Finals

Tomorrow marks the beginning of finals week. And by finals “week”, I mean “two weeks”.

My first exam is at 10am tomorrow morning. It’s a practical on therapeutic procedures.

A few things I need to remember: lock the traction table (and unlock…and relock), give the patient the emergency stop button, hook the rope before the patient is in the cervical harness, OR clean the ultrasound head (twice) (and remember to grab the alcohol swaps with the sensory tools), OR say that I took the patient’s blood pressure and measured the circumference of their affected and unaffected limbs for comparison, OR check the damn intensity dial on the diathermy drum. ALSO: ask about potential pregnancy, metal implants or pacemakers. And wash my hands! Twice!

That probably doesn’t mean anything to any of you, but…just cross your fingers that I remember! 🙂

 

Music Make You Lose Control

I decided to do a light-hearted fun post inspired by Zoe’s music Meme Friday post. This was actually really cool to put together because a bunch of Parts gave their input, hence all the different genres from different decades. If any of you do a similar post, let me know so I can check it out 🙂

1. a song from the year you were born 
Dexy’s Midnight Runners – “Come On Eileen”

2. a song that reminds you of school
Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

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Burnout

Right now I feel completely burned out in almost every aspect of my life. I have exactly two weeks left before finals are over. I have two practicals exams next week (both at stupid early hours), then one practical exam next Monday and three final written exams in a row next Thursday. Yikes.

I don’t even think I’m nervous for the actual exams. I know this shit. Sure I need to review well and go in prepared, but I don’t really have any reason to be concerned or stressed. But I do feel a little worried because I have been struggling so much to concentrate. And it seems to be getting harder for me to recall the specific information I need when I’m asked – as if I’m processing things slower or something. I honestly think my brain is just so utterly fucking saturated with information that it literally feels heavy. And so there’s all this shit to sort through in order to find the exact knowledge I’m trying to access.

I also had session this afternoon and I felt so all over the place and yet absolutely nowhere. Another “throwaway” session. I’m trying not to panic about it, although I want to.

I did bring up last session and how she offered a phone check in if I needed it. I asked why she offered it. I’m sure she gave a really great answer, but I honestly can’t even remember what she said. Something about how I seemed upset and she wanted to help me contain my distress. I think she also said something how possibly other parts within the system wanted to speak their minds (she specifically said Julia, which actually makes a lot of sense when I think back and also – props to her for using Insider’s names. I like that).

Probably. But I don’t know how to do that without everything unfolding into absolute chaos. It’s hard enough for me to contain myself. Trying to contain other Parts is…messy. She said we could work together towards that goal. Sure.

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Small Victory

In one of my classes, we had a weekly pop quiz throughout the semester. All of the grades put together make up our third exam grade. As an additional proverbial carrot, our professor also bought a little “Physical Therapy Pocket Guide” book and literally hung it up in the front of the room. About three weeks in to class, he said he would give it to whoever scored the highest overall grade on the pop quizzes.

Challenge accepted.

This morning was the tenth and final pop quiz. He graded them while we did lab stuff and then announced the winner. He said that the highest grade was 46 out of 50. I’d been tallying my quiz grades so I knew it was me.

It’s kind of a silly thing, but I was very pleased. I worked hard for those grades and, perhaps more importantly, I beat out the men-children in my class who’ve been giving me shit simply because my intelligence threatens their fragile egos. I’m thinking of one in particular – perhaps a story for another day…?

Either way, I won. Victory is mine! Mwahahahaha!

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I will Not Call Her

Today’s session was strange. In the past I probably would have referred to it as a wasted throwaway session since I didn’t talk about anything important.

I spent much of the session just jumping from topic to topic, not committing to any single emotion or thought. When I brought up something that felt like it needed talking about, we’d start to delve deeper and as I could feel us getting closer and closer to something painful or real, I’d suddenly pull us out of it and skip to something new. Or spend a few minutes in a pseudo-dissociated state just to stay away from the emotions. It was really jarring, for both of us.

I’m not sure why I did this. Probably to protect myself.

Last session (on Thursday) was more intense. Not in the traditional sense of how I experience intense sessions, but still…intense. I spoke very frankly about my biological parents in a way that was extremely activating to the system. I actually didn’t talk about any graphic abuse at all, but the nature of my upbringing is such that even the seemingly innocuous stuff turns out to be horrible.

The session before that was less intense, but in the very end, something was triggered and I walked out feeling much less grounded and contained than I wanted to be. The therapist sensed this and said, “You can call to check in later if this feels like too much to hold onto until next session.”

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Managing Expectations

One of the things I really appreciate about the therapist I’m currently seeing is how absolutely clear she is with expectations – both for myself and for her. 

I told her that another piece of my hesitation around the beginning of sessions comes from my fear of being disappointing. I explained that I feel like I couldn’t keep up with the pace of my old therapist. And Zooey…well, she invited me to share, then got overwhelmed by it, then became disappointed when I stopped “opening up as much in session.” I feel like I disappointed both of them.

This therapist said that she cannot even fathom how I could be disappointing to her, but that one way we might help assuage my fears is to give voice to these moments. So if she feels that our pacing needs to change – either out of some kind of urgency or a need to slow down and allow me room to breathe – she will simply tell me that. And if I feel as though I’m somehow not meeting her expectations, I will try to voice those fears and fact-check them with her.

She reminded me that it’s not my job to meet the needs of my therapist. She said, “Really, in an ideal world – where you are (as the client) is exactly where we need to be.” Then she explained that her job is to be aware of what I’m bringing into session so that she can understand what is important to me. Because what is important to me is what is important to the work.

She talks about therapy in a way that is both very sound and professional, but also not very representative of how I’ve traditionally experienced it. So after she finished explaining all of this to me, in a very “this is just the way therapy is” sort of way, I said, “Have you ever actually met another therapist?”

She laughed. And I think she understood that this – all of this – is very new and foreign to me. I am not used to having a therapist that is so skillful and good at their job. I’m not used to my therapy being about me. I’m not used to my therapist actually communicating with me or setting clear parameters and expectations.

I need more time to adjust to this.

Three Jars

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.03.00 PMToday’s therapy session was another very dense hour of conversation. I went in feeling a little unsure of how I wanted to start the session. I knew of a couple things I wanted to address, but it can be overwhelming to start a session. This therapist is not the type to give prompting questions or to connect last session with this one by asking leading questions. I actually think that’s a good thing, but it puts all the pressure on me to open the conversation.

So in standard Andi form, I just told her that. I said I felt really awkward about the first few minutes of every single session. She asked what made it awkward and I explained that there are a few reasons. For one thing, it’s hard to walk into a room and sit down and then suddenly have the spotlight on you for an hour. It’s hard for me to slow down enough to really be present in that space. It’s hard to choose a topic from all the billions of things spinning around in my collective brain-space. It’s hard to push through vulnerability and insecurity about bringing up certain topics. It’s also challenging to choose a topic and understand how to frame it because I always feel hyper-aware of all the things I’m communicating. The words I actually say are an important piece, but the way I choose them, phrase them, emphasize them, and the fact that I’m talking about something at all communicates a lot more than just what the words are saying.

She acknowledged all of this and asked if this might be related to last session when I brought up a trauma anniversary and then we spent the rest of session discussing whether or not to talk more about what happened and then how we’d process such a trauma, rather than actually processing it.

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Trauma Response

Last week my wife had flu-like aches, pains, and fatigue, but without the head-cold symptoms. It really freaked her out, so she eventually decided to go to urgent care just to make sure she wasn’t missing something serious going on. Turns out she was fine. They ran labs and tests and chalked it up to some weird virus being weird. She had a check-up on Monday and all is still well.

Last Thursday I left session and texted her to let her know I was heading home. She didn’t respond, even though I knew she was home. So then, because I knew she hadn’t been feeling well, I decided to call her and check in. She didn’t answer.

I totally panicked. Full on losing-my-shit-while-standing-on-a-crowded-train-platform panic. Not great.

I called and called, but no answer. Then eventually I stopped calling to gather my thoughts. And by “gather my thoughts”, I mean that I did a complete visualization of going home, finding her dead, having to tell her parents, planning the funeral, not being able to support myself financially, losing my apartment, dropping out of school, and becoming an insane, unemployed homeless person.

This visualization thing is not terribly out of character for me. Part of how I deal with scary situations is to picture my worst fear. Then I picture myself either handling it or killing myself when it gets unbearable. It’s not ideal, but sometimes you just need that cyanide capsule.

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On Processing Trauma

Today is a weird day. I had class, then work, then I had to see Dr. White again (which was kind of a mess), then my regularly scheduled therapy session. I think it was just too much stimulation or something. My brain feels like it’s in a fog. Too saturated.

I was planning to call my “Mom” tonight just to check in. I sat on my couch for about 90 minutes, holding my phone. I didn’t call. Then she texted me to say “Just checking in…:)” and I texted her back to say, “Thank you for checking in. I’ve actually been sitting here on my couch with my phone since about 5:45pm, planning to call you to do the same. I don’t know why I haven’t called yet…just being weird, I suppose. How are you?” but …nothing back since. Trying not to read too far into that.

Also, it’s another “traumaversary”, which is always tough. I brought this particular trauma up in session with Zooey last year, but we never processed it (shocker!). She did manage to tell me that she believed me and could “picture” something like that happening, but that’s the beginning, middle, and end.

I mentioned it today in session. Therapist asked what the anniversary was of and I sorta told her. I said, “It was just this really bizarre and horrific incident that happened in a hospital 15 years ago.” I think she sensed my hesitancy around being more explicit because she said, “Well, without going into detail about what happened, can you tell me more about how you’re feeling about today being the anniversary?”

Great question.

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“I See You”

I’ve recently been feeling a lot of underlying anxiety about being back in therapy and (attempting to) build a trusting, safe, therapeutic alliance with a clinician (a feat I have yet to truly achieve in real time).

In an attempt to sort out some of the tangled up emotions and thoughts around this anxiety, I sat down and talked to Wife about it. One of the most important pieces I spoke of was regarding the sheer level of transparency and inherent vulnerability that I feel when I’m in that office. This therapist misses very little. There are no “throw-away comments”. And she stays with me in each and every moment, even when things get messy or clunky or painful or just downright frustrating as hell.

Towards the end of the conversation, I mentioned to my wife that I always have this feeling of being super fragile – as if this therapist can see a part of me that no one else had even been looking for before. She has this brilliant way of connecting and synthesizing all these random pieces that I throw out at her. She can take something I mentioned in week one and seamlessly thread it into our current conversations, months later. She isn’t particularly warm in her interactions with me (although she often exudes empathy in a way that makes me want to jump out the window) and I don’t feel the same connectedness I felt with Zooey (probably a good thing), but she is so utterly present with me. In a way that is quite terrifying.

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