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

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…

 

 

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