Raw (Under the Surface)

Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper.

Whether you’re talking to your therapist or a good friend, sometimes you need to go deeper than surface level. These kinds of conversations have their time and place, but there things in life you’ll need to talk about, things you need to let go of in order to continue to function. You’ll have to part with something, knowing that it’s keeping you from being a better version of yourself. This is the hot coal I referred to in a previous post, and the longer you hold onto it, the hotter it gets.

Many people I know are going through significant and intense life events, the kind that make you reflect and take stock, the kind that make everything else seem so fantastically insignificant. The conversations I’ve been a part of have evoked memories of my time as a primary caregiver, something that I think about less and less these days, but one memory in particular came back to me. A few days this past week, I felt myself returning to it, the pull too strong to resist. I tried to get it out of my head, tried to talk it through, but I still wasn’t done with it, or rather, it wasn’t done with me.

My therapist is going to a conference next week, so I knew that if there was anything that was bothering me, it was important to get it out in our session. Speak now, or forever hold your peace, at least for the next 14 days. We got going, and my session was much better than the previous few had been. The theme was transition, and I spoke at length about many of the big changes that were coming my way. After letting loose a barrage of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, I looked at the clock, thinking that I had finished perfectly in my allotted time.

“We still have ten minutes, Adam,” she informed me.

I knew what I had to do. I had wanted to talk about the reoccurring memory during our session, but sometimes when I get going, my speech becomes a stream of consciousness. I’m saying everything and anything that comes to mind, and sometimes I think about things I haven’t thought about in years. Sometimes, I have realizations that change my worldview. It’s amazing what can happen, the progress you can make if you just allow yourself to talk and not be hindered in any way. The things you hold back are almost always the things you need to say the most.

Like a plane trying to land, I neared the runway and then pulled back, continuing to circle it, afraid to utter the words I wanted desperately to say. I knew that she wouldn’t judge me, and that she wanted me to get to the point, but it’s never that easy to get something like that off your chest. Finally, fed up with waiting, I opened my mouth and just let out what I needed to, sprinkling in unnecessary words and context in order to soften the blow and the weight of what I was saying. I’m not sure if I was doing that for her benefit or for mine.

—-

It felt good to talk about the memory, but it wasn’t without pain. There was a feeling in my chest and in the rest of my body that I hadn’t felt in some time, a sensation accompanying the very words I was speaking. I told her that I wasn’t just saying the words, but that I was also feeling the memory as well. It’s crazy to know that after all these years something can still affect me this deeply, but I’m glad. I’m glad that I still feel things this strongly, and that I’m not turning off my emotional self. I’d been coasting the past few weeks, and I was worried that I’d get too comfortable in a mindset I never want to get comfortable in. It was nice to come back to reality, even if it hurt, even if it took a piece of me in the process.

My therapist listened as I said my piece, and looked at me with eyes of understanding, even reciprocating with a story of her own. I appreciated her offering, as it helped to level the playing field. I hadn’t given much thought to how one-sided therapy can be, but I know that the person sitting across from me, despite their training and degrees and license, is still very much a person who has their own pain and things they want to talk about as well. It’s nice to have our sessions be an exchange, rather than having them be all about me.

I left and gave her a hug, which has become our custom, and I know that our relationship continues to grow as I give up more of myself. When I got home, my roommate asked me if I felt better or lighter, I don’t remember which, and to be honest I didn’t. I feel better now, the next day, but after I get something out that’s been paining me to hold onto, I feel raw and devastated. I can’t return to real life right away. Sometimes I need to go for a long walk, and I’ve steered away from the urge to have a drink. Getting back to my everyday life is challenging, as I’m elsewhere mentally, or I’m just drained. I need to do something else, something that requires very little thinking, before I can do something else with any sort of enthusiasm or conviction.

It hurts to unburden yourself, especially when the pain is deep and it’s real, but the only way you’re going to move forward is if you’re willing to take the plunge and open up. I’ve steered away from that in the past few weeks because I didn’t want to pay the price for it. I feel so useless when it’s over, when I’ve said what I’ve needed to say, but I know that the progress I’ve made, as frustrating or minimal as it sometimes feels, has been because I’ve spoken up and gone for it even when I’ve wanted to keep my mouth shut. To borrow a sports metaphor, you have to stand tall in the pocket and make the throw, even when you know you’re going to take a hit in the process. Thanks for reading.

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