Clearer (Pt. 2)

Part 2: The Partening, Electric Part-a-loo

Getting a job offer from Amazon was at once relieving and incredibly stressful. For one, the offer was apparently not for Seattle. What’s the deal with that?! So we had to move again. Arranging the moving process was actually quite a nightmare, but once it was all arranged, things went pretty smoothly. Before we knew we were living in New York City.

For while, things were good. I started a new job, which came with a lot of expected new feelings. We found an apartment, which was frustrating, but for the normal reasons. As things started to settle down I found myself more and more at odds with this new life. What do I mean by that? Well, sometimes I wake up and something feels “off.” Like, I had a dream and there was some imagined problem between Miranda and I, usually with me at fault. When I woke up I sometimes had trouble remembering if it was a dream or if I had actually done the terrible and blocked it from my memory, only to have it come out in the dream. These dreams were legitimately quite unsettling. Getting through a morning is much more difficult feeling like this – often it meant I needed extra care from Miranda before I was able to get myself down the street to the subway.

Through lots of work, I can recognize now that symptoms like this are pretty typical of “generalized anxiety disorder.” Since I generally had a lot of trust that the machinations of my head were trustworthy, I never knew what to look for should that not be the case. These signs, expedited a doctor’s appointment and a few more mental breakdowns that put the life I was building with Miranda in jeopardy, led me to therapy.

Unfortunately, I can’t give any advice on how to find a good therapist. I was recommended to a clinic by an internal medicine doctor, given a screening appointment, and assigned to someone at the clinic. This almost-random coincidence became one of the great turning points of my life.

If you’ve never done talk therapy, I’m happy to tell you that your preconceived notions about it are pretty much correct. In my experience, there is a couch, and once or twice, I did the session lying down on it. There were many discussions about my family and upbringing. Lots of psyche-searching of a deeply personal nature. My therapist and I were able to directly relate to one another, both being from small rural cities and moved to New York at approximately the same time in our lives, and I believe this personal connection made a world of difference.

The only advice I do have seems pretty obvious: in my limited experience, laying it all on the table is the best way to do therapy. Each week if there was something bothering me I’d make a mental note to talk about it. Even if, especially if, it was very, very uncomfortable for me to talk about. In that week’s session, I was often able to get some resolution for whatever issue I was having. Even if it didn’t make me feel better, I could at least be assured that I would have more time to talk about it, and another chance at resolving it, the next week.

My therapist was also great in that he let me text or email him if I was really struggling that week, and let me tell you, that definitely happened a few times. After one particularly difficult session in March 2018, I was turning over the “revelation” I had just had in a session. The closer I got to home, the more self-doubt crept in and the worse I felt. It was exhausting – I felt like I was keeping some big terrible secret that would ruin my relationship with Miranda. I got so worked up that it continued to affect me into the next day, and I texted my therapist for advice. He was able to send back a very nice, and very reassuring, message on his own commute into the city. The fact that I had this wonderful outlet for all my darkest thoughts was entirely life-changing.

Things progressed like this for a long time. I became much more successful at work and for a long time things were steadily getting better. I can proudly report that I haven’t secretly cried at work in like, a year!

By now I hope it’s obvious that I consider my therapy experience to be good, but I started to wonder… why is this the path I take? Why am I even doing this? Therapy of this sort (or, any sort really) was not something that I had ever considered before, and I thought of it as “just” a way to treat some specific illness. Clearly not everyone needs this kind of treatment, so what’s wrong with me?

Nothing. Nothing is wrong with me. But my hypothesis for why this was beneficial for me is that I know that I have a lot of trouble opening up to people. In my therapist I now had someone I was able to talk to regularly about anything and everything on my mind, without any judgement or repercussions. This came at a critical time in my life. and it has helped me be more open with people since I am more familiar with my own boundaries.

Part 3 next week.

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