Tuesday, February 19, 2008

From Behind Bars, Part VI, On Individual Therapy

On the inpatient unit at CFC, we had four individual therapy sessions a week. This was supposed to be where the real nitty gritty work was done. We had an hour a day
of one-on-one time with our therapist to really dig and discover where, when, and why the atomic Eating Disorder Bomb obliterated our life. Finding ground zero was necessary. We needed to explore why we insisted on killing ourselves with food (or lack thereof) so that we could turn around and begin changing and rebuilding our life.

My experience with individual therapy vastly varied depending on who had been assigned the task of wrangling me in and humanizing me into an un-anorexic girl. This wasn’t easy, and I’m sure none of the therapists volunteered for the job. For realsies. I would’ve avoided me like the plague.

My experience with different psychologists varied from a therapist who babied me and held me the entire hour of therapy while I sobbed my eyes out, to a woman who mentally beat my ass to the ground and didn’t stop there. She kept crushing and kicking…karate chops, round-house kicks to the ovaries, you name it. Her goal was to give me a nervous breakdown and she very literally succeeded. But that might be another blog for another day. Or not. It’s kind of tender to talk about. Who likes expound on their own nervous breakdown? That’s a wound that wants to stay closed, thank you very much.

But a therapy session (sans total and complete breakdown) might go something like this:

My therapist will come and find me. I may be in another group, I may be in study hall, or I may be engrossed in another really inappropriate conversation with a fellow prisoner on the unit. Once she comes to claim me, we have the really long walk from the unit to her office. This was usually in a completely different building, and because the walk lasted more than a few minutes, moronic small talk was usually required that was cruelly awkward.

Therapist: “Hi, Brie. How are you today?”
Me: I’m locked up in a crazy loony bin, you dummy. Why would I be anything but supremely bored and pissed? “I’m fine. Thanks.”
Awkward silence
Therapist: “The weather sure is nice out today.”
Awkward silence
Me: I wouldn’t know, would I? I’m behind locked doors. “Oh yeah. It looks nice. I guess.”
Awkward silence
Shuffling along
Looking at her shoes (props to her, by the way, she’s got some smokin’ boots on. If only her people skills were as practiced as her fashion sense)

And finally, after the trek across CFC campus, we arrive in her office. I am out of breath from walking up the stairs, because my sad little self is still too weedy to have much energy. I try to hide this. Being normal is usually a must if you want your therapist to let you out of prison. You can’t go acting all weak and winded. So I look as strong and, you know, healthy as possible, and sit in the corner of the couch and curl my legs under me, where I without fail always sit. My eyes automatically rove the room for a pillow to plop on my lap to cover the quickly growing surface area of my stomach and thighs. She knows this trick and tells me she took all the pillows out of her office so that I wouldn’t have anything to hide behind. Thanks a million, Freud.

So.” She looks at her watch. I look at the clock. Fifty minutes left. “What do you want to talk about today?”

I shrug my shoulders. She knows what she wants to talk about, and I wait for her to bring it up. She doesn’t disappoint.

Thus begins the airing out of my issues. We pull them out, string them like popcorn on a Christmas tree, but only she admires our handy work. I think it looks hideous. I begin to feel exhausted. She looks hopeful, like maybe she’s actually helping me. I know, right? Weird.

On boundaries:
I know, I need to set them. I suppose I don’t adore being someone else’s door mat.

On being congruent with my emotions:
Yes, I know it’s okay to be serious and stop cracking jokes. But will I? No.
(Cue argument)

On my body:
Brie, you’re not fat.
Yes I am.
No you’re not.
Yes I am.
I’m not going to keep arguing with you.
Whatever. But I am. Fat.
No you’re not.
Yes I am.
I’m ending this conversation.
She turns her head and takes a deep breath when the vein in her forehead starts bulging. Making her mad was fun.

Sometimes I cried, but not usually.
A lot of the time I begged her to let me leave.
Sometimes my thoughts wandered to yearnings for me to birth my food baby.
A lot of the time I was scared. I didn’t like feeling vulnerable. I didn’t like her reading me as if I were an open book for anyone in the library to open and peruse. What if she read me wrong? What if she skipped the ending because she assumed she knew it…that I would not recover?

Once upon a time there was a girl named Brie, and she suffered from anorexia. And she was sick. And she never got better. The end.

That wasn’t how I wanted my story to end, so, despite my fears, I talked.
And talked. And talked some more. I wanted a happy ending.

And I got it, right? I’m happy. And I’m recovered. Mostly. And that, right there, is beating the odds.


KC Elaine said...

gosh therapy was rough, wasn't it? I like the bit about stringing thoughts like popcorn on christmas trees. oh, Jen refused to tell me I was not fat when I complained about it, that made me feel awful. But I do that with my current therapist sometimes. loved it, as always.

Laurie and Corey Kunz said...

What do you think is more helpful? The therapy where the therapist holds you as you cry and is sensitive to your feelings? Or the ones who refuse to let you feel sorry for yourself and push you and push you unitl you break and are almost mean?

brydelle said...

Brie, I love you hardcore. I'm sorry I haven't been commenting on these installments as much as they deserve, but seriously, I have so much love for them. You are funny and poignant at once, and that is tough sister! Please keep writing, because this is absolutely brilliant. I love all of it!

aLana said...

oh the dreaded therapy hours. i didn't know kyla had jen...good times that jen adams. how about how magnificently manipulative you learn to become when you don't want to talk (ie...hey nicoley, aren't you craving a latte? i bet i'd talk a lot more if i had a latte!) or the guilt that came when realizing what a waste of the parentals money it was to sit and refuse to talk but somehow still not find the guts to say anything real until precisely 1 minute beofer the session is over. of course its mentioned in a nonchalant, "oh by the way...(insert confession here) well, see ya tomorrow!" kind of a way. yeah, good times in therapy. how about the literal begging to go for a walk for therapy- i'm pretty sure i claimed the early stages of asphixia due to the lack of air being shared with uneating disordered people (of course it took me a good 2 months to come to grips with the fact that i was one of them). or coming to the sad, SAD conclusion that no matter how many times i reasoned that blue just wasn't my color(really folks, perriwinkle blue does nothing for my complexion), that there was no way of getting out of those damn smurf scrubs without serving my time... lame dude. thank GOODNESS that time in my life is over! now if i don't feel like talking i just cancel the appointment, and if i do show up and don't want to talk about her choice of torturous subjects i relish in knowing it's no longer a lock in facility to me and i simply walk myself out the front door! go recovery for sure! jigga what! haha

ps brie...PLEASE tell me you aren't talking about espra's fugly embroidered cowboy boots. are you? are you? i think those are the first indicator i had of hating DBT- the list of dislike for anything related to that group only continued from that point(ie, the ridiculously impractical acronyms, etc...). yikes.

Stacy said...

ah therapy.. i had a wicked awesome extern(I say awesome in retrospect) I got all pissed and developed a potty mouth and threw stuff at her. she suggested I "had characteristics of BPD... and used DBT on me...

So forever ago. I haven't had therapy in like 5 years, BUT at CFC it meant a hour away from the other wack jobs (no offense).

isn't it odd that your therapist was picked for you... but on the outside you picked them?

so brie... did you figure it out... what started all the maddness of the ED for you? anyone else? I haven't so I wonder if any one else has.

Stacy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sav said...

oh wow how i despised therapy... it was even worse when your therapist couldn't stand you right? Haha! love it! i hate therapy now, and i actually have it in 8 hours...if anyone wants to go for me...that would be fabulous! i have gotten out of it for the past 3 weeks so she won't let me off this week, but i hate being that vulnerable...that just blows butt.

on alana's caution status tidbit...i'm with you - i looked horrible in that blue prisoner suit. i can honestly say that caution was one of the top 5 worst times in my life.

brie, i really enjoy these posts and i enjoy you :) love ya!

Ash said...

Oh crap...I forgot about those awkward walks to the office. Now I get to go back to them too. Ah. But I will make sure to check out my therapists shoes as we make that dreaded walk into one on one combat. I am thinking an AWOL to Mexico sounds nice. Meet me there a week from today at 4 pm I will run from the dining hall, have the window rolled down so I can fly into it...I am not even bothering with the doors. Bring Alana too! haha!

jana said...

Hi. I'm new to your blog and just wanted to say how much I enjoy it. Your posts crack me up -- I love your sense of humor and sarcastic wit.

I especially enjoyed the inpatient chronicles because I was in a residential facility once upon a time and hearing what it's like in a funny/sarcastic way makes me feel just a bit less bitter about my big 10 day stay. ;)

I'm looking forward to reading more.

brie said...

Lana, your post made me laugh! No, I definitely wasn't talking about Espra's cowboy boots! Didn't they look like vomit shaped into a boot? Nasty! No, I was talking about Melissa's bitch boots! So hot!

♥ Jen ♥ said...

ok I'm literally in tears now laughing my ass off! so don't feel bad about your therapist making you have a breakdown...Espra did the same to me and if it makes you feel any better I gave her hell back. She tried to make me "say what I mean" by sending my parents home and not letting me see them and wow I layed into her asking her, "don't you know what it's like to have kids" (all the while knowing she can't for well ya...reason) and so on and so forth. Hell the bitch took my glasses cause god knows what I was going to do with them...honestly I can't see without them...why would I break them...LAME!