It was just about two years ago that I, yet again, decided to try therapy. My past experiences with therapists have been awful. So as the date of my appointment drew near, it took an incredible hope to refrain from canceling it.
God, I’m so glad I didn’t. M has been my champion, my coach, my adversary and challenger. She has been one of life’s greatest gifts to me. It’s hard for me to remember what kind of person I was two years ago. Have I really made progress? Sometimes it feels like my troubles are different, although still weight with same strength. And maybe that’s true. But I do feel that I am more confident, more capable of accepting the love that surrounds me. I am more aware of myself and more trusting of my instincts. I value myself, at least in some ways, some of the time.
I trust M unreservedly. Unlike previous therapists she didn’t rush to diagnose me and shuttle me along to a prescription-writer. She listened, long and thoughtfully, before coming to any conclusions. In fact she listened for two full years before suggesting that I consider anxiety medications.
That is the only reason I’m even considering it. I am throughly resistant to being on medications. I have trouble articulating exactly why. I don’t have a problem with the existence of medications, or with the idea of anyone else taking them. I just don’t want to do it. I think, in part, it’s because it feels like a bandaid when I need stitches. I don’t want to just feel better, I want to be better. I hold tightly to this idea that if I work hard enough, try hard enough, believe hard enough that I can heal all those old wounds and this little anxiety problem will go away permanently.
But maybe that’s not reasonable. I know very little about brain science, but I do understand that what happens to us in early childhood seriously and permanently affects the way our brains work. I grew up under constant fear, neglect, and psychological manipulation. I think I became hardwired to respond to average simulations as if they’re a real and dangerous threat. And maybe no amount of therapeutic effort can change that wiring. That’s so depressing.
So now the question seems to be – do I want to continue to voluntarily, and perhaps hopelessly, struggle against the dark curtain of crushing doubt and fear that falls around me several times a day? Or do I want swallow a little help so I can experience a some success? Believe it or not, it’s a really tough choice.
Frankly, I’m curious. I’ve never known life without deep and profound anxiety. I muddle through it, and overall, I do ok. But what would it feel like to lose the curtain that always looms in the back of my mind? I can’t imagine it as much as it intrigues me.
In my childhood home, every good thing was followed by something bad, sometimes something awful. J couldn’t stand to see us happy. So I learned to associate happiness, connection, and gentleness with a deep dread of what is to follow. I can have a perfectly wonderful coffee date with a friend where I feel accepted and connected but the moment I walk away, my chest constricts and an overwhelming sense of doom falls around me. I’m convinced I did something unforgivable, said something terrible, or acted in a way that was totally unacceptable. And it’s because I have this antique childhood connection between goodness and bad.
And I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to walk away from that coffee date, that party, that craft date, that bike ride and just feel good. I can never feel good for more than a few moments before I’m battling the falling curtain and the associated demons.
Could a little pill really banish those demons? Could it clear away the cobwebs and the curtain? Could I really feel better and be able to enjoy life’s sweetest moments and let them linger on?
I seriously have my doubts. But, I’m also profoundly curious.