Everyone reminds me that therapy is the place where any thought or feeling is welcome – but what about silence? We all sit quite happily in silence when we’re alone, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be someone who finds it excruciatingly awkward to sit in silence with other people.
After the car crash of a session I had on Tuesday I anticipated today’s session with J being difficult. I took the plunge yesterday and forwarded her my blog post explaining how I felt during and after that session. I was anxious about doing that, but I knew it would be easier than trying to talk to her about it in person.
That meant I was nervous about today. As I walked to J’s house, I decided I should try sitting somewhere different when I arrived. I thought I’d scrunch up on a beanbag on the floor like I used to a while ago. I wasn’t convinced that sitting near her would feel right.
Funnily enough, J anticipated this and sat somewhere different herself. So I could sit in my usual place, with my usual blanket, but without her beside me. It felt odd, but OK. It meant I had to work harder to avoid eye contact with her, but that wasn’t so bad.
So inevitably we discussed my self-sabotage after the last session and why I thought it had happened. I couldn’t really explain. We came to the joint conclusion that it was most likely because I’d been under a lot of stress at work and then experienced the collective shock and grief at the loss of a colleague and friend. It was a lot to hold. And I didn’t let any of it out, with J or anyone else. I still haven’t.
We talked about silence and why I get so anxious about it. I thought I’d got better at being comfortable sitting quietly with people, particularly after being in group therapy when I was in hospital. I can go to a coffee shop alone now and quite happily sit silently, observing the people around me. But that’s not the same as being in a small space, with only one other person and putting pressure on myself to find something to fill the silence.
It was interesting that J said she loves silence. She said it gives her a chance to think about what’s happening inside; what she’s feeling or thinking, or how her body feels. She suggested I try focusing on myself in the silence, rather than what I think she is waiting for from me. It was interesting to see it like that, it helped me feel a little less anxious. Next time I see her I’ll try and put it into practice.
Halfway through our session, a horrible intrusive image imposed itself on me. It’s one that follows me around, it is the single most pervasive snapshot of the sexual abuse I suffered when I was small. It creeps into my life every single day; sometimes all of a sudden, sometimes if I talk to my family, often it emerges when my wife and I get intimate. It’s horrible. It brings up revulsion, shame and rage in me. It makes me feel sick.
This image has appeared in my mind’s eye often in my sessions with J. But I have never told her about it before. Today I took a risk, and told her I was experiencing a powerful intrusive image. She could tell something was going on, because I got very tense. She asked whether I felt I could tell her about it. For a while, I started to dissociate. I could see everything becoming blurry, I was shaking and sweating. I wanted to tell her. I wanted to finally tell someone about this awful vision that has haunted me for around a year now.
Eventually I managed to say the words. It was frightening, but it was also a relief. I was so ashamed to talk about it. I felt so mortified I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide. But J was gentle, and kind and assured me she wasn’t disgusted. I managed to look at her face for a short moment and I could see the authenticity in those words.
It felt like a really important session today. I’m reflecting on everything we talked about, and in particular, on the possibility of trying some EMDR. It’s been suggested before, and I was always scared of the concept. But J asked whether we could consider it together. So I’ll do some research and think about it while she’s on holiday.
I feel a bit stronger now. Normally when J’s going away I start to panic that I can’t cope without her. It’s only a week this time, and I think I’m going to be OK. I’ve planned to do some gardening and DIY, and maybe get a massage. I want to get grounded, to firm up the adult, capable part of myself, so I don’t feel so dependent on her. And even though there is so much heavy sadness in the office at the moment, I will throw myself into my work and be there for my friends who are grieving. Because I can do adulting. I can.