Therapy Diary: Day 3

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I don’t want to go today, but it’s too late to cancel without needing to pay a cancellation fee. I don’t know why I don’t want to go, but I’m not thinking hard on it.

I know I’m doing something good for myself. I am reminding myself to be patient, to be kind to myself, to be mindful of how I express and feel and react.

When I arrive on the hour for the beginning of my session, the door is closed. The meeting room adjacent, with its windows and boardroom table and multiple chairs, has a few people sitting around in it. I hesitate outside the door. Should I knock? I knocked last time, but something tells me I should stop. I kill time by going to the bathroom and then come back. My instincts were right. I hear voices near the door and it opens. I give a small smile to the person coming out of the door, and feel awkward standing right outside. I know how it feels to walk out of that room. She smiles but I can tell she was crying. I know the puffy face. I still don’t know the protocol. Perhaps, for future sessions, I’ll wait around, be a few minutes late, and see if the door is open when I arrive.

Session

At this point, I feel like I’m repeating myself. Didn’t I say this before? Didn’t I relay this information already? But these are patterns, not verbatim repeats and replays. And all these things I feel, all these parts of me, have one source. Not multiple sources. There are roots in a poisoned ground, and all these shaking leaves, these rushing winds past branches, come up from those series of roots.

I am a computer and my files are being defragmented. I am being rearranged, and it’s taking time, but once the process is done–not forever, of course; it will require maintenance–but once it is completed this first time, this long-haul and messy process, I can access things more easily.

There is nothing inherently wrong with me. I have just been broken so many times without any repairs.

Metaphors, analogies, comparisons. Because emotions are hard to talk about.

Post-Session

When I return home, I notice Netflix has added Inside Out. Watching it—this was the first time—was a serendipitous moment. Content from my session lined up with this beautiful, fantastic, and (I believe) important movie. I feel a bit better. I don’t do much else for the day, but that’s okay with me. I need to be alone and let my emotions do their thing, my files rearrange, my branches shed their leaves and regrow.

Still nervous and scared.

The third session in my therapy experience.

Therapy Diary: Day 2

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I’m nervous again but I get the feeling that this is normal and will possibly lessen as I get more comfortable with this interaction and entire shift in mindset.

Before my session, I run a few errands. It is 3 minutes before my appointment time and the door is closed. Last session, it was propped open. I am nervous, hesitate, then lightly knock on the door. My hands are overflowing with my overcoat and personal effects—I thought I would be late and rushed to get here, despite the fact that the two places I went were in the same hall. I am grateful for the “Just a sec!” response. I put things away and the door opens.

Session

I feel confident.

And I know I’m faking most of it.

I try to pay attention to some things, but I am hyper-aware of myself and how my gaze blanks out straight ahead of me, toward a filing cabinet and a poster that has Comic Sans in the titles.

We are always growing, changing, and learning—even the people who are unkind, or seem to judge and reject us.

Sit with an emotion to see what it does.

Be kind to yourself.

I blank on things to say and talk about. I don’t know why, but I’m not going to explore the why. I’m only going to explore what I want to talk about. For next session, I hope I can remember the ones I forgot for this one. And I hope I can have the courage to mention the ones I was still too afraid to mention.

Post-Session

Am I a fake? This is all pointless and I’m failing at it. I can’t open up enough. I can’t get comfortable and let myself do this. I feel blocked and resistant and I don’t know why. I think a part of me doesn’t want to get help, or be helped, or learn something about help and being helped.

And of course I blame myself for this. As if something is wrong with me, when really there isn’t anything wrong or different or abnormal. Everyone I know has mentioned the difficulty of starting therapy.

I still feel like I’m the only one doing something wrong.

Even safe spaces have adjustment periods.Therapy Diary: Day 2--Blog post about my personal experience going into therapy for my mental health. Day 2 = The second session.

Therapy Diary: Day 1

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I slept like shit last night. My mind raced and my body found small nuisances, like a stuffed nose, dry air, and the weight of too many blankets. I think it was around 3:30am when I finally managed to pass out? And of course I woke up at 8:30 .

I blame nerves and anxiety.

My appointment is for 3:00pm and I can’t concentrate on the other tasks for today, since I’m worrying about how the first session will go. This will be the third time I’ve seen a therapist—the first was in 2010 and was… okay. My mother asked me about each session, wanting to know what I talked about. It was a fucking nightmare and made my progress worse. It was only a short term series of appointments, too. Once the term was up, I didn’t know what action to take afterward. I think I was okay for a while.

The second time was in 2013, almost two years ago from this third time around. I saw the therapist a couple of times, but then stopped. I don’t remember why.

I know the logistics of a therapy session. I know more or less what to expect.

I guess I’m scared of letting myself be vulnerable and opening up to someone who can help.

I don’t have much trouble being open. But I do still censor and monitor myself when I am open, particularly when I know how the recipient generally reacts to what I might say, especially when the person is only a listener.

Right now, I need more than a listener.

I could be much worse than I am, but I want to prevent the Rock Bottom Effect; I know I’m edging toward a cliff, and I’d rather get help now in walking away from the cliff, or building a safety wall at the edge of the cliff, or taking some other precaution so I don’t metaphorically jump off the cliff.

I know I’m going to cry. I’m a crier even when it isn’t in the context of speaking about my feelings, thoughts, and experiences.

I’m going to make a list of what I might say, only to avoid fumbling and rambling. Maybe write down what I hope to get out of therapy, and anything else that comes to mind, so I have a better starting point.

I hope I jive well with the therapist. She has a cool name.

Session

“We become thinkers.”

“As you watched everything happen, you learned how to strategise and how to survive.”

“You were just a little girl.”

I cry a lot and she draws my attention to how my body responds to my thoughts, how my voice changes, the positioning of my hands, my breathing. She talks about anatomy and autonomy; about curiosity and survival. I wish I had brought water. Crying and breathing and talking for 45 minutes turns my mouth into a bundle of gel, from mucous and saliva and air mingling together. I’ll remember for next time.

I revealed a lot about myself from the first few minutes and questions. She clarifies the pronunciation of my name. I ask if I can remove my boots, and then get into a comfortable seat on the couch.

She’s good at what she does: a Buddhist, non-judgemental, experienced in her field. I’m grateful for her position as a guide more than a listener. Instead of talking at her about my experiences, receiving a few questions, she directs me inward and explains and uses analogies.

I sense a glimmer of progress.

Post-Session

I still feel disconnected and dissociated, but that’s okay. When I return home, my eyes puffy and my face salt-stained from tears, I drink water and prepare a cup of herbal tea. After sitting at my desk and sipping half of the orange spice tea away, I grab a notebook and journal some thoughts and make some lists. Judgement. Rationalisation. Criticism. Curiosity. I am an expanding puzzle, missing parts of my frame. Who cares about the picture when there are pieces of emptiness riddling the scene?

I cry some more, because that’s what I do. I will see her next week and I’m hopeful, nervous, and excited for what will happen.Therapy Diary: Day 1--Blog post about my personal experience going into therapy for my mental health. Day 1 = The first session.

Therapy Diary: Day 0

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

I am nervous. I haven’t washed my hair today because I didn’t feel like it, and my room mate even said it looked good before I mentioned not washing it.

When I reach the offices, I am disoriented for a moment. Weren’t they at the top of the stairs here? I turn around and head to another part of the building for a separate errand, and use the chance in the checkout line to look up the office’s location.

I return up the stairs and around a corner. I was close: not right at the top of the stairs, but still up the stairs.

Before heading through the closed door, where I know a secretary sits at a computer, I check the time to make sure they haven’t taken a break for lunch. I have 10 minutes until their scheduled closure.

“I’d like to make an appointment?” I say to the secretary. She looks nice. The office has crashing waves ambient noise over a set of speakers, and I lean forward on the edge of the raised desk to hear what the secretary says.

The form I fill out is printed on extra-thick, yellow cardstock. Each side has lists: one with a series of statements I need to rate as 0 to 4 on their applicability to me; the other with a series of statements with checkboxes for me to choose from. The last segment, a small number of blank lines, asks me to state any other reasons I wanted to make an appointment. The last time I filled this out, I left it blank. This time around, I know I need to be more open. I mention my family history, as well as my own, and mention my concern/hope that I’m taking preventative measures to avoid something more intense.

In the middle of my filling out these lists, another person finishes and makes an appointment. I am momentarily disoriented again, acutely hearing the ambient noise above me. I realise my layers make me too warm: chest binder, t-shirt, sweatshirt, overcoat. I remove my overcoat and finish.

I am given the option of having an appointment the day-of, but the available times are before or during my only class. I know I will be overwhelmed after my appointment, and will not want to go to a class afterward.

When I choose the next-day option and the last time slot available, I find myself putting on face: the casual banter; the smiling; the illusion that I have myself put together. Shouldn’t I be more vulnerable? Isn’t the purpose of this space to allow myself to be more vulnerable? I talk as if with a salesperson or a customer, rather than a woman sitting in an office for mental health services.

As I walk down the stairs to return home, the cold winter suddenly milder, I feel like a basket-case: anxiety, hallucinations, worthlessness, preoccupation on food. I don’t know where I’ll start talking tomorrow. I normally start with a personal history and family history.

When I reach my house, but before I climb the steps to the front door, I feel I’m going to cry. But I don’t. I have class later. My room mates are home. I’m putting on face again, and I don’t know if it benefits me.

Therapy Diary: Day 0--Blog post about my personal experience going into therapy for my mental health. Day 0 = Making the appointment.