Monthly Archives: August 2014

Therapy butterflies

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I’m having one of those “What have I done?” moments after therapy on Monday.  The feeling is familiar and reeks of vulnerability… so basically the mainstay of any long-term psychotherapy.

The session with DS (Deep Soul) was steaming along very productively. We discussed all my unresolved feelings about the boundaries he had set down for the way he worked and my idea to hand him notes. I really felt like I was being heard and that he knew how important it was for me to feel supported. What struck me was that he was actively keeping certain boundaries in place because he trying to work out something important about how I operate. The boundaries were not about me being a bad person and needing to be restrained and kept in place. Knowing this seemed to remind me that he was on my side. He was not trying to punish me.

Therapists give the best gifts…

Quite by surprise, DS said I was welcome to contact him during the week and organise an in-between session if I was feeling overwhelmed and needed his support. He said this had always been an option but realised we had never spoken about it and that I therefore wouldn’t have known. I was really touched. It feels like a gift when someone offers more of their time and concern. I think I looked like I had just been hit by a truck because he said he was trying to work out how I was feeling. It was just overwhelming to have him come through for me like that. Talk about needing time to process.

Flitting thought the rainforest…

With that out in the open, we moved onto how I’ve been grappling with my existence lately. I’ve been bogged down by the struggle to define my purpose on this planet. I explained how I’ve always felt so different to everyone and how I was convinced I had a different brain because I seemed to think and feel more deeply than my peers and the general population. I’d told told him before that Elaine Aron’s HSP theory had gone some way to explaining this feeling of being different.

“And then I discovered this blog about rainforest minds. I found it fascinating because it was talking about how sensitive and curious people are quite often gifted. Not purely in the intellectual sense but emotionally, imaginationally and with their senses,” I gushed out.

DS hadn’t heard about Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski’s theory of overexcitabilities, and how it proposed that many gifted people were born with innate intensities and sensitivities. I asked him to look it up and get back to me. And then I proceeded to explain that it’s not that I WAS gifted or anything like that. Or maybe it was a struggle to believe it could be true because of self-doubt. Anyway, I felt the term gifted was loaded in a sense because it seemed to imply a sense of being better than others, which I didn’t appreciate.

He calmly recommended I read The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. I had heard of it but hadn’t been able to get a copy. Laughing, I said I assumed from the title it was about giftedness.

“I must be honest. I haven’t actually read it myself,” DS said with a small, sheepish smile. With that, he turned around and ran his finger along the spines of his books to find it. He pulled it out and started reading the back.

“Actually, I’d like to go through it first before you read it. I hope that’s okay,” he asked.

I said that was fine.

Christmas comes twice in one hour…

“Yes and when I’m done, you can borrow my copy.”

Oh. Em. Gee. How can so few words provide so much pleasure?! I was dumbfounded, again. DS was loosening the boundaries for me slightly and actually offering a something of his to hold onto, even just for a little bit. I remember thanking him with a very serious expression on my face because I wanted him to know how important this was.

“And don’t worry DS. I look after books like I do children and pets,” I blurted out. I hope he knows I am good with little ones and fur balls, not a crazy lady looking to hack things to pieces.

Why butterflies, why?!

I think I skipped and whistled out of the therapy room. In fact, I think it was a first that I didn’t trip down his stairs or along the uneven parking lot because it was dark and I was on a high.

AND THEN… I had a shocking thought. A completely paranoid, unnecessary thought which has not ruined my happy feelings about DS but is nonetheless flitting around like a thousand butterflies in my skull and stomach.

WHAT IF HE READS THE BOOK AND DECIDES I AM NOT “GIFTED” IN THAT SENSE?!

Dude, what if he never speaks about the book again and it becomes the gifted but quiet elephant in the room? Worse, what if he does bring it up and tactfully tries to tell me that I wasn’t the sensitive child discussed in the book. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this.

So many trapshots in therapy. Should I even be worrying about this or is my concern legitimate?

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Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

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I don’t normally take part in these awards but I was nominated twice by two special bloggers and felt it would be important to acknowledge the awareness they’ve raised about their mental health journeys.

That said, I am changing things up a bit and instead of nominating others, invite any of  you to answer the questions if you dare 🙂 I don’t want to single out bloggers and appreciate all of your blogs, hence I follow you! In typical “Who are you calling sensitive” style, the questions are mostly linked to therapy and wellness. My questions are at the bottom so you”ll first see the way I answered the questions thrown at me.

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Penny Lane‘s questions:

1, If money was no object, what would your first purchase be? Paying for a close friend to attend therapy sessions because she is going through a rough patch but can’t afford to get help.
2, Who is your favourite author? What a cracker of a question. I feel too bad to only name one. But I love detective, investigative and criminal fiction, fantasy and psychology, neuroscience and philosophy books.
3, Where do you see yourself in ten years? If all goes well, I’d like to be a fully-actualised person who has a compassionate internal voice and a strong sense of purpose, using what I have to help other people improve their lives.
4, What’s your most embarrassing moment? X-rated unfortunately. But I often trip up stairs and on flat surfaces. Oh yes, and I went to therapy one day with a big hole at the back of my pants. DS said he didn’t notice and would have said something!
5, What was the last song you listened to? Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift.
6, What was your favourite holiday? When we went on honeymoon to a tropical island. We immersed ourselves in the culture and ate exotic meals.
7, What are three things that annoy you? People who target the vulnerable, racism and the sound of those chewing with their mouth open.
8, what is your favourite quote/saying? Like snowflakes, the human pattern is never cast twice. We are uncommonly and marvellously intricate I’m thought and pattern… American actress and novelist Alice Childress.
9, Favourite meal? Depends on whether I feel healthy or not. Healthy meal- chicken stirfry. Less healthy- spaghetti bolognaise.
10, Do you believe in love at first sight? I believe in lust at first sight. I think love cannot be based on visual impact alone but on a profound and sustained connection with a like-minded soul.

Wandering thru the wilderness’s questions:

1) What is your favorite color? Turquoise
2) What is your favorite book? Not again!
3) Who is/was your most positive influence? My gran. She gifted me with some sense of self-worth, sturdy table manners, good posture and a belief in my imagination.
4) Do you prefer sweet or salty? Sweet.
5) What is your favorite charity? SPCA.
6) What is your biggest pet peeve? People who don’t clean up after themselves.
7) Name something exciting on your ‘bucket list’. I want to be able to speak French and explore Paris and the countryside.
8) What is your favorite movie? Love Actually.
9) What do you do to relax? I change into comfy, soft clothes, find a quiet space and read books or psychology articles with a cup of steaming green tea.
10) What is your hobby? Ballet, knitting, cycling, drawing.

My questions:

1) What is your favourite TED talk?
2) How do you recharge your batteries?
3) What has been your most memorable moment in therapy?
4) Complete the sentence: The way to romance me is to…
5) What’s your first thought when you open your eyes in the morning?
6) Your favorite candy or chocolate?
7) Who would you least want to be stuck in a lift with and why?
8) If your life were a book, what would the title be?
9) Craziest dream you’ve had?
10) What does your therapist not know about you?

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Life support

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My therapist DS (Deep Soul) did not buy into the idea of accepting handwritten notes about my weekly thoughts, feelings and experiences. When we met last night, he was curious to know why I had wanted to give him stuff to hold onto between sessions. He guessed it might have been a way for me to sustain our connection, something I’ve really been struggling with lately. I said that was definitely part of it and told him my other reasons.

As he was asking questions, I sensed he was not keen about the idea and immediately felt like I had to defend my intentions. I should not have expected him to share in my excitement. Silly me. My heart started racing, I had a lump in my throat and I sat on the edge of my seat. I doubted myself and felt ashamed for even asking. He said I was welcome to write notes but that I would need to choose the most important ones and bring them into my session, not leave them with him.

He said it seemed as though I was finding it difficult to deal with these boundaries. It also seemed like I was not finding the support that I needed from therapy.

I nodded my head.

The last few months have been an extremely difficult time for me emotionally. My weeks have been punctuated with bouts of sadness, despair and lethargy. I wasn’t sure whether these feelings were more frequent or whether I was simply more aware of my underlying emotional state because of the therapeutic work we had been doing. Not having a clear cause or reason to feel this way left me in a state of flat denial.

You want me to work on my work?

But during the session, I realised I may be feeling this way because of what I have experienced at work. I’d prefer not to disclose what I do for a living but I can share that many of my days are filled with tales of death, violence and loss. Believing I was coping through professional detachment, I never raised my experiences with DS because I didn’t want it to hijack our work in areas I felt were important.

However, last night was different and I told DS about two of the notes I had written about these on-the-job experiences. The floodgates opened and I realised how much I had kept inside. DS asked what methods I was using to cope and I knew he was going to ask whether I was relying on my husband for support.

“I tell him what’s going on and yes, I do tell him how it makes me feel. But I usually summarise everything because I don’t want to be a burden to him,” I told DS. “I am painfully aware that the first 13 years of his life were spent dealing with a very sick and increasingly unavailable mom. I am scared my feelings will overwhelm him. I don’t want to trigger him.”

DS scribbled furiously and gave barely perceptible all-knowing head nods.

“And I know this is probably just all in my head. But it feels real to me, that my fears are real.”

Lean on me but be careful with that shaky boundary fence…

It was starting to make sense. Going through these experiences at work without adequate support had left me feeling quite unsafe and unsettled. It explained why I had been needing DS more and more recently and why I had a nagging need to be hugged or curl up into a ball. He was the only one I felt safe enough with to PRACTICE reaching out to, something I habitually avoid because I feel I need to be strong.

And so, the last three months have been filled with:

– An intense need for him to reassure me that he will be there therapeutically
– An unending yearning for him to tell me I am okay, no matter what I bring to the session
– Dreams of him abandoning me in some way or another
– A desire for him to be okay with me contacting him via email or phone if I really needed it.

And while he has listened to these needs, he has never encouraged or fulfilled them in any way. This has left me deeply bereft and increasingly isolated because I am worrying about the therapy relationship in addition to the job trauma and not feeling able and safe enough to turn to others for full support.

It’s not you, it’s me…

The weight of this now unburied hopelessness, grief and fear hit me at the end of the session. I tried to pull myself together and grab my bag and book off the couch before standing up. It was impossible. I couldn’t see much through the tears and I was ZAPPED of all energy. I must have tried this three or four times. DS could see I was a mess and sat down again.

He then asked me a series of questions about whether I had been keeping up my various commitments the last few months, if I had been struggling to sleep, whether I wanted to sleep more or less and how my appetite had been. I answered as best as I could through the sobs and basically said life was “running” thanks to an ingrained sense of responsibility (and not because of meaning, drive and passion). I appreciate that he took 10 non-paid minutes to check in with me.

It’s hard not to just give up and throw the towel in. But I’ll continue to try, battling my inadequacies, demons and critical thoughts the next few days as I always do… by myself.

 

 

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Hitting the right note

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I’ve started writing notes for my therapist between sessions. The idea is to put to paper what I am feeling and experiencing in the moment before it loses its shape and strength. Tonight, I’ll place these notes in an envelope, ready to hand over in my session with DS (Deep Soul) tomorrow evening.

It feels risky to try this out. The notes are revealing in the sense that I share pieces of my mind and heart. Yes, I also share myself in the weekly therapy session but that feels a teensy bit safer somehow. By the time the session comes around, I’ve had time to process and can choose what to share. Normally, we can only really touch on one or two things in that hour. The notes may just be a nifty way for him to know me more intimately, for the benefit of the work we do together.

They offer fresher and more raw insight into who I am. They read like conversations. To myself and to him. It feels so natural to write instead of speak. I think too much when I speak. Writing is a direct path to the less conscious elements at play.

Writing what is wrong…

Perhaps this is a sign that I am starting to trust him more.

I feel a bit safer after he clarified something last week which had left me quite hurt in the therapy room last year.

At the time, I had brought him a beautiful piece of classical music to listen to, thinking it would offer a relaxing few minutes after what I guessed was a busy Monday for him. I was ready to play the tune on my cellphone. The music really spoke to me. The female voices, soprano and alto, seemed to weave in and out of each other, creating a tapestry of heart-aching sadness and loss. At the same time, the melodies were so beautiful, you couldn’t help but feel you had been touched by something bigger than yourself. While I wanted the music to be an escape for DS, it was also extremely personal. I felt like I was handing over a piece of my soul for him to examine. I was ready to answer his questions about the piece after playing it.

Needless to say, the session did not go at all how I had intended. He seemed quite taken aback and abrupt. He wanted to know why I had brought the music. I explained it was for him. Obviously, it was not just a gift but something I was planning to use as a springboard for a topic I wanted to discuss in our session. He did not want to listen to the song before speaking and I immediately felt prickly and hurt. Why was he being so mean? Why was he rejecting the song, i.e. ME?! We battled back and forth for a few minutes and he asked what the song was about. I said it would be easier to explain if we just listened to the DAMN song. In beautiful therapist style, he asked: “And what would it mean to you if I just listened to the –dramatic pause– DAMN song?” Ha.

I swear some therapists sing their interpretations in the mirror…

I was so offended by this stage that I said I did not feel like playing the song or talking about it anymore. Very mature, I know. But my shame buttons had been slammed and I wanted to escape how small I felt in the moment. I honestly wanted to shrink into one of the crevices in his soft couch and disappear. The moment never really resolved itself.

Last week, I showed DS a magazine article featuring someone I had spoken to him about. He looked at it for a while and we had a good laugh. Out of the blue, I told him that I had wanted to bring him photos of my husband and perhaps a few others, so he would be able to put faces to the names he heard so often.

I was scared to do this after the song incident though, I explained. He seemed genuinely surprised and curious as to why I was scared. Feeling a lot calmer, I said I felt like he had rejected me at the time. His words were soothing salve to the wound:

“I’ve noticed a pattern, in your dreams and in the sessions, where you always seem to give of yourself, even when it’s not expected or appropriate in the moment,” he said. “You brought the song for me and I didn’t want to get drawn into this pattern.”

It made a lot of sense and definitely took the spotlight off me as a person. He was simply avoiding reinforcing a potentially unhelpful pattern. I don’t know why he didn’t just say this at the time. I mean really! 🙂

So here we go DS. Let’s see how this note thing goes. I am doing it for me. DAMN. Just writing that down sounds selfish. But I’m willing to sit with this guilty feeling so he’s aware that this is more for me than for him.

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