Posts Tagged ‘Therpy’

Getting Back in the Boat

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

I have been to two counseling sessions now. I wrote about the first session recently. My second session was last Wednesday, and we quickly got down to brass tacks. (I am a word nerd. I had to look up the origin of that phrase.) We dived right into my homework assignment, going over the whole thing a bit, but most importantly, focusing on those issues that were causing me the most problems currently. I identified Pain, Guilt, Anxiety/Worry, and a general inability to get out of my head, and into the present.

That last one is important. It very much informs the others, especially the anxiety/worry. I have experienced it before: So worried about what I should have done, or what is lost, or what I don’t have, or what might or might not happen in the future, that I cannot let go of my thoughts and simply experience the present. Over the years, though, I have learned how to manage these thoughts, bringing my brain back to the now, pushing the thoughts of what was, or what might be, out of my head. I know that it is true that the moment, the now, the present, is where the happiest people live.

I’ve lost touch with the present, as if I were afloat in a dark sea, the present a boat I held onto by a lifeline. The line slipped out of my grasp, and it’s just out of reach. I know it is right there. I can see it, but I can’t quite reach it. I have forgotten how to swim for it.

My counselor and I agreed that I need to work on that first: I need to work on getting back to the boat. We discussed the reasons I lost the boat in the first place, why it hurts, the things that worry me, the sources of my anxiety, and the guilt that all of this is causing me to feel so completely disconnected from everything and everyone that I love.

All of that is well and good, but how does one take that first stroke? What are the practical ways for me to get back into the present? I thought I would share some of the tools we went over, because it helps cement them for me to write them down (even though I know many of them, but I have just lost sight of them), and because it might help someone else.

  • I need to get more exercise. This is a no-brainer for me. Exercise has kept me off antidepressants for years.
  • Generally be more healthy. Eat better. Take my vitamins (especially B vitamins). Drink less.
  • Pet therapy. Spend more time with animals.
  • Make a concerted effort to go out more with friends, and to lean on them for support.
  • Allow myself to be sad, and to give in to it, but feel it and then move on. Don’t wallow in it. Don’t let it consume me.
  • Listen to happy music, watch happy tv shows and movies

There are a few others, but these stuck out to me.

Exercising: The exercise is something practical I can do and I know it works. So, I walked on Thursday. I ran on Friday. I played soccer yesterday. (No subs, so I played the whole game. Trying to keep up with 20-somethings on a soccer field will keep you in the present pretty well, as will struggling to breathe.)

Eating Healthier:  For me, this means eating. When I get sad or anxious or depressed I lose my appetite. So, I have been eating a few bites of things, and then feeling full and sick. I’m just going to concentrate on making healthy choices, and eating what I can, and on taking my vitamins. We just won’t talk about the box of TGI Fridays frozen baked potato skins that found their way into my shopping cart at Kroger yesterday.  And drink less? Well, I’m a work in progress.

Pet Therapy. Easy peasy. I got that one.

Hanging Out with Friends: I have been doing this okay, knowing that I won’t feel better if I don’t ever get off the couch. For the last few months, events, gatherings, and dates with friends that I would normally be excited about have become things that i dread. Part of it is the sheer weight of depression. Know one can really understand how heavy a weight depression is until they experience it for themselves. It actually feels like having a ton of bricks weighing you down. It makes you cloudy and fuzzyheaded. It dulls everything around you, and you feel little but pain or nothingness on the inside. Getting off the couch, getting out out of bed, getting in the shower, getting dressed. All of them are a struggle and feel like a monumental task. And all of this means that I have had to force myself to get up, get dressed, go out, and make conversation. Conversation is hard when you are preoccupied with pain and depression. Things that would normally be fun and interesting to discuss suddenly seem trivial and absurd.

However, I have made the effort even before the counselor told me to work on it, and there have been moments where I was in the now, and I was engaged, and I forgot I was sad and depressed for the moment. I know that this will work if I keep working at it. As for the support, I have some of the most supportive family and friends in the world, and they have been pretty great. I am also trying to remember what it is like to be on their side of the coin – it is heartbreaking to watch someone struggle, and be helpless to do anything about it. So, if you have been my shoulder to cry on, or my ear to bend, I thank you.

Allowing Sadness, But Not Wallowing in It:  Well, I am pretty much the Master of Sadness right now. What I am not a master of is the “not wallowing” and the “not letting it consume me.” I have totally been consumed by sadness for a few months now. And it has to stop. I’m working really hard on this one.

Listening/Watching Happy Stuff:  Honestly, I don’t even watch that much TV in the first place.  The depression has caused me to be unable to focus on TV and books at all. But oh, the music. That one I am going to struggle with a lot. It could be its own post all on its own. Music. I listen to music about 8-10 hours a day while I work and commute. Sometimes, I will listen to a podcast or audiobook, but mostly I listen to music. And I like dark music. Heavy music. Sad music. Music with sarcastic, sardonic, dark, or sad lyrics. Melancholy music. Music in the minor keys. Music that sounds like wading through sludge. Todd jokes around with me about some of the heavier stuff I listen to, calling it “Plod rock.” (It is “plodding.” It “plods.” Whatever. I like it that way.)

So, I visibly cringed when he gave me this assignment. I do have some happy music that makes me happy, but the weird thing is that usually even the sad and pretty stuff makes me happy. The loud and angry make me happy.  But I am trying to do what he says. I went to him to help me, and I need to at least give this one a shot. So, I am also hoping to hear some suggestions of “happy” music to listen to. This is complicated, of course, because I am not a fan of popular music. I cannot name a PitBull song. I do not like Maroon 5 or Justin Timberlake. I don’t listen to the radio much. Maybe the oldies station. I am going to bristle at some of these suggestions. (I will just suppress that reaction. Must. not. mock.) My go-to Happy music tends to be things like Beastie Boys or maybe some happy Beatles songs. Maybe some uplifting U2 songs that I listen to when I run would work. Maybe some happier Stevie Wonder or Jackson 5. I am sure that there are other ones that I am just not thinking of, and I need to work on pulling some of those together, but I also like to listen to new music, so anything happy and new would be good.

I’m not sure why or when this turned into my personal therpy journal, but I guess it is when I turned inward myself. If you read this far, you deserve some kind of certificate or medal, i think, but I’d be interested in hearing your happiness suggestions.

How do you get yourself back in the boat?


Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

I have been pretty open about the fact that I’m struggling lately, so I think I will mention every once in a while how therapy is going. I figure that talking about it might help someone, especially if they have never been to therapy before.

One of the things that happens when you go to counseling/therapy (or “therpy” as Pop used to call it) is that you and the counselor discuss your background and go over your issues at a very high level. (There is also a lot of discussion of privacy and patient confidentiality and insurance.) After all that, at the end, they give you homework.

The homework that they give you at that first visit is pretty. damn. daunting. I’ve been picking up those homework pages all week, and then setting them back down with a sigh.

– “What do you want?”
– “How do you envision your life when you reach your goals?”
– “How will you know when you get there?”

(I mean, really? Does anyone really know how to measure that, even if they are happy all the time? Aren’t we all just works in progress, always working towards there, but never getting there?) There were a number of other very specific questions (and by specific, I mean worded in such a way that you cannot prevaricate when answering.)

“What do I most want?”
“What is it that is causing my problems?” (be those anxiety, depression, anger, resentment, etc.?)
“What exactly is causing me pain?”

Please, Dear Reader, imagine for a moment asking yourself that last question. Now imagine yourself dredging the depths of your brain and your heart for the answer to that question. There are answers to it that are easy to say, but those snap answers, the ones you would say if a friend asked you this question, are very likely prevarication.

Dig deeper. Answer the question as if only you will ever hear the answer.


So, that’s where I am. All in all, I’ve felt pretty crazy and not at all myself of late. It’s good, though, to know that there is some “me” left inside: Procrastinators unite! Yeah, I totally put off doing my homework until the night before it was due. Total Roswell-High-School-Ms.-Swearingen’s-Great Expectations-project flashback. The funny thing is that, in 9th grade, I thought that was insurmountable.

Maybe in another 30 years I will look back on tonight’s homework and laugh at the fact that I ever found any of this difficult.