I first visited the psychologist about two months ago. I was riddled with anxiety and overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts I couldn’t shake. I was sleep deprived (new babies will do that) and hating my PhD program.
It took three sessions before I understood what on earth I was doing, three sessions before it occurred to me that there may not be an easy way out, that there is no light switch.
All that exists are people and experiences and memories and choices.
* * *
I didn’t know that anxiety was a mask, itself a symptom. I didn’t know that underneath it all I was just an insecure kid who wanted a hug and the invitation to explore and share.
* * *
During my first session, I told my counselor that I was having disturbing intrusive thoughts (these have gone on my whole life, but have been significantly worse for the last 14 months or so) and was very anxious about them. I asked her to make them go away.
And she asked me about my childhood. About my relationships. About my job. About my faith.
During the second session I told her that it wasn’t working and that I needed her to tell me specifically what to do to eliminate my anxiety; to shut it down.
She kept asking me about my childhood. My relationships. My job. My faith.
* * *
It’s not like I don’t like to talk. I do. But I have friends and family and a spouse. I have a blog and a journal.
And so, during the third session, I told my counselor that I would not be talking anymore about my past. All I wanted was help slaying my anxiety. Give me a set of strategies, I said, or a mental exercise that will exorcise this anxiety from my mind. You are the expert.
She told me that if I wanted temporary relief from the symptoms of anxiety then I was welcome to do some deep breathing. But under no circumstances would thinking positive thoughts or deep breathing heal me. If I wanted the help she had to offer, then this would take some time and we were going to have to go deep.
* * *
It’s been five weeks since that session and things are becoming clearer. Not everything. Some things remain shrouded in darkness, layered in dust.
Some things have been drawn into the light, kicking and screaming.
But I want to be healed.