Posts tagged with "therapy"

you die, all you do is die, and yet you live

I never intended therapy to take such precedence, but it’s become the re-occurring event around which I work all my other plans. I’m still learning how to be an emotionally healthy person, while unlearning the destructive habits I developed to survive the relationships of my past. They affect me every single day, and I know I’ll be doomed to recreate the dramas of my earlier life unless I have outside help. At the same time, it’s not a process I can rush. Every session leaves me emotionally exhausted, and I need a healthy dose of happy to recover1. It also takes time to process what I learn, reflect on ongoing behaviours, and put new techniques into practice.

I’m fortunate to have found a competent therapist with whom I’m comfortable, especially when doing cognitive work that often leaves me unsafe2. After so many months, he knows enough about me and my history to understand the kind of guidance I need. There’s no structure, but he always lets me start. As a person who’s spent his entire life being socially submissive, the role reversal is a welcome change. It’s a reminder that the time is mine, that I’m free to be myself, that I get what I want out of our hour.

Sometimes, I catch myself wishing he would validate me without the need to explain myself, but he consistently remains the neutral ally (albeit one with plenty of compassion). I’ve learned that it’s important he never side with me out of loyalty the way a friend might, so I can trust his opinion is always balanced and fair. Other times, I wish he would simply tell me what I need to know, but he lets me come to realizations by myself, to make sure I’m always in control, and to avoid influencing me by the act of making a suggestion. It’s a unique role in my life that he plays well.

I dread the pain, but still look forward to every session. So much of my progress is tied to the memories I’ve kept in the back of my head and the emotions I’ve left to experience. It’s an opportunity to show myself compassion, while flexing mental muscles I don’t get to use often enough nowadays. Not to mention the gratification and hope that comes with uncovering long-seated, self-defeating thought patterns.

Heather hasn’t been coming in with me lately, but she still comes with; I don’t need her as a witness as much as a support when it’s over. It’s comforting to know I have a partner who accepts me now amid all this uncertainty, and will continue to no matter who I become. She’s the one who tends to my wounds at home, the love I’ve been missing my entire life, the reason I’m strong enough to do this work. The least I can do is strengthen my bond with her by learning to be more a trusting, patient, and accepting person.

  1. Something that usually involves turning into a blitzed-out hermit for a few days. []
  2. I’ve always wondered what other people’s experience with therapy is like. I don’t know a single person who goes on a regular basis. []

so soft with scars

It’s hard to imagine what life will be like when I’m still trying to survive from one day to the next. I’ve never been more disconnected with reality, but distance is what I need. At first it was days; now weeks have started blending together. Stretches of time feel shorter as they get longer. It’s been more than a month since I took a step outside, and about as long since I’ve seen anyone but Heather. I can’t even remember the last time I answered my phone or made a call.

Every day, it feels like I’m falling deeper into a hole I can’t seem to escape as I slip further away from myself. I used to enjoy being inspired and creative, but somewhere along the way I stopped dreaming. The lines in my face tell me my body has paid a price of it’s own. It’s left me unsure of who I’ll become; if only I wasn’t so fond of the person I used to be.

My new therapist is shockingly young compared to the man who retired and forced me to look for someone new. Every few weeks, we carefully explore the thoughts I keep tucked away in the back of my mind. Heather often serves as witness, to understand what I’ve been through and have to re-experience. It’s exhausting to go into a past that pains me so much, but important work that I hate and need and want all at once.

girl and cat

Not quite two years ago, her stay with me began as refuge from an abusive partner. She was a fragile girl back then; panicky during heavy winds, blind to her own burgeoning nubility, uncomfortable around anyone else for more than a few hours at a time. Fortunately, my insecurity happened to manifest itself as a need to take care of others, and I found both validation and happiness when I had the chance with someone so deserving. It’s hard to believe how quickly our roles have reversed. Now I’m the dependent, a position I have a harder time accepting than she does1, and one I’ll likely have for the rest of my life.

Through my struggle, I’ve seen her grow into a confident young woman who knows how to cook a steak medium-rare (even though she’s a vegan), enjoys every chance to exert her sexuality, and often understands more about my medication than the doctors who prescribe it. I thought I knew what love was, but every day her unwavering patience shows me how much deeper it goes.

Guild Wars 2 character with Eternity

Totally not compensating.

This is the face I wear most often as of late, while exploring a world large enough for me to get lost in. I can set goals at my own pace, whether they’re simple ones that leave me satisfied enough to sleep, or complex, long-term ones that help me feel accomplished enough to do bigger things. Every day, I’m given the chance to be kind, generous, and positive to virtual strangers, while keeping a distance from the real world. I even started a little guild with my friends, and we recently claimed the hall which we’ll call our home; even if I’m not emotionally available to them, this is how they stop by and spend time with me.

It’s hard not to hate myself when my issues are preventing me from being the person I want to be. I’m in a rush to get better, when time to heal is what I need most. Heather reminds me that the suffering I’ve been through is the reason she feels understood and safe. I tell myself that this time is just a chapter in the book of my life — a stop on the way to who I am — and that there’s more left to write.

  1. I keep reminding myself: she knows what she wants, and what’s best for her. []

Level 8

Shawn and I go deep once a week, usually with a decent amount of psychoanalysis mixed in with our Magic matches. I realized I still need therapy, but in a different form from what my therapist could offer1. I need to work with someone who isn’t restricted by time limits when I’m in the middle of extremely time-sensitive events, and it’s vital that I work at my own pace, since it’s easy to rush things (that should be dealt with very carefully) when it costs $180/hour. He also stretches me out in all the right ways, and I’m learning that physical comfort is often just as important as emotional validation.

Shawn admits it’s all pop-psychology since he has no formal education, but he’s specialized in people and relationships for so long that it’s no less effective. Sometimes, it’s scary to work with someone who functions at such a higher level of understanding of the world. I recently heard Jon Kabat-Zinn say, “Buddha was not a Buddhist”, which I started repeating to Shawn when trying to relate mindfulness with modern religion. He finished my thought by saying, “and Jesus was not a Christian”, an idea I’d only come to after a lot more research and reflection. He was able to reach the same conclusion by examining patterns in his existing knowledge; an extremely profound and impactful concept to me, which I was still trying to fully grasp, was applied common sense to him.

That means I’m occasionally confronted with how narrow-minded I can be in comparison. It’s messing with things I take for granted, like my ideas of right or wrong, parts of my world-view I’ve held for so long and without question. Sometimes, I realize the person I was until that very moment would have done things I’d now consider embarrassing (being judgmental/intolerant/hateful), based on ignorance, parochialism, or naïveté. Thankfully, I’m also getting better at accepting my past self(ves) by understanding all the influences that have led me to think a certain way. It also helps knowing that the truly important thing is that I have the power to change now, and that it’ll affect me positively for the rest of my life.

Shawn used to say I was a wizard stuck on level 7, always on the cusp of levelling up. I had enough wisdom and intelligence and other attributes to be a much more powerful character, but was still a mage who couldn’t start his main quest, due to a very low stat in his relationship score. This was holding me back because relationships are a huge part of my needs; ironic that I’m also so bad at them.

I’ve learned a lot in the last few months though, through a new awareness of deeper parts of myself, and a view of the world that’s getting more objective. I’m applying these things by pursuing healthy interests, which currently means building my relationships and practicing unilateral virtue. While the latter has been both empowering and humbling, it’s also drastically shaken my understanding of my relationships, my needs, and my past. I can tell I’m only beginning to figure out the dynamics of people and how they function, but Shawn says just coming to that understanding means I’ve finally reached level 8, and with that foundation, I can begin the next part of my journey.

Then he gave me a high-five. My therapist never did that.

  1. Not that he was bad in any way. It’s just that the nature of openness tends to get more complicated when money is involved. You know someone truly cares when they listen without having to get paid, and it’s easier to be comfortable with that. []

tin cans and string for years

Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

—Alexis Carrel

I’ve been discovering that I don’t know how to take care of myself. Not in a practical, everyday sense, but a cognitive one. Consistent psychological abuse during my formative years meant I never had the chance to develop some important life skills, like how to nurture my emotional needs, how to make mistakes, and how to view myself without judgment. The poison was in the wound, you see, and the wound wouldn’t heal.

So far I’ve just started recognizing these issues in therapy, and it all makes me feel damaged and defective, likely why I’ve been hiding these parts of my life from others for so long. But I’ve been hiding them from myself most of all. It’s hard to go through the painful but necessary process of grieving when I’m alone; always easier to ignore things and keep going.

I asked Tiana to help me through this, cause now I know I can’t do it by myself. It wasn’t easy. Even the simple idea of asking for help makes me anxious. People who’ve had major roles in my life have hurt me or let me down in a very significant way, so trusting others has always been hard, and I’ve avoided being vulnerable for so long because of that.

Luckily, Tiana responded the way I needed her to, and it’s been a great comfort to give myself up to someone I can trust. To be able to cry in front of a person without feeling guilty about my emotions or how I’m making them feel. To be able to talk to someone who’s receptive and attentive and gentle and caring and appreciates my openness as well. To be the little spoon, cause everyone needs to be held sometimes. She lets me let go, and for the first time, I’ve been able to surrender myself fully and still believe that I’ll be okay. I can sigh with relief instead of sadness.

These are still baby steps though, and the whole process is terrifying. My sense of control is what makes me feel safe, even if it’s detrimental to my growth, and I’m still learning how to give that up. But I tell myself it’s progress nonetheless, which is what I need now.