Sometimes we need to be reminded.
Despite the plethora of seating options that were now available, I sat down on a familiar forest green couch across from my therapist. It had been some time since our last session, and after receiving a strongly worded email that questioned my commitment, I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to continue. Maybe I was done with her, with our sessions. I needed to do some soul searching to either confirm or deny.
I left the email unanswered, but a few days later she contacted me with some times that she had available. I decided against bringing up the email. If she was ready to move past it, then so was I. I’ve always loved her bluntness, a trait that I love about older women. They hold nothing back, and I don’t like wasting time, so it works for both parties. It would be a little hypocritical if I decided against seeing her for that very same bluntness.
I sat down across from her, and removed everything from my pockets: keys, wallet, phone, wadded up papers, everything. I like to be unencumbered when I’m in that room. I turn my phone upside down because I don’t want to be distracted once I get going. Once I begin to flow, my mind becomes a pinball, and I cover a wide variety of topics in one session. The hour speeds by, and she always concludes it by saying, “We need to wrap things up.”
The clock looked at me from across the room, its gaze unceasing, and I admit that I lost the staring contest. I was uncomfortable, deeply uncomfortable, and I began with a topic that’s become more and more of a bother for me lately: time. I know I’ve written about this before, about how time freaks me out when it moves too fast, but more recently, it freaks me out when it moves too slowly. When I have hours and hours ahead of me, I panic. I’m unsure of how I’ll fill the time, and it becomes daunting. I should enjoy the free time, time that no one makes demands of, but instead I crack under the pressure. I’m used to being go, go, go, and tasks ahead of me are usually known or are dictated by someone else. When I have to make my own decisions, that’s another thing entirely. Sometimes I’m fine with making my own decisions. Lately, I’m not.
We talked about my anxiety, which is a frequent concern of mine, and probably will be for the rest of my life. I told her that my recent experience with boredom-induced anxiety reminded me of when I first experienced anxiety, and didn’t understand what was happening. I sat there in my Intermediate Macroeconomics class in college, sweating profusely, heart pounding, and my chest tight as a drum, and yet despite this tightness, I felt unstable. Unstable was the word I landed on, that feeling that my head and chest just felt so unstable, as if any slight disturbance might lead to catastrophe, as if my body was wound so tight that I might snap.
She responded by telling me that during an anxiety attack, your trachea physically constricts, which decreases the airflow, so it makes sense that you feel a shortness of breath. Of course, the way anxiety works is once you notice that tightening, you panic because you can’t breath, and this exacerbates the situation. Your mind starts to race, and you feel like you’re going into cardiac arrest.
“If I ever have a heart attack, I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell the difference,” I said.
She told me that when my anxiety spikes, to go take a walk in the fresh air. Fresh air seems to cure everything. She told me that it does wonders for anxiety and depression.
“An anxiety is like an earthquake,” I told her.
I can avoid the major panic attacks; it’s the aftershocks that are getting me. That state of anxiety that doesn’t spill over, but just lingers and leaves me feeling uneasy for prolonged periods of time. I know that the attack won’t happen, but I don’t know how to navigate this feeling of profound unease. It’s another manifestation of my anxiety, one of the many, and despite all the work I’ve done trying to understand my condition, I don’t understand this. I don’t know how to fight back or mitigate it.
We talked briefly of my relationship with my stepmother, and then my dating life. I told her that although I seem to be able to establish a connection with people, that I can’t tell what’s real anymore. I don’t trust myself to make the right judgement call. This gave way to a conversation about how I’m still hard on myself, how I get so mad at myself for my mistakes, and ended with me telling her that I don’t want to admit that I’m human, that I am just like everyone else. My mind moves quickly when I’m on a roll.
And then it was over.
That was a lot in one sitting. I know that got personal, but sometimes that’s the only way I know how to write, that’s the only way it makes sense. I always know when it’s been too long since I’ve last had a session. My mind feels cluttered, and after an hour like that where I was at a rapid fire pace, it’s more apparent than ever how much these sessions have helped me over the years.
I’m glad I went back. We picked up where we left off, and I know I’ve got a lot more work to do, but I’m ready to do it. I’m recommitted to therapy, to continuing to work with the woman that’s helped me more than any therapist I’ve had to date. When I started my new job, I wasn’t sure how to navigate the 9-5 schedule, but I’m ready to do what it takes to make it work. I feel like I’m recommitting myself to a romantic relationship.
She gave me a gut check, and I needed that. I suppose we all do from time to time. We need that reminder when we get complacent of why we still want to do something, what the purpose is. It helps us to refocus, to center ourselves, to remember why we’re here, and why we’ve come here in the first place. Thanks for reading.