I walked into session today at 6:30 on the dot, nervous and unsure of what was to come. I sat down and therapist, as per usual, started by asking how I was. I had promised myself that I’d be honest with her and not beat around the bush, so I told her I was not well. She asked what parts of my life were feeling bad and I told her pretty much everywhere.
The admission of the self-harm came out almost immediately following that. She asked what I was doing with the feelings and I told her in an indirect kind of way that I had made bad choices. She made me be more specific. I hate that she always makes me say it, to really own in. Then an interesting thing happened. She asked me why I had smiled when I told her I had harmed.
Yeah, I didn’t realize that I did it, but apparently I had. I was so embarrassed, feeling exposed and like I was being judged. It caught me totally off guard. The best explanation I can give is that I was so uncomfortable with her undivided attention as I spoke that brutal, difficult truth that I smiled reflexively. It’s like how people laugh when they’re in a serious situation because they can’t cope with the severity of it.
I don’t know, all I know is that my immediate impulse was to tell myself that I was now cancelling my next session because I felt like my therapist was only going to judge me and make me feel bad. I was angry with her and regretted being so open.
Therapist, oblivious to my anger or at least ignoring it, tried to ask me if I could try to accept and sit with my feelings in ways that didn’t include self-harm. That may sound familiar, probably because “acceptance” has been a common theme on my posts and a common struggle for me. We’ve been talking about acceptance for weeks. So why was she bringing it up again like it was a brand new suggestion? Did she think I was an idiot?
I was suddenly furious. This was what I was wasting my time and money on? So I could say the same things and hear the same responses again for another week? So I could feel judged and patronized? And so I snapped at her. “Obviously I’ve been trying that! But it isn’t working anymore!”
“I can hear that you’re frustrated,” she replied calmly. She wanted to know why I was angry, so I told her. She didn’t understand how what she’d said was patronizing.
Instead, she wanted to know if we could talk about mindfulness. Out of the blue. It was something she felt would be important to bring to the table, but she didn’t know if there was something more pressing that needed to be covered first. Like my anger perhaps. Yes I was angry, I told her, so I didn’t know if I was in a place to appreciate this topic.
Yet for some reason she decided this was the time to introduce the topic anyway. She talked to (or rather at) me about informal and formal mindfulness, and how it could help me recognize the thoughts without getting hung up on them and going all negative. All while I sat there and listened to my internal thoughts scream if you were going to talk about this shit whether I was on board or not, why did you bother asking? In truth, I heard some of what she was saying, but I was too irritated in the moment to give her any credit.
Once she was done with her spiel, we sat in silence for a long time. Mostly I stared at the fidget I’d brought, but eventually I looked up at her. “I don’t know what to say to you.”
“Do you feel obligated to say something?” she wanted to know.
“Yes,” I told her, feeling the anger rising again. This was also not a new conversation. She knows I feel a lot of pressure not to waste my time. My co-pay is not cheap and I think she forgets sometimes that money is not easy to come by. Of course it’s okay for her if we sit in silence, she still gets paid either way.
We were about halfway through session at this point and I was seriously considering leaving before I exploded at her. I felt like she wasn’t going to be able to see things from my side. Why even bother? This was so pointless. I figured it was time to check out and give up on anything good coming out of this session.
But then she asked me if I’d like to just vent about all the stuff I was holding in. She wondered if that might help. She even gave me a starting point, since my mind seems to go blank when I get to session lately even though I have millions of things to talk about during the week.
I spent the rest of the session blurting out whatever thought came to mind. I read her one of my posts. My anger towards her slowly melted enough that I was even able to share how I was feeling and my tendency to want to hold back from her. I wouldn’t say I felt the strength of our usual connection, but I didn’t want to scream at her anymore.
We went over, again, by about five minutes because once I started talking it was like the dam broke and my thoughts flooded the room. I couldn’t get them out fast enough. I appreciate that she sticks it out with me for those few minutes when we’re deep in a conversation.
Therapist keeps reminding me emphatically that the judgment and blame has to stop. She says that harsh voice is the underlying pattern present in everything I am telling her. I told her that it’s because right now, I truly do not like myself. I don’t feel like I’m good or worthy of love. I’m constantly searching for the ultimate truth, which means I’m not sure what is real. I’m questioning everything, most of all myself.
I know I’m standing in my own way, I know there are ways to reframe and take care of myself, but I don’t believe any of those reframes. I don’t feel like I’m worth the care. I feel like a loser.
So the new goal for the week is to catch the judgmental thoughts as they happen; to recognize that I am being harsh or critical and to say “I will not judge myself for this right now.” As a personal goal, I would like to try for a second time to keep a list of some of the things that trigger the judgment too. So lots of noticing. I am also supposed to keep on trying to sit with the feelings as much as possible.
As for actually believing that I am deserving of growth and good things? Well, I am told we will work on the that later.
I guess that I am glad I stuck it out, because at least things didn’t escalate to a rupture. I have a goal to work with and the reminder that this is a step-by-step process. I know therapist cares and wants to help me, even when she does a human thing like piss me off with her comments. I’m lucky to have found her.
I even tried the mindfulness on the way home and it didn’t suck as much as I thought.