I don’t know

I can’t tell you the countless times I have said “I don’t know” in therapy. Normally it is just a reflex, without even a thought. I just react. I think for years it has been a defense, a way to get around looking at or exploring something. Much of those things painful and difficult. But there are equally as many times I have responded this way when things were not, in fact, difficult. I think I am at a point in my life and my therapy that I don’t want that to be my answer. I’d like to try a different way. Explore why it is that I prefer to just deflect the question than genuinely reflect on it. I guess I’ve come to a point where I realize how valuable my time in session is. “I don’t know” is just a waste of that precious time. So, in thinking about it that way, I am making it my goal to shift my thinking and my responses in sessions. It’s okay to pause and reflect before reflexively answering. Not to say that everything needs to be over analyzed, sometimes your initial reaction is the most honest, and the closest to your heart. But more often than not, for me, what you get first isn’t clear.

Even I sometimes don’t understand my cognitions and emotions around a certain subject. This has been the case for much of my life. It has gotten easier now, that I have the vocabulary and the ability to put names on feelings and have gained the ability to explain my thoughts. It isn’t easy, sometimes it is just a jumble and I have to tease things apart before I understand. Often times I don’t understand at all, and get easily overwhelmed when that is the case. If I don’t understand it, or if the emotions are at a level that is hard to tolerate it is very easy for me to pull back into a very numb disconnected place. It was a safe haven for a number of reasons, though now I see it as problem. Especially if it becomes more than a transient episode.

I think last week was a great learning experience for me. It wasn’t the ideal situation that something surprisingly painful came up late in a session. And thought I really did cycle into an overwhelmed sad place, with another session, I was able to examine it and change. In the past I have found that overwhelming place as a spot to drop anchor and wallow. In my place of judgement and self-hatred I allow myself to be awash with the most terrible of emotions. It is something I have done over and over. Last week was a different response, one that even surprised me. Instead of dropping that anchor, I grabbed a paddle and headed for the nearest shore. In having that follow-up session to process, I was able to get my feet under me. I was able to move beyond the sadness and anger, into a place of much more neutral baseline emotions. In short, my world righted itself, with that work. The past couple days have been in a more positive place, though disconnected yesterday.

Session today was good, and felt more like putting a toe in the lake, rather than capsizing the boat. And that is okay with me. I don’t feel today was any less valuable than last week, just different. I don’t think ending up in the lake soaking wet every time is good. I think a lot of people have this fantasy of what therapy is supposed to be like. I think I was very much like that once. The lay down on a couch and unless you are using a box of tissue every session you just aren’t doing it right. It was one of the things that scared me about therapy. I don’t let my defenses down like that. In all my years of therapy I have maybe cried a handful of times. It is not something I do. I find these days, especially after the ECT that crying is something that happens more often. I’m getting used to that, and am starting to realize it is okay. Showing your emotions is okay, if you are in safe company. It has been a way for me to realize what it is that I am feeling sometimes, and understanding how meaningful certain things are. Rather than being numb and lost, I find it important to stop and think about what it is that is causing me to react tearfully. At times it is absolutely nothing, a commercial or a tv show. But other times, like last week in session, it was a clear indicator of how painful the realization of loneliness was to me. It showed me how deeply I felt that, and it was a good motivator to explore it in the next session. I wasn’t just angry, I was sad and I wasn’t happy with where things were at in my relationship. It not only motivated me to talk about it in treatment, it pushed me to open up to my partner and explore it with her.

I am so grateful to finally be in a place where I can feel and think and grow. I don’t have to keep running and hiding. It is okay to take a look at things and not hide behind “I don’t know”.  Moving forward now, I want to set aside the I don’t know, replace it with a little more introspection and a bit more openness. Trust my ability to navigate the lake, and know even if the boat capsizes, yes I can swim.

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