Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Confronting My Therapist

A little background -- Bill is my husband.  My therapist used to be his therapist.  And even though I have never sworn in a blog post before I swear once in this one.  I tried to find another word to use, but nothing else conveyed the same emotion.  I did try.

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Telling the truth to power is difficult.  Telling the truth to anyone can be hard.  Especially if you grew up in a situation where the truth was only appreciated if it was what they wanted to hear.  Otherwise, you'd be punished.

Well, that's the situation I grew up in and today I had to tell my therapist something he might not want to hear.  I had to give him feedback.  There was something he was doing that was counter-productive to my healing.

I was anxious.  But I knew that it was important.  He had done it multiple times and it was a big problem for me.

So today I got to therapy, all geared up and ready to go.  I can do this.  I can do this.  Don't let him start talking about something else.  Dive right it.  Just get it done so we can move on.  I can do this.

Well, he started talking in the hall on the way to his office and by the time we were in the door he already had a review going of my progress.  I went along, wondering how long I could put it off and knowing that it had to be today. 

We spent half an hour reviewing.  Talking about how I'm doing on my regimen and if I feel better and why all of this matters.  It was time well spent.  I covered things I wanted to cover.  But it wasn't what I was dying to say.

As we wrapped up the review he asked what direction I wanted to go today.  He mentioned a few of the things we'd been working on in the past that don't feel finished.

I stopped him.  I told him we could get to that in a minute.  First I needed to address something with him.  I needed to give him some feedback about something that isn't working in our relationship.  Then I asked if he was ready.  He asked if he needed a seatbelt.  I told him no.

I took a deep breath and began.  It went something like this:

"There are going to be times when I need to talk about Bill, to process things.  There are still lots of times he's an ass.  I need to be able to talk about that in order to heal.  Whenever I start to talk about Bill you re-frame what I'm saying so fast that I can't say what I need to say.  Or you say, 'But this is better, right?'  You seem to be defensive when I talk about him.  I don't know if it's because you like him and feel like you need to defend him.  Or if it's because when I tell you he's not doing well you feel like it's an attack on your work because I'm saying he's not cured.  Or if it's because you're both men and you feel like when I say negative things about him it's an attack on men in general.  Whatever it is, it feels like you're defensive.  I shut down and am unable to say the things I need to say."

He said, "Okay."  He pondered for a minute.  Then he asked me if I knew what counter-transference is.  I said I did.  (If you don't, you'll have to look it up - sorry.)  He said counter-transference is not uncommon with therapists and they don't know when they are doing it unless someone points it out to them.  He said that he still didn't recognize it in himself, but that if I'm saying it's happening he needs to believe me.  He's been a therapist long enough to know he doesn't know everything.  Twenty years ago, when he was just starting, he probably would have balked at what I said because he thought he knew it all.  But now when someone says something like that he takes it as truth and tries to fix it.

He told me strategies he would use to try to be aware and stop doing it in the future.  I told him that if it happens again I will tell him to shut up and listen to me.  Or throw the pillow at him.

I told him I'd been nervous about confronting him with it.  He told me it was a good sign of progress that I was willing to stand up for what I needed, especially to a man.  He then told me he knew I would never say anything to hurt him, only to help him or help us do better.  He was right.

This is more evidence that my therapist is a good fit for me.  I trust him.  He's a good man.  I was pretty sure he'd want to know if something he was doing was hurting me.  I was right.

It was a good session.

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I wrote about the rest of my session on my other blog -- It Matters When He's Mean.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Noticing Progress

I want to be perfect.  I want to have all the answers.  I want to be able to do anything and everything all the time.  Be everything my family and friends want me to be.  Is that really so much to ask?

Of course it is, and it sounds ridiculous.  But time and again those are the standards I judge myself by.

I walk through my house and notice everything that needs to be done.  I notice the mess.  I notice things that are broken.  I notice what I've never really liked about the house that I still haven't changed.  And I feel bad.  I feel like I am not enough because it's not all perfect.  Right now!

I wake up and start moving at the beginning of the day.  From the moment I start to stir, I feel tired.  So tired.  As I get moving I notice how much my head hurts.  Maybe I notice how dizzy I am or how blurry my vision is.  And how little motivation I have to do anything.  I try to get my kids up and off to school, getting irritated and grumpy in the process.  And I feel like a failure because I lose my cool and snap at them.  I want to be the mom that's happy all the time and participates in everything they do.  I want to be at every event.  I want to play with them and study with them and help them when they are sad.  Every time!

But I can't.

I am a problem solver by nature.  My mind is constantly working to fix things:  physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological -- and all the other "al" words.  Which serves me well much of the time.  But it also holds me back and causes me pain.

We can only truly focus on one thing at a time.  Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing that we are multi-tasking, but we're not really.  Our brain isn't paying attention to lots of things at once.  It's swapping out attention from one thing to another, sometimes so fast that we don't realize that's what is happening. 

Why does the inability of our brains to multi-task matter?  Because if we are looking at the problems we are not seeing the successes.  This is a major struggle for me.

I see the messy house.  I don't see the six trailer-loads of stuff I cleaned out and gave to charity or the five trailer-loads that went to the dump.  I don't see all the things I gave away to family and friends.  I don't see all the free things that were offered to me that I politely refused to keep from bringing more stuff into my life.  I see that my life isn't spartan and pristine, not that it's so much better and more peaceful.

I see how tired I am.  I don't see all the doctor's visits, therapy visits, prescriptions, tests, lifestyle changes, and progress I've made.  I don't see that I used to go to bed for days, semi-sedated just to face another day full of pain.  I don't see those months on end when I didn't leave my house except for church.  I don't see those times when I was so depressed that I scared my husband.  Or those times when my mental state was so bad that I sliced my own arms open.  I don't see that these things aren't true anymore.  I overlook the fact that I've checked back into life.  I don't see that I am doing so much, so many things.  I only see all the things I want to do but can't.

Not today.  Today I see progress.  I am not all I want to be.  My life is not all I want it to be.  But I have done so much and come so far.  And that's what I'm going to focus on today.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gay Marriage and My Heart

Full disclosure:  I am Mormon and very active in my faith.  I am a registered republican, but have been known to cross party lines.  I have lived in Utah my entire life.

I mention those things because they may color my opinions.  I try to be well read.  I love sharing ideas and learning from others.  I like to challenge the status quo and ask why.

And I have struggled with the issue of gay marriage.

For years, when I was young, it was a cultural thing.  Everyone around me said it was wrong so it was wrong.  The people around me were good people; I could trust their judgment.  This was before the internet.  Before I started watching the news and participating in the political process.  Before I looked beyond my own little Happy Valley.  Before I really studied my own religion and developed my own religious beliefs.

As I have grown I have been exposed to different ideas and different people.  The internet has made our world smaller.  Sitting in my living room I can read the words and thoughts of people from any walk of life.  And I do.

And I still struggle.

My religion teaches that marriage is ordained of God and is a union between a man and a woman.  I believe this.  I wish that was enough.  I wish I could just say that's it and take a stand and be done with it.

But I can't.  My heart is torn.  I know too many good people who are gay or lesbian, people doing good things, living good lives.  People who love with all their heart, no matter who they love.  People I want my children to know and associate with.

My religion does not teach that being gay is a sin.  Many people think we do, but it's not the case.  My religion does teach that sexual relations outside of marriage are a sin.  Therefore, since a gay person cannot marry within our faith, a gay sexual relationship is considered a sin.

Sin or not, I don't believe it's my place to judge another person.  That would be pretty hypocritical.  I sin a lot.  I don't want others judging me for it.  Plus, it's just not the job of man to judge.  No matter how much we think we know about a situation, we don't know everything.  Only God does.  Only God should judge us.

I judge situations.  I judge actions.  I judge choices.  But only in regards to myself.  I judge whether a decision is right for me.  I judge whether I feel better about myself and the choices I make when I am with a certain person.  But I try not to ever write a person off for who they are or how they choose to live.

All of that said, I still struggle.

Religiously speaking, I still believe marriage is between a man and a woman.  That is my personal choice.

But I don't believe in choosing someone else's path.  I don't believe in forcing others to live the way I want.  I think legislating social issues is a dangerous thing.

I am a politically active person, but I don't want to have to take a stand on this.  I'm just still so torn.

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I welcome discussion and even passionate dialogue on this topic.  However, hateful or abusive comments will be removed.

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