I met with my new therapist for our second session last Wednesday.
During our first session back in December, we covered all of the basics: introductions, symptoms, triggers, an outline of my family dynamics.
It was nothing strenuous or profound. I did not leave with high hopes or a soaring self-esteem, but I did walk out feeling content with how we connected and the hope that we had solid ground from which to build a relationship.
This second session, on the other hand, was the most exhausting one of my life.
It began easily enough. She asked me how my holidays were. They were good.
She asked how I felt overall. I told her I was OK.
She asked if I had experienced any intense episodes. I had.
She asked what happened.
What I wanted to tell her was that my husband Bryce and I had a discussion that went from civilized discourse to mild argument, which caused me to downward spiral into a panic attack that left me in tears, gasping for air, and berating myself for being both a terrible partner to my husband and a pathetic excuse for a woman.
I only got as far as saying an argument took place that resulted in a panic attack.
And then I found myself silent.
She asked about the topic of our discussion-turned-argument. I said I couldn’t remember, and for a moment, I really couldn’t. After all, it had been weeks ago, and sometimes I mercifully wipe my mind blank of the details once a panic has passed.
It didn’t take me long to remember the topic, yet when I did, I did not want to share it with her.
At first, I told myself it was because the topic (a slight difference in political opinion) wasn’t important. Then, I told myself if she knew what happened, she would judge me for being too argumentative. Then I feared she would judge my husband for being too pushy, then judge me for being too submissive, and then I outright feared her having so much power to judge me when I needed help.
For what felt like forever, but was probably more like a minute, I sat in silence, my legs crossed, my hands clasped together, my head down, my shoulders tense, my forehead beginning to sweat.
I couldn’t find the next words to say. I didn’t want to find them, either.
I had met this woman on exactly two occasions, and I already feared her opinion of me to the point that I could not share anything with her, even if it would allow her to help me (which I did not trust her to do).
Going back to the topic of the argument, she suggested that I write down the details of those incidents in the future so we could talk about them more in depth. It was a solid suggestion, yet it took all of the energy I had within me not to run out of the office and never return.
I knew she was a doctor who needed to know how to help me, and I needed to do some work, too.
But I didn’t want her to help me. I wanted her to leave me alone.
I think she sensed my resistance, because she backtracked to the holidays again. I still didn’t want to say much to her, but I was willing to talk about spending time with my family, so I relented and gave her the information.
From the holidays, she asked about me and my mom. From there, she asked about her and my stepdad. From there, she asked about me and my husband. Gently and slowly, she helped me peel back those layers, but only enough to take quick peeks before closing them up again. She knew better than to cut too deep into an already frightened soul.
Finally, miracle of miracles, I told her more about the argument. I explained to her why I felt attacked, the contents of my thoughts, the ensuing exhaustion, and the patterns I noticed. She was able to give me some solid advice in regards to being a good spouse and having a solid sense of self in the midst of those heated moments.
It ended up being a really productive, albeit very stressful, session. I was glad I stuck around, and I was even more grateful she understood how to honor and work with my limits.
The session came to an end. We shook hands, and I walked out of her office still a bit shaken but feeling more solid and secure than I had in weeks.
I even made sure to schedule an appointment for February.
I’m looking forward to getting to know my new therapist more and actually allowing her to get to know me. I’m still afraid of being vulnerable, and that I will never have a bond with this new therapist quite like the one I had with my former. This being said, I need to keep telling myself that’s OK as long as, in my time with this new person, I grow and become more well.
I’m taking baby steps right now, and it’s hope in these little steps that gets me back in her office.