dear dr. r,

I'll get right to the point. I don't like this. Oh, you're fine, I suppose. I don't really know you, yet -- we've only had three 50 minute sessions to date. I don't really think it's possible to know someone in such a short amount of time. I'm certain you're well qualified and capable. You come highly recommended from someone whose opinion I've grown to value and trust over the years. And I remain confident (although a little less boldly than on our first meeting) that we will develop a relationship that will lead to success in "curing" me of my crazy. So it's not you that I object to. It's the process. It's all the navel gazing, the "so how are you feeling now as we are talking about this", the "is it possible that...", the endless questioning and redefining of my perspectives. Quite frankly, it's exhausting. And it's turning me into someone that I can't stand. All this introspection has inflated my ego to a point beyond narcissism and now all I see is me. All my flaws, all my boogers, all my secret hypocrisies reflected back at me as if the world has suddenly become my own personal looking-glass. It's all about me. It's all personal. It's all so overwhelming.

You've asked me to explore my inner world, to sit still and analyze my reactions to my perceived neuroses. I told you last week that despite my best efforts, my inner world remained firmly out of reach. "If it's there, the citizens aren't handing me the key to the city," I quipped. At the time I felt so clever. Now I simply feel disingenuous. I think I stumbled upon that inner world rather quickly after you asked me to find it. It's bleakness startled me at the time and I was more than happy to dismiss it. But I've come full circle and I find my self pressed up against these somber, uninviting gates. I'm angry that you made me come to this place. I'm scared of what I will find inside. It sounds so desolate, so quiet in there from this side of the wall. I can't decide if that's because all the boogies silently preparing to attack when that door finally opens or if it's because that inner place has been neglected for so long that it's now little more than a ghost town.

While we're being honest, I'm more than a little frustrated that we haven't broken through that stronghold yet, that we are still in the "exchange a few pleasantries, scrape a little at the top of gunk mountain, sniffle, sniffle, well would you look at that, our time is up" stage. But I also realize that it's my fault we're where we are. I honestly come to each session full to the point of almost exploding with good intentions to let my guard down and spill my guts. 35 seconds it takes for me to lock the car door and walk into your office, entering as a deflated into a "what, me crazy?" all smiles and snappy repartee version of the self I was when I turned off the car. I'd ask if that was normal, but that seems a bit silly given the nature of our relationship. You'd probably just smile that little smile as if to ask me "What is normal?" and then ask me how I was feeling. And I'd sit there, staring alternately at my hands and then at the ceiling, trying to come up with a word to accurately describe my feelings.

There is a positive side to all of this, though. You're probably shaking your head right now, getting ready to reprimand me for not being able to just let things stay icky. "You don't have to fix everything," is on the tip of your tongue. Give me a second; hear me out. As much as I don't like the person I'm seeing, I AM seeing her. And I'm trying so hard not to pick her apart. You asked me to approach this scientifically, to collect all the data to analyze later, and not give into the sometimes overwhelming need to dump the information that I just don't like. I'm working so hard to stifle my inner critic and not let her get in the way of this. She's screaming at me constantly, just so you know. She's really gotten hateful lately. She's hateful and insidious. "What have you got to complain about, " she lashes out at me. "Quit whining. So you've encountered a bunch of lemons. Make some lemonade. Life ain't just a bowl of cherries, you know. Leave the therapy for someone who doesn't have all the support you have. It's all about you, isn't it? Just have to go play drama queen and get everyone all concerned." And her venom wraps itself around and around in my head, writhing and constricting so that I can't separate her voice from my own good sense. That's when I start to wonder if what I'm doing is really worth all the time, all the effort. Maybe I should just suck it up, get up off my privileged butt and just muck through it. What in the world to I have to be down about? That my house is too clean? That I live in a safe, clean, privileged community? That my little boy is curious and inquisitive and keeps me on my toes?

And that's the point when the guilt starts creeping in. Guilt that I sit on your couch every other week talking for a solid 50 minutes about me, me, me. Guilt that I look forward, all weekend, to Tuesday mornings when I get in the car and drive to the next town over to drop off my little boy for the day so that I can "get something done". Guilt that the something I so anxiously want to "get done" could easily be accomplished after he's gone to bed each night if I would just buckle down and work on it instead of watching mindless TV or wandering aimlessly on the internet. Guilt for not being mother enough, for not being woman enough to be able to respond to the needs and desires of my family without that oh-so-familiar bubble of resentment simmering in my throat. Guilt, guilt, guilt. Oh, the insidious guilt. Undermining my every attempt to find balance, tuning my ears to hear nothing save the constant abrading of that vicious critic. But I'm doing it. I'm taking time for myself. I'm chipping away, bit by bit at that putrid pile of self-loathing. I'm asking myself "Does this really need to be done? Can it wait until later?" and if I find myself hesitating, I'm taking note. I spent all day yesterday alternating between "have to's" and "want to's". 45 minutes filing and sorting through paperwork in the office followed by 40 minutes away from the house, running, running, running. For the first time in I don't know how long, I was running because I wanted to. Not because he runs; not because I needed to log the miles for this week. Running because the rhythmic pounding of my feet was soothing to my soul and because every step I took put me farther and farther away from the chores that I had yet to check off my list. Knowing that the longer I went out, the longer it would take me to come back. At some point I actually outran the gravitational pull of my inner chaos and for that moment in time I floated along effortlessly in the silence. My legs broke down before my spirit was ready to return. Which was precisely the opening that hateful voice inside was looking for,"Well, if you had been keeping up with your training, you'd be able to keep this up a lot longer. If you'd just make yourself get out of bed before he leaves for work in the morning, you'd be able to get your miles in everyday and then think how long you'd be able to run. You've still got time, sure, but if you don't start being more responsible, more disciplined, you'll never be ready for that half-marathon." Chastened, I tucked my figurative tail in between my legs and headed for home where I showered at record pace and dutifully grabbed the vacuum so that I could check that off the list before I headed out the door to meet a friend for lunch.

Lunch was a glorious 90 minute affair. The perfect balance of nourishment for the body and sustenance for the soul. We nibbled and chatted, shared and sipped. I was so revitalized I rushed right home to finish the dishes, clean the cat box, and remake the beds. But the point is that I didn't put myself at the bottom of the list. I didn't wait for the end of the day. It wasn't "natural" for me, it wasn't comfortable. But I did something for me. That's progress, isn't it? You're smiling again. Because I'm seeking outside approval. Well, I never said I didn't have a long ways to go. "A long, long ways," she interjects. You did say you were going to help me with some coping skills, didn't you? How 'bout we work on my bitch slap next week?

Susan - Tuesday 9:00 am



Lora said...

very brave. and it makes me feel better about ME. which i like.

how about printing this out for the good doctor? you can make a special request that it not be discussed until you want to discuss it.

Lenka said...

I think you should just email dr. r. the blog and then only allow yourself to clean and feel guilty until he answers. And be sure to TELL him that so that he knows it's HIS fault if you dwell on clean and guilty too long. Seriously, email it to him before you go see him. Maybe there won't be so much silence, and he'll have time to highlight the parts to work on!! Should save time counting the ceiling tiles and your belly button needs a rest don't you know?!! Love ya sis, keep on diggin', and try some deep thoughtful, quite prayer. It works wonders for me!! God IS out there somewhere!!

susan said...

One of things first things Dr. R asked me was whether I journaled. To which I replied, "No, but I blog" and tattooed the url on the back of his hand before we had finished introducing ourselves. Okay, maybe not quite that blatantly. Then again maybe it was and I just don't realize it because I've become such a whore for traffic! So I'm fairly sure he's reading this.

Seems like that should work out in my favor and put me on the fast-track to "normal", huh? What I'm learning, though, is that therapy (at least in his practice) is patient driven. So no matter how much prior insight he might have, he is still going to make me do the work. Sucks, but I suppose it's like weight loss -- short term results are almost always too good to be true. It's going to take ME recognizing what needs to be worked on before I'll be able to truly work on my issues with any hope of lasting results.

As for God,Lenka, I've never given up the belief that there is a more powerful presence out there. I just don't think my issues are God / religion driven, right now. I'm not searching for meaning in life, just a little balance. Maybe when we get to the point that I'm looking at the core, I'll see that I'm wrong. Until then... :)

Should a three paragraph comment really be a separate post?

SirvonRohr said...

Well, you could just tell him that you loved Fraiser and thought that ALL Doctors were just trying to kill time till they had to go back to a bar....


susan said...

LOL! Really that's what it's all about, isn't it? One neurotic helping another through their perceived "issues". Maybe I need to find a good bar... probably would be cheaper in the long run!