This last Friday, was my last session with the therapist I have been seeing. Her internship is up and I am probably going to be out of therapy until June.
I am very grateful for the experience that I had in eleven sessions with Theresa and can state categorically, that she is one hell of a therapist who will serve her clients well. I was rather reticent in the beginning and she admitted yesterday, that she was as well - for some of the same reasons. For my part, I was concerned about her lack of experience and the fact that she's a women. She was concerned because she believes that I am more intelligent than her and that I would find therapy more effective with a male therapist.
I have been trying to figure out how to explain the methods used in my therapy with Theresa and keep running into something of a wall with it. The reason is that the therapy was by needs, rather unconventional - utilizing a great many tools that are not generally used together. The diversity of the problems that I need to deal with make any singular approach simply impossible.
The first thing we did was to define the issues I am dealing with and my goals. This was excruciating, to put it mildly. We discussed a great many, very difficult issues in a very short time and explored issues that I was mostly unaware of. The biggest issues were figuring out where the cognitive problems end and the neurochemical issues begin and helping me recognize my emotions. The former is not something that can be accomplished with absolute accuracy. What we were really trying to do is help define broadly, the parameters of my neurochemical issues. The latter was and is, far more of a problem. When I first walked in the door, I knew that I needed to learn to deal with my emotions more effectively - instead of just shoving them away, into the recesses of my mind. What I understand now, is that I have very little grasp of my emotions.
On top of all this, we were also dealing with the nuts and bolts of managing the situation with my family and my reaction to it. This was in part, the hardest aspect of therapy to deal with - mainly because it really was what caused the realization that I have very little grasp of my emotions. It was also the hardest, because the situation with my family has been so absolutely insane.
In working out the parameters of my neurological issues and their interface with my cognitive issues, Theresa really probed my understanding of managing cognitive issues. Not necessarily in direct context to my own experience, but in a more generalized context. She then probed for how I've been dealing with a lot of my problems - what has helped and what has not. Finally, we delved into my experience as a child - not so much what was happening around me (though that was explored some as well) but what was happening in my head. Through this we were able to make some reasonable assumptions about where this therapy should be focused and also where my discussion with my doctor should be focused.
Exploring my problems with emotion was considerably more complicated. This is also where Theresa's ability as a therapist really shined. It's not that I was purposefully skirting the issue, it was just very hard to bring me to the place that I could actually see what's been going on. She had to ask a lot of questions, sometimes pretty much the same question - restated after we had managed to work out another point. She had a very good grasp of what was going on, but due to a need for me to figure it out myself, we had to get there the hard way.
Like any effective therapy, it was entirely based on asking the right questions and through that leading me to figure out what the hell is going on. When the problems being discussed are as diverse as my own, a baseline difficult task becomes huge issue. And to make it far more difficult for Theresa, I came into therapy with a few beliefs about who and what I am, that turned out to be entirely wrong. I truly believed that I had a pretty solid grasp on my emotions - I just didn't think that I was really capable of many of the emotional responses to various situations, that I saw in most of the people around me. While it the context in which it was said is important, alexithymia came up and I wasn't the one who mentioned it. She was clear that she didn't think this was a perfect descriptive, only that based on our discussions, she saw some alexithymic tendencies in me and the way that I manage my emotions.
One of the very few times she actually pointed something out to me directly, was when I came in and told her that the short-form assessment I had taken at the doctor's office had claimed that I suffer depression. This was certainly news to me and my surprise at this was pretty obvious. She then pointed out that when I was very young, I had desperately wanted to die - that when I got over wanting to die, I then moved to simply not caring if I died. Then she asked me how I felt about dying now, to which I responded that I don't want to. It finally sunk in when she asked me why I no longer wanted to die, which I explained was because of the boys...Not because I had somewhere developed a desire to live, but because I have children who need a dad. Just to make sure, she was clear that most people, even people who aren't really afraid to die, want to live and would really rather put off death - excepting those who get particularly old, or who suffer some debilitating disease or injury.
No, I'm really not a moron. This does however segue well into another important focus of my therapy - my own little world, the world that I built for myself when I was really young and wanted to die so badly. The world that I built as a form of self-medicating. The world that I thought was no longer a factor, after an early version of it shattered when I was thrown out of my church so many years ago. The world that has continued to be a huge aspect of my life since I was nine or ten, though it has seen a great deal of remodeling over the years.
A great deal of my life is spent inside my head. There is a rich and diverse universe to experience there, where I will never run out of ideas to explore, sculptures of words and music to explore and occasionally attempt to express on the outside and completely abstract mindscapes to ride, like a helicopter ride over the most beautiful landscapes this planet of ours has to offer. I have always been pretty capable of occupying myself for extended periods of time, with minimal external stimuli (I basically did just that when I spent a little more than a month in the woods once, completely isolated from human contact).
A side effect of spending this time in my head, has been my presumption of self-awareness and my ability to compartmentalize. Combined with my ability to feel at all, I firmly believed that I really understood my emotions and what I was capable of. I just believed that I wasn't really suited to feeling the way a lot of other people seem to manage.
I am not setting a course to vacate my head though. It is an important aspect of who and what I am. I am working on spending less time there and deconstructing some of the more prohibitive aspects of my own little world. Mostly, I am trying to learn who and what I really am - learn how to feel what I am really feeling and embrace it in all it's glory, horror, pain and ecstasy. I am trying to learn what DuWayne is actually capable of feeling. Thankfully, outside the parameters of therapy, I have found the most remarkable help with that.
One of the earliest discussions that came up, one that's pretty relevant, was about my belief that I am incapable of feeling romantic love, the same way most people do. I believed that I am incapable of loving a women the way women should be loved. I explained that the reason I had been so keen on my children's mom, is because I thought she was pretty much the same. I have since discovered I am very, very wrong. And while there are issues to iron out, Juniper is all about working it out together and loving me, in spite of my rather fucked problems with feeling, which she is aware of.
My therapist was excited when I initially told her about Juniper and was positively thrilled when I told her that I had told Juniper I love her. And while there are definite logistical issues that complicate our relationship, it has it's advantages for a person who is as broken as I am - offering a chance to explore feeling and understanding it, without the pressure of my lover being with me most of the time. At the same time, we both get the support that can only come from someone who loves you so much that it hurts - and both of us need that support.
I am far from done with therapy. I doubt that I will ever not be in therapy, though the focus and needs will change with time and context. I am a firm believer in those who work as psychotherapists should always be seeing a therapist for their own sake. And I am going through a hell of a run with school that is only going to be more challenging - not to mention the situation with my kids is not going to get easier any time soon. I need the help maintaining, above and beyond learning how to be not broken. But I am definitely in a much better place than I was when I first walked through the door and sat down with Theresa to talk.
And I have a supporter and teacher who provides me with something that no amount of therapy could begin to challenge. A remarkable, brilliant woman who accepts my love and beyond reason loves me as desperately as I do her.