The room where we sit is small, they’re always small rooms, filled with too many chairs and a battery powered clock that tick tocks alarmingly loud, like a warning, obligatory box of tissues on the windowsill that the dusty slatted blinds clatter against with every movement of warm air or slam of door somewhere unseen.
The sign on the door is pushed across to ENGAGED and the dance of chairs commences because I don’t like to sit penned into the corner and worry that my choice of chair could be analysed and then I worry that I’m worrying about that and want to run away…
The door clunks shut on the maze of beige corridors and at the same time every week for one hour we sit and talk a bit and she writes a bit and the air is stale and still and smells of cheap coffee and carries voices and footsteps and laughter through the building.
Outside the window an expanse of grey car park stretches to the bins and the fire assembly point and people come and go and I wring my sweaty palms and self consciously touch my scars and my mouth is dry and my breathing is shallow.
Sometimes we get the room that is next door to the toilets. My favourite room because there’s nothing like the sound of an unknown person having a wee before washing and drying their hands to shine a glimmer of childish humour into my conscious as I recount some awful moment or feeling.
Moments like that fill the room with the thick social dilemma of two people sitting across a room from one another desperately pretending that they can’t hear, that they haven’t noticed, that behind a thin wall someone has their knickers around their ankles.
Almost half way into my standard eight week course of CBT and the recurring subject is how, soon, it will all come to an end.
My therapist insists that it’s highly likely that I am not good with endings or closure while I clumsily try to explain that I’m just scared and this is something that has taken over two years from me and while I don’t expect a cure or to walk away better it just all feels a bit quick, a bit impersonal and standard procedure and minimum requirements. Because an illness can’t be successfully treated in the same way or in the same timescale for different people, surely?
Every week we go over it again and every week I feel more pathetic as I try to justify myself and my thoughts and that I’m really not trying to make excuses but really I just want someone to see me through this, further than eight hours over the space of eight weeks because what happens when I have no psychological input anymore, I can’t go through the fight for it again, and what happens when I am ready to come off my medication and I’m suffering and I need someone more knowledgeable than a GP who hands me a new prescription as soon as looks at me because clearly I need drugs?
What happens to me then?
Therapy is proving interesting however, despite all the beige and the car park vista and the echo as toilets flush and the throwback 1970s furniture.
To allow myself to pick apart thoughts in a safe and distant place with someone who can lead me to the reality is good. To realise, through seeing my immediate reactions to mundane situations scrawled across a fresh sheet of A4 in someone else’s handwriting, just how messed up they are is liberating and in essence that is what will lead to change and acceptance and the eventual quietening of the noise.
It’s just part of my journey and I’m told that every week and it will end and while I try to repress my feelings about that every time I’m reminded other feelings claw their way to the surface, long forgotten shadows of memories of pain.
Therapy basically makes you analyse everything. EVERY. THING. Nothing escapes your inner narrator and it’s analytic tooth comb as it picks it’s way through words and thoughts and ideas and anything. An unexpected bonus for me is just how much seems to be coming back. I wasn’t counting on situations or memories from the past, from pre-pregnancy and pre-marriage me, a long ago character who I don’t even feel like anymore, to ambush me and leave me reeling in quite the way that they have.
Of course I analyse this too.
Something I find really hard to distinguish is whether something is real or simply a product of illness. Anxiety alone is powerful enough to fuck with my brain to the point where I feel actual physical pain; real because I feel it as it courses through my shaking body but very not real because it is a product of chemicals and mind rather than injury or disease.
So all these freshly unearthed things float around in my head and I find myself wondering if I’m just being ill or if I have a genuine reason for feeling how they make me feel.
Can you see how messed up that is?
I believe that emotions don’t come with right and wrong labels; an emotion is an emotion and whether good or bad it’s justified and needs dealing with in the appropriate way. So on that basis, even my imagined feelings from illness are real.
If I’m upset with someones actions because I feel that they treated me wrongly or pushed me into things am I justified in that upset or is it something that just wouldn’t register on my radar if I wasn’t ill? Does upset ever demand justification?
Do I assign it elephant in the room status, allow it to be the bump under the carpet for all of eternity or do I try to process it?
It’s all so much easier when we’re just sitting in silence, listening to some mysterious stranger on the toilet.