Sharing My Story

My therapist recently contacted me to ask me if I would participate in an interview about my experience in therapy. He would then want to use bits of that interview in a promotional video for his practice. I said sure. That interview was last Friday at 11 am. I wore jeans, converse, and my Ellen sweater that says “kindness” on it.

When I arrived at the little studio on the westside of Atlanta, my therapist was just finishing up a photo shoot with the two other therapists he works with.

Once they were done, the helpers moved the furniture and replaced the couch with a glass table with a chair on either side that were facing each other. I was also given a microphone to clip on my sweater and on the back of my pants.

Now, days before the interview . my therapist sent me an email with a list of possible questions. I, of course, typed out answers to all of them just in case I got tongue tied during the actual interview.

Here are those questions:

Thoughts leading up to therapy. 

“Man, I hope this works.”

Why did you choose therapy? 

I was unable to “deal with it” alone anymore and I wanted another opinion. It had also been 10 years without significant progress, so I figured therapy wouldn’t make it any worse.

What were you looking for?

Initially, a cure; however, I recognized that that was unrealistic and unlikely, so I adapted it to “new ways to get through anxiety without making me stop living my life.”

What did you think about the phrase “all of you is welcome”?

It gave my “undesirable” parts an invitation to participate and be heard. I never invited them.

Do you remember me saying let’s “unbraid your narrative” or paying close attention to how the “researcher” was managing anxiety? —what changed (realization that I was capable in chaos)

I heard, “start from the beginning”. The realization that I excelled in chaotic parts of my life was validation that I could get through anything and that I would continue to get through anything.

How did kindness help/facilitate this process?

The act of being kind to myself opened many emotional doors. It made me feel more vulnerable and exposed because I think I knew exactly what parts I had been suppressing and invalidating; I didn’t want those parts to make all the parts I was so proud of look bad.

Where you afraid to talk about the parts of you? Did you think this would mean you were crazy?

I don’t think I was afraid per se, but I did have to make a conscious decision to share very personal accounts and thoughts about my life and myself with a complete stranger. I was hoping that I would be pushed to think about things differently than I had been. In the end, I think the reason therapy worked so well with Jon is because we are fundamentally very different personalities; I can’t say that I would’ve been as successful as someone who was as logical as I was. Jon challenged me to welcome and embrace the “softer” sides of myself and this was very helpful in the healing process.

There was never any concern about me being “crazy”.

What did you think about the 3 steps: Tell the Truth, Set Intention, Tell a Different Story?

I am honestly drawing a complete blank.

Being kind to self? Was that something new for you? 

Are you still using kindness today? 

Being kind to myself in the way Jon wanted me to be kind to myself was new, yes. I thought that I was kind, but I quickly discovered that the standards I held myself to were significantly higher than what I held other people to. I was also more forgiving of other people’s emotions; for my own emotions, I limited myself to an allotted slot of time for me to be sad, cry, and wallow in grief or whatever other emotion/feeling I deemed to be negative [for me].

Today, I am kind to myself. I don’t really have to think about it anymore, my body and mind now know that they are free to feel whatever they want without punishment.

Thoughts leading up to therapy. 

Man, I hope this works.

Why did you choose therapy? 

I was unable to “deal with it” alone anymore and I wanted another opinion. It had also been 10 years without significant progress, so I figured therapy wouldn’t make it any worse.

What were you looking for?

Initially, a cure; however, I recognized that that was unrealistic and unlikely, so I adapted it to “new ways to get through anxiety without making me stop living my life.”

What did you think about the phrase “all of you is welcome”?

It gave my “undesirable” parts an invitation to participate and be heard. I never invited them.

Do you remember me saying let’s “unbraid your narrative” or paying close attention to how the “researcher” was managing anxiety? —what changed (realization that I was capable in chaos)

I heard, “start from the beginning”. The realization that I excelled in chaotic parts of my life was validation that I could get through anything and that I would continue to get through anything.

How did kindness help/facilitate this process?

The act of being kind to myself opened many emotional doors. It made me feel more vulnerable and exposed because I think I knew exactly what parts I had been suppressing and invalidating; I didn’t want those parts to make all the parts I was so proud of look bad.

Where you afraid to talk about the parts of you? Did you think this would mean you were crazy?

I don’t think I was afraid per se, but I did have to make a conscious decision to share very personal accounts and thoughts about my life and myself with a complete stranger. I was hoping that I would be pushed to think about things differently than I had been. In the end, I think the reason therapy worked so well with Jon is because we are fundamentally very different personalities; I can’t say that I would’ve been as successful as someone who was as logical as I was. Jon challenged me to welcome and embrace the “softer” sides of myself and this was very helpful in the healing process.

There was never any concern about me being “crazy”.

What did you think about the 3 steps: Tell the Truth, Set Intention, Tell a Different Story?

I am honestly drawing a complete blank.

Being kind to self? Was that something new for you? Are you still using kindness today? 

Being kind to myself in the way Jon wanted me to be kind to myself was new, yes. I thought that I was kind, but I quickly discovered that the standards I held myself to were significantly higher than what I held other people to. I was also more forgiving of other people’s emotions; for my own emotions, I limited myself to an allotted slot of time for me to be sad, cry, and wallow in grief or whatever other emotion/feeling I deemed to be negative [for me].

Today, I am kind to myself. I don’t really have to think about it anymore, my body and mind now know that they are free to feel whatever they want without punishment.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about going therapy but is unsure?

It never hurts to get a second opinion. Maybe this isn’t as good as it gets- go find out. Except for the co-pay, you’ve got nothing to lose.

So, the actual interview went well; it was a lot shorter than I thought it would be. I don’t know when the final version will be completed, but I was told I’d be sent an email.

They gave me flowers, a candle, and a bottle of red wine for my time. There was also a thoughtful card from my therapist.

I guess I feel fine about the interview. I was nervous about too much personal information being released, but it was actually very surface level. Whenever it is released, I’ll put it on here or at least share my thoughts on it.

Overwhelming Thoughts

I don’t know if this post is going to come out making sense. I will do my best, but this could be a doozy.

Some people only fall in love with, date, and marry one person. Other people go through the same process with 20 different people. I haven’t met anyone who’s been married 20 times, but I’ve heard of 5-7 times, so that’s still a jump.

Many married people I know today (both old and young) got married in their mid to late 20s. I am approaching my mid 20s. This post is not about me feeling pressure to get married- that pressure isn’t there for me. What I am getting at is the thought that maybe I’ve met a person who I could be happy with for a long time.

I’ve been on a few dates that never went further than that first meeting. I’ve dated someone short term. I’ve dated several people long term (for me, this range is 8 months to 2 years). I’ve dated someone who was not very kind to me. I’ve dated people and imagined married life with them. There was one person who I considered to be someone I would have children with if we got there. My point is that I have experience. I have experienced enough variety of personality. I know what I want at this point. I also know what I don’t want.

The person I just started seeing 3 weeks ago is many of the things I want in a person. Obviously, there are no perfect people and she is not perfect, but there are so many seemingly great things about her, my body and mind are on edge because “what’s the catch?”

So, like I mentioned before, there are so many people who are married or at least dating the person they’re going to marry by the time they are my age or by the time they’ve experienced what I have. I’ve dated enough for my liking. I would like to just not anymore. The thought in my mind is “could this be it?”

Don’t panic, now, because marriage is something I don’t want for another 8ish years. I just wonder if she could be someone I want to travel with, someone to introduce to my family and friends, someone I want to come home to after work, etc.

Contemplate these things with me. Let’s overanalyze together. Let’s think about all the confusing things in life. I hope you all got through this one alright.

Holding Grudges

I don’t like that I hold on to things as long as I do, but I do and I don’t know how to not. I am just as strict with broken trust; once my trust has been broken, there is nothing anyone can say or do to make it up to me and that relationship is done. That’s just how it is.

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about grudges. I suppose broken trust could be a reason to hold a grudge, but I’m talking more about people disappointing me and then me holding on to that feeling of disappointment and using it to silently and internally hold a grudge against that person.

I don’t let people known that I hold something against them. I don’t often express my disappointment either. The reason I felt the urge to write this morning is because I have not been able to shake something since it happened.

I had a partner. She was wonderful. She did have her own struggles, but she was getting help for them and I like to think it didn’t interfere too terribly with the way our relationship worked and the way I felt about her. Our time together was coming to an end because we lived in different parts of the country and long distance was just simply not an option.

We had 2 nights left together and we decided to spend the first of the 2 final nights at a party with our friends. Of course, there would be alcohol. I decided not to partake, but my partner did. And that was fine, I don’t care if my partner drinks.

The entire week leading up to our final days, she made it seem she wanted to spend as much time with her friends as she could, but also with me. She mentioned setting up a sort of date night for us, on her. I got all of my tasks done so that I would have all the time to spend with her. I feel like I tried harder to make sure that I could dedicate as much time to her as possible.

So, anyway, the party. She drank, I did not. She came into our reserved room in the early morning hours and we slept until about 7am. When she got up, the hangover hit her hard and she immediately became sick. Long story short, that entire day- our entire LAST day- was spent in the ER and her room because she did not handle the previous night well.

I was more than happy to take care of her. I did not mind being there for her. What I was upset about- and frankly, quite angry at- was the fact that the amount of alcohol she consumed was in her control and it seemed like she didn’t care to think about how it might affect our final day together.

I don’t like to be angry or irritated about this because she was the most amazing person to know. I have nothing but nice things to say about her and I will forever wish for her happiness. But. I was angry with the way she went about our last days. And sometimes I think about it and I still get angry.

If she reads this, she’ll know how I feel, but I’m not going out of my way to let her know. Our time came and went and it was beautiful. It wouldn’t accomplish much to inform her about these thoughts.

Mapping Out My Mental Process: Anxiety

My last therapy session was a great one. I made a small change that will have big impacts in my life, I think.

When I walk into therapy, my therapist always has a plan, but he asks me if there is anything I would like to talk about or discuss first. Normally, I give him a quick rundown of my week and if anything out of the ordinary happened, I let him know.

This particular day he told me he had a plan, but if there was anything I wanted to bring forward first, I could do so. I said that I did have something to say: “We talked about my “what if” questions serving no purpose last session and since then I have decided to remove them from my brain.”

Obviously, it’s not an overnight thing, but it was a step towards something. My therapist stops me, though, and says that that’s a big step to just completely remove them. My brain, moving very quickly, comes up with something brilliant: “Well, then how about we don’t remove them, we only modify them.”

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner.

When I am having a panic attack or just anxious thoughts, my mind goes through a very long list of highly unlikely “what if” questions/situations that I must earlier prepare for with coping or preventative skills. However, when the actual panic attack is happening, I toss everything I’ve ever practiced out the window because I am in survival mode.

Many times, it’s not the original source of my anxiety that causes me to fall into a panic- it’s the “what if” questions. The hypothetical scenarios that I create in my head are so much worse than what is actually happening. If I could find it within myself to start modifying those to less extreme “what ifs”, then I might not always go off the deep end.

Anyway, that is what I discovered last session. What are some eye-opening revelations you all have had in therapy or while talking with friends/family?