Okay, I know I’m in trouble, and I’ve got to do something about it. I know what I have to do, as soon as I can. And I know what not to do.
Counseling. Therapy. That’s what they always recommend, don’t they? You go there and sit and talk (getting the words out of your head) and the kindly expert helps you to work through your issues and deal with your problems. It’s a sensible, appealing, thought. But, like all those uplifting motivational memes I ranted about in my last blog, counseling just doesn’t seem to work out for me. I’ve tried.
The worst was the couples counseling. I faced every session in a cold sweat of terror. I’d sit there, my brain frozen in panic, while the counselor and my husband looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to respond to some comment or question hanging in the air. It was like standing up in class and the teacher has asked you to summarize Proust.
I’d manage to stammer out something, and it would come back to haunt me. Perhaps I was trying to figure out some aspect of myself, and I blurted out whatever my working theory was at the time. Once spoken, it became Fact. If later I decided I was totally off-base and tried to recant, I was judged to be In Denial.
Or perhaps I just couldn’t force myself to say something I knew would hurt badly someone I cared about. It went against all my instincts. Sometimes I did force myself to say it, telling myself, That’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it? That whole honesty thing? I always ended up regretting it, hating myself for causing harm. So instead I’d try making up something safely plausible, just to satisfy them. Making up stuff is not a good idea. That too, once spoken, becomes Fact.
I was pushed into trying to examine the influences of my parents and childhood. Certainly a valid course, if one has any material to work with. My memories of my parents and childhood are scanty at best, and there is no one left to ask. Anyone in a position to provide any useful information is gone. So this line of questioning is pointless. Yet I dutifully tried to oblige when I could, becoming confused when I was questioned more closely, finally dissolving into tears because, frankly, much of what I do remember isn’t terribly happy.
Oh, but I must confront such unpleasantness as part of my therapy.
Been there, done that. In private. Wept, grieved, sorted, sighed, taken stock of the ill-fitting pieces I have to work with and figured out how best to make do. Asking me to go through it all again for the benefit of a stranger, however well-meaning, is humiliating and pointless. Undress for us. Show us the ugliest parts of your body so we can all look at them. It’s all right; we’re trained professionals. It’s all part of the therapy.
Except that none of it ever made anything any better for me. Quite the opposite. And I get the blame. I’m told I “resisted” counseling. I didn’t “let it work”. Is this how a dyslexic kid feels when he fails reading? After all, the teacher used methods that worked for everybody else in the class. Obviously he isn’t trying.
I think it was during these nightmare sessions that my emotional self went out and bought the box and began lining it with thick padding and soundproof insulation.
Honestly, I did my best. After the initial disasters I refer to in my blog, I tried twice again. Went through the whole tedious process of searching data bases, figuring out which practices my insurance covered, filling out the paperwork, sitting through the initial awkward introductory sessions. Granted, I’m a difficult patient. Already burned, slow to trust, uncomfortable with opening up to a stranger (or anybody, for that matter–except on paper, so it seems). But each time, after several months, I gave up. I got more out of listening to MBCT lectures on CD and meditating (and writing) than I’d ever get out of these uncomfortable, unproductive sessions.
So, yeah, I know I’m in trouble. And I know I have to do something about it, although right now it feels like trying to treat PTSD in a war zone. But please, no counseling. Isn’t it more logical to do something I’ve tried and I know works (see my Colebrook Journals) than to keep attempting something that I’ve tried and I know doesn’t work? I am absolutely delighted at how well talk therapy has worked for other folks. Good for you! Keep at it! I promise I won’t push MBCT on you if you don’t push counseling on me.
Because, looking back, counseling has been a huge part of the damage done.