I had my first therapy session yesterday. I know most people keep these things private, and I won’t be sharing verbatim, but I thought I’d share a little bit about the experience in case someone else might find it helpful.
I’ve never gone to therapy on my own before. My mom and I have had a complicated, and often-times strained, relationship over the years, and we’ve gone to therapy before to try to sort some stuff out. However, I’ve never gone by myself, for myself. It strikes me as funny, because a lot of people close to me regularly see a therapist, and I’ve always been like Oh yeah, I think everyone could probably use some therapy! yet have never made it a priority for myself.
But here I am.
We discussed a few things, and I kind of went over the issues that seem to be effecting me and set some goals. I liked the list of goals, because I like lists, and it made it feel like I was doing something concrete and actionable, rather than just talk about the nebulous cloud of feelings that have been stirring inside me for some months now.
In that room, for the first time, I approached the subject of my emotional detachment. For 27 years, I wouldn’t come near this subject with a 10 foot pole. I just thought “well that’s just how I am with people, that’s just me.” I never thought of it as an issue until the last 6 months or so.
I grew up with my mom, and my mom is kind of a lot. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still my mom and I love her, but the best way I’d describe her is a raw nerve. If my dad is emotionally unavailable, my mom is a deluge of emotion at any given moment. Growing up just the two of us, someone had to be the adult, and so the reasonable one was usually me. I became so used to this role that it has become my default: the logical one, the fixer, the decision maker. When faced with a situation involving a lot of emotions, I default to logic. When people are unsure, I swoop in to help make decisions quickly and efficiently. How can we fix this? Let’s identify the problem and figure out how to solve it. My mom’s emotions are like a tsunami that would swallow me if I let them, so I developed a way of detaching myself from those highly stressful, emotionally charged moments. I look at the situation through a very clinical lens that lets me think objectively about the situation, while shutting out the other person’s feelings. That distancing, however, while probably healthy in some capacity in my relationship with my mom, has become my default setting in all of my relationships. That is a problem for me.
I have a hard time being there emotionally for other people. When they are expressing their feelings, I often times push them away. I can sit there and nod and listen for a moment, but then I try to fix. When someone is crying or upset, I go to logic mode. But I want to be able to sit with my best friend and let her cry, and not feel uncomfortable or try to fix. Hell, I want to feel comfortable crying myself without feeling like it’s stupid, or playing the waiting game. This has been my way – cry for a bit if you need to, be sad for a day, then figure it out and move on. I want to be able to feel any number of things without feeling like it’s bad or that emotions are a problem I need to solve. I want to try to make amends with those whom I’ve hurt, and make every effort to not hurt them again. I want to take the wall down. I want to love at 100.
She said something in our session that really got to me. When I spoke about Chris and how I was having a hard time with the shockwaves of his death, she suggested that if I subscribe to the idea that everything happens as it should, and I do, that even in death, he has given me an incredible gift. That his passing has allowed me, for the first time in my life, to really feel. That all of this, his death, my spiral in the wake of it, put me in this position right at this moment in time, where I can’t neatly tidy my feelings away somewhere inside me; where I’m forced to feel so many things at once, and learn how to live with and embrace that. That his death is something I can’t fix no matter how much I try. That I finally have the opportunity to recognize these things and be able to feel, love, and connect with other people wholeheartedly and honestly as a result.
Even thinking about that as I wrote this gave me a lot of mixed emotions. I had to go and sit in the bathroom for a while and cry. But it wasn’t because I was sad. In that moment, I missed Chris so much, and though I was sobbing, I was also smiling. It felt like this overwhelming ocean of relief, joy, hope, and love. My heart felt so open when I realized that I’m giving myself permission to feel all of that at once, and in doing that, I feel like there’s a chance for me to not go the rest of my days with this barrier; I can be, and feel, whole.
After I left that first session, I sat in the car and cried for a few moments. The thought that I could be someone who feels things and is okay with feeling them, who can be okay when other people are feeling them, and that I could be the kind of person, friend, and lover that I’d always wished I could be, but didn’t know how, brought me to tears. It was hope in the dark, that things will be better. That I can be better. And hopefully I haven’t fucked up absolutely everything in the process of discovering that, but, still, I remain hopeful for that. Even if I have, I have to find a way to make peace with that too.
Wanting is the first step. Now there’s just another, and another after that. One step at a time. I have a journey ahead, and for the first time ever, I’m not in a rush. I’m trying to give myself time. Naturally optimistic, I think the future looks pretty bright, and tomorrow is another day.
Happy trails x