Thoughts after second session with Hank
From Nicole to Taylor
We started off the second session with Hank asking me about last week and how I thought the session went. I told him I thought it was difficult but good. He asked me what I thought was difficult about it, so I explained that some of the questions were a bit much like the one about where I see myself in ten years. He asked me why that one was so difficult to answer. I responded saying that the things I would think about ten years from now seem unattainable. I was thinking that my aspirations and plans for the future seem so because I didn’t think I would see them through. I wanted to say right away that I didn’t think I’d still be alive, but I couldn’t get that out until the very end of what I was trying to say.
Once I finally found the words and strength to speak, I told him I didn’t think I would make it this far. He asked about what I meant, so I told him about the spring semester, that I was scared about the summer and how I didn’t think I was going to make it. What I should have told him was that I was scared I would kill myself over the summer, probably a few days or so after I would have gotten back because I felt as if I was losing control of myself, but I couldn’t. So, I just said that I didn’t think I’d make it through the summer. He asked if that was what lead to the hospitalization or at least if it was a contribution. He recalled and clarified that I told you about the suicidal almost attempts things whatever, and he asked why I told you. I explained how I was going to try medication again as per recommendation, so I went to the health center where they made me fill out those screening forms, and because of my answers, they sent me to the counseling center for an emergency consultation. I then explained that I relayed the experience to you the next week leading you to ask if things had gotten worse, so I conveyed what happened to you. He said that I could have lied and not told you what happened. He asked why I didn’t lie. I said it was because I’m not good at lying which led to him asking when the last time I lied was, but I couldn’t remember. He asked about other “bad” things I don’t do like speeding and whatnot. Then he asked about how I was scared for the summer and all that and afterwards, went on to ask me more questions about the future.
He asked again about the things I thought were unattainable, and I could only think of my future career and family so that’s all I said. Looking back, I should have included things like a stable and healthy mental state, somewhere to live, and be well involved in a community and church. He asked about what my dream job is, so I told him copy editing, and he asked what all that entails, so I explained it the best I could. He asked whether I needed a masters, so I told him no, then he asked me what else I thought was unattainable. I said family, and he asked me what I wanted along the lines of family, but I honestly have no idea, so he kept asking me questions about a partner, like do you want a companion, or a romantic relationship, a partner to raise kids with, someone who will pay the bills and do the taxes, a sexual partner, a good friend? What do you want?
There were so many options, and it was kind of really overwhelming because I don’t really know what I want. I think I do want a boyfriend or husband someday, but I don’t know if I really want that or if I would be better off alone. Or maybe it’s just the part of me that thinks I don’t deserve a partner, or I would be too much of a burden to one because I’m such a mess. He went on to ask me about a family and kids and what I want for that in the future. I told him I didn’t know because I honestly don’t know what I want in life anymore.
Hank also asked me some questions about myself like asking how I would describe myself or something. He suggested strong and resilient and asked me if I saw myself as courageous, then asked me to think of another, so I said brave because that was the only one that came to mind. He asked if I agreed that strong and resilient were words that described me, so I told him they were, then he asked if I thought courageous was one as well. I told him it wasn’t, so he asked me to think of another word, and all I could think of was brave, so that’s what I said. Brave and courageous have basically the same meaning, but courageous is too strong and fancy of a word to describe me, and brave is kind of more accurate. He then had me type it into my phone. “I am strong. I am resilient. I am brave. I am Brenna.” After I wrote it out, I just stared at it, so he asked me how it felt to see that. I couldn’t answer. It just looked like a lie to me, as if I was just mocking myself, and as I continued to stare at it, it just seemed more and more like a lie. I don’t remember what happened after that. He continued to talk, but nothing really registered enough to stick. I think it was a couple minutes later, I was still holding my phone, so it was completely noticeable that my hands were shaking. Hank noticed, because well how could he not, so he commented on it. I don’t remember what happened after that except that he continued talking and asking questions.
Sometime during this, I dissociated after a question, but I can’t remember what it was. I don’t know how long I was gone, but I think it was the longest it’s ever been before. I was just so anxious I could not pull myself out, and despite trying so hard, I just could not do it. I tried to reconnect with reality and make eye contact, so that maybe the eye contact would lead him to say something, anything, so that I could return, but as soon as I was almost there and back, my mind would remember his face and retreat inwards, cowering in a corner saying, “No, we are not engaging in anymore of this socialization,” and the harder I tried to ground, the worse it became.
Eventually, Hank started writing something in his notes, which caught my attention enough that I could almost come back, then a little bit after, he said something which pulled my attention out of my mind, and he asked if that was the longest it has ever happened before. I nodded because I couldn’t speak, and even though I was able to make eye contact, my mind was still fleeing. He asked how long the longest time has been, but I told him I didn’t know. I never know how much time passes when I get stuck in my mind because when that happens, nothing seems real, and all that I can pay attention to is the screaming criticism and the massive void of nothingness in my mind.
He then asked me a series of questions, for example, he asked if I was sensitive to lights or noises to which I responded that I was extremely sensitive to sound like loud noises such as fireworks and sirens. He asked me if there are certain clothes or things that make me feel better or safer than others or if there are things that I like to hold onto for sentimental reasons. I think I completely misunderstood what he was asking so I told him that there were things like that, but the way he phrased the question, it didn’t seem like he was referring to being so attached to certain things that it upsets or disturbs me. There are things that make me feel safer than others like my NH sweatshirt, but I could easily replace that with a new one. I only wear that when I want to feel safe because first, it’s the only one I have, and second, it’s baggy, so it hides my figure, and it’s slightly heavy, providing me with some slight pressure therapy.
He also asked me if I was sensitive to change like slight changes would cause disruption in my life. Again, I think I misunderstood him, so I told him yes, but looking back on it, it’s only changes with certain things, and I can adapt pretty easily sometime after like having someone move away or not being able to see someone for an extended amount of time or a class ending, and I get over it eventually, and it doesn’t really cause any major disruption. I don’t think this is what he was referring to, but I really have no idea. That question didn’t quite make sense to me now that I look back on it. He also asked me if I had ever had any psychological testing, and when I told him yes, he asked when and if I would be comfortable letting him look at it. I told him I didn’t mind, so he asked if I could forward it to him. Then he asked me if anyone has ever mentioned having autism to me and if I was ever tested for autism. I have never had any signs of autism and, though I’ve never been tested, and based on what I know and have researched, I am positive I am not autistic. I don’t even fit any of the criteria.
After he asked me about that, he asked how it made me feel and then kind of just left it there. He proceeded to ask me if meeting with him is something I want to continue doing and that it was my decision. He asked something about how the session was for me, so I said it was draining, and he asked what was draining about it. I told him that it was draining because of having to answer the questions. He said something like, “well that’s my job,” and like yes, but the massive amount of anxiety of being asked questions and trying to think of an answer while my mind screams at me telling me that every possible answer I could come up with is absolutely ridiculous and not worth saying, and any combination of words I could construct will make no sense and somehow be the worst and most wrong answer possible is draining. So, I guess it’s not so much the questions that are draining but the amount of anxiety that is draining.
I don’t think Hank can tell that I’m trying my best to be present and do work in sessions, and I don’t think he sees or knows how severe my anxiety is. Often, my silence is taken as a sign of a lack of interest, defiance, stubbornness, annoyance or hatred, and maybe he’s sees my silence as a lack of interest or willingness to do any work. Towards the end of our second session, he was talking about how it was my decision to be there and that this was a safe space, and if I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t have to. It seemed like he thought that I didn’t really want to be there, or I was hesitant to be there. I really do want to be there because I’m too afraid to go anywhere else, and he seems like a person I could eventually become comfortable talking to and have real, productive conversations with. The only thing that makes me uncomfortable about him other than the fact that he’s a human being with his own thoughts and opinion is that when he asked one question during a particularly difficult point in our conversation, he followed up asking, “Why’s that, sweetie?” I think it was when he brought up autism and asked me how I felt about the possibility of being autistic. I told him I was scared. The thought of having autism terrified me, and I already have hypochondriacal tendencies, so this thought was particularly difficult to deal with. But back to what made me uncomfortable, when he said “sweetie,” it just felt so unsettling. That word has always bothered me, and I don’t know why, but I can’t stand it.
I want to share some of the writings I have written with him, so he will understand because I haven’t been able to explain it, but I need to stop using writing as a crutch to communicate. I have to explain using actual audible words in sessions, but I don’t know how to get there. I need him to understand that I want to be there and that I’m doing my best to be present and answer his questions. I need to explain to him what happens when I dissociate and my mind goes off. I need to explain why I have such a difficult time speaking and that I can talk normally with people I am really comfortable with, but in high anxiety situations, I shut down, and my mind prevents my voice from working. I also need to ask him about selective mutism because it fits and makes sense, and it would eliminate his autism hypothesis. SM often looks like autism to those who are unfamiliar with SM, and I think he misunderstood my lack of eye contact and dissociation for autism symptoms. We meet again in two weeks because I can’t afford another session yet, and my tuition payment is coming up. I honestly can’t afford another session at all, but I have to go.
Since not being able to meet for sessions and not being able to meet after the first session with Hank, things haven’t been great for me mentally. I’m starting to slide back into unhealthy behaviors, and I’ve been closing myself off socially. I’m getting stressed out by every little thing, and I can’t get my mind to shut up. I haven’t been able to figure out how to cope or deal with things, and I just want to talk everything out, but I don’t want to burden my friends with that or bother them anymore than I already do. I also don’t want to share anything concerning my mental health with anyone because I’ve been feeling really cautious and paranoid about sharing my mind, and I feel like I don’t trust anyone. I just want it all to stop. My depression is returning, and I’ve been sleeping too much, not eating enough or anything of nutritional value, my room is a mess; I’ve been taking my meds irregularly because I keep forgetting, so I take them late. I’ve also turned back to cutting again because I haven’t been able to handle things, and I hate it, but nothing else has been working, not even writing. It’s like whenever I go to write, my thoughts are just too confusing to untangle and put on paper.
Another factor to my depressed mood is that I accidentally triggered myself at the beginning of the week, and that threw the next few days way off. On Monday, I decided I needed to wear a long sleeve shirt because I needed sleeves to cover my wrist, so I chose to wear my blue EP shirt, the same one I wore during the ER wait and first day in the hospital. I haven’t worn that shirt since that experience, and I thought it would have been long enough that it wouldn’t really bother me that much. I didn’t realize it would have such a detrimental impact on me. At first, it was fine, but about ten minutes later, I gradually became worse. I was starting to feel a bit, but all I was feeling was the depression of I couldn’t move, my body felt like I was dragging bags of sand, I couldn’t eat anything, I was isolating and cutting, I could barely breathe as it felt like someone was sitting on my chest, my mind was completely fogged, and I had a tension headache/migraine for the second half of the day. By the end of the night, I was close to tears multiple times for no reason, and the suicidal thoughts were beginning to return.
Fortunately, I was able to force myself to do a few things like straighten up my room and wash my clothes, sheets and pillowcases and all that and do a little homework. I tried to practice this form of a little boring self-care. Tuesday was the worst, and I gave in to the urges yet again. That night the thoughts of ending it all were more persistent than they have been in while. I made sure to surround myself with friends so that I wouldn’t continue hurting myself, although I did cut one last time that night before I went to their room. I stayed with them until I knew I was safe to leave. The next morning, I was still really depressed, but my anxiety was higher than anything so that was my main focus for the majority of the day. I barely ate at all that day. The depression did overwhelm the anxiety when I had to find a ride to pick up meds, and it wasn’t until after I got back to campus and paid a ridiculous amount of money for store-bought neurochemicals, that I gave into the urges to cut. They were the worst wounds I’ve had in a while but fortunately not deep; they just bled a lot.
After that, I went to a theatre meeting in which I was there but not completely. I was kind of spacey and not totally aware of everything that was going on. I left the meeting a little early, and at that point, I felt extremely sick, I think because I was hungry and hadn’t eaten much. I had a terrible headache, and I felt as though I was going to pass out at any moment. Part of me wondered maybe it was because of blood loss, but the cuts could not have bled enough for that. I think it was mainly because I was dehydrated, starving, and overtired. There was also the pain of the cuts on my thighs, and every step I took was agonizing as they rubbed against my jeans and stairs were even worse. I also normally can’t sit still very long without moving to some new position, so moving like that, crossing and uncrossing my legs, was torture. I can’t complain though because, well, I did that to myself. Thursday was a bit better, but I didn’t want to do anything at all. My first class was fine because all we do is sit there, but for my theatre class, I was not up for performing or even participating. I didn’t want to socialize or have anything to do with socialization, but at the same time, I really wanted to be around people because I didn’t want to be alone.