I’m not the sort of person to blog about what goes on in therapy, usually. I mean, why would I tell you about that when there are so many more interesting things to talk about, like mammograms and surly children and such? The point is that I generally consider that to be a situation above reproach and somewhat sacred/private.
[Well, usually. There was that one marriage counselor my ex and I saw who sat in an oversize rocking chair, sipping I’m not sure what (tea? bourbon?) from a mason jar and telling us—in the midst of what anyone could see was a badly broken marriage—that if we just went out on a date together everything would be fine. Clearly her advice was spot on, because we lived happily ever after. Um, well, I did, six years later, anyway….]
And then, of course, we have the case of the sweet young thing in the teaching program whom I’ve now see twice. Last time, I told you that I wanted to make her a sandwich and tell her to do her homework. This time, it was much worse.
She had warned me that as a teaching facility, sometimes sessions are observed. Now, my kids have been going there for months and supposedly have never once been observed, but maybe that’s because their therapist is superspecial? (He might be. He claims to be about my age but looks about 20.) (University Counseling Center: Where All The Therapists
Are Look Underage!) Anyway, the session rooms have two-way glass and I knew about the observation thing and I said that was fine, because this is how people learn and OBVIOUSLY I have no shame, so who cares if another few people get to watch me cry?
Oh. Yeah, by the way… in case you haven’t figured it out from reading me here, I am a Wee Delicate Flower. And I cry at the drop of a hat. I cry about everything. I consider it a major character weakness, actually, because I AM SUCH A GIRL when I’m upset. Even if I manage to continue thinking coherently and behaving (otherwise) appropriately, the second I’m upset? Bam! Tears.
[Side note: I always thought that was something I’d outgrow. Because I’m a moron. I never did outgrow it, and do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to find yourself weeping during a project meeting with a roomful of (male) engineers? SO EMBARRASSING. So the whole working from home thing may have been written on the wall much earlier than I’d even realized. I hardly ever cry about work in front of important people anymore! Hooray!]
Now, the flip side of being an easy crier is that I KNOW not everything is the end of the world. I know I cry easily; I know that I sometimes (often) cry over small and/or stupid things. It’s not a big deal, I guess.
But I walk into this session yesterday after Chickadee and I had had a HUGE power struggle over something so completely ridiculous that I am not even going to repeat it (again, because I had to tell Young Mild Therapist about it), and I’m told the session is being observed by her supervisor and another student behind the glass, and I say that’s fine, and she says the air conditioning seems not to be working in that room, and I say fine, and then she asks me how things are going and I recount the story of what just happened…
… and the next thing I know, I’m sobbing and also I’m COMPLETELY STUCK TO THE LEATHER COUCH because the room temperature appears to be about 90.
Young Mild Therapist does her best to say the right things, but I am distracted by the fact that she tends to focus on a spot on the wall behind me, just sort of above and to the left of me. I wonder if this is a technique she’s been taught as an alternative to looking someone in the eyes. She’ll glance at me, directly, but then her eyes veer off to that spot on the wall, which is a little strange. I have a hard time not turning around to see if I can find what she’s so intent on staring at.
While her eyes travel around she says things like “That sounds really frustrating,” and “I can understand why you find that upsetting,” and IF ONLY I WASN’T CRYING I think that it would be fun to mess with her and tell her something outrageous just to see her understated reaction. But no, I am being a Good Girl and actually talking about things that are bothering me, because as it turns out, QUITE A LOT OF THINGS ARE BOTHERING ME.
So we go for about 15 or 20 minutes, and then she announces that we’ll take a mid-session break so she can go confer with the observers, and that she’ll come back and tell me what they said. Ooooooookay. Off she goes, and I pull out my phone to check my email.
While I’m browsing through my messages, I can hear the muted “wah wah wah wah, wahwah wah!” coming from the next room as the group discusses the hysterical woman in here. Oh, wait. That’s me. Sigh.
Eventually Young Mild Therapist returns, and her gaze immediately returns to that spot on the wall. “Well, Mir, my supervisor wanted me to tell you that he has an eight-year-old daughter and he can really identify with some of what you’re talking about.”
I blink. Several times. That’s the international language for “That’s… nice?”
“Also, everyone in the room felt it was really clear that you obviously love your children a lot.” I blink some more. I start thinking about all of the other things I could’ve spent today’s session fee on. I could’ve bought groceries for a week. With the right sale, I could’ve gotten THREE fabulous new pairs of shoes. Otto and I could’ve gone out to dinner and a movie. I could’ve bought one of those giant tubs of chlorine tablets for the pool. I could’ve bought myself a LARGE KNIFE AND STABBED MYSELF WITH IT rather than be subjected to “I Am Trying To Gain Your Trust 101,” here.
“And we really think you’re going through a lot, right now, and you’re handling it REALLY WELL. Really.” Here her eyes flicked back to mine, briefly, as I chuckled.
Then there was an expectant silence.
“Oh,” I said, finally. “Um. Thank you?”
We talked another fifteen minutes and then as I was writing her a check (and resisting the urge to write in the Memo field “50 minutes of bland affirmations”), the folks behind the glass beeped the room phone and talked to her for a minute. She hung up the phone and came back to tell me AGAIN how obvious it is that I love my kids and what a GREAT JOB I’m doing as their mom.
I waved at the mirror. It’s hard to convey “Wow, this has been a really patronizing and surreal experience” with a single wave, but I think I may have managed it.
And do you know why? Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, the people behind the glass really like me.