I walked into Ashley’s office in tears. It was our first session and I had been a patient for three days already. I was fed up and wanted to go home. The situation seemed hopeless, there was nothing I could do to change the atmosphere I was living in. I felt victimized and tricked by a fantasy that was clearly never going to be fulfilled. I had spent the last two years imagining a fun loving unit where we’d have big group hugs and love and support each other while dealing with some real tough issues. I imagined the shopping trips we’d go on to buy clothes for our new svelte bodies. I envisioned all of the laughs we would have and the moments we would share. I had a Troop Beverly Hills vision for my Dangerous Minds reality. This was prison. I was wrongly placed. Someone had made a mistake.
I sat down in the chair across from her and before we could even introduce ourselves to each other got down to business. Through snotty tears I sobbed about my situation. I told her how I had already been made fun of mercilessly about my weight. I told her about the fights I had already been witness to and the confession a girl had made about half of the unit getting caught planning to kill a patient mere weeks before I was admitted. I told her about the mess up with my meds and how they blamed me at first for throwing up to get attention and then did impressions of me while I was drugged in my room. I laid it all out for her -- every gritty horrible detail of why I didn’t belong there and needed to go home.
She watched me cycle myself into the disposition of a five year old, occasionally handing me a tissue and nodding her head. When I finished she looked at me and said “You can leave if you want to, but do you really want to leave?” I shuddered knowing very well what it would mean to make that choice. And then she said “Lets talk about why you are here.” I blew my nose and then proceeded to tell her my now well rehearsed medical history. In the past ten years I had been to about twelve different therapist, four inpatient/outpatient hospitals and had already shared my history twice during the intake process two days earlier. I had mastered the ability to condense nineteen years of craziness into nineteen minutes of emotionally detached information. It was a sterile, seemingly self-aware, timeline of abuse, diagnoses, medications, suicide attempts, and hospitalizations. I then told her about the insurance fight and how difficult and long the process of getting me admitted was. I ended in the tone I always did with a kind of numb pride and a, “Yeah things have been crazy and I’m pretty fucked up, but no bigs”, attitude. And she saw right through it.
“And now you want to leave?” she responded while scrunching her face and giving me the ‘come on now’ eye. I dropped my head into my hands and started crying again knowing the answer I knew from the beginning.
“I can’t leave” I responded.
“Oh, but you can. You’re nineteen. You can walk out that door whenever you want.” she replied.
“But I know, I know, I know I can’t. I have to see this through.” I cried some more and then looked up at her “But I’m scared.”
Ashley had a way of cutting through my bullshit and getting me to see the truth like no other therapist had before. She always recognized that the living situation and the staffing situation was far from ideal, but never let me lose sight of what was more important, my life. During our second session while I was analyzing, dissecting, and manipulating every problem or person that I took issue with, she stopped me from talking, looked and me and said, “Sara, I think once you leave this place, after you get back on your feet, that you need to stop going to therapy.” I was shocked and almost angry at first. How could my therapist tell me I no longer needed therapy? Couldn’t she see me? Didn’t she hear what I had been telling her? As a matter of fact, she could see and hear me better than anyone else had been able to before, and it was exactly what she was seeing and hearing that was the problem.
I had been in therapy on and off since I was seven years old and because of this, my brain had been trained to function like a therapists. I was not just avoiding life through laying in bed and shoving food down my throat, I had been avoiding life through analyzing the crap out of it and putting everything into little separate categories. I could numb out before the food even landed in my mouth just by doing a judgement dance in my brain -- breaking everything apart, and putting it into messy little sections. My conclusions would make so much sense to me that I was able to make other people believe what I was saying, even if in reality it made no sense at all. My parents used to always joke about how I should become a lawyer and recently my dad told me that he felt bad for all of my therapists when I was a teenager. I had the gift of rationalizing them into a corner and most of them never stood a chance against me. The fact that Ashley recognized this, and after only meeting with me twice, changed the game. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Therapy Assignment- What I believe I deserve