I don’t want to say that I was guilted into going to therapy, because I know that’s the wrong reason. I don’t want to say that I was doing it to appease other people, or at least to relieve the discomfort of knowing I could be justly criticized. But I have to say it.
I wasn’t trying to be spiteful. I just didn’t want people I cared about to say that I was unhealthy to be around because I refused to work on myself. I didn’t want people to think that I made my own problems and didn’t want to put in the effort to fix them.
It’s not that I didn’t harbor any genuine hope that some sort of therapeutic approach would change me or enlighten me, though. Especially in moments of desperation, of which I’ve had many, I tossed all my faith into professionals to inform me, to guide me. I never liked to ask for help, especially not directly, but I asked and asked again. But they didn’t tell me anything that helped. I wanted it to work. It just didn’t, and I don’t really know how to feel about that.
I know that therapy is good. Some people say that everyone should be in therapy. A fair amount of people I’ve known have said that I should be. And I know it’s helped a lot of people. I’ve heard their personal stories and I believe every word. I know it’s not easy, and it takes time. But how do you keep trying at something that only ever makes you feel uncomfortable, just because you’ve heard stories of success? How long can you really hold onto that without having second thoughts? Like, maybe this just isn’t right for me. Maybe something that works for another person won’t work for me.
I don’t want to accept that, because I don’t want to fail. I don’t think anyone will believe me when I say it didn’t work, because they believe so strongly that therapy is so effective. I fear that they’ll reject me and dislike me if I don’t also ascribe to that. I’m worried they’ll say it’s because I wasn’t actually trying, and that’s why it failed. Or that I wasn’t dedicated enough. Or that at the end, it’s still absolutely my fault that I haven’t fixed all my problems yet. It’s all on me, my poor intentions, and my laziness.
I just always had such a hard time with it. With every session or conversation, I grew more confused and frustrated. I tried to set goals but I didn’t know what my goals even were. What I feel I need to alter, what I’m struggling with, what’s most important to me, is constantly changing. But I picked goals anyway. I didn’t want to be uncooperative. Then, I never knew how to answer the questions. They’d ask me what I felt, or why I believed something. It can be irritating for me to have to repeatedly explain things that I’m insecure about or ashamed of, or things I know are irrational or unhealthy, but I gave myself a moment and let go of my defensiveness and honestly thought about the answers. I thought about a lot of things that might be true, why things might be a certain way. And I still couldn’t figure out what to say. I’d answer the question anyway, hoping it meant progress. They were just a guess, but those guesses propelled the discussion. The conversation would go a certain way without me knowing how it got there. I knew I should focus and care but I struggled to because my answers were always well-intentioned nonsense and that made everything afterwards feel irrelevant. I’d end up not knowing why we were talking about a subject in the first place. So I’d bring up something else that truly was concerning me, and not simply derailing or avoiding the topic at hand, but those ended up feeling like a minor points I just pulled out of nowhere too. And then it would start over.
Something else I’ve noticed is that therapists often respond by telling me things I already know. They often say very neutral and generic things, almost as if they’re holding back to a degree that makes them appear blank or even apathetic. I’m told why I’m incorrect in comedically simplistic ways, and it makes me angry but I look past that and try to see whether they’re telling me something that’s actually particularly meaningful and complex. They’re not, maybe because we’re perfect strangers, and they aren’t capable of dissecting my character with any unusual clarity. But I listen and search for a some sort of benefit in their words, however minor. I can’t find any. It’s not because what they’re saying is wrong, or that I think they’re stupid or lack knowledge. It’s just that even if they tell me that being a certain way would help me, I can’t become that way unless I know how to change, and no one ever tells me how exactly.
It seems that therapists aren’t supposed to tell you what to do. They’re supposed to guide you in realizing what you’re supposed to do on your own. And you can’t guide someone based off of answers that aren’t truthful, and a version of reality that’s distorted as mine is when I speak.
When I talk about things when I’m uncomfortable, I blank out. It’s not intentional. I just have a hard time remembering and focusing on things that are overly painful. And even speaking about less stressful subjects, I definitely fear judgement from the therapist. I know they’re not there to judge, but I can’t shake the feeling that they’re an authority figure, able and willing to make me suffer on their own digression. It’s happened before and the experiences stay with me. I fear repercussions, real or imagined. I want to trust them but I can’t really bring myself to. I don’t think they’re trying to understand me. I don’t think they care. I don’t feel like they’re in my side. It makes me feel unsafe, just speaking to them, let alone telling them my secrets. But I tell them anyway. I still feel threatened, so something in my brain makes me try and please them like I try to please everyone else, predict what they want me to say and say it, so that they won’t hurt me again. I can’t predict it because they’re trained not to react and it unnerves me. It terrifies me. I know that’s not how it’s meant to be, so I fight the feelings and urges. I lose.
I really want to do all the right things. I want to be “good”. I just can’t demonstrate the pinnacle of healthy practices right now and everyone will just have to deal with it.