Therapy Thursdays

Thursday. Never really had much of an opinion on the day before last month. It always marked one more day until Friday, and technically that was the start of the weekend. Not bad, right? Now Thursdays signify something else entirely: Therapy.

I dread this day every week, rolling around like clockwork. The day starts as it normally does, the only variation being whether I have slept or indeed if I have, just how much. My therapist tends to walk in to a Russian roulette of my mood controlled by that factor. If I’ve slept, fair to middling effort on my part and minimal eye rolling with a side of sarcasm – best served salty. If I haven’t slept? Well, let’s just say the session tends to go a little differently.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, I am actually quite the opposite despite how I might portray myself. I am very fortunate to qualify for specialist therapy to help deal with trauma, and am very aware that many aren’t so lucky. I really do have to stress though, these 90 minutes every Thursday morning are a killer. It isn’t supposed to be fun and it certainly isn’t easy. I’ve always thought that anything worthwhile never really should come easily, and this is so incredibly worthwhile to my mental health and quality of life now and going forward.

The focus of the sessions initially were to help me process and deal with trauma resulting from sexual and physical violence. There was a lot of talking, crying, anger, frustration, silence, resistance, hysteria, more silence, and more profanities than even I thought I was ever capable of. During this process I have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and most recently Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which I am struggling with beyond belief. I will go into detail about both of these in other posts, but briefly my OCD is categorised as “Mental Contamination” meaning my triggers (such as being touched) make me feel unclean and I go to excessive measures to try to resolve this. It’s called Mental Contamination because, well, it is mental.

I’ve been working really hard with my Therapist for my OCD, and we’ve been doing two types of therapy. One is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and the other is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). They look at essentially retraining my brain, breaking down my thoughts, feelings and actions and encouraging me to expose myself to things that trigger a compulsive response in order  to deal with them without compulsive behaviour. It might sound simple on the surface, you could read that and say – Well, if you know what you’re doing is wrong, and your reaction is actually doing more harm than good, why don’t you just stop you lunatic? I really, really, really wish it was as easy as that. I can’t explain just how desperate compulsive behaviour feels, and I’ve been told that it’s a pretty strange thing to witness. Oh, I can see your hand just accidentally grazed mine? Excuse me while I go and scratch maniacally at myself like some creepy, squirrel lady – brb.

It’s hard work, and it’s quite draining. I try very hard in my own time too, continuing the methods I’ve been given to cut down the responses. Sometimes I feel guilty and defeated when I don’t do as well as I think I should which can send me into a bit of a spiral, but I’m trying not to be so hard on myself. This isn’t an overnight thing.

Now, most recently and the most difficult to deal with out of my conditions is PTSD. I haven’t found CBT particularly helpful for this and I cannot seem to take control over it, and it’s taking over my entire life. I had my first session of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) today, after suggestion from my Therapist last week. I have to admit, I’m pretty sceptical about it. It’s basically a session of me recalling the traumatic event, with the Therapist questioning me, while I follow her finger back and forward with my eyes. It’s as ridiculous looking as it sounds. It’s not the traditional method of dealing with PTSD apparently, but it can be used when other methods haven’t been helping. As today was my first session, I don’t want to dismiss it straight away and truthfully with how I feel, I’ll try anything.

My Therapist is a nice woman. She’s kind and empathetic, without being condescending but she pushes me when I need it – even though I don’t particularly appreciate it at the time. I really dislike my sessions, and she is nothing to do with that. It’s a distressing, frustrating and often emotionally painful process and I feel exhausted afterwards – just like I do now. My brain feels like old spaghetti, all tangled up and slimy. I really am trying my hardest, and it’s so important for people in my life to know and understand that if nothing else. I might not enjoy doing this every week, but if I do nothing I’ll be sitting around like a real life Miss Haversham forevermore and that’s just not what I want.

I’ve been reading The Journals of Sylvia Plath. I’ve always loved her, but am finding some comfort in her writing at the moment. She seems to resonate quite strongly with me, and as I feel like I am losing my connections of everything else in life, she holds a special place in my heart for now. I read the following quote from The Journals recently, and it just seems to sum up my feelings entirely:

“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”

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