“I want to remember the pain. I don’t want to let go of all that happened. Why should I? I am what I am today because of all those experiences. Good or bad, they all belong to me.” Yet another session and I was even more defensive today. We had grown to like each other over the past 1 year. Or at least I would like to think my therapist liked me as his patient. Today too I sat crossed legged in control and properly dressed. I had promised myself, I will take the professional help but will never cry in front of a therapist. But today was different.
I was talking too much today. It was unnerving to hear myself talk with oozing confidence. Something I had not felt in a long time. It was my friends who had put their foot down to get me into therapy. My first session was horrible, not according to my therapist, but me. He asked questions like I was in an interview of a lifetime. There were so many questions, I had no choice but to answer them one by one. But I controlled the length of my answers. I barely gave him anything in those first few months. I spoke in short sentences starting with “I understand” and ending with “I hope that makes sense”.
I was sure he was going to let go of me as a hopeless case and then in turn I could just shut my friends up by saying, “I tried and it did not work for me.” All of those sessions felt like I was attending a formal tea party at a teacher’s house with the school’s heartthrob sitting right next to me on the same couch, watching me sip tea. Yes, it was that twisted and weird for me in the beginning. I used to dress up for each session like I could not let him see me in a pair of ripped jeans and a tee. I spoke in a soft voice and smiled a lot like a freak. I was formal and overly conscious of everything. Even about how I smiled. In fact, before my first session, I spent 30 mins in front of the mirror clicking pictures trying to figure out my good profile. In 35 years of life, I had not bothered to look for my “Good Profile” and here I was clicking pictures to really figure out how I should be smiling and sitting in front of the therapist. The therapist whose job was just to help me figure out this life. To be honest I had rehearsed everything that I was going to say to him. I do not know why I added to my nervousness by imagining the heartthrob sitting next to me.
But today something happened that changed everything between us. I cannot explain it more accurately, you will have to read further to decide for yourself.
“I am not a sad or negative person. I have lived with anxiety almost the whole of my adult life. And there have been many incidents that have changed the course of my life. Situations that were completely out of my control. I don’t need to tell you any more; you know it all. It is all there in the forms that I filled when I first came in.”
“Still, let’s talk a little more.” He spoke in a calm tone nudging me to keep talking. And so, I continued. “That night, when my dad was being driven from my hometown to the specialty hospital because his condition had worsened. He needed cardiac experts to fix him up. He had been sick for over three days, but no one told me anything. I guess they did not want me to worry. So, I stayed up all night waiting for that call from my mom when they reached the hospital. That night it all changed. I saw him on a stretcher being wheeled into the ICU but all I clearly saw were his feet. I did not get to meet him until quite later the next day.”
“It must have been a regular day at college before I got the call. I am guessing it was a normal day. Morning classes and afternoon spent in college with friends and then an hour-long conversation on the phone with my boyfriend. I’m sure I was happy the day before. Or I think I was.”
“And what about the second time?”, he nudged a little more, so I continued. “You mean the second time when he fell so sick that he had to be rushed to a different hospital for new complications?” I reiterated the question. “Yes. Can you tell me more about that day?” he asked.
“I had successfully finished the biggest event of my life. The biggest one I would ever be a part of in this lifetime. We had partied on the beach afterward with the whole team. I had my first Baileys Irish Cream shot that night. Huh!” “It wasn’t even a real drink, yet I was so happy. I was only a Junior Executive on that event, who basically did all the lower level jobs but I was proud of myself. Even while talking to you right now, I can remember how I felt. I was doing something I honestly loved. I felt like I had found myself. Like the naïve introvert small-town girl had found her place in this world on her own.”
“Do you remember what happened after that night?
I was quiet for a few minutes. And then I spoke again. “I danced all night. I had made some amazing friends on that trip. So, I let go.”
“The next morning when I woke up happy. I turned on my phone and saw over 30 missed calls from my mom. Dad had fallen very sick. Along with his heart, the kidneys were failing as well.” I shifted a little on the couch twisting and biting my lips and looking up at the ceiling trying to not let them out. And when I was sure I had them under control, I continued talking, “I came back and after numerous meetings with 5 different doctors of varied departments, they agreed to perform the open-heart surgery. The surgery that would give him a few good years.”
“You must have been relieved to finally get him the help he needed? The surgery was long due. What happened to you after that? Did you continue to work with that company or moved on?”
“Yes, I was. But it all changed after that surgery. He never really got better. Yes, he lived for a few years after that surgery. There were good days, I am sure there were. Like all of us celebrating festivals, birthdays, and anniversaries together. But I can’t remember anything that stands out.”
I sighed and without him asking, I spoke some more, “I love dancing. It is my go-to thing to forget all worries and let loose. More than even drinking or smoking. It zones me out. I danced like that again just 2 days before my birthday. I was celebrating a new job and was very happy. After a long time, it felt like maybe all is not lost and I can find my passion again.”
“And then the phone rang. Again it was the middle of the night, a day before my birthday.” I was now silent turning red because I could feel my cheeks burning up.
“Ok, I am going to ask you a question and I want you to try your best to answer me as honestly as you can. Is that ok?” He looked at me hopefully now.
“Yes.” I spoke timidly.
“Are you angry at your dad?”
I sighed, and finally, let them out. I could not hold them in anymore. My eyes gave up on me and I cried, “Yes”.
“And that makes you even angrier at yourself for feeling that way about him?” he continued asking.
“Yes”, I cried for the rest of the session and replied only in short sentences like I had intended it to from the very beginning.
“I feel lost without him.” I spoke up through my tears.
He just sat there silently watching me cry.