So here’s the deal, I’ve been going to therapy for about 6 months now and I hate it. So often we
hear about the glamorous side of therapy where we talk about our feelings and have great
revelations. Much less often do we hear of the tough chats, the loss of words that therapy can leave you with, and in my case the fear I have of disappointing my therapist.
I recently requested to switch therapists which was a big step for me. It’s not that I didn’t like my initial therapist, but rather I needed to know if all therapy was like this or was it just my current experience. For those readers who have never attended a therapy session or others who have had nothing but positive experiences, you may be wondering why this specific self-care act stresses me out so much.
Well, I am a people pleaser. I can’t help it. Half of my anxiety comes from what I think others are thinking about me or judging me for. I have an outrageous fear of disappointing all people. But I also have a fear of disappointing my therapist, which makes her job quite complicated.
When I requested to switch, I forced myself to go in with the mindset that she could only help if I told her tough truths about myself. But, that’s a whole lot harder than it seems. I am two sessions in with my new therapist and already stressing over her opinion of me. I know it is ridiculous, but I can’t shake it.
The way most people combat anxiety is with knowledge. For example, if you remember turning the oven off, you don’t need to stress over it. What psychologists try and teach you is to use the same strategy with less obvious things like, “I have studied hard for the exam and all of my test marks have been good, so there is no evidence suggesting I will fail.” Or “ I am always as kind as I can be to my co-workers so there is no reason they wouldn’t like me.” Then there is less of a reason to be anxious about these things.
For many people, this strategy of applying logic when their brain is being led by emotion works well. For me on the other hand, not so much. I can sit here and confidently tell you all that I am kind, personable, and worthy. But for some reason in these situations like therapy, all logic is lost and my vision focuses on pleasing the person
sitting across from me. I think that by not disappointing my therapist and making her happy, I will inherently become happy as well and I do, for about a minute. Then I leave her office with the same feelings I came in with and then the shame kicks in.
I really really wish I could be vulnerable. In my heart I know how important that is, not just for myself, but for the people who care about me. I wish I could explain how my heart feels, but my mind goes blank. The truth is, that it is really hard to look someone in the eye that you are paying a lot of money to listen to you and tell them that you can’t really give words to your anxiety because you are still learning a lot about it. It’s scary going into situations and not
knowing how you’re going to react or even if you’ll be able to handle it, but that’s kind of the point I’m at.
Anxiety is unpredictable and unpatterned. I want to express what makes me nervous and work on healing those parts of me. But there’s still so much I don’t know about my mental illness. I am very far from where I want to be, but I don’t know how to explain where I am. It may seem simple to you, but my anxiety is vast and complex. It holds so much weight in my life so the words I use to describe it and the ways I choose to help it are really quite
important to me.
There is a sense of comfort I find in my anxiety and holding it within me, which is why I am such a people pleaser and such a bad therapy patient. I want to be able to drop this coping mechanism at the door and really open up, but I’m not there yet. I won’t stop trying though, I’ve promised myself that.
It sounds funny, but my goal is to get to a place where I can disappoint people. Where I can say the truth and not worry about your opinions of me. I want to be able to walk into my therapist’s office and communicate the irrational fears I have of failure without questioning what she’s thinking. I need to value the concept of (sometimes) letting others down for my own well-being. I care about people so deeply and want them to be happy and now I need to get there with myself.
Therapy is all about progress and the reality of progress is that sometimes we hit a standstill. I have convinced myself that if I fail to keep constantly moving forward I am failing my therapist. I know this is not true, but to me, sometimes experiencing a setback especially when its all in your head feels a little disappointing. I want to be able to communicate my feelings even when I feel like I don’t hit the mark. It is going to take time and a lot of hard conversations. But one day I will be disappointing my therapist and I won’t even flinch… and funnily enough, I can’t wait.