, of course.

How can I ever know the answer?

*Someday  I will tell you all my name.  It will be anticlimactic.

**Technically I do live in a food desert, but thankfully I have a car.  Do I deserve it?

***Apparently not, at least according to my Midwestern state (my employer, which excludes fertility treatments from insurance coverage — yes, I’m one of those dreaded government workers!) or the People’s Republic of China (I fail to meet at least two of the requirements to adopt from China).

deserts, part 1

Yesterday morning I had my first session with the new therapist.*   It was the predictable fall-apart sob show.  I think I’ve gotten so numb 90% of the time that given half a second of encouragement, I just completely stop holding it together.  There is no in-between.  All of the chewing gum and duct tape that are getting my psyche through the days just peel right off and I slide into a heap of gelatinous misery.  This is how I know I’m still depressed.

She gave me an assignment for the week:  to come up with an answer to a question I couldn’t answer in the session.  The question I couldn’t answer, that only made me tell pointless stories about heaven knows what, was What do you deserve?

I have been turning this over in my mind.  How does one answer that question?  What does a person deserve, and who gets to decide?  I decided to start with something I am quite sure I believe in:  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are rights.  They belong to everyone.  They’re human rights, not humans-who-measure-up rights.**  That means I deserve (shamelessly abridged; please read the whole thing if you haven’t before):

  • Life, liberty, and security of person.
  • Freedom from slavery or servitude.
  • Freedom from torture or degradation.
  • Recognition as a person before the law; equal protection under the law without discrimination; rights pertaining to due process, both for violations of my rights and for offenses of which I am accused.
  • Privacy without arbitrary intrusion.
  • Freedom of movement, including the freedom to seek asylum.
  • The right to marry and to found a family.
  • The right to own property.
  • Freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion, expression, and association.
  • Public service including access to government, social security, and participation in government.
  • The right to work for equal pay, to unionize, and to rest and leisure.
  • An adequate standard of living.
  • An education; participation in cultural and scientific advancement.

Do I deserve anything beyond basic human rights?  And again, who gets to decide?  And just how good do I have to be?  Buddhism has taught me that I deserve to be on the path, no matter how slowly I move:  I deserve to want to wake up. I deserve to try.  The brahma-viharas apply to me.

I think I can start there.  I deserve the same human rights as anyone else.  I deserve the same spiritual path as anyone else.  I deserve the same compassion as anyone else.  That feels like riches.

 

*The whole hour I kept thinking of my previous therapist with nostalgia.  “C***** would never have said that.”  “C***** would have known what I meant.”  Because it’s totally fair to hold someone I just met to the standard of someone who knew me for months!   (And about whom I complained incessantly!)  My students sometimes do this when they start taking lessons with me after having another teacher.  “My old teacher said…”  “Well, that’s not how I learned it.”  Now I understand the impulse.

**To deserve these things is one thing; obviously not everyone has them.  This is why I give to Amnesty International even when it means cutting out of my own budget.

good-bye to therapy

So apparently I’m cured.  Not of the infertility,* mind you, but of the crazy.**  This afternoon I had my last therapy session over the phone.  My therapist, as I’ve mentioned, is a Ph.D. student and after this month he will be moving on to another center for another part of his training.  I was given the choice of stopping entirely or transferring to a new therapist.

Now, despite all the moaning I’ve done about my therapist in this space, I really quite like him and have gotten a lot out of our sessions.  He doesn’t know anything about infertility, but he has consistently helped me to see things in different ways.  And even the exercises I thought were totally pointless at the time I did them (remember me complaining about having to prioritize various aspects of my life?) have turned out to be really meaningful and illuminating.  He has helped me to climb out of my depression and to take action towards making my life better.  Things I might not have done if it wasn’t for his encouragement:

  • Figured out all the stuff about my brother. Just figuring that out and understanding it was a huge help in coming out of the depression, even though I haven’t really done anything about it.
  • Made the initial appointment with New RE.
  • Started talking more openly with my husband about my anxiety and fear surrounding IF.
  • Started offering metta to myself and to the world.
  • Started dealing with my anxiety in physical ways (breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises) instead of just letting myself stay tied up in knots all the time.
  • Brought mindfulness practice into my whole life instead of just a few select areas (practicing my instrument, yoga).

I said things to him that I have never said to another living being (and that I haven’t shared here either).  Looking back over the last few months I think that a lot of the frustration I felt in therapy, and the frustration I felt coming from him, was me pushing back against things I had said or didn’t want to realize.

Given the choice of starting over with a new therapist or just stopping completely, I decided to stop.  I really feel like I get a new start right now in a lot of ways.  The surgery means we will get to start TTC with a clean slate (those 21 failed cycles have been dealt with pretty definitively, I think).  I have this FMLA time from work, which feels kind of liminal, and I am looking for a new job (update on the interview coming soon).  I am not acutely depressed anymore (though the anxiety is lingering).

So this felt like a good, natural stopping point.  I’m going to take the tools I have learned and try to deal with things on my own.

*That remains to be seen.

**A sincere apology if this is ableist; I will be happy to reword if necessary.

more than you ever wanted to know about my depression

(and I won’t be offended if you skip this post or back away slowly partway through)

I started seeing this particular therapist because he was assigned to me.  I am using the counseling center at the university where I do my admin job, because they have a really good rate for staff.  I think they mostly see students, though.  My therapist is a Ph.D. student.

It took me a long time to get started.  I was extremely depressed over this past winter (strongly related to my experience with Chucklehead RE as well as my annual inadequacy-laden holiday visit to Perfect Brother), to the point I was barely able to function.  As I put it in a previous post, my depression became evident to those around me.  My friend and colleague suggested I start seeing a therapist; in my more cynical moments I think she wanted me to be a better participant in our rehearsals, but most of the time I think she was just worried about me as a friend and for that I am grateful.

I went down to the university counseling center and was seen for an intake session.  I got into the room and I sobbed for an hour straight.  Afterwards it took me 3 full days to stop crying.  It was so incredibly difficult to first of all start to express myself in front of a stranger, and then to have to shove it all back inside to go back to work.  Then they put me on a waiting list.  It was almost a month before they had an opening for me, and when they did it was with my current therapist, not the person I had the intake session with.  So I had to start all over again.

The paperwork I filled out stated that most clients find their problems adequately resolved after 6 or 8 sessions, which is why I am starting to think I have overstayed my welcome.  Also I am just so frustrated with myself for not being able to get past the same old crap.  Certainly I’m not as acutely depressed as I was six months ago.  I am able to get through the days without crying, I am not completely trapped inside a mental fog, I am functioning.

But I still don’t feel better.  I still can’t get away from the same patterns I have always been in.  And now that the crisis I was in seems to have lifted (i.e. I’m not a sobbing disaster all the time), I am starting to think there is something deeply wrong with me that’s not allowing me to get past this depression.  I think my therapist is also getting very impatient with me, and I definitely sort of freaked him out a couple of weeks ago.

I told him in the session that I was grateful for the opportunity to talk with him and to focus on myself for one solid hour each week, and I really sincerely meant it.  He has helped me a lot, drawing connections between thought patterns that I would never have found, giving me exercises that have been really illuminating and centering.  I am appreciative and grateful for all of that.  But when I told him that he got very weirded out, and now I don’t think he’s as comfortable in our sessions.  So I think I definitely stepped over some kind of boundary but I can’t figure out what I did wrong.

So in answer (at long last) to bunny’s question, the reason I’ve stayed is that he really has been extremely helpful, and I don’t know if I would have made it as far as I have without him.  Now I just feel like this is one more thing to add to my list of screw-ups.  Would it be any different with another therapist?  Should I just stop going and try to be less crazy?  I don’t know.

I would love some advice if anyone has any, but like I said I won’t be offended at all if no one is reading at this point.

i write letters

Dear Therapist,

I think I am making you really uncomfortable.  I know that I am kind of a mess and it is clear that something I said a few weeks ago is really bothering you.

I didn’t mean to screw this up.  I know it must be really difficult and frustrating for you to have what is essentially the same conversation with me week after week.  It must be hard to understand how I could possibly be so thick, how I could fail to resolve such obvious issues. I am so sorry to have made a mess of this and I am starting to think that I’ve overstayed my welcome.

Should I come next week?  Or should I just let this fade away?  I know you have a waiting list and probably there is someone you could really help who isn’t getting a chance because of me.

I don’t know what to do.  I am so very grateful for the opportunity you have given me to examine myself, my actions and motivations.  On the one hand I know that there is nothing really wrong with me or with my life and that I should just quit whining and enjoy the ride; on the other hand I feel that I must be very deeply fucked up.  Either way I’m not sure what I expect you to do for me.

I am just so sorry to have fucked this up.

Sincerely,

gingerandlime