Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #30
My son stayed in the same dorm complex where I met my wife. He and I had meals together in the same dining commons where I had many years ago. His going away to college has brought up a lot of emotions for myself and my wife. We talk often about when we left home for college. We also talk about what we want to do next. In three years, our youngest son will also leave for college.
Remember that this session took place in 2009. The real estate crisis had recently caused the market to crash. We suddenly had less retirement savings. I was concerned that we wouldn’t have enough savings to retire when we wanted to. If this was accurate, would my wife return to work? She was looking into the specifics of getting a Masters degree in Public Health, Epidemiology and Bioinformatics. Elsie listened to all this and said it was good that we were both thinking about what we want to do next.
My job at this time was not very secure. I was working at Sun Microsystems and we were having a layoff every six months. I continued to survive the layoffs but it was not a pleasant place to work. I described being contacted by a recruiter from Oracle who asked me to look at a job description. I was excited that this sounded like a real job. I wonder when I hear about a job opportunity if there is really a job there or have they already decided who to hire. Elsie is supportive of my being excited about working for Oracle.
She wanted to know if I ever met my father’s Mother. I never did, and my father’s father died in prison when I was very young (another story for another time) so I never met either of his parents. I told her that my mother described my father’s mother as crazy. Not crazy as in amusing or the life of the party, but clinically, scary crazy. Elsie says my father married someone just like his mother. I like it that Elsie doesn’t pull any punches.
I wanted to talk more about my coworker that has recently become divorced. The description of the ex-spouse gets worse and worse as time goes on. My coworker never mentions how the ex and the children will be taken care of and no one seems to care. Elsie says this is typical, demonizing the ex-spouse. She points out that none of this explains why my coworker chose this person to marry and have children with. She says my coworker is just as detached as my father was.
Elsie asked how I felt when I did find out that my father had died. It has been a number of years since my father died and I still don’t feel anything. I didn’t know him. I ask her if she thinks I am suppressing feelings about this. She says she thinks I’m being very honest.
I’ve told Elsie several times that I sometimes feel worthless. I worry that I’ll lose my job and not be able to support my dependents and then I won’t be able to offer them anything. She says my being needed because I support my dependents is only a part of my worth. She reminds me that my family needs me.
I have wondered if some of my symptoms are some form of panic attack. Some of the descriptions of panic attacks that I’ve seen on the Internet are pretty scary. I told her about a panic attack I saw in a TV show. The character in the show was so affected that they collapsed to the floor. She says she has, in her thirty-year career, never seen this. The worst she has seen was a patient that was shaking during a panic attack.
I asked her if the nightmare I had, which I described to her back in our second session, was a panic attack. She tells me that the nightmares are not part of a panic attack, but a symptom of post traumatic stress. I’d never thought about that.
During this session, there was a time when I thought I was boring Elsie. She looked distant, like she was thinking about something else. This didn’t bother me, I figured that if I brought something up and she seemed bored, I would just move on to something else. I was in therapy to get help. From the earliest sessions I felt she had magic and I wanted as much of that magic as I could absorb. If I brought up something that didn’t interest her, that tells me that it wasn’t worth discussing with her because it wasn’t important. I tell you this because it is important that you know that each session is not jam packed with breathtaking insights and dramatic plot twists. Sometimes, what I wanted to talk about really wasn’t that interesting. It is a process. You can’t always know when something important is going to happen while you are in therapy.
The topics discussed during this, and other sessions, may seem random to you and in a way they are. I think the process works like this. The therapist asks what happened to you and what you thought about since the last session. You describe whatever comes to mind (unless you have notes!). The therapist listens and waits for something relevant to come up. Then they tie that experience or thought to what they want you to think about. They bring your recent experiences back to your issues to help you see things differently, to show you how you can think about, and react to things differently.