On Mental Health

On Being A Selfish Patient.

The downside of starting therapy is that whenever I have bad days I think, “OH NO! IT IS NOT WORKING! DAMMIT.”

I know. That’s ridiculous. Therapy isn’t the beginning of a perfect life. It’s just giving me tools to get me through the bad days. BUT STILL. I want it all to be easy. I like when I can say, “My life started being 100% better because of this ONE change.” But improvements are baby steps over time, I know that. In my brain anyway. My heart would rather a rom-com moment where everything changes for the better and everything falls into place forever and ever. Amen.

My therapist and I sometimes talk about my need to be “winning” at therapy. She feels like I’m trying a lot of times to assure her that I’m great, almost like I’m trying to convince her she’s doing a great job because I’m doing so great. And she’s right. I feel like if I come in and say, “I had a really bad day on Tuesday,” then in my mind the subtext is, “So you suck!” And I’m trying to reassure her that’s not the case by also showing all of the times her advice has already helped me.

“That’s not necessary,” she said.

But there is a lot of truth to what she’s seeing. I do feel overly concerned with my therapist’s feelings, I think. It’s a good thing, mostly. I like her and I want her to know and understand that; and I want her to feel like she’s helping so I’m telling her all of the things that has helped me this week. BUT, I’m so concerned with that and fearful admitting when something doesn’t work, that I tend to gloss over the stuff that might need attention.

I’m assuming this is all part of just getting used to therapy. Getting used to this type of relationship. I’m not used to the take/take/take type of relationship. I feel like if I’m the only one getting help then it’s too one-sided. But then I remind myself: I AM PAYING HER BECAUSE SHE IS A PROFESSIONAL. It’s supposed to be one-sided. YET STILL…my instincts are hard to fight. I have to resist asking follow-up questions when she makes connections with me on certain things. She’s lost people close so she’ll connect on that and I’ll want to be like, “How did they die? How old were you? Were you close?” etc. Which is what I’d do if we were FRIENDS, but we’re not. Right? It’s okay that we’re only here for me, right?

PS. It’s funny. I was just typing that last paragraph thinking, “Is this a good way to close up this entry?” And then I heard my cat vomit outside the door in the hall and I kinda want to think of another reason to keep writing so I don’t have to deal with that. ALAS, I think that last paragraph was a good ending.

Cat Vomit, Here I Come.

7 thoughts on “On Being A Selfish Patient.”

  1. Hey. So recognizable. I have this as well, not only with therapists but in my general life. A problem with saying anything negative because I actually might be criticizing something that somebody i like maybe have been remotely involved in, so indirectly i might be talking negative about them. Have to stop this people pleasing behavior. Most of the time the connections in my brain between the (negative event) and the involvement are just ridiculous anyway. Have you considered its not only you having problem with a full on take take take relationship, but are just more of a giver in general?

  2. Your therapist is helping you, 100%. she as a person is awesome. Together, you’re working on a plan (like a race training plan), where stuff may work immediately, it may need to be tweaked, or you may need a modification. So, if you’re explaining to her how you’re seeing success with the plan or where things need to be tweaked/revised, you’re still validating that you respect her as a coach and her success there, just that some things need modification to get you to the end goal. Just like you would ask for physical modifications if you weren’t able to do XYZ workout. It’s definitely a process of fast and slow wins…sometimes you need some building blocks to move up to the “more advanced” movements.

  3. The suckiest part of having a therapist you really like is that by nature of the therapist/client relationship, you generally don’t get to be “friends”. I hate that. But when they share parts of themselves that help you, it is so cool to see there is more to them than just someone who can help, but also someone who understands based on shared similar experiences. If I’m ever DONE with therapy, I hope I could be friends with mine.

  4. Awww, I think your cat knew you needed to be there for someone else! 🙂

    It IS a little weird getting used to being in a relationship where you divulge all your fears and worries and problems (past and present) … but you’re not friends with this person. Definitely takes some getting used to. But like Nienuh pointed out, this might be more of a problem for you because you’re a naturally giving person. I guess you just have to keep reminding yourself that you ARE paying your therapist, that she’s getting something out of this too (because she seems to be good at it, so she probably enjoys helping people).

  5. I love this analogy, and I think this could really help Kim change her perspective from ‘complaining’ to ‘requesting modifications’ and knowing she’s still validating her ‘coach’.

  6. When I was in therapy, I had a bad habit of trying to convince the therapist I was actually super well-adjusted. I had to make myself tell them that I would do that, and that I needed them to call me on it. I would want to impress the therapist with how well I was doing…it’s really hard for me to have people know I’m feeling weak! It helped me to decide that when I felt myself doing that, I would say “I’m doing it! Trying to convince you I’m super well-adjusted!” I was amazed how HARD that was, but if I made myself say it, then even if I continued to gloss over how I WASN’T doing well, I knew the therapist was aware of what I was doing and would dig deeper.
    Stick with it! I hate things that take a long time to show progress, and therapy is one of those things, but it’s WORTH IT. Maybe send your therapist a link to your blog whenever you have a post about this kind of thing? So she is able to call you on it and help pull you out of the habit? I think you are amazingly strong for admitting you need help and seeking it out, just fyi.

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