Even in therapy, I hate being asked how I am. In almost no situation will I respond honestly to that question.
The at work how are yous are the easiest. Nobody expects anything too real or too detailed, they are merely filling conversational space. So I say I’m fine or a bit tired or busy or whatever else they want to hear so they can get on with their day.
Friends are tricky. My good friends know I’m mostly not OK. They know I made a serious attempt to kill myself about 8 weeks ago. Their enquiries are genuine, but I still try to avoid answering them. They love me and want me to be well, to be stronger. If I give them the honest response, I imagine they will be upset, disappointed, worried or possibly all three.
It’s similar with family. I can’t tell them how I really feel, without them panicking and feeling like they have to be responsible for me being safe. It must be the rebel in me, but one of the things that makes me feel least safe is being supervised all the time. I feel exasperated and angry, and this almost always makes me want to self-harm.
Of course, my therapist always asks how I am. Usually ‘alright’ is an automatic response. Often coupled with a shrug that says I am lying. I wouldn’t be there if everything was alright. And it’s her job to know how I am, so she’s not satisfied until I’ve said more.
With her, I really want to provide an answer. That’s the point of me being there. But it’s like I get stage fright. The pressure of this short-lived opportunity in my week to be real, to genuinely say what’s going on for me can make it impossible to even begin finding the words.
That’s what happened again today. I just shrank into myself and couldn’t find a way out. It’s incredibly frustrating, because I know I’m not going to make any progress if I don’t talk. But suddenly it feels unsafe to go there. Perhaps it is because I’ve had a mostly stable few weeks, so I’m terrified of going into anything that could wobble me. Maybe it is a consequence of my therapist’s recent holiday, maybe there has been a rupture. Because I feel more distant from her that I have in the past, less connected.
My therapist asked me what’s behind my withholding. This isn’t what I normally do in my sessions. But lately I arrive at her office and I just want to hide. I feel like I’m frozen and I can hardly see her. At the same time, I want to make the session easier for her, because I like her. I don’t want to be difficult. I know this isn’t how it’s meant to be, but I really don’t want her to be disappointed by me. And I feel she would be let down if she knew I’ve been self-harming again and thinking about suicide.
It’s like if I don’t admit that the reckless voice is still there, I can keep fooling everyone that I’m getting better. Because outwardly I am. I’m going to work, seeing friends, not ending up in hospital, that’s all progress.
But I can’t shake her, that self-combusting me. She’s still in there, urging me to harm myself, to get drunk, to stop taking my meds or going to therapy. She’s there, as strong as ever. Telling me to close my eyes when I’m driving and hoping I will crash.
Image from Creative Commons, courtesy of Richard P J Lambert