Archive for April, 2012

A memorable session – Therapy with Dr. Stoneface, part V

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on April 29, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

Now after saying some general things about Dr. Stoneface´s therapeutic style , I will start to describe my actual therapy with him. I already mentioned that there weren´t many changes compared to the probationary sessions. So first I want to talk about something that happened early in January, in one of the first sessions after the Christmas break.

I have already mentioned that I have unusual sexual preferences, and as I described here, this had already lead to a heated discussion with Dr. Stoneface.  During my Christmas holidays I had attended an event by a performance artist who was experimenting with BDSM practices. Part of this event had been that members of the audience could (if they agreed, of course) have some of those practices tried on them. I had picked up all my courage and asked to participate. The experience itself was fairly disappointing – if anything, it was uncomfortable.

In retrospect, this is not much of a surprise. It was not intended that any kind of relationship or rapport would develop between me and the person who did the stuff with me; and the stuff that was done  is not necessarily what I´m into (which I couldn´t have known back then). Also, I was asked to strip to my underwear (no, this did not happen in front of an audience^^) and I hate not being fully dressed. I had decided to go along with everything, however, because, once again, I didn´t trust my instincts. I had a feeling that if I followed my instincts, I would always run away from everything that could involve feeling ashamed, and I didn´t want to live my life like that. In trying to open up to good or important experiences, I sometimes overstepped my own limits.

It needs to be said, however, that the guys in charge of this event were perfectly decent. When I at first hesitated, for example, they didn´t try to persuade me, but instead asked if I was sure and told me to not let any kind of group pressure (other members of the audience had already signed up) influence me. After the event, I got into a conversation with one of them, who patiently listened to the sudden rush of waffling I was overcome with. I guess I told him all about my failed relationship… Later, he invited me to join the performers for a drink and he asked the artist who had organized the event all those awkward things about BDSM he figured I might want to know but didn´t dare ask (he was spot on). Anyway, the evening ended with the artist asking me if I wanted to go to a scene club with him and his girlfriend the week after, and he also offered me a proper session. I told him I would think about it (which he accepted in an instance, a very good sign).

I was indeed very unsure if I should accept his offer or not. On the one hand, I wanted to make more, and hopefully more positive experiences. On the other hand the experience I had just made had not been as good as I had hoped; what I had learned was all a bit too much at once and so I didn´t feel quite up to going to a club, leave alone a session. Therefore, I felt it might be a good idea to ask Dr. Stoneface for his opinion. Maybe he could help me figure out if I was denying myself an interesting, possibly important experience if I refused the guy´s offer or if I was really not ready for it.

What I didn´t take into account, however, was that Dr. Stoneface would think living out my “perverted” sexual orientation was always unhealthy and nothing I could ever be “ready” for. I started the session by telling him about the event, which wasn´t easy. Giving him the details was embarrassing, and he reacted with a mixture of shock and pity. He couldn´t have been more dismayed if they had raped me, which really doesn´t do them justice. When I said I was considering the guy´s offer, Dr. Stoneface seemed actually alarmed. Apparently he thought I was seriously misguided. On the one hand, his reaction increased my doubts about how good an idea it had been to subject myself to this experience. On the other hand, it made me angry because I felt that he wasn´t even interesting in sorting out my feelings about this. He was so clearly biased about the whole sexual deviance thing that I didn´t feel it was safe to tell him about the emotional issues I was faced with in the aftermath of the event. I felt it was very likely he would take sides with my shame and the worries that I had participated in something shady and indecent.

And so I knew that I would have to sort out all questions pertaining to this by myself. Like with the e-mail by my former friend, the real important stuff was once again excluded from therapy. So I went home after a frustrating session and tried to figure out if I wanted to accept the guy´s offer or not.

I lost a lot of respect for Dr. Stoneface after this episode. I had assumed that you can tell a therapist everything and he will not be shocked, either because he´s heard it all, or because he himself has been down in the dark depths of his own psyche and knows what a mess we humans are. If this, however, this fairly harmless experience among consenting adults could shock him so much, then apparently he didn´t have a very strong stomach when it came to mankind´s darker side. I think I was actually disappointed in his lack of bravery. Even if he didn´t think my “deviance” was quite healthy, he could at least have been curious as to what it meant to me. This is really something that occurs to me just now: I never saw any genuine curiosity on his part. He was always calm, unenthusiastic,  though mostly mellow, as if he was an old, wise man – and this could shock him? How much trust could I then put in his alleged wisdom and maturity, leave alone in his ability to bear my perspective on things, my feelings?

In the end, let me say a few words about how my therapy experience and my experience at the BSDM/art event compare. I entered both that event and my therapy with a certain kind of deliberate stupidity, meaning that I was overriding my gut feeling because I thought it was stopping me from doing the right thing. In the case of therapy I thought my gut feeling was mere resistance, in the case of the event I thought my anxious feelings and shame were always going to be there, no matter what the circumstances, and therefore I shouldn´t let them inhibit me anymore.

The difference lies in how these experiences turned out. The BDSM guys were very anxious to not put me under any kind of pressure. They always made it clear to me that everything was up to me, that I didn´t have to do anything just because the majority was doing it, and that participating in BDSM activities was not a matter of all-or-nothing. I might not want to do specific things, I might not want to do them with certain persons, I might not want to do them now and here. And that is fine. Nobody takes offense. And this is why, eventually, I could follow my instincts and decline the artist´s offer, though in a very friendly fashion; and he wrote me an equally friendly reply saying that it was very reasonable that I didn´t rush into anything and that he himself had only started exploring his orientation in his late thirties. And a while later I started “exploring” (what a cheesy expression) all these nice possibilities in a relationship, which suited my personality much better than stranger-to-stranger experiences anyway, and we all lived happily ever after.

Now for Dr. Stoneface. Dr. Stoneface did in many ways do the exact opposite of what the artist did. Dr. Stoneface actually fostered my readiness to override my instincts. When I was skeptical about his policy of demanding a fee whenever I missed a session (even if I announced it months in advance; I´ll write about this in another entry), he coldly said that absolutely every therapist did that, implying that it didn´t matter who I consulted. Years later, when I talked to a person who was seeing a different therapist, I found out that this had been a complete misinformation. When I criticized him, he responded with a disguised insult (see the princess incident), suggesting that my observation about the depth of his “interpretations” was incorrect, a result of my arrogance. Another thing that happened at times was that he suggested I was not properly involved with the therapeutic process, claiming I was reminding him of a person saying “wash me, but don´t splash me with water”. All in all, this adds up to him suggesting that 1) I would make the same experience no matter which therapist I consulted, 2) my perception was warped and unreliable, and 3) that therapy was a matter of all-or-nothing. Either fully trust him and open up to him – or I wouldn´t get anything out of it and just waste time.

There really is this doctrine floating around in the therapeutic community, isn´t it? “You have to trust your therapist. If you don´t trust your therapist, leave and look for a therapist you trust, but if there is no trust, it is hopeless.” On the one hand, this seems to make sense.  You cannot open up to somebody if you don´t trust him. On the other hand, though, this reeks of  “love it or leave it” mentality. I don´t think that people either trust or distrust someone by default. Trust is something that develops, that has to be earned. I´m not talking about the basic trust that the guy next to you won´t rob or murder you. I´m talking about the trust that allows you to trust someone with intimate details about your inner life. I don´t think it is acceptable to demand that kind of trust from people. It is even arrogant. Just because somebody is a therapist doesn´t mean he is incapable of hurting or even damaging someone. Patients “testing” their therapists is typically frowned upon, it is even connected to certain diagnoses like Borderline, but I think it is a normal part of human interaction. Trust simply develops step by step. We might tell people one thing, see how they react and then our gut feeling might tell us that they can be trusted with something more intimate – or not.

What therapists seem to demand, however, is that we do not use the behaviors by which we normally try to avoid emotional injuries – not in their presence. In a way, they even seem to measure a person´s sanity or neuroticism by the extent to which they do or do not “open up” to them. If you are still “playing games”, that is, questioning, leave alone testing if the therapist is trustworthy, then you still have a long way ahead of you in terms of mental health. So is mental health measured in blind trust towards psychological authorities? Scary idea. Though said authorities probably don´t even think this trust is blind. They probably believe that they are objectively trustworthy, just because they are therapists. And so it is unjustified and irrational to distrust them. I don´t know if this attitude is naive or hopelessly self-righteous.

Either way, Dr. Stoneface had done everything to make me distrust him in the session described above. He had shown me, after all, that he was biased when it came to my internal conflicts, and not in a way that worked in my favor. Actually I could have known right after the probationary sessions that he was not a person I could put any trust into. By suggesting to me that I wouldn´t make a different experience with any other therapist, and also that therapy was a matter of all-or-nothing, he contributed to keeping me in a therapy that was bound for failure – for another two years.

I will continue to write about these in my next entries.

 

 

 

 

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Therapeutic style – Therapy with Dr. Stoneface, part IV

Posted in health, mental health, personal, philosophy with tags , , , on April 27, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m still describing my therapy with Dr. Stoneface, and last time I talked about diagnoses. I think I had stopped with him sending a letter to my health insurance company, and said company granting 80 or so hours of transference focused psychotherapy. Just to give you a certain time frame, this was early in January. I had first consulted him in September the year before, after the break up of my friendship in July.  What I want to describe next is the time between January and August. First, though, I want to say something about the general style of therapy with Dr. Stoneface.

So my “real” therapy was finally about to begin. I had so far not made any progress, but I told myself these had just been the probationary sessions. Maybe now something was going to happen. What happened, first and foremost, though, was – nothing. I came to the sessions, sitting there stupidly before finally finding something to talk about; and whatever I said he would just rephrase it and ask me if he had understood me correctly. And that was it. I had expected brilliant insights and interpretations; stuff that didn´t occur even to me, although I was  ruminating on my inner life almost all the time. What I got, instead, was a person who constantly had to make sure he even understood correctly what I was saying.

I know by now that this was not stupidity on his part, but a method he used, something like “active listening”. But, honestly, I don´t want him to make me feel like he is listening to me, I want him to listen and then reply something intelligent. Or, if he senses that I´m not telling him everything, to ask me a question. How is it supposed to have a healing effect that you constantly feel like everything you say is so complicated or warped that no normal human being could understand it, even if said human being has a medical degree?

The worst part was that all too often I even felt like he hadn´t even rephrased my statement correctly. I felt he was simplifying things, the subtleties were missing, and besides…okay, this is longer to explain. I am a person who is said to be good with words. I have been writing stories since I was a kid, and being able to express EXACTLY what I feel is very important to me. When I say “I feel like suddenly there is nothing soothing and familiar in the world anymore, nothing I can hold on to” and he replies: “So you feel lonely.”, I can simply not agree. For once, I don´t even know if he is right. How do I know if this is what loneliness objectively feels like? I thought that feeling lonely meant having a longing for being with somebody who isn´t there. That is not what I feel like. What I feel in these moments is something beyond loneliness. I feel like I have been bereaved even of the possibility of feeling at home anywhere or with anybody, even with myself. I basically fall apart inside. And even if this is somehow part of the loneliness spectrum, I don´t see why he cannot just take what I say at face value and work with the precise feeling I described to him instead of lumping me together with people who might have a completely different problem, such as wanting to have a partner but being unable to find one, or coming into an empty house every evening. If I meant “I´m feeling lonely”, then I would say “I´m feeling lonely.”

My persistent inability to determine whether he and I were talking about the same thing made me feel like I was slowly going crazy. Just losing touch with the meaning of words and sentences others seemed to use with ease. I couldn´t tell anymore if I was intelligent or hopelessly stupid. It was my final year of high school, I was still ambitious and hard-working, and I got scared that I might lose the ability to learn. I had so far always been able to just take a text and more or less learn it by heart. During exams, I would remember what I had read and search the answers to the questions in the text I had somehow transferred into my head. I had completely relied on my ability to memorize words and to make sense of them. And suddenly this foundation started to crumble. I began to worry that I might not be able to learn anymore, that I would fail my high school graduation.

And at the same time I thought that maybe this proved I had never truly understood anything I had learned.  What if I had just repeated phrases? What if I wasn´t as clever as my parents, teachers and grades suggested to me? What if I had fooled everybody, including myself, all my life? What if I was really very ordinary or even extremely dumb? What if I just thought the stuff we learned, the stuff I heard, the stuff Dr. Stoneface said was simple (or even dumb) because I was unable to properly understand it!? Maybe the belief that I had grown up with ever since elementary school, the belief that I was intelligent, was the biggest lie of all, a giant narcissistic deception. I managed to carry on during my high school graduation, but later, at uni, my ability to learn indeed vanished. I didn´t trust my understanding of words anymore, and suddenly my grades deteriorated, at least in written exams that were not multiple choice. I was still good with essays.

Besides all the implications Dr. Stoneface´s method had for my belief in my sanity and my abilities (though I´m not sure it´s just him who is to blame here, that really seems over the top. I´m quite good at driving myself crazy, and my self-confidence had already suffered significantly during the difficult relationship with my friend.), it also made me feel like he was correcting me, or disapproving of my “complicated” way of putting things. This both insulted and hurt me. I felt like he was saying “So you feel lonely. Why didn´t you tell me that straight away instead of giving a dramatic description?” Yes, in a way I felt like either he was trivializing my feelings, or I was dramatizing them.

I know I´m going to sound like a victim of transference when I admit that my father, too, has a way of doing this. But let us look at this logically: If a certain conversational style hurts me when one person engages in it, why would it not hurt me when another person does so? It has nothing to do with the fact that the first person has hurt me at some point, right? If your first husband cheats on you and you get a divorce and marry a second husband who also cheats on you – will you be hurt because you are projecting your memories of your first husband on your second husband, or because your second husband is a complete asshole?^^

Of course Dr. Stoneface would argue that while he might rephrase things I say (like my father does), he doesn´t trivialize my feelings, and my impression that this is what he is doing is a projection. Sounds clever, but something is wrong with this. Thing is, if I accused my father of trivializing my feelings he would deny it as well (been there, done that, bought the shirt). It is all in my head. My warped perception. And indeed I could never prove that my father is really disrespectful, because he was always just as subtle as Dr. Stoneface. Maybe I am just paranoid, or hyper-sensitive. Maybe this is just generally how I feel about people who rephrase what I say. Maybe I am just a neurotic writer who thinks it is disrespectful to believe you can sum up what she has said more accurately than she actually said it. Maybe someday a philosopher will prove that it really is disrespectful, or a psychologist will find out that statistically speaking most people feel about this like I do and it will become a new standard of what is normal. Maybe it won´t and I´ll always be seen as ridiculously touchy. But either way, my sensitivity about people rephrasing what I say is simply part of me, and not the result of my father doing it in a more disrespectful way than anybody else. Hurtful behavior always hurts, and if person B behaves in a hurtful way, it doesn´t hurt just because person A has behaved like that before. It hurts because it is hurtful behavior. And that still goes if my standards of hurtful behavior are way off.

Okay, whatever.^^

The result of my intense dislike for Dr. Stoneface rephrasing my statements, and also of my confusion over whether we were talking about the same things and my problem with the meaning of words – was that I typically dismissed what he was saying. When he concluded that I was feeling lonely, anxious, angry or whatever other feelings there are, I mostly denied it. Not out of meanness. I didn´t feel like I was lying. On the contrary. I didn´t experience myself as lonely, anxious, angry, so I would have been lying if I had agreed. After a few weeks of this game, however, he said:

“You know what you remind me of, sitting there dismissing every interpretation I offer you? A princess who is always critical of everything her courtiers give to her.”

Wow. That one really hurt. Let us take apart what this communicated to me.

1) “You are spoiled, demanding, and impossible to please.”

2) “You think you have a higher social status than you really have; you are arrogant.”

3) “I am doing for you all I can, offering you all I have, but you are treating me like scum, you are emotionally abusive.”

It was one of the more crazy-making experiences I made in therapy. I still easily drift off into gibberish when I try to write about it. On the one hand, I would really like to expose the incredible self-righteousness he demonstrated with this accusation, on the other hand I would like to get into how/why it hurt. So, first for the self-righteousness part:

I am not happy with what Dr. Stoneface has to offer. What I had hoped to get in therapy was somebody else´s insights. Instead I am busy explaining stuff I already know to somebody who simply won´t take my word for it and insists on rephrasing it in a way that seems incorrect to me. I do not have the impression so far that I´m getting anything out of therapy which I couldn´t have on my own. Are my demands really over the top?

No, I don´t think so. The self-proclaimed promise of therapy is, after all, that therapists can help you gain insights you wouldn´t have gained on your own. They don´t say that these insights are so shallow that you have to be stupid in order to profit from therapy. So why is it absurd or demanding if I expect more than an imprecise repetition of what I have just said?  It actually shows how much I still believed in the myth of the wise, mature, emotionally sorted psychoanalyst, right? What is arrogant about that? I would never have excluded the possibility that Dr. Stoneface had something intelligent to say about my problems, I simply hadn´t seen him do that so far. Is it arrogant nowadays to recognize empty words for what they are?

I fear Dr. Stoneface´s accusation is very, very common in transference focused and psychoanalytical settings. Just recently I read this blog entry and it only confirmed my impression that Dr. Stoneface lashing out against me under the guise of making a psychological observation is nothing unusual. It seems that some therapists stick to the belief that everybody who thinks they or therapists in general are not being helpful is – arrogant. “If you think therapy cannot help you, then apparently you think you and your problems are too special for us to figure them out.” And I do wish I believed in psychoanalysis, because this would be a textbook example of projection. For who is truly arrogant – the dissatisfied patient, or the therapist who so firmly believes in his abilities and his method that he thinks it is out of the question that the patient might be  rightfully dissatisfied?

So this was the part where I simply had to vent. Now for the other stuff. Emotions.

I think what I felt first was excruciating shame. I felt like he had caught me in the act. And this is something were former experiences really had an influence, because I have been labeled as arrogant many, many times. My classmates, some adults, my sister, even my parents. Not that my parents minded. They found that incredibly funny. Claimed that even on my baby photos, taken right after my birth, I´d had my nose turned up. Whether Dr. Stoneface knew it or not, he had hit a major sore spot. If I may allow myself to be embittered for a moment: I can certainly say that Dr. Stoneface could display some considerable psychological intelligence as soon as he decided to be mean.

What came next, of course, was the urge to defend myself, a.k.a. homicidal anger. As usual, though, I simply stared somewhere and said nothing. According to my elementary school teacher (who could be crazily unfair and abusive), I was already like that in fourth grade. She once told my mother how oftentimes she could tell I was boiling on the inside, but that I never acted on it. I wish I had been able to hide my anger better, though, because immediately Dr. Stoneface asked: “What made you so angry? How did I make you so angry?” (Mind you, that, while talking down to me like that, he was still using formal pronouns, and calling me Ms. and my surname. That made it a whole lot more unbearable.)

Naturally, I remained silent. First of all, I was much too overwhelmed with shame and anger in order to sort out my feelings, leave alone explain to him what exactly was making me so angry. And, more importantly, the shame and anger themselves forbade me to let him know how hard he had hit me. What I wrote in my last post about letting someone see your shame held true here as well. It would have seemed obscene and unnatural to me to first argue with him and then tell him (without having resolved the conflict!) how much his attack had hurt me. You don´t show an opponent your weakness, do you? His poking and prodding and insisting on my “anger” almost seemed sadistic to me, like he was reveling in how much he had affected me. In a normal argument with a friend, when you tell them they really hurt you they might feel bad about it and apologize (which is also why it is possible to admit you are hurt). This was not to be expected from Dr. Stoneface, though. He could tell I was hurt or angry, but he didn´t show any sympathy – quite to the contrary, he merely wanted more details about it -, so all my instincts told me to keep my mouth shut.

I know that nothing I write here would convince a psychoanalyst that Dr. Stoneface was doing anything wrong. He probably didn´t, by psychoanalytical standards. According to them, I should probably have spilled my guts to him anyway. Because this is how therapy works. You simply assume that your therapist only has good intentions and good feelings, and therefore you are absolutely honest, even if it goes against your deepest instincts to further expose yourself to someone who knows he has hurt you and is not dismayed by that in the slightest. So in all probability they would blame me. I failed therapy because I was a coward. “Well, tough beans. We always say therapy takes courage, and it does. Not everybody has it in him.”

Two things in reply to this:

1) Dr. Stoneface didn´t even tell me how therapy was supposed to work. I had to figure out all of this by myself, by reading stuff. So how is it my fault if I react like a normal human being and protect myself when under attack? That way, psychotherapy is like playing a game without being told the rules, but being faulted for breaking them.

2) If this is how therapy works, then therapy alienates you from your instincts, however sound and reasonable they might be. Before you enter therapy, you should be warned of this, and also, you should consider very well if this is your goal for therapy. Most people, after all, want to get to know themselves better, and get a safer feeling for who they are. They want to be less alienated, not more!

I believe it can have an immensely cathartic effect to emotionally expose yourself to someone truly good-natured and tactful, but there are always people out there who are not like this, they can severely harm you, and you must make sure the person of your choice is trustworthy. Any ideology, even one supposedly based on science, which encourages blind trust, is acting irresponsibly!

 

Diagnoses – Therapy with Dr. Stoneface, part III

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on April 25, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

After a little break I continue my account of my therapy with Dr. Stoneface. I had described why I´ve consulted him and also the first conflicts during the probationary sessions. What I want to describe today is the diagnosis he apparently told my health insurance company, and what is wrong with it.

So. The first bills my health insurance sent to me are from two months after I started seeing Dr. Stoneface, so I guess this is when the probationary sessions were over and my health insurance had granted me I think 80 hours of transference focused psychotherapy. First a few words on how we decided to work together.

Even during the probationary sessions, first doubts had arisen. I had suppressed them, though, believing that my difficulties with him were a sign of resistance on my part. Everything I had ever read about psychotherapy seemed to confirm that. Also, I had so far never encountered a psychotherapist I had gotten along with. I had seen three mental health workers about my issues before (not counting the ones who had referred me to Dr. Stoneface and to my former therapist, as I have seen them only once for evaluation), and I had always gotten into heated arguments with them and eventually dropped out of therapy. I had heard many times this was characteristic for some mental illnesses. Also, I believed I had a lot of motives to run away because therapy would most likely be painful, a harsh blow to my exaggerated self-esteem, but I “knew” that if I ever wanted to be able to love, feel, and generally be my “true self” I had no choice. And so I decided not to “run away”.  Therefore, when Dr. Stoneface asked me if I wanted to work with him, saying no was not really an option. I trusted that if he had any doubts about being the right person to work with me, he would tell me. Blessed naivety…

I have to criticize myself to some extent, though. I don´t blame myself for having been entangled in the trap of seeing my doubts as a sign of resistance. It is a perfectly designed intellectual trap, and even people who are not clinging to loose shreds of their dissolving mind have gotten lost in it. The trap is even harder to see through when it is accepted in large parts of society, which to me it seemed to be. What I somehow blame myself for, though, is relying on a referral instead of consulting several therapists at once and trying to find the best match. I was oddly fatalistic and indifferent at the time, thinking that one therapist was as good as the other one for the dirty business that lay ahead, which was basically: breaking me. I felt unfit for making any choices for myself, and I just wanted to get the ugly stuff (therapy a.k.a. breaking me) over with and one day wake up and be a whole, healed, good person. Until then, I wanted nothing to do with myself. I was abandoning myself and made others responsible for making me sane. I felt that was fair, because I believed the process of making me sane would be a punishment more than anything else. I couldn´t want to be punished (only in a very perverted way which would have rendered the punishment ineffectual). Therefore, I needed somebody else to drag, force and batter me through this. My implicit attitude towards therapy must have been somewhere along the lines of: “I will resist all I can, but please be stronger than me!”

Good. Now that I have 600 words written on everything but my actual topic, I might finally get started. The diagnoses.

When Dr. Stoneface told me he was going to write to my health insurance company, I wanted to know what diagnoses he was going to tell them. Given that so far he hadn´t told me anything, I was quite curious. Dr. Stoneface, however, evaded the question, explaining to me that he had to tell them something in order to get them to grant those 80 therapy sessions, but that this wasn´t written in stone and that the truth was always more complicated. While this sounds incredibly reasonable at a first sight, it is actually quite an insolent excuse. First, if he just tells them “something” he is basically ripping them off. The taxpayers, mind you. So either he is a fraud, or he is bullshitting me here. Wow, very trustworthy. Second, even if the truth is always more complicated, I should have a right to know what diagnoses he ascribes to me. How am I supposed to decide what treatment I want and even if I want to work with him if I don´t know what he thinks I should be treated against? And third, if his argument for not telling me my diagnoses was really that diagnoses are simplifying a complicated truth – then he could at least have told me that complicated truth.

But he didn´t tell me the complicated truth. Even as I insisted, he only mumbled something about it being a personality thing. Yeah, I had figured out that much. Eventually, though, I dropped the issue. And the reason for this was that back then I didn´t think of all the stuff I wrote in the paragraph above. My thoughts were rather meandering around the possibility that it was maybe good for me that he refused me to tell me my diagnoses. I thought that maybe it was part of the therapeutic strategy. Maybe knowing my diagnosis would allow me to build up effective, impenetrable resistances. Maybe it would even render me incurable. At a later point in therapy I would accuse him of this, of purposefully keeping me in the dark as a therapeutic strategy. He, of course, would deny that, would deny even having a secret strategy until I doubted my own perceptions. Years later I would eventually find out I had been right.

Now for the diagnoses themselves. When I had the brilliant idea of looking at my health insurance bills last fall (I kind of blame myself for not thinking about it earlier, but then again I only learned about ICD-codes in the class I took last semester), what I came up with was that Dr. Stoneface diagnosed me with dysthymia, an unspecified eating disorder (still don´t know what that was about), and an “other specific personality disorder”. This last category covers several PDs, but the only one I have ever heard of is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Having finally some knowledge about psychiatric diagnoses, I can raise some doubts regarding the validity of the ones Dr. Stoneface ascribed to me:

1) Dysthymia.

Now, diagnostic criteria for dysthymia say it can only be diagnosed if the patient has been in a constant, slightly depressed mood for at least two years. Two years before, however, I had been in treatment for a depressive episode with suicidal ideation and self-harm (slightly depressed?), and later mixed depression and anxiety. I had suffered a severe emotional breakdown just a few months before he diagnosed me, and around the time he wrote to my health insurance company I was on the verge of another breakdown which I will detail further later in this post. Needless to say that breakdown, too, was accompanied by suicidal ideation. While I don´t generally disagree with the dysthymia diagnosis (I have always been a bit melancholic and worried), I believe I was in no shape for anyone to judge if my current difficulties were part of a depressive-neurotic character structure.  So the diagnosis seems a bit bold to me.

2) Personality Disorder, probably narcissism 

First of all, I had only just turned 18. Personality disorders are said to manifest themselves during early adulthood. Isn´t “only just 18” a bit early to diagnose one, then? He must have been pretty sure of his judgment… Even more so, of course, given that I was in a state of acute crisis when I saw him. I believe it was Dr. Psych who once said in some lecture that there is a diagnostic hierarchy: You cannot diagnose deep, permanent, underlying disorders before having dealt with the acute problems. What might look like avoidant personality disorder suddenly goes away once you´ve successfully treated the acute agoraphobia, and so on. Makes a whole lot of sense. My acute problem had clearly been named by the shrink who had referred me to Dr. Stoneface: Adjustment Disorder. Which, ironically enough, leads us directly to my complaint number 3.

3) Where is “Adjustment Disorder” in the laundry list of diagnoses Dr. Stoneface ascribed to me?  

The answer is a clear and resounding: NOWHERE.

It is not there.

When this first occurred to me, I was pretty stunned. How could it be, after all, that a diagnosis which had specifically been marked with an “S” by the doctor who had made it, “S” for “safe, sure, so-bloody-obvious”, simply disappeared from the records?

Huh. Maybe it didn´t apply anymore. Maybe it had been dealt with.

Well, if so, then this had happened without my knowledge. I had so far received no help whatsoever dealing with the break-up of my relationship. I didn´t have the impression that anything at all had happened in therapy.

Or maybe it wasn´t acute anymore? Had too much time passed since the break-up?

Well, given that my problems were still there, in that case Dr. Stoneface should have diagnosed me with a chronic version of Adjustment Disorder, if such a thing exists.

Both “arguments” are rendered invalid, anyway, though, by the fact that the break-up process was still not over by the time Dr. Stoneface made his diagnoses. After the final talk with my friend, she and I had sporadically been in touch via e-mail. And even though at first we had tried to keep it friendly and formal and far away from the painful subjects, eventually we were at it again. She wrote me about how her life was changing for the better, about how being with her new boyfriend was the happiest time of her life (seeing her dismiss our time together like this hit me to the core), and she told me that she was in this lucky position because she was a better person, a person who was willing to be hard on herself, to work on herself – willing to be a good person. She wrote me all this under the guise of trying to help me, motivate me to change, and she probably believed that herself. She also kept me up to date on how she was trying to cope with breaking up with me. About how her new boyfriend helped her cope. He was not just comforting her. He also helped her “free herself from her pathological admiration for me”. He thought that her original respect and liking for me was a form of dependence that she should get rid of. It was obvious, after all, that I was not good for her. Not good for anyone. And thus, in order to heal her, the two of them dissected my vile character, and my friend had the “courtesy” of sending me copy of that discussion.

It was after receiving that e-mail that I decided I should remove myself from the gene pool. Since I knew that I didn´t have the balls to just kill myself, I decided to further restrict my already niggardly diet until I developed fatal anorexia. (So if Dr. Stoneface diagnosed me with eating disorder, is there any, just any possibility that I told him of this plan?!)

What I am sure I told him about, though, is that e-mail. I printed it out and brought it to my next session. I was so upset I had trouble speaking. I demanded he should read that e-mail. I think my hands were actually shaking when I offered him those sheets of paper.

Dr. Stoneface´s reply: “Now what are you thinking? I´m not going to read your private correspondence!”

He said that in an irritated, indignant tone, as if I had demanded something grossly indecent. We engaged in a fruitless discussion, which basically ended by him authoritatively stating that I´d have to read the letter to him if I wanted us to discuss it.

So, I need to digress again, even though this entry is so long already. I know that the point of psychotherapy is that you have to talk. The basic assumption is that it is the talking that cures you. So very likely him reading the e-mail wouldn´t have much of a therapeutic effect on me. But:

1) I believe that sometimes it is more important to know what is wrong than to adhere to the rules. I could still have talked about it later, but first of all it would have been important for him to know what had upset me. Take trauma therapy, for example. The shrink who talked about that in Dr. Bla´s lecture said that in her first session she only asks her patients to give her a quick overview of the nature of their trauma, like, in one sentence. It is part of the therapeutic work to enable them to talk about it, nothing that can be demanded before treatment has even begun.

2) Even reading aloud something so humiliating might have a healing effect, granted. Such as getting the poison out of your mental system. But this can only work under certain circumstances. Like, when you know that the person who listens to this respects you, respects your shame, and most definitely is on your side. Being ashamed in front of somebody makes you very vulnerable, and I think it only has a healing effect when you feel very trusting towards that person. How do you reckon I felt about Dr. Stoneface after we had just had an argument that had ended in an ultimatum on his part? That aside, though, Dr. Stoneface didn´t even communicate to me why it was necessary for me to read it out aloud. He merely insisted that I do so if I wanted to discuss it ( thus more or less making it clear to me that it surely didn´t matter to him if we discussed it or not), leaving me with the job of figuring out why he demanded that. For all I knew, he simply thought it was indecent to read other peoples´mail, even if they asked him to; or even worse, that he thought asking him to read my mail was indecent on my part.

Now…I guess I could have made myself read it to him. I probably would have switched off my feelings (something I´m splendid at, but I had actually started therapy in order to learn to not switch off my feelings), read it to him, and then I would sat there with nothing to discuss because my mind would have been as blank as his stare, and after the session on my way home the shame would have hit me so hard I would have felt unable to ever look at myself again. And I would have blamed myself for that (and not his lack of a human reaction), because “if I had not run away from my feelings he would have been able to help me”. Yeah, right.

Thankfully, however, I did not subject myself to this exercise in humiliation. Instead, I grabbed the papers and threw them straight at him.

Dr. Stoneface, predictably, sat there like a stone. A statue, actually. “Stoical Psychotherapist in Session. A late work by Dr. Sigmund Freud.” Or in his case, Otto F. Kernberg, but I didn´t know this back then. At any rate, when he didn´t react at first I felt ridiculous, and then fear kicked in. What if something was wrong? What if I had done something horrible?

“Did I hurt you?” I asked anxiously.

I cannot translate this into English, but what happened is that when I asked him if I had hurt him, unfortunately I made a slip of the tongue and, instead of using the formal pronoun “Sie” used the informal “du”. Of course Dr. Stoneface was over this like a fucking vulture. For the rest of the session, he quizzed me about this slip of the tongue, and what it might possibly mean. The worst thing is that this type of behavior is probably not the unfortunate exception, but the rule for psychoanalysts. So, once again, I was left with dealing with my real problems on my own.

What shall I conclude? Dr. Stoneface knew of my diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder. He knew that the situation which had caused me to be given this diagnosis was far from over. Why, then, did he

1) not treat me against Adjustment Disorder?

2) feel entitled to diagnose me with grave, permanent, underlying and above all stigmatizing disorders?

3) not even mention Adjustment Disorder as a diagnosis among others in his letter to the insurance company?

What he seemingly did is that he simply replaced the acute problem, which would have forbidden him to diagnose me with anything else until he had successfully treated it, with a couple of severe diagnoses which allowed him to keep me in treatment for pretty much as long as he wanted. All I´m wondering about now is whether he was just bullshitting the insurance company or also himself.

More to follow.

The probationary sessions – Therapy with Dr. Stoneface, part II

Posted in health, mental health, morbid, personal with tags , , , , on April 19, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I will pick up my account of my therapy with Dr. Stoneface where I left it, that is, after the first session. As I described here, I had written him a short “essay” about my problems and goals. I don´t remember the probationary sessions in detail, so I will just highlight a few things that happened during this time frame.

1) Since I had been in therapy before, Dr. Stoneface announced that he would ask my former therapists for their notes on me. During one of those therapies, I had very much seen and portrayed myself as a victim. I had actually suspected I had repressed memories of abuse, and the main reason I had started that therapy was in order to recover them. By the time I consulted Dr. Stoneface, though, I felt excruciating shame thinking back to those suspicions and assumptions. The thought that he would read and find out all that was very uncomfortable. On the other hand, though, I also thought that maybe it was a good thing if he saw straight away how rotten I was. The point of this therapy, after all, was to set me straight. Nonetheless, I asked him a bit angrily if he really had the right to just review those notes when I didn´t get to see them (I didn´t know then that there is a possibility for me to review my notes, though a limited one). “Of course.” he replied in a tone as if I had said something almost insulting. Apparently in his view it was understood that he got to see those notes. To me, that sounded like even asking for privacy and the liberty to just tell him what I wanted him to know was somehow offensive or even immoral. Again, he had a way of making authoritative statements that made me feel like I had misbehaved in some way.

2) Part of the questionnaire Dr. Stoneface had given me was about my parents. When we were talking about that part, I told him about some typical behaviors of my father which I believed contributed to me being a horrible, spoiled child. He asked some kind of question and I continued to talk about my father, until suddenly he interrupted me and said: “Did you understand my question?” Something about his tone was incredibly threatening, even though he sounded calm and quiet. My adrenaline shot up and I thought for a moment that he would certainly kick me out of his office. A clear overreaction, granted, and certainly to do with my authority issues , but it should have rang some alarm bells with me that he managed to intimidate me so easily. I felt like he was displeased with me, like he thought my behavior was unacceptable in some way, and that hit me because from what I had read I had concluded that therapists would not judge my behavior, even bad behavior, but try to understand it.

3) There was another, similar event some time later when we discussed what his style of therapy was and what working together would look like. I, assuming that in therapy the client gets to decide how fast he wants to proceed, demanded that Dr. Stoneface wouldn´t pressure me if I was silent for a moment because sometimes I might have to think really hard about the answer. I knew already, after all, that I had difficulties determining how I was feeling. Dr. Stoneface, however, replied: “Well, no, I certainly won´t let you just be silent forever!”, in that same tone that always made me feel like I had demanded too much, or made some kind of offensive request. He basically made me feel like he was demanding something from me, like some kind of “good behavior” or compliance; compliance with rules that had never been explained to me, but maybe there was no need for explanations because the rules were self-evident? Self-evident to anybody other than me, apparently, which made me feel even more like a socially disabled, emotionally and morally deranged person.

4) The last example (for now) of conflicts between Dr. Stoneface and me, however, was a discussion about cutting, masochism and blood fetishism. By the time I saw Dr. Stoneface I was hardly even cutting anymore, neither for self-harm purposes, nor to satisfy my liking for blood. I felt like I deserved neither kind of release. I would have scornfully laughed at myself for playing the victim (self-harm), or for gazing admiringly at trails of blood running over my arm (blood fetishism). Nonetheless, I needed to ask him about his opinion on cutting for the pleasure of it, and I wanted him to approve of it (authority issues, once again). I made it clear I was definitely not including self-harm in this, although I always held the opinion that the real problem are the issues behind self-harm, not the cutting itself. I was only talking about safe, sane and non-compulsive cutting. Well, Dr. Stoneface still thought it was pathological, and that a successful therapy/analysis would make it disappear. (I think one main reason I brought the subject up was that my therapy goals definitely included that I still wanted to be able to enjoy sane cutting. I was worried that therapy could make this ability/desire go away. It was part of my sexual identity back then, so I was considerably worried about losing it.)

In my defense, I told Dr. Stoneface that my sister Irene had approved of cutting for pleasure as long as I exercised it carefully. Irene had always been the epitome of reason and superior intelligence in my life (even though I had some issues with her as well), and for me she was much more of a moral authority than Dr. Stoneface. I must have naively assumed that he would see his mistake straight away when I told him what Irene had to say about the issue. Dr. Stoneface, however, replied in what was probably supposed to be a deeply concerned and sympathetic tone:

“So she doesn´t care about you!”

I found that bizarre and annoying rather than anything else. It amazed me that his bigotry towards “sexual” habits which were deviant, but not harming anybody (other than possibly me) would go this far. One of the last things I was sure of were my libertarian values when it came to sexual activities (as long as these activities only involve consenting adults). I found it startling – and also ridiculous – how judgmental he was.

On yet another level, though, I also feared that he was right and that my liking for blood would go away if I were to be healed. Not so much because I thought it was pathological in itself, but because I thought it was not real. Not authentic, just the result of a narcissistic wish to be “different”, “dark”, “special”. I think my insisting on him approving of it might just have been a need for validation. Validation that at least one thing I liked about myself was truly part of my personality, of my “true self”, something that couldn´t be removed in therapy. He denied me that validation, though, leaving me with the belief that maybe he was not actually bigoted, maybe he just knew my liking for blood was unauthentic, and that´s why he told me it was pathological. It had to be this way, I told myself, after all he had to be an intelligent person, and intelligent persons cannot be bigoted (yeah, right). At least I managed to only start crying after leaving his office.

More to follow.

Why I consulted him – Therapy with Dr. Stoneface, part I

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on April 19, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I rant a lot about psychotherapy, I make allusions to a certain Dr. Stoneface, but so far I have hardly ever gone into any detail of what happened during my own attempts at therapy. I realized many times stories about failed therapies (from the patient´s point of view) are not so easy to find on the Internet, so I will write down my own as far as I can remember it (it´s been a few years).

So. For my 18th birthday, my best friend broke up with me. I have mentioned some of the reasons in this post and since it is a long story, I will not go into detail now. I blamed myself for the breakup, thought I was incapable of being a good friend or of loving anybody other than myself. She had accused me of such things for almost a year, and for a long time I had desperately tried to find out what had made me like that. In one of our last discussions she told me that nothing had made me like that, that I had been born this way, that I had always been an emotionless zombie. It was certainly how I felt back then. Unable to feel. Like a horrible, toxic person who didn´t even notice how toxic she was. I decided that I needed to change, vaguely hoping that if I changed thoroughly enough, my best friend would take me back. And so I decided I needed therapy.

At first I went to some shrink for an initial evaluation (it was a formal requirement). He didn´t tell me of any diagnosis, but as I found out a few months back when I looked at my health insurance bills, he diagnosed me with Adjustment Disorder. Fair enough.

That shrink sent me to a colleague of his for my actual therapy, Dr. Stoneface. As I recently found out (thanks to Google), he had written a book with Dr. Stoneface. Shamed be he who thinks evil of it. Anyway, Dr. Stoneface was a GP who had later trained in psychoanalysis and transference focused psychotherapy. He was a white-haired, tiny little man with light blue eyes. His practice was at the end of a labyrinth of backyards and the first time I went to see him I got hopelessly lost. As a consequence, I was late for the appointment. When he opened the door and I breathlessly apologized, he merely looked at me with a blank stare and told me to come inside. I immediately felt like I had done something so offensive that a simple apology was not enough to make up for it.

His actual office was a fairly comfortable room with a couch and two armchairs, one (his) directly by the door at the front end of the couch, the other one at the other side of the room under the window. I sat down in the armchair by the window. Next to me was the usual tea-table with a box of hankies on it. If I may digress for a moment…I´m somewhat uncomfortable with this whole hanky business. Of course, if you start crying during session (which is not entirely unlikely, after all) it is useful if you don´t have to ask for a hanky or empty your handbag on the floor before you finally find yours, but…somehow this suggests that you will inevitably cry, and this is depressing. Demoralizing, even. Makes you feel far worse than you might be. On some level I also find it intrusive. I wonder what the therapist thinks or feels when he places that box onto the table. Anticipating his clients crying. I´d be embarrassed to really start crying after seeing such a box. I would feel so predictable.

And of course I did start crying at some point during the session. I don´t remember what exactly I told Dr. Stoneface, but I definitely remember telling him that my best friend had broken up with me, and that in a few days we would have one final meeting in order to get closure of some kind. I felt restless and driven, like I absolutely had to get my shit sorted right now, before that meeting, though I do not exactly remember why (bloody hell, it´s been several years and I was definitely not thinking straight at the time). Regarding my “shit”: I don´t know what I told Dr. Stoneface, other than that I was a very bad, self-centered, narcissistic person who had so far only ever tried to blame her family for her flaws and faults. At any rate, he told me to until next session write down what my problems were and what I wanted to achieve in therapy. He also gave me a questionnaire about my childhood and family. Some of the questions were just the basic stuff, other things were probably of psychoanalytic significance (when did your parents give you “the talk”?).

I still have a copy of the little essay I wrote for him, and if you think this blog is pure gibberish, you should hear how I sounded back then. Last semester I learned how psychiatrists evaluate a patient´s mental health and I am tempted to look that essay again with a checklist of psychiatric symptoms. Let´s see.

I cannot take anything seriously, I never feel like something is definitely real, the word “reality” itself doesn´t matter to me. I never feel like I really am myself, I think I am constantly just playing a role. I have no goals, I never know if I really want something I believe I want or if, in fact, I don´t want it. I don´t have any opinion on anything, every point of view seems equally irrelevant to me. I believe I have a very flawed character and all that is left to do is to make me aware of it because I don´t want to see it. My roles (edit: what I meant is the roles I´m playing) are completely spinning out of control.

Okay, what do we have? Derealization. Depersonalisation. Racing thoughts. Thought disorder. An almost manic belief that I am inherently bad, worthless and guilty.

I always thought I was destined for something great and special, now I believe that I only need to be made aware of the fact that, with the kind of character I have, I am only fit for an ordinary life, that is, I will have to marry a very average man (the likes of my ex boyfriends) and let him provide for me, even though I´d much rather have a metal band with an awesome stage show. But I cannot try to go for that, because if I was standing on the stage I know there´d be a voice in my head telling me that I don´t really want this, that the audience doesn´t like me and that I am ugly – that I am actually the person I always knew I was – and that actually I will be glad when it´s all over and I can go home and dream on my own. (…) I´m scared that the voice is right and that I need to accept that I am like that, because my dreams would probably be regarded as sick by large parts of society. I think the dreams are just a symbol for another wish, so I am scared that I am no longer allowed to have those dreams. I´m especially scared that I am no longer allowed to have those dreams because they help me feel great and superior. This is not the kind of person I want to be, but I also don´t want to be a person who doesn´t dream.

The scariest thing here is to what a great extent I still harbor those beliefs. Not rationally, no. But look through my blog and you´ll find plenty of examples for this type of thinking. I mean…it´s been Over. Six. Years., and apparently NOTHING has changed! I didn´t even realize this until now! Either way, if I should diagnose this, I´d say intrusive thoughts at the verge of mania. In very severe cases of depression you might actually experience delusions or some type of mania and fixes ideas, like that you are guilty, and I think this might have been the case for me. At least if I look at this from the outside. On the inside, it still feels horribly plausible.

I can neither have close friendships nor relationships. I´m never really myself, I am lying all the time. I didn´t know that before, but now I can feel it exactly. And nonetheless to some extent I want relationships because they give me some kind of identity and I can feel and present myself like a specific person. 

So…this is basically a repetition of what my former best friend and I myself accused me of: That I used others in order to feed my own sense of identity (which is, of course, a splendid, superior, awesome kind of persona). And, in turn, that I was never myself. Never authentic. Lying without even realizing it. Automatically. Saying words because they sounded good, without understanding their meaning.

In good moments, when I could be happy, there appears a possessive voice. I cannot really experience the moment, I have to put it into words like I´m writing a novel and I am relieved when I no longer have to deal with it, when I can return into my dreams and add that moment to the novel of my life. 

I assumed that this meant I was not even interested in real feelings and experiences. I detailed this problem here. Again, how would I diagnose this? Intrusive thoughts? Obsessive thinking? A compulsion to formulate every thought, feeling and impression as a whole sentence? I still get this, and I assure you it is awfully draining.

I cannot deal with criticism, if someone implies I´m not the way I am in my dreams, and especially if she is the way I´d like to be, I start to hate that person. I always have to be superior. I constantly wonder if I`m the prettiest, best, smartest person there is and I´m never happy with the way I look. 

This passage makes me very uneasy. It is a trait I still have, I tend to compare myself to everybody else and if I don´t arrive at the conclusion that I am “the bestest” (with the help of whatever stupid argument), then I feel worthless. I hate how I cannot cope with others being more awesome than me in whatever way. I saw this passage as a clear sign of narcissism, but in a way, it simply signifies very low self-esteem.

I know all those things, but that doesn´t help, I live in a dreamworld anyway. I hope there is progress nonetheless; that me feeling worse just means I´m becoming aware of the discrepancy between my fantasies and my real life and character.

And so on. That last passage really shows I had already read a thing or two about psychotherapy, though. Well, quite naturally. I had also already seen two shrinks by that time (I might talk about those experiences at some other point).

This entry is quite long already, so I´ll leave it here. Now you´ve got an impression why I consulted Dr. Stoneface and just how much of a mess I was when I first saw him. In the next session, I gave him that essay gibberish, and then I saw him for a total of eight probationary sessions. Next time I´ll write about these, and how the first conflicts arose. These sessions ended with me agreeing to work with him, him writing to my health insurance and not telling me my diagnosis. Well, and then there were the next two years…

 

 

Psychosomatic fuck-ups, narcissism and self-abandonment

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on April 14, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

For several days I have some weird kind of pain in my abdomen. It´s not really cramps, it´s a more constant thing, like muscles that need to be massaged. My entire belly feels a little hard and swollen. It´s quite annoying and apparently it has no intention of going away. I think I´ve had this kind of thing before, so I´m not really worried, it just makes me feel even worse than I feel anyway.

I thought I had my emetophobia under control quite well, but lately I start to randomly feel sick again and I panic straight away. Most of the time I know perfectly well I´m not ill. It is just a mixture of stress and anxiety. Sometimes I don´t even feel properly nauseous anymore, it is just some nameless, abstract overall physical discomfort which makes me feel like I´d do anything just to get out of my skin.

In such a state of stress I have loud, racing thoughts, like excited, agitated voices chattering and screaming in my head. Formulated thoughts, formulated like written sentences, seem to literally etch themselves into my brain, I compulsively think them again and again, emphasizing each syllable.

I get dizzy and nauseous just from the voices. This internal noise and the compulsive thoughts are like some kind of internal stimulus satiation. Then come any noise from outside, or any other kind of stimulus, even a well-meant touch, and I start to…well, half-scream. Moan angrily, maybe. I most definitely want to scream.

For a while I could keep nausea/panic attacks under control because I understood they were caused by internal stress, and whenever I started to feel bad I did something in order to reduce that stress. I relaxed my shoulders, or I lay down, I read children´s books, I breathed into a hanky to avoid hyperventilation. And I tried to be nice to myself. I tried to create a friendly internal atmosphere.

I think that all still holds true. I still do the same things, and it more or less helps (touch wood). What I can no longer do, however, is stop those attacks while they start. The stress simply overwhelms me. Each and every part of me, even the part that is normally responsible for talking me sane and making me relax just freaks out. And there is some weird, wild destructiveness mixed into those attacks. I am unable to be nice to myself. I´m unable to create a friendly internal atmosphere. There is pure hatred and aggression, and somehow I wish I could just die.

Not really really.  But – just slip into complete apathy. See myself from the outside, even. Being carried around and moved by others, without feeling any kind of suffering. Being far away in a carefree mental place. I am somebody else´s, everybody else´s problem now. Not mine. Because they have no idea my mind is still there somewhere in my body. They try to connect with it, sure, but they fully accept that I am not able to do anything useful, or even respond. They don´t demand that I pull myself together. They don´t demand that I take responsibility for anything. They don´t try to fix me just so that I function again. For the first time in my life, they genuinely try to heal me.

Well, dream on. Even I cannot be arsed to care about myself that much.  I feel like I´ve given up on myself, my life and this world a long time ago. Just like I wrote in my last entry. Maybe whatever it is that I want and need is really something I cannot get from anyone. A specific kind of treatment, more perfection than anybody can even remotely deliver…I don´t know. Normally this idea would result in me anxiously rejecting or invalidating my wishes, like: “No, it cannot be, it would mean that you are narcissistic! Narcissists, too, think they´re so special and they deserve special treatment.”

Now, however, this doesn´t worry me. After all, I never said I deserve special treatment. I said need.

I don´t know what kind of person I am, really. Unfortunately I don´t actually know what I need. But whatever it is, needing it cannot in itself make me a bad person, can it? A need is a need. And if, in order to not suffer in some way, I´d need something no person on this earth could ever give to me, then the only thing you could conclude is that I am not exactly a well-adjusted member of my species. And maybe it means that I will be unhappy forever. But a need is a need, and being needy is not the same thing as being demanding or arrogant.

So, I wonder, how many people who need something they cannot get, and, not knowing it is unavailable, angrily demand it, look for it in all kinds of places – are accused of being arrogant because they want more than “normal people” get? Like – emotionally needy patients who try to get something (they don´t even know what it is) from their therapists, and the therapists react with indignation and assume the patients demand special treatment. How do they know, though, if their patients demand this because they feel they are so awesome that they should get privileges, or because they are suffering and in search for something they can never have?

 

Authority issues – Am I just evil, part II

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on April 12, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

A thing I recently realized about myself is that I actually have issues with authorities. Now, that sounds far more bad ass than it actually is, because those issues don´t imply that I punch cops in the face. They aren´t even merely about anger. Let me give you a few examples.

When I was 12 or something I was ice skating with a couple of friends. I was tired and set down on some type of balustrade which separated the ice from the spectators´area. Immediately some guard or warden barked at me to get off there. I obeyed, but I was homicidally angry. I didn´t even understand why I was that pissed off, my own rage took me by surprise. I can only assume that it had a lot to do with feeling humiliated. Anyway, the whole story ended with me starting a row with my friends – possibly because they refused to be equally angry at the warden. I ran off, went home alone and absolutely hated myself.

On yet another occasion many years later, my girlfriend and I were stopped by the police for a routine identity check. I had nothing to fear, but I felt the irrational urge to be seen as particularly cooperative and agreeable. For some reason I wanted the cops to “approve of me” in some way. Like I wanted them to tell me I was a good girl or something, and not the drug-dealing pocket-thieving thug they had expected. I don´t know. It is something I might actually hate myself for even more. At any rate, it seems to be closely connected to the issues I described in my last two posts.

So…what the hell. What is it with me and authorities?

On the one hand, I get absurdly angry when I have any clashes with authorities, and on the other hand, I absolutely want them to approve of me and favorably compare me to other people my age. One thing that happens on both occasions is that my adrenaline reaches sky levels, even when I have nothing to fear. And I do have trouble coming down off it again. After such an encounter, I am typically shaky, paranoid, often angry and sometimes even on the verge of tears. During such encounters, I frequently dissociate to some degree. During that identity check, for example, I let my girlfriend do all the talking and looked somewhere into the void, internally distancing myself from my surroundings. It is a completely automatic reaction which makes me angry afterwards because it makes me feel like a coward. I hate how easy I am to intimidate.

It seems that I am overreacting quite a bit. Fairly normal clashes with authority most young people go through at some point shake me up real bad. Thing is, I overreact into all possible directions. I overreact in terms of anger, fear, shame and submissiveness. More examples?

Eighth grade. I have been noisy in class, the teacher admonishes me and tells me to read out aloud the text we are just dealing with. I feel angry and humiliated and start to read in a silly voice, as if I was a fourth grader. The worst thing is that I know precisely that I´m making a fool of myself and that this will do nothing to help my already pretty bad reputation with my classmates. Still I can´t help it.

Or when I was a little child of four or five, when I had other kids over at my place I would never let them go. When their parents came to pick them up, I would yell at them and forcibly hold my playmates back/down, so they couldn´t go to their parents. I even showed those behaviors when I was older, though just rarely. I think at some point I just learned to adapt insofar as I became apathetic and stopped caring about anything. Funny, really, this might be the secret behind my “dysthymia”, but I didn´t even think of that. I just put into words a sentiment that suddenly was there, in my head. This passive-aggressive, resigned and yet somehow defiant “yeah well, I never grew up properly, I just stopped caring so now everybody thinks I´m super unselfish and mature…fuck off…”

The worst part of these destructive behaviors was that I knew, always knew, even as a kid, that I was creeping my friends out and that I was very likely to lose them. So maybe this planted into my head the idea that I´d either have to be a self-reliant loner who didn´t need anybody, or play by the rules the adults made. Needless to say I chose the “lone warrior” path. But I do believe I actually despised my friends for obeying their parents and other adults. I felt that if we all rebelled against our parents, we´d succeed. I am now part of a volunteer project in a kindergarten and I actually see that this little anarchistic punk of a child was right. If kids simply don´t obey, there isn´t all too much an almighty adult can do. (Always provided, of course, the almighty adult doesn´t turn to abusive behaviors in order to get the kid under control.) Either way, I never understood the natural respect most other kids seemed to have for their parents. I had zero respect for mine. And this lead to other kids not having any respect for me. I remember one of those goody-goody girls (the one who befriended me out of pity) say to me in a shocked tone: “But you need to have some more respect for your mother!”, after witnessing a row between me and my mum. It literally made me want to slap my friend.

Some time in ninth grade, however, I thought I was going to get into trouble for accidentally ditching class. Yes, it really was an accident. If I´d had done it on purpose I would have no problem admitting to it, but no, it was a stupid accident. And I was absolutely shitting myself about the possibility of getting into trouble for it. And what does trouble even mean? Fuck all in this context. My parents weren´t the issue, I even told my mother about it because it bugged me so much. She was clearly unhappy with me, even more than I think I deserved because fuck´s sake it was a misunderstanding (I had thought we were allowed to leave), but there were no consequences or anything. I don´t know what I was so scared of, but the idea of being in trouble was for some reason extremely scary and grave.

Another story: Three years ago I was on a field trip with some university class. We stayed at a youth hostel and when they read the house rules to us, like “no food and drinks of your own”, “door will be locked at so and so” I got a mixture of a temper tantrum and a panic attack. Again, nobody seemed to share my anger. Everybody seemed to just shrug it off. I don´t know if they were thinking “well, it´s their house, fair enough they get to make the rules” or if they were thinking “screw them, they don´t need to know I got that bottle of vodka in my bag”. It is funny that apparently I don´t really disregard or disrespect given rules. If I didn´t care about them, then I wouldn´t publicly make a fool of myself because they upset me so much. I wouldn´t be upset in the first place, I would just break them and hope not to get caught. But this isn´t what I do. I freak out and behave like a three-year-old, out of panic, rage and humiliation.

It is funny, I always accepted the fact that I cannot just break rules as a proof that I´m not a psychopath. Now some months ago I was talking with a uni teacher of mine (only authority figure I respect, a great deal even) about Antisocial Personality Disorder and how people with this disorder don´t respect rules and don´t respond to punishment and reward, and he said: “It´s not so much that they don´t respond, they just overreact. They are hypersensitive rather than lacking affect.” Need I say I nearly fell off my chair?

I don´t want to start ascribing that psychopath label to myself. It´s bad enough that I already battle the narcissism stigma. Then again, of course I want the AsPD label. It´s far cooler than narcissism, right? Totally bad ass. And this attitude makes me worry (yes, for real) that it might actually apply. I mean, holy fuck…shouldn´t it horrify me?! Instead, I´m just toying with it. Can I take nothing seriously? Maybe you can be both hypersensitive and emotionally shallow/lacking affect? But maybe I also don´t take this seriously because deep down I believe that the  psychopathy concept itself  is shallow –  intellectually shallow.  It just seems way too simple and convenient.