therapy

Bye-bye, Billy – reflecting on my first experiences with therapy

Earlier this week, I had my last session with Billy, my therapist through my college’s counselling center (name changed), since the school year is ending and he’s graduating (Congratulations, dude!).

I know he’s a person. Obviously. I wondered about things in his life and wanted to ask about them, but I felt like I wasn’t supposed to. That I was supposed to talk to him only about my problems in the same clinical way you tell a medical doctor that your ears are ringing or your knee is broken or your spleen is falling out your belly button. And maybe for some therapy-goers, this is the perfect kind of communication for their specific cases. But not so for me. For my intake meeting with someone besides Billy, I felt like I didn’t have enough time to answer questions because there were so many, as the center uses this to determine the best kind of therapy they can offer. For my first session with Billy, I felt like I had too much time to answer his questions. I scrambled to find the “right” answers so we could keep moving, get to the route of the problem, again, like with a medical doctor when they ask questions trying to pinpoint and diagnose you. That’s what I thought I wanted from my experience at first.

But after my second session, I hadn’t been given a diagnosis or treatment plan or anything you would expect from doctor’s visits. I wondered why, am I worse than I thought? Or are my perceived problems just me being whiny? Would I seem like a drug-seeker if I asked about if there was medication I should be taking? Despite these thoughts though, I also kept thinking this is helping me and I realized that this, going to counselling, was my treatment plan. I got more comfortable talking in our sessions, and wasn’t always looking for the “right” answer. In our last session, only our 4th or 5th, unfortunately, we reflected on our short time together. I told him I thought he had helped me, that I was doing better and looking at things more positively. I told him about the shirt I have that reminds me of my grandfather, which I wear when I’m having a hard, sad day, but I haven’t worn it probably since I started seeing him. I told him about why I started therapy and my influences and support. Toward the end, I asked if I could ask about his real life. What followed was just an organic conversation, which was completely mutual and the most happy and comfortable I’ve been in a session. At the end, he told me, “You were courageous to sign up and start therapy for the first time, and you’ve shown a lot of commitment to making your life better.”

When I left, I was feeling genuinely the most happy I have in literal months, and I drove around, taking the day off, and driving around, doing some shopping, and working on setting up my new apartment.

I took this picture after leaving my appointment and posted it on social media with the caption “Today is a very good day.” And it was.

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anxiety, therapy

Thoughts during therapy

Yesterday was my second ever therapy session. The first one, which I wrote about beforehand, was last week and was an intake meeting, so it was a bunch of questions. My second one got more into things, so here’s a stream of consciousness from my session yesterday:

  • Billy (my counselor, name changed),  you’ve got a boss beard, bro
    • Am I allowed to talk to you as a person?
  • Your voice is really soft
    • Is that a prereq to becoming a shrink? Or do they teach you that
    • Is this your real voice? Like the one you talk to your friends and your cousins and your mom with?
  • Am I gonna cry right now?
    • Oh god, Billy can tell I feel like crying
    • He offered me tissues, that bastard
    • Am I supposed to cry during these things?
    • I don’t want to cry
    • I am not going to cry
  • I wonder if I’m an interesting case, or am I just run of the mill
  • Am I being too whiny?
  • I forgot my water bottle in my car
  • I don’t deserve to feel sad
    • I’m a white, straight, middle class person from the United States, I’m being dramatic
      • You’re allowed to feel however you feel, listen to Billy, your feelings are valid, besides no one deserves to be sad, no one wants it, calm down
  • Does Billy like me?
    • Would he like me if we like met in the food court and just started talking?
    • I care what people think about me, but I try not to, I just don’t want to be a pariah
  • They keep asking me if I want to kill myself, I don’t want that
    • Wait, do I? Do they know something I don’t know
      • No, I know I don’t want to die
  • Ask me more questions, Billy, I’m rambling
    • You’re in charge here, reign this crazy in.
    • I just want to put everything in perspective, you don’t know my life, I just remembered a minor detail that maybe means something?
  • Are you taking notes? I feel like I haven’t seen you take any notes
    • Oh shit, I forgot this was on camera
  • This is my second session ever, I’m basically an expert
  • I don’t think I’m making enough eye contact, but this isn’t like a normal conversation so
  • I feel like I keep justifying my feelings, saying like “I feel like everyone feels that way sometimes.”
  • I keep trying to show that I’m empathetic, saying “I’m sure they didn’t mean anything by it, they’re just stressed, too”
  • What do you want from me?
    • Am I saying the right things? Are there right answers?
  • I am so drained
  • This is helping me
therapy

Today is the first day

Today, is my first counseling appointment. I’m a wreck, I’ve been having a really stressful week, not sleeping well, feeling singled out at work, and I worked out yesterday, so that sucked. I woke up feeling super woozy and unable to focus on anything; I feel like barfing and crying and sleeping.

I have one class where the professor is an associate professor, which to me means he’s new, trying to get all his info out at his class, and hasn’t gotten his teaching legs beneath him. And that’s exactly how he is. When I try to pay attention in class, I can tell he knows what he’s talking about, but he just straight lectures the whole time, usually without pause, and when he asks a question and no one knows the answer instead of asking us if we don’t understand and explaining it differently (read: better), he just says the answer and keeps right on lecturing. The assignments, while they are based on class usually, take a lot of work for me. I mean, it’s not just the fault of the teacher, I could pay more attention, but it would certainly be easier if he was more experienced.

I mention this because they way I feel doing his homework, like I have to put in more effort than I usually would or should, mirrors the way I’ve been feeling for a few months now.

My work is awesome, and we have super flexible hours. We’re allowed to get our hours in whenever we can, just as long as we get half of them during usual business hours. If we don’t, this can result in a strike on your record. I work 20 hours a week, so 10 of them need to be Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. I usually work from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays (among other hours). But the other day, my boss messaged me and told me he and the staff felt like I wasn’t around often enough. It wasn’t a reprimand or strike or anything, just a check in. But I do get more than half in during business hours, and I work really hard to do my best work and get things done on time despite the issues I’ve been battling. I explained my situation to him, when I worked, what I’ve been going through, etc. and my boss was nothing but kind and sympathetic and told me that my supervisor had even said he’d seen no decline in my work (in quality or quantity). He said if I needed to take a break from work for my mental health, that could be arranged.

But it just felt the same as the homework thing, but worse, because my job is really, really important to me. It gives me self-validation, that I’m not only in the right field for me (computer science), but that I’m good at it. Taking time off is the last thing I need to do. This just made me feel like I was doing everything right, getting my work done, getting my hours in, but it still wasn’t enough; that the staff, whom I love and look up to, were saying I was doing it, but not doing it enough.

I’m putting so much energy into school and work, that my social life has suffered. I have these two friends who I used to spend every Friday and Saturday night with. I used to go to club meetings with them and sometimes to a breakfast for dinner buffet on Thursdays. There are other factors as to why I haven’t spent as much time with them lately, nothing is black and white, but the biggest part of it is because I’m exhausted. I am so sorry that I haven’t been able to be there, but I just can’t right now. I’ve told them my situation and I hope they understand at least a little of what’s going on with me.

Now because of my mental state strain, I’m going to therapy for the first time ever today, and right now that stresses me out and scares me. I have no idea what to expect or say or do. Can I just have my therapist read this?

Hello, Therapist, how are you? Welcome to my blog, please fix me. I hope our session goes well.

therapy

The worst nightmare I’ve ever had

It was Christmas-time at my grandmother’s, my dad’s mom. Everything was as it usually is, but something started to feel off to me. I finally pinpointed it to the fact that I didn’t see my grandma, Mammy everyone calls her, anywhere. I started asking my family and no one seemed perturbed or surprised by her disappearance. Everything was the same as it usually is, but Mammy was completely missing. I realized the way you do in a dream, slowly and suddenly at the same time, that my grandmother had passed away. I was understandably crushed and as I looked around her home, I noticed all the things that wouldn’t be the same without her. For our family gatherings, like Christmas, she spends hours that morning making a veritable feast for us all to enjoy together. For Christmas specifically, she picks and decorates a live tree and begins her shopping months ahead of time so everyone has some presents to open. As I looked around thinking about this and crying, all the things she does began to disappear. At the same time, my cousins and aunts and uncles looked at me quizzically and told me to calm down, asking What’s the big deal?

I woke up in hysterics, still crying, and woke my boyfriend so he could comfort me. I don’t know how long I cried after waking up, but it was longer than from any other dream I can ever remember having

I think this dream says a lot about my current psyche. I think it speaks to my fear of change and misunderstanding and being different from my family. My grandfather, Mammy’s husband of 58 years, passed away last November, so I think it’s understandable that the thought of losing family members has been weighing heavily on my mind in the last four months (Wow, has it already been four months? Wow…). Most importantly, I think my dream speaks to the fact that I still feel the reverberations of our loss while sometimes I feel my family members are fine. I know they’re probably all feeling about the same way I am, and I know we’ve all still got each other, but sometimes they seem so normal when everything just feels more than a bit off to me.

I think Easter will be especially hard, as I don’t know if it was my grandfather’s favorite, but it was the one he was most heavily involved in the traditions of. He would offer $20 to anyone willing to swim across the pond outside their house (I’m from the country), and he’d sit on the bank wallet out watching as you did so. He would also offer cash prizes to winners of a basketball shootout in men, women, and children divisions (I’m also from Indiana). This is our first Easter without him, and while we’ll surely continue his traditions, it will just never be the same.

I called Mammy on the phone today, to check in and to tell her about my dream, and she said not to worry, not to cry too much, but just to try to remember the good times.

thoughts

Goddamn Beautiful, pt. 2

In response to my post, “Goddamn Beautiful” (I can respond to my own posts, right?):

No, sadness, pain, and depression are not beautiful things. They aren’t anyone’s favorite chapter, or chapters, in their life. But I’m not saying they aren’t worth talking about or that they’re not important. I’m not saying I don’t need to talk about my own problems and read and relate to others’, I just want to see the good times, too.

I stand by my viewpoint that we shouldn’t try to make sadness beautiful, that is to say, romanticize it. Yes, it should be talked about in the right times with the right people. But I don’t want someone random to come up to me on a good day and say, “Hey, you were depressed, right? Why?” That’s different also from someone, even someone random, saying, “Hey, I’m having a sad day, and I know you’re all too familiar with these, what do you do to feel better?” In one, someone is interrupting my good mood to make me think about my insecurities because they’re curious or nosy or something???? In the other, they are reaching out to me and seeking help. As I see it, if I can use my experience to help someone, then that’s me turning a negative into a positive. Other than that, it can be hard to see the positives, and it’s easy for me, and everyone, to only think about the negatives.

They aren’t the best parts of our lives, but the lows in life are just as important as the highs. In fact, I think they make you more grateful for “good times.” I think I’m able to appreciate the beautiful moments in my life, like the one I described in “Goddamn Beautiful.”

I guess what I’ve been trying to say is everything in life can’t be beautiful, but the times that aren’t make you more grateful for the ones that are.