I probably shouldn’t even be writing or sending this, but I just wanted to share and explain everything from last week. Please don’t feel the need to respond; I just wanted to share this.
“This same thing happened yesterday in my session with Hank. I wanted to answer so badly, but for some reason, I just could not make myself no matter how hard I tried. I want to talk so badly but I can’t, and I don’t know why. I want to speak but I can’t, and it’s not because of fear; I just am physically unable to speak no matter how hard I try to speak. It’s almost like I don’t even know how to speak. I want to speak; I really do; I just can’t, and I don’t know why. I hate this. I don’t want to keep silent; there’s things I need to talk about. I just can’t, and I don’t know why.
“My anxiety keeps rising, and then I manage to center myself then try to speak, but then I can’t speak; then my anxiety rises again, and I get critical of myself which helps to a certain point but then causes my anxiety to rise again; then I get trapped in my mind; then I try to get out and recenter and thus starts the whole process again. Then I would try to make my mind think I had given up on trying to speak, maybe tricking it into letting me speak.”
This is what I wanted to say in session the other day. I so desperately wanted to speak, but my voice wouldn’t work, and I don’t know why. At first, when I was trying to come up with an answer, I was stuck not knowing what to say or knowing what would be beneficial to talk about. Beforehand, I had thought of what I wanted to talk about, but then I couldn’t remember when I got to session, and because I couldn’t remember, I got increasingly more anxious and was flipping between being present and being lost somewhere in my mind.
In about the middle of session, when you said we had twenty-five minutes or so left, I began to panic and the self-criticism was getting louder because I had already wasted so much time being stupid and not speaking, and that made me want to speak even more, but I still couldn’t even make myself say one word.
I tried to keep myself present, and when I knew I was starting to slip, I tried to make eye contact, so I didn’t slip away, but I’m sure as you saw every time I almost got close, I looked away. I managed to make eye contact a few times for a split second at a time, but as the session progressed, I became more and more ashamed for not speaking and for wasting time, so it became harder and harder to look you in the eye. I assumed you weren’t annoyed or mad at me for wasting time, so I don’t think my lack of eye contact was caused by being afraid of what you were thinking, but I’m not sure why it was so hard to make eye contact. Or maybe it was because I was criticizing myself so much and because it’s not really a good thing to do, I guess I was ashamed of how harsh I was being to myself or at least that you knew.
Then at the end, when you asked if it would help if you stepped out for a minute then come back to try again, I wanted to answer and to say no, hoping that if I spoke and said no, I could then speak more, but then I was thinking maybe it would be good if you stepped out, but since I was conflicted and couldn’t convey that, I was still stuck trying to figure out what to do. Then you decided that you would step out for a minute, and that kind of made me terrified of being alone with myself in such a state. I knew I would not be able to hold myself together, and as soon as you left and closed the door, the tears started falling, and I couldn’t catch my breath, but I did almost feel like I could maybe speak. Then when I was trying to speak again, I was almost there, but again, it felt like I didn’t even know how to speak. My voice wouldn’t work, and I couldn’t even remember how to or what it was like to speak. It was so uncomfortable and strange, and it just made me more frustrated and disappointed in myself for not being able to perform a basic and simple human action. I was trying so much harder than I was before you left which I didn’t think I was capable of, but then I got to the point where I believed I wasn’t able to speak because we were already out of time, and if I couldn’t talk at all during the session, I was more than likely not going to be able to speak then. I started criticizing myself on how I was a pathetic failure because of how unproductive I was in session and about so many other things about my inability to speak. I completely gave up. As I’m sure you saw, I looked down and kind of hunched over, and it felt like I was collapsing in on myself as my stubborn mind beat my strong-willed nature. I felt defeated and like I was unable to continue battling my mind trying to speak. My mind was then consuming my attention, and I thought as though it would be best for me to leave. I think my mind took this as to mentally leave, not physically, and I could barely fight against it.
The exact moment I gave up, you spoke and said something like “Don’t you dare; don’t you dare go away. Come back..” As you were saying this, my mind was trying to pull me further in because it seemed like you were speaking so loudly. I was so scared, and I felt like I was collapsing in on myself even more. I think I continued to hunch over a little bit and bowed my head more which was then followed by your leaning over, trying to make eye contact, yelling/speaking loudly and sternly, and clapping or something. This scared me even more as I’m sure you were fully aware, and I tried my best to look at you and was kind of almost able to, but I wasn’t exactly able to hold continuous eye contact because I was so scared of how loudly you spoke. Then I couldn’t see because of the tears, and I didn’t want to face you as I couldn’t hold it together anymore. I was trying to contain it for later when I was alone because I don’t like crying in front of others. I was still shifting back in forth between the present moment and the entrapment of my mind, and when you raised you voice, I think it scared me just enough to fully bring me back to the present moment.
I’m really thankful that you were able to see and understand how much I was struggling and how patient you were with me as I was trying to engage. I also remember you said something like you were worried that when I would leave, I would rip myself to shreds, and though I didn’t say it, I agreed with you that I probably would, but I wasn’t sure if you meant literally or figuratively, physically or mentally or both. I wanted to assure you that I was not going to physically harm myself once I left, not because I didn’t want to, but because I have lost the instrument with which I use. It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve lost it, and I have been unable to find or acquire any other substitute to achieve my goals of the habit. There is one place I know I can get a tool to satisfy that urge, but I have asked a friend, Bethany, to not let me go near the place unattended. Since Bethany and I are both theatre majors, she and I are in the theater quite often, and downstairs in the black box where all the props and set supplies are, there are utility blades. Since I never go down there alone because it’s fricking creepy, I have kept myself from accessing them, and in case I do manage to go down there alone, I have Bethany, who (when she’s there with me) will be my back up plan. I’m not exactly relying on her to keep me from hurting myself; I mostly just asked her so that if I do think about going down there, I’ll have that idea in the back of my mind that if I’ve disappeared downstairs alone, Bethany will know what I’m doing, and getting caught is a great fear of mine. Another reason I have not yet participated in this awful habit is that I keep telling myself I need to keep my wrist free from any scars or cuts because of the upcoming play. And cutting my thigh is just a hassle because I’d need to be wearing shorts. I know this is probably too much information, but I just wanted to let you know in case you were worried about it or anything.
I also was fortunately able to avoid mentally abusing myself after the session as I was so mentally exhausted that when I got back to my room I could barely think, process, or understand what had just happened so I cried for a bit, and I think fell asleep for half an hour. I did then after that, rip myself apart mentally because I was so frustrated with myself for not being able to speak and for wasting both my and your time and an entire session. This has proceeded up until the present, but writing all of this out has been helpful in calming my mind from the racing thoughts of my self-hatred and disappointment in my inability to communicate.
At the end of the session, when we were scheduling the next and final session, it was so difficult to speak, and I remember I was trying so hard and finally managed to say a word. As I said that first word, it felt unreal, and I wasn’t sure how to react as I was finally able to conquer my mind in that moment and speak. The next words I spoke were just as difficult as the first, but I still felt defeated because I managed to speak then, but I couldn’t even speak two minutes before or even during the entire session. I then realized that I actually spoke and that you were probably going to say something about it, and I didn’t want any sort of attention brought to it because I was so ashamed of not being able to speak before then, and I felt absolutely no pride or sense of accomplishment or victory or anything over my mind after I was able to speak. When I got back to my room, my roommate said hi to me, and I could barely even say hi back to her as it was so difficult. That night I had a panic/anxiety attack that lasted for about an hour, and the next morning I was so exhausted I couldn’t even open my eyes to get up for 11am class; I could barely get up for my 12:30pm class.
I have been trying to figure out why both that day and the day before were so difficult for me and what could have been going on that could have contributed to my inability to speak on both of those days. I know that on Tuesday, things had been really stressful because of the whole transportation situation, and maybe it was because I had just gotten back from break that was particularly hard and not restful at all. I’m not sure. I’ve been trying to figure out everything so that I can stop thinking about it, but that has yet to happen. I probably shouldn’t even be writing or sending this, but I just wanted to write out everything and explain. I’d like to talk about it in our last session along a few other things, and hopefully I’ll be able to remember them and be able to speak. Please don’t feel the need to respond; I just wanted to share this.