I know you all have been desperately holding your breath, wondering, what on earth happened to Q after her dangerously close encounter with a peanut? Why has she been MIA?
Okay, honestly, I know that no one has been breathlessly waiting for an update. Really, I hold no illusions. And anyway, it can all be summed up quite simply: I felt better for a little while, and then I didn’t.
If you’re up for a few more details, here’s what it’s been like:
After my good-sized dose of epinephrine and steroids, my mood was lifted significantly for about 10 days. It was a wonderful relief. I got quite a lot of my freelance research work done, as well as a number of household projects that had been lying around untouched for all too long. I was calm in therapy sessions and able to speak clearly, reasonably, and kindly about what I needed. I even started to think that I could reduce my therapy sessions with E from twice down to once a week.
But then, little by little, my mood started to slip again. It started as it often does: first, I find I have less energy and need a long afternoon nap. Then I find it increasingly difficult to focus and can’t get much work done. I start to have the old, negative thinking patterns circulating in my head again, almost out of nowhere–everything from I’m such an idiot; how I am falling into this yet again?!? to I’m fat and ugly and no one loves me. I know these thoughts aren’t true, but when my mood is sinking, that “knowing” is only in my head, not in my heart.
Just as I was headed into my downward slide, I had a session with E in which I decided to forge ahead with my intention to reduce sessions with her. Okay, let me be a little clearer: I did not say, “let’s cancel some sessions because I don’t need to come as often.” Instead I said, “Maybe we can start to talk about me maybe coming less often at some yet-to-be-determined point in the future.” I am not, after all, a person to rush into important changes.
E was kind. She remembered my freak-out last fall when she was the one to bring up coming to therapy less often. This time she reassured me that she wasn’t tired of seeing me, that I could decide to make the change at my own pace, that as long as she was working, she wouldn’t cut me off. But still, I felt sad about even starting the conversation.
And as often happens, the real emotional impact of it didn’t hit me until after I left her office. Then I started to worry and grieve and rage and angst. What will I do if I don’t have her in my life? If I see her less often, I won’t be able to talk about the truly deep, painful things, because I won’t be able to hold all that emotion by myself for an entire week. I won’t be able to talk about the difficult things. I will be alone with them. I will always, ultimately be alone…
Even as I thought these things, there was a separate, wiser observer part of myself watching those thoughts and thinking, You might be catastophizing here. There are probably ways to make this work. You can maybe come up with solutions in time. But you are rushing to fear and loneliness because you are already not feeling centered and well. Take care of yourself.
So, I made a real effort, and earnest effort (I can be very earnest, if you haven’t noticed). I meditated. I got out my affirmation cards. I practiced my slow breathing and conscious relaxation. I told myself soothing things. I challenged my negative thoughts. I printed out a calendar and started plotting which therapy sessions I could cancel (thinking: taking concrete action might reduce my doubt and anxiety). When none of that helped much, I drank wine and played games on my phone. That didn’t help much either.
Later in the week, I had my appointment with Marie, the sex therapist. I am supposed to be working with her on how to separate past traumatic sexual experiences from my current sexual connection to my husband. But when I got in her office, the attachment pain was overflowing, and it’s most of what I talked about. What will I do without her? I won’t have anyone. I will be so alone; I feel like I will die from aloneness, as ridiculous as that sounds.
Marie was as calm and gracious as ever. I really appreciate the way she gives me permission to be wherever and however I am. Didn’t do my sex homework? No problem, let’s talk about what made it hard. Changed all the rules of the sex homework? Great, let’s explore that? Broken-hearted about reducing my time with my therapist? Tell me more about that pain. What does that feel like? Where do you feel that in your body?
That’s another thing; Marie is good at getting me to shift from my head and into my body, which is a much more efficient way to get to my heart, my emotions. I went to school for such a long time and got so good at analyzing things that I can live too much in my head, to the point where I feel emotionally dead. Marie helps me move into my feelings, even the painful ones, but shows me, gently and slowly, that I can maybe, probaby, perhaps tolerate them.
She congratulated me on being brave enough to even imagine carrying forward in life without leaning so heavily on E. It was a huge step, she said, even to bring up the topic. Now that I have taken that big step, and I’m aware of all the intense fear it brings up in me, I don’t have to rush to the next thing.
“You are getting really good at awareness of what you feel,” she tells me. “But then you want to run away from it, solve it, fix it, or distract from it. What if you just pause for a while and stay with it? What if you don’t do anything right now, don’t make any plans, don’t try to make the feelings go away? Just be there with them and talk about them however long you need to.”
On the one hand, it sounds so simple.
On the other hand, it sounds impossibly hard. Just let myself feel the grief and loss and fear and loneliness? Just allow myself to be reminded of feeling alone, unnoticed, unrescued when I was little and needed help? Just experience all that pain?
As rough and unpleasant and frustrating as it sounds, when she says it, I know she is right. Like everything else, this too needs its space. Only by feeling something can I let it go. This seems to be one of those lessons that I have to learn, and then learn again, and then learn yet again.
CREDIT: Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash