About Living in the Present

It’s hard to find the words to put to the many feelings I have in my heart, the thoughts I have in my mind, and the experiences I have had lately. I have been writing analytical school papers, not so much of the free-flow stream-of-consciousness creative writing that this blog allows me to do. I much prefer being creative, of course, not that creativity is confined to extra-curricular activities outside of school. Actually, I devise creative ways to handle situations just about every day. I am fully engaged with my life in the present and occasionally, the past hits me like a boulder… not like a rock, that would be putting it too lightly.

I have been recording my therapy sessions lately. In fact, over the years off and on, I have been recording my therapy sessions. I used to hide my recorder in my purse, and then this year I started recording through the application on my smartphone, and not hiding it so much as to put it out on the table next to where I am sitting during therapy. But, I’ve never talked with my therapist about it until today. I have often wanted to bring it up, but felt too ashamed to because I knew it was something I should have asked his permission to do first. I had told him a long time ago in emails, and in my daily emails to him I sometimes reference the fact that I have recorded sessions. I stopped recording today and I don’t plan on continuing. I finally talked with him about it. I was finally ready to face my fears.

I apologized for recording sessions without asking his permission. He accepted my apology verbally and it was sincere. He stated explicitly, “I accept your apology.” But I didn’t want to accept that he had accepted my apology. Intrinsically I knew that it was something I shouldn’t have been doing, and so, when I finally faced my fear and fessed up to it during our session today, I felt the need, I guess, to punish myself. Because I saw myself as doing something bad, and therefore, my rationale goes, I am bad. I became increasingly irritated and frustrated and upset and didn’t realize I was until he said, “You are upset.” “Yes!” I said. “I think I am angry with you.” “Do you know why you are angry with me?” “No!”

We discovered together that I was not angry with him but that I was just merely upset. I was punishing myself by not allowing myself to drink the hot tea that I had brewed just before the beginning of our session. I told him and then finally, when I allowed myself to feel a bit better, asked him, “Can I drink my tea now?” “Yes,” he replied. It was really a rhetorical question because who asks someone permission to drink tea?! But he knew that I needed and wanted an answer, and so he was my voice of reason.

Why do I want to record our sessions? I want a sense of permanence. I want proof that the session actually happened. If I don’t record it, it never happened. What if I want to go back to it and listen to it? Though, typically I don’t, and if I do listen to a previously recorded session, I get pulled emotionally back into that moment, and it’s really not good for me, because once the session is over, I have completed that moment, grown from it, experienced it, and it is not helpful to experience it again second-hand, specifically, through a recording of the moment.

My therapist pointed out this is a theme I have been working on for a while now. I have recently run into instances in which I really wanted to tell a stranger, someone I just met, about my traumatic past. And I do, I do tell them. It happened with a couple people just last month. I still feel the need for others to know my story, though it is less and less the case. Do I want validation? Do I want proof that it happened, and if someone else listens to me and validates that it happened by hearing my story, then that means it actually happened?

At this point in the therapy session I was crying because my therapist linked this behavior to the past when I was with my abusive ex-husband and the difference between reality and the other realm of things was so obscure. Also, I dissociated when traumatic things were happening, and though my therapist did not mention this today, I believe that I wasn’t sure if it was real or not. Did these things actually happen to me?

My therapist told me of a story of a young boy about the age of six who used to come see him. His mother was schizophrenic and kept the boy at home most of the time. When he would come in to the therapy office, each time, he would look at and point to the window and say, “that’s a window.” My therapist repeated to the boy, “that’s a window.” Then the boy would point to the door and say, “that’s a door.” And my therapist repeated to him, “that’s a door.” The boy needed validation that the things he was seeing were real, because of the perhaps surreal experiences he had when around his mother, because people with schizophrenia can sometimes hear voices or see things that are only in their mind. The boy could not start the therapy session without going through that ritual, and after confirming what he was seeing was real, he was able to talk about other things.

I cried throughout the whole story. I hadn’t expected the past to be brought up, yet it was so relevant. Maybe that was part of why I was so into photography. Photography is a way of recording, documenting the present moment for the future whence it becomes the past. I finally burst into full-on tears and loud sobbing and said to him, “I don’t want to lose you!” He nodded and said, “Do you remember what I told you a long time ago?” “That you will never leave me?” “Yes, and I think I’ve got a pretty good track record so far. How long have we been seeing each other now?” “Eight years!” I replied. “Yes, and you’re kind of stuck with me.” I smiled.

He reminded me that a part of him will always be a part of me, just as parts of me have become parts of him. I smiled again when he explained this. I said, “But you won’t be here when I am 80!” He raised his eyebrows and I said, “Well, probably not.” He referenced at some point during the session that technology is changing so quickly and in 20 years the way education is taught will be different. I think, maybe, well I also thought he meant that when I am 80 he might still be alive due to technological advances. Probably not. But I can hope.

My therapist also asked me, “Do I look ill to you?” “No,” I replied. “Do I look sickly, is there something wrong with me that you’re not telling me about? Is there something I should know?” I smiled again. He knows how to make me smile and when I smile, I automatically feel a little bit better, and then gradually that feeling of being less sad or anguished spreads until I am just completely feeling okay. I feel okay again now.

“Intellectually I know that you will never leave me,” I said, implying that emotionally, I don’t know that still. He told me about explicit learning which is basically book-knowledge, and implicit learning, which is how we remember how to walk and to write, but we cannot quite put it into words. Something inside shifts. The brain is remembering how to do these things each time we do them, but it’s not on the forefront of the mind. They just seem automatic. It’s like riding a bike, as they say… you just don’t forget. The learning I have been doing over the last eight years has been mostly implicit. In recording the sessions I wanted to be able to go back and listen to the actual words that were said. He told me it’s not about remembering exactly what was said. Rather than knowing the words, he wants me to remember the shift which happened inside of me, in which I do things in a different way and my mindset about certain things change, like not needing to punish myself any more and not thinking of myself as a bad person.

By writing this blog entry, this essay, this reflection on my session with my therapist, I have in a way recorded the session. These words will forever be with me, and in writing about it I reinforce the lessons I have just learned. The more I practice the learning that I experience, the more it becomes a greater part of my implicit memory, where my brain is doing the work of recalling, but it seems “automatic” in a way to me.

I am okay. My therapist will never leave me. I am stuck with him forever. I am not a bad person. I do not need to punish myself. Sometimes I do things which may have not been the best decision at the time, but those are just things. I don’t need to punish myself for them. I can take a deep breath and begin to let them go, just as I am learning to let go of the past and experience more and more of the present, my new life, my new way of being, the better me. The authentic me. The true me. The real me. The me that I was always supposed to be.

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