Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Two Steps Forward . . .

My first week of therapy is now behind me; today was my fourth session in just eight days. It has been quite a roller coaster ride already, and I feel as if I am enrolled in an intensive crash course designed to explore the psyche.

Oddly enough, I measure how good a session was not by whether I feel better afterward but by whether I cried during the session. Today I cried.

Monday I did not cry, and I viewed the session as a bit of a setback. My therapist (it still seems odd to me to use that phrase) said she sensed me teetering on the verge of closing off again from my feelings. I knew it as well. I was retreating back into myself.

But as my friend reminded me, we had discussed the probability that there would be times when these reversals would occur. And I had already concluded in my own mind that on any given day it did not matter whether I moved forward or backward as long as I kept moving and did not stand still. For to stand still is to stagnate and to stagnate is to die.

I think my biggest challenge in the early going is not to expect too much out of these sessions and also not to expect too little. I have always tended to do one of two things in my dealings with the world around me: set myself up for disappointment by creating impossible expectations or protect myself from disappointment by setting my expectations so low that I am willing to settle for nothing.

My expectations or at least my hopes started out high because I looked at this latest attempt at therapy (having tried a few times in my 20s) as a fight for my life. Not so much whether I live or die but whether I truly live or merely exist. I tempered those expectations by remembering how many years I have lived in pain, in fear, and in loneliness: hurt by the crimes against my youth, afraid of what I'll find inside me or what others won't, alone because I could not get close to others and could not seem to let others in.

As I have relayed some of the events of my youth and their effects on me to my therapist, the tears have flowed freely. But the telling and the crying take a lot of energy, so on Monday I pulled back a little. Whether to give myself a rest, to protect myself in my vulnerability, or for some other reason, I do not know.

What I do know is that today I cried again. The things I talked about, the feelings they stirred in me hurt deeply. But the tears felt good. I was hurt but I was alive. So today's was a good session.

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