This month, I am Captain Ahab. My ship is work, and school, and gamut of research, the white whale is a little something I’d like to call understanding, and there are motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking ship.
It began the first week of January when I realized just how hard it can be to grapple with personal demons while on this quest to help people combat their own. Before then, there was a part of me that thought that extensive education about a subject (of the psychological variety, at least) made me almost immune to it, and I believed that given how much introspection I do, I was at least somewhat in control of myself. It was all very sudden when knowledge, when extensive education about a subject — what has always been my life ring — was ripped away in a furious current, and I was fighting to keep my head above water, clawing desperately for breath until my arms could no longer move and all of my energy had slid from my grasp, and suddenly I was sinking, no longer immune.
Working cases, making a diagnosis and treatment plan, and writing analyses is the name of the game in graduate school, and at this stage, aside from actually conversing with people in the therapeutic manner, it is what I find to be most intimidating. Fumbling like I always seem to do for some sense of comprehension in general, and already full of fear as I face the daunting task of trying to just help someone in some way, I was given the assignment of working the case of an individual whose story is similar to my own, and all of what I knew or thought I knew just started to…slip away. Things — the circumstances, the story — hit a little too close to home, and I was triggered by someone else’s experience for the very first time. My body went cold, my heart started to race, and the line between the empathy that I had for this individual’s struggle and the hurt for my own was suddenly blurry. It’s all a bit of a haze to me, but one moment I was 27 and the next moment I was 13. My ability to rationalize, and to be objective was all but completely lost, and I found myself becoming indignant, defensive, and even downright dismissive of other parties involved. I made unfounded assumptions and drew some conclusions that were just entirely wrong — based on my projections of my own unresolved conflicts — before I realized what I was doing and stopped, absolutely horrified with myself. This is called countertransference according to psychoanalytic theory, and while it’s neither good nor bad — like all feelings — it is generally the job of a therapist to remain neutral and avoid, if possible, this phenomenon. While I am glad for the experience as I know what to do in order to keep myself in check if it happens again, I am still a bit frightened by my encounter with it, and have been unable to stop thinking of that moment.
After a few more confrontations with my own unresolved issues in various other therapy-related contexts over the past several weeks, I have been on one big self-analysis binge. On one hand, after becoming deeply familiar with my countertransference triggers, defense mechanisms, projective identifications, and the like, I can actively see these things happening as I do them, and I am able to redirect to a healthier form of being. On the other hand, I’ve come to wonder just how I have become so fucked up, and ultimately decided that no matter how — I am half of the equation — and if I devote enough of my energy to it, I can change my self-talk and ultimately my behaviors. Though I thought I had a hold on this last year, it turns out that I have only just begun to internalize the fact that life didn’t just happen to me (which is half of my mantra for the past 11 years, so it took long enough), and that it is really time to make a greater effort to move past the past.
I’m glad for this space at this time, if for no other reason than to communicate publicly, and somehow more loudly to myself, that I am not fucking perfect — no one is — and it is okay.
For now, I’m just baby stepping my way forward.
Along with Alex, I’ve been baby stepping into the vastness that is 2015, and being surprised with a lot of goodness, with a lot more to be anticipated. I made a few new friends, really awesome ones, Alex has been steadily increasing his expectancy in trading by gigantic leaps, we got to see Alex’s dad, we found out that this year we get to enjoy the company of a baby while not actually pulling the trigger and completely upheaving our entire life, and in a few more weeks we get to see Alex’s mom. We have plane tickets to two cities in Europe to buy for a two week vacation in September, and maybe a train ticket to another city if we can decide if we want to do it. There’s my 28th birthday to celebrate (oh, FFS…) and then dating anniversary plans to make, which will also be the first trip we ever take with Em. I don’t really know what to say other than it’s been interesting, and it’s getting more interesting every day.
While I have avoided the blog due to my (perceived?) lack of time, and the fact that sometimes I just do. not. have the energy to form a coherent sentence and tell you guys what we’ve been up to, I know I like to come here just to chat about life, and should probably do it more often, even if what I say amounts to nothing more than an ill-formed rambling. Life is sweeter for certain when you have good people to share it with — even from afar.
I’ll be back in a week or two, maybe with more on feelings, or maybe with something slightly less awkward for some people like pictures of the dog or something? Either way, count on it!
You are going to make one hell of a therapist. I don’t think you need to worry about anything, because you obviously have enough insight to recognize what is happening and adjust accordingly. It is hard for therapists to talk about this kind of stuff, but it’s a normal feeling, and it happens. There will be many more moments that knock you on your ass and take you for a ride, but you are more prepared than you think.
Close friends with babies are the best! All the fun and none of the work. I have a nephew who is pretty awesome, too, and it’s kind of similar. I know you and Alex would not consider kids under the age of 30, but I think it’s worth throwing out there that if I am reading between the lines correctly that you’d be a good mom if you decided to go that route, and like for all things, YOU are a very capable person. Just wanted to put it out there 🙂
Did you guys decide to go to Paris too, or what’s going on with your vacation? Looking forward to your big 2-8, too! Lots of love!
Thanks, Trace. There’s no real between-the-lines in what I said about kids, though with so many of my friends currently carrying little uterine inhabitants, we talk about kids a lot but mostly in the context of how we just don’t want that life at any time in the foreseeable future, haha. But you know me very well, and thank you for the sentiment.
I think we have decided on Paris as one of our other stops. You and Alex’s dad have both said something in the past several weeks, so it got us talking. Thanks for your recommendations! Looking forward to celebrating you, too! February children for the win!
Your dog is so cute! I love that she is looking at you! Can’t believe how big she has gotten and how adult her ears look.
Sorry I’m obsessed, but anyway….I really enjoyed your post. You’re very good at expressing yourself, and I think it’s awesome that you’re just willing to be you, like it or love it, just like the great 50 Cent. Just always keep in mind that it is possible to be confused and to make mistakes and not have that reflect on your whole character. Just like a pizza, you don’t have to be perfect to be awesome.
I KNOW. She is SO big these days — looking like a real Boston more and more everyday. I’m so sad about the ears…I miss my tiny little girl. Thank you for your comment, and, of course, for the 50 Cent reference. We’ll obviously be friends for a long time!
You are amazing.
You and Em are beautiful.
That is all.
Em is The light of our life. Best dog we have both ever had. Thanks, Meg!
Dee, I can tell you without a doubt that you’ve got this handled. Just read what you wrote! I love reading your blog.
Thank you, Heather!