Thursday’s session was tough for me. I’m still missing a lot of what happened after my therapist asked me what my feelings were trying to tell me (about how the MRI triggered me). I suspect we may end up discussing that more in session this week, but for now I’m at a loss.
Thursday night wasn’t too rough because I had a “required social activity” to attend nearby right after session. I was in both “social mode” and “academic/career mode” within fifteen minutes of walking out of the office.
So I pushed most of session stuff aside until the next morning. Then I had physical therapy in the early afternoon on Friday, so I was still in a similar mode, since I want to build a nice networking relationship with my own PT (it’s a small world, after all).
The moment I walked out of PT, I hopped on the train downtown. I got to the area a little early, so I grabbed a coffee and started furiously writing notes in my journal. There was a lot I wanted to talk about, most of which was unrelated to what did (or did not) happen in the previous session.
So when I walked into my therapist’s office, I was calm, relaxed, and cordial.
I told her I’d just come from PT and she asked how that was going, so we chatted about that for a bit. Then I told her I’d ended up going to the academic-social networking event the evening before and she was super proud of me for that. Which prompted an important conversation about my social anxiety and how I’m a true introvert who is NOT energized by crowds or meeting new people, which creates a lot of stress around such things.
That transitioned to a conversation about school and the trajectory of my career. She asked a lot of questions I think she’s been holding onto until the conversation allowed for them. I gave her a bit of work history and shared some pride-worthy moments from recent classes.
There’s still so much more to be said and processed about all of the above topics. But I was able to say some very important things I’ve been holding onto. I often skip over the “superficial” stuff because sessions somehow seem more productive or meaningful if we’re talking about the heavier stuff.
Which isn’t false. But it isn’t true, either.
At the end of session, I told her that both Wife and I have become suspicious that a previously dormant (or undetected) alter is making an appearance.
The therapist glanced at the clock and said, “Boy, I really wish we had time to talk about this, because I’d really like to hear more about that!”
I laughed. “I know. And I swear I didn’t wait until the end of session to say that. Our conversation just sorta naturally flowed in a way that reminded me of that particular thing.”
“I know. But maybe we can talk about it on Monday?”
“Yeah, probably. I think that, for today, I just needed to sorta pull everything back in.”
Which I did.
Once I left, I felt a little sad and wondered if this had been another wasteful, surface session. But then I thought more about my final comment and realized that I was actually engaging in an act of self-care.
The session before had been painful and intense. I was not avoiding the topic, but I knew I needed some space from it for a bit. While I was writing before session, I created a list of topics I wanted to talk about. I think I did that so I would feel more relaxed, knowing there were plenty of important things we could talk about that were not about last session.
Which is a pretty big deal for me.
Normally I would do this independently – this “toning down” of the next session – but for very different reasons. If I’d had a “challenging” session, I would panic and worry that if I didn’t act more put together and grounded, my therapist would be upset and feel overwhelmed. I’d also panic that if I didn’t detach from whatever was triggering me, I’d get triggered again and create the same overwhelm, for both of us.
This happened A LOT with previous therapists, especially the most recent therapist before this one. I was constantly assessing and modifying the energy of the therapeutic environment to create (what I perceived as) the appropriate amount of “balance”.
It was exhausting.
But this time, it wasn’t about my therapist. I didn’t do this for her, or for the sake of the therapeutic space or relationship. I did it for me. Because my instincts told me I needed to rest and recover from Thursday’s session and I trusted that my instincts were right.
So my decision to keep it light and talk about less intense topics did not come from a place of shame, or a desire to be a better client to stave off rejection and abandonment.
I think I just loved myself enough to say, “Take a breather, Andi. You deserve it.”