Psycho-Babble Psychology Thread 363216

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Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in

Posted by Racer on July 5, 2004, at 12:47:46

In our marriage counseling session the other day, our MC said something -- can't really even remember what now -- that sent me into a state that shocked me, and I think my husband and our MC, too. I had been my recently usual self -- looking kinda healthy and strong, at least in comparison to how I had been in recent months. No tears, no hysteria, just reason and logic and opinion. Then, after whatever she said, I heard my voice waver up the scale, break, and waver some more; a few tears; then straight back to Reasonable Racer. I'm not sure if I'm feeling more like Spock or Commander Data, but I'm certainly not firing on any sort of emotional cylinders.

Thinking about it later, I realized that I'm doing the same thing in individual therapy, too. Now, admittedly, I've just started with my fourth individual therapist in less than six months, so it's not as though we've got a great relationship going yet, nor as though she can see anything like how alien this "me" is from the real me (whoever that is). I'm feeling so alienated from my emotions right now, I can't even really recognize it -- again, I was really shocked to hear my voice change so abruptly, when I was totally unaware of holding anything back in the first place. In individual therapy, on the other hand, I have been aware of holding back, but not sure what I am holding back -- I only know that there's something there that just doesn't want the light shining on it right now.

This emotional withdrawal scares me for a number of reasons. (Not least because something very much like this has preceded ever depressive crisis in my life, and is usually pretty apparent to me shortly before I get actively suicidal. Been there, bought the t-shirt, would just as soon not repeat that vacation.) I don't know what to do about it, how to combat it, especially in the dark about how to combat it with a brand new, no real relationship yet, unknown quality of individual therapist.

I won't ask if anyone has any thoughts, opinions, advice, etc; because I know that a lot of you have been in a similar place, and that most of you have some thoughts and will share them. I will ask that you accept my gratitude, though, for offering them to me. And my thanks for all that you offer here on a regular basis. You are truly a great bunch -- I"m so fortunate to be part of this community, because I can be sure of your support.

Thank you, and I'm looking forward to reading your responses.


Re: Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in

Posted by rs on July 5, 2004, at 16:15:11

In reply to Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in, posted by Racer on July 5, 2004, at 12:47:46

Therapy is hard. I understand about the withdrawal much. My T says that I edit all the time. Which I do in many many ways. There is much pain in there. Goes deep. But me just withdraw from it at times in therapy. Want to talk to feel but for some reason just stop. Not suppose to talk. Do not want to face it. Why? Because it hurts. Not sure if this is any support but your a wonderful person who has much to offer people. I wish I could be just as supportive to you as you are to all and to my last post. Thoughts are with you and wish you the best.


Re: Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in

Posted by pegasus on July 5, 2004, at 20:00:02

In reply to Re: Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in, posted by rs on July 5, 2004, at 16:15:11

Oh, gosh, I *wish* I had some great advice, but mostly I just feel your fear about what might come. I've been there myself, and I *hate* waiting for the other shoe to drop. For me, the depression is almost always preceeded by a totally out of control anxiety over some irrational thing that has nothing to do with the real problem. So I'm not going emotionally flat, but I'm emotionally way off target. Anyway, it's a type of diverting of dealing with something, I think.

For me, the solution was meds, which seem to keep me from ramping up into the weird obsessional anxiety, and then somehow the following depression never amounts to much either. So, I don't have any ideas about how to keep your emotional flattening from going into the depression.

But here's some advice from a book that helped me once: If you're depressed, most often you are depressing something. What is it that you are not facing? Is there any way that you can find a way to express it, even if you're afraid to look at it head on? Suggestions were the usual writing, art, music, dance, talking.

I really wish I could help, and I know this isn't much help. But here's a big solid hug . . . (((Racer))) . . . and my best thoughts toward no deep depression this time around for you.



Re: Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in

Posted by gardenergirl on July 6, 2004, at 7:15:09

In reply to Re: Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in, posted by pegasus on July 5, 2004, at 20:00:02

I think your insight that this type of emotional detachment precedes a depressive episode is important. I know you will pay attention to that. This is a difficult time "breaking in" a new T. Can you talk to her about your detachment? And let her know what you know from your past? Maybe she can help you find a way to connect again. Pegasus offered some good suggestions, and I know you have heard my favorite before (aaagh, not the third chair!). You might also try scanning your body and asking yourself what you feel in your body. From there sometimes you can connect with an emotion.

Please be kind and gentle with yourself. It sounds like you are at a tenuous point, and I am sending you gentle, non-intrusive hugs and positive energy to help hold you on the right side of the depression fence.

Take care, sweets.



Ugh, thanks a lot, Pegasus et al

Posted by Racer on July 6, 2004, at 14:08:14

In reply to Re: Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in, posted by gardenergirl on July 6, 2004, at 7:15:09

Sorry, I'm just being a little flippant about it, but Pegasus hit on something kinda MAJOR in her suggestions. It just can't be as easy as eating some chocolate, huh?

Yes, I think there is something I'm suppressing pretty strongly, and I think it is a big part of my withdrawal, and it is bothering a lot, and I'm not really able to get to it myself. There are so many different spices in my stew right now, it's impossible to identify any of them individually -- but they do add up to a unified taste.

At the end of the last session, my new T said that tomorrow we're going to talk about "me" -- rather than just the stuff that relates to "me against the agency", which is most of what's happened so far, since getting medicated is a priority for me right now to try to stave off my next collapse. So, tomorrow morning there will be more structure and less of me starting a word and going from there. I'm not sure I can get to the issue of withdrawal tomorrow -- for one thing, when I'm this far removed from my own emotions, it's almost impossible for me to remember that I have them, let alone bring up the lack. For another thing, I am in a total Jack Friday routine: "just the facts, ma'am," and I get to decide what constitutes a fact, and what is "only" opinion or emotional reaction. (Again, that's the scary part of it for me: I know that when I'm repressing my emotions this much, they're *primed* to bust out and that it's likely to be ugly when they do. NOT something I'm looking forward to.)

It's as though I'm trying to protect myself from the emotional pit of depression by totally rejecting my emotions, just *pushing* myself to "do things" to keep it away. Now, this isn't all bad -- I can count the material benefits of this withdrawal: clean windows upstairs and down, reorganized closets, scrubbed down the kitchen walls and cabinets, vacuumed the ceilings (cobwebs), etc. The problem is, there really is a limit on how many times in one week one can clean the same bathroom, you know? (And I can't seem to work the same miracles on the Bigger Projects that would extend the miracle beyond the trivial, things like filing all the stacks of papers that my husband manages to generate and then stack on the dining room table with no thought of ever *putting away*, for instance.) So, I keep running around, doing little, trivial cleaning jobs around the house, trying to stay ahead of whatever is chasing me. I'm afraid to stop, because I'm afraid that it'll catch me, even though I'm not entirely sure what it is.

Even though I started this out with a flippant subject line and opening, I really do appreciate your responses. I have been avoiding my journal, since that would kinda require me to think of something to say beyond, "cleaned the bathtub in the master bath and scrubbed off the scale buildup while I was at it..." Since I still haven't completed my writing assignment from last week -- OK, haven't even started it -- I think today I may make an effort to write the assignment and a journal entry. If nothing else, maybe that will help me figure out what I'm hiding myself from, what it is that's chasing me behind that Scary Monster mask. And I also promised an email to a friend about something else related to this, and maybe writing that along with her response will help with this.

{{sigh}} Why can't chocolate fix this? It would be so much easier.


Re: Ugh, thanks a lot, Pegasus et al

Posted by pegasus on July 6, 2004, at 15:23:41

In reply to Ugh, thanks a lot, Pegasus et al, posted by Racer on July 6, 2004, at 14:08:14

Hey Racer,

If you have any artistic talent, you might try messing around with paints or something. I find that sometimes I can touch my feelings gently when I paint or draw (or even just cut up magazines and make collages), even when it's too scary to think about them with words. But, I guess, that's still likely to let that monster catch up to you in some form, so maybe that's not a helpful suggestion. I'm just trying to think of how you can face the monster without actually letting it all the way out. So that maybe you can stop diverting yourself away from it, and let it come in a more healthy, controlled way than with a big depression or anxious, nonstop cleaning (which, by the way, I can also relate to).

Like, I'm thinking maybe make a collage of all the monster-like pictures you can find, or cut out pictures of things you don't like, and glue them together into a monster. I know it sounds like kid stuff, but I think there's some right brain - left brain thing going on with creative things like that, which can sometimes help us deal without talking.

I'm with you on the chocolate. Have you read Harry Potter? Chocolate is how they recover from encountering a dementor (kind of like a crushing depression). If only it worked that way.



Re: Ugh, thanks a lot, Pegasus et al

Posted by shortelise on July 6, 2004, at 17:00:25

In reply to Re: Ugh, thanks a lot, Pegasus et al, posted by pegasus on July 6, 2004, at 15:23:41

It astonishes me how clearly some of you 'round here see.

I have to agree with Pegasus about the creative outlet thing. It helps me enromously to create, be it gardening or painting or refinishing furniture. Even cooking can be a release. I even did 6 mos of Art Therapy at the same time as psychotherapy, and it was wonderful - I never told the art therapist what was going on with me - I didn't even explain the picture I did there in the few days after my cat died. Just making it helped. Is it the use of another part of the mind, a sort of backdoor to feelings? I don't know, but I can make a Szechuan meal that will blow your mind when I'm in a foul mood!



So, what you're saying is...

Posted by Racer on July 6, 2004, at 20:06:26

In reply to Re: Ugh, thanks a lot, Pegasus et al, posted by shortelise on July 6, 2004, at 17:00:25

Cleaning doesn't count as creative? {sigh}

Man, I'm having a bad day here -- my only response to these suggestions is "Yes -- BUT" and I don't want that. Here's a little explanation, though, of my own, personal "yes-but" on creative expression right now. Maybe that might help show where I am right now, and generate some more good suggestions?

Normally, I do a lot of things that qualify as creative: sew, knit, spin, embroider, computer graphics, web pages, etc. For the past however long, though, every time I try to do any of that, I just can't get it right, and then use that as fuel for my self-criticism. I've gotten afraid of trying any of those things, because the outcome has been so negative for me. Our marriage counselor did promise to get me the information on an art therapy program that I might be able to join, and I might even be able to get there and see if I can make myself leave the house to go. (Remember, no matter how "normal" I may sound in writing, the thought of leaving the house right now is absolutely overwhelming -- although I can go to a few places consistently: I take my mother shopping in a different city every week, I go to Costco because my husband isn't comfortable going there, and I get to therapy. That's about it. Even if I could get over that enough to get to art therapy, as well, I'm not sure I could do it with other people around.) I actually think it might be a very good idea, even for me, but I'm not sure I can do it right now, you know? The other thing that stops me when I think about it is very, very personal: my mother is an artist. My life before the age of about 25, when I finally gave up entirely, was filled with a lot of ambivalence about art. On the one hand, my mother put a fair amount of pressure on me to "Be Artistic" and others around me *expected* me to reflect being the daughter of such a talented artist. I enjoyed a lot of the art classes Mother sent me to, and I enjoy making things, but the results always disappoint me a great deal -- because I *know* that I haven't done it well enough to meet my own standards. While I have identified this as an issue to work on in therapy -- the setting of unreasonable, unreachable standards and the self-criticism for failing to reach them -- those issues are there, and they do make it very hard for me to consider trying something that's got such a loaded history for me, you know?

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm not doing anything creative. I have been working on a mood charting database that I hope will allow me to print out a pictorial representation of my moods over the course of, say, a month, so that I can *show* how I've been, rather than trying to tell it when I know that I'm not really seeing it clearly myself. That is creative, even if it's not the same sort of creativity that's involved in some sort of art. (heheheh -- yeah, I get into the same sorts of things with that as with the art. Expecting too much of myself, etc. At least I'm consistent that way, huh?) I'm also trying to write a lot of this in a journal, but that's hard right now: it's not that I'm withdrawing from someone else, so much as withdrawing from myself. Does that even make sense? Trying to write about it is virtually impossible, because it's so well locked away right now.

Urgh! Can's someone just send me a replacement key to my emotions? {sigh} Don't answer that. I already know. And I also know that my therapist can probably help me through this, too. I think part of the problem is my consistency: I feel the same sort of pressure to "do well" in therapy that I feel in everything else I do. The time between appointments has turned into a roller coaster for me: right after, I get a bit down from my "failure" and the couple of days before the next appointment I get a bit agitated from my *need* (probably perceived need) to "get it right this time." I'll try to bring all this up with the therapist, of course, but again -- it's so hard!

Of course, after three miserable experiences with therapists since December, trust issues are also in play here. Just gotta add to the mix, before the other ingredients get blended in. I don't know how much of this withdrawal is rooted in the trust section, and how much in anything else. The hell of it is that I *like* this new therapist, and really, really want us to work well together. I think we can, too -- but it's so hard to try right now, you know?

As I write all this, I realize I'm scared. I'm feeling pretty much paralysed with fear. Guess at least I have a better picture of what I"m hiding from, figuring that out. Guess that can be part of tomorrow's session? At any rate, thank you all for caring enough to respond. It did do some good, too, despite my "yes-but" beginning. I know I'm scared, now, and I'm not sure I quite got that before. I can also feel Fear's sibling, Shame, standing up to be counted. The Shame seems to be growing bigger than the Fear, too, so I'll consider that, as well, between now and tomorrow.

Thanks for getting me started on the road to finding this much of the puzzle. I'll let you know how it goes.


PS re: Art Therapy pegasus

Posted by Racer on July 7, 2004, at 11:56:44

In reply to Re: Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in, posted by pegasus on July 5, 2004, at 20:00:02

Despite my last post telling why I'm not sure it's right for me right now, I did leave a message for our marriage counselor asking her to get the information about the AT program she mentioned to us. Even if I'm scared at the thought, and pretty resistant right now, I wanted you to know that I think it's such a good idea I've taken action to follow up on it. If I sound as if I've got my heels dug in, and am leaving twin ruts as I'm dragged unwillingly along, that is how I feel -- but I really think it's a great idea despite that, which is why I'm taken actual action.

Sorry if that still sounds lukewarm at best. I'm trying to say, "thank you. That's very good advice, and I appreciate both the quality of that advice and the concern and caring that led you to offer it. I am exploring it, too, rather than rejecting it." Not that anyone besides me has any experience with ambivalence, right?

Thanks, Pegasus.


Re: So, what you're saying is...

Posted by pegasus on July 7, 2004, at 12:07:01

In reply to So, what you're saying is..., posted by Racer on July 6, 2004, at 20:06:26

Hi Racer,

I'm sorry to be action planning for you, especially on such a sensitive topic. That can be so irritating sometimes. I have a friend who always does that, and my reaction is often, "Do you think I haven't thought of these things? This is my own personal problem that is causing me much pain! Do you think I'm not coming up with the obvious solutions myself? What I need here is emotional support!" And then I have to spend extra energy that I don't have saying "Yes, but . . ." to all of her suggestions, which is frustrating for both of us.

Sometimes it seems to me that I have such great ideas (!?!?) that I want to share. But I know that I don't know diddly about your situation. I feel bad that I might have been implying that the way you're coping isn't good enough. Cleaning is a great way of coping! Much better than some other things I can think of. And your mood chart sounds cool, too. And I know you talk about the creative things that you do a lot. Sorry to imply that you weren't being creative enough. I wasn't really thinking that, I just meant to be explaining some things that have helped me.

So, here is your magic emotions replacement key, which is really what you've been wanting:

I made it fancy, just for you. You just hang in there, and don't let me or your mom or anyone else tell you what you need to do. You know better than all of us, and I'm sure you're already trying plenty hard.




Re: So, what you're saying is... pegasus

Posted by Racer on July 7, 2004, at 14:54:08

In reply to Re: So, what you're saying is..., posted by pegasus on July 7, 2004, at 12:07:01

Hey, I didn't take it as anything of the sort: I took your suggestion as exactly what I think you meant it to be: "Here's something that really helped me. It might help you, too. And I'm telling you about it because I care."

In fact, I was feeling really rotten for "yes-butting" you over the suggestion.

Today is Not A Good Day for me, so I'm not going to try to explain. Let me just say two things and then I'm done for now:

1. Thank you very much for your suggestion. It is especially valuable to me because you cared enough about how I was feeling that you offered me something personal to you, and sincerely hoped it would be helpful to me.

2. I didn't reject it out of hand, because I agree that it might be a very good thing for me -- no matter how resistant I may be to the idea. I have called our marriage counselor to remind her to get out the contact information for a local art therapy program before our next appointment with her. Even if I did "yes-but" over it, I really am going to find out more about it. I won't go so far as to promise to DO it, but I will promise to follow through on finding out more about what's involved and whether it's something I can do in my current situation.

Again, I think it is a wonderful idea, and I thank you for the suggestion.

Sorry if that didn't all come through last night -- I was in an even worse place than I am now, which I think colored my response more than a little.


Re: Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in Racer

Posted by daisym on July 8, 2004, at 1:02:30

In reply to Withdrawal, therapy, feeling boxed in, posted by Racer on July 5, 2004, at 12:47:46

I think emotional withdrawal is often related to exhaustion. I think this is widely overlooked too. When it gets too hard, when our thoughts end up chasing each other, I think the brain eventually shuts down. I know I go to that flat, intellectual space where I can avoid feeling for awhile. Otherwise it is too much, serious overload.

I also think we can think ourselves into this space by trying to be both patient and therapist. We have to try to remember that the process of therapy is a large part of the isn't the way to find "the" answer. Because it is about change, and change is fluid.

Maybe you can avoid the depression by giving yourself permission to stop trying to "fix" yourself and just rest your mind. Take a break from your own introspection. Breath, relax and sleep.

(OK, I've had a hard week so this might be more for me than you. It still sounds good. )

I'm sorry things are so tough. Hang in there.


Re: So, what you're saying is...

Posted by pegasus on July 8, 2004, at 11:40:36

In reply to Re: So, what you're saying is... pegasus, posted by Racer on July 7, 2004, at 14:54:08

I'm glad to know that you found it helpful. I did want you to know that I can see where the "yes but's" can come from. I think I understand your frustrations in general, even if I might be off in the particulars. No worries at all about any misunderstanding. And you're right that I really care about what you're going through. I appreciate your seeing that and wanting to let me know, despite everything you're dealing with now. So I think we're still friends. :)



We can never be friends! pegasus

Posted by Racer on July 8, 2004, at 19:51:19

In reply to Re: So, what you're saying is..., posted by pegasus on July 8, 2004, at 11:40:36

Couldn't resist, Pegasus. And I am joking about that.

You know, the whole "falling over myself with apologies and explanations" thing is part and parcel of what I'm calling withdrawal, too, and it's not "me" so much as all that. Hmmmm....

Yesterday, in my session, I did manage to get closer to something emotional and even cried a little. I think the fear of breaking down entirely is what's causing the whole thing, and I think it's also why I'm so resistant to doing anything I think of as creative -- failing to meet my own expectations would feel so overwhelming and bring up all the "you fail at everything" self-talk that helps speed up the whole downward spiral. (The good news on that front is that I am able to read again, which hadn't been possible for me for almost a year now. Since I'm "A Reader" by nature and habit, that was like losing a limb.)

What's so funny is that we used a sort of backdoor to get into some of what's really going on with me, and it was totally unintentional. My brand new, still has that band box shine on her therapist asked me to tell her a little about myself: what I like to do, career, etc. Her supervisor had brought up my knitting to her, so she asked about that first. Then I told her a bit about my checkered career -- one thing leads to another and somehow I go from Dior suits in law firms to non-profit training in jeans to teaching horseback riding -- which also brought up my last "real" job as a website designer -- which led to the story of what happened there as an illustration of the same pattern that I'm watching unfold with this agency. Then we talked about what I really want from this agency now: I don't even care about getting proper medications anymore -- I just want to find a way to break this pattern, and get out the other end without feeling as if I've had to chew off a limb to do it. Every contact I have with them feels like another layer of my Self has been stripped off, and I want to find a way to get out of there without feeling as though I've helped them do it. In fact, I want to feel as if I have truly protected myself.

That was the first time I actually found those words about it, and finally being able to say it in words to myself has been enough to get me started thinking about how I'm going to handle my new writing assignment.

Now, back to the grindstone -- I was quite productive today, although I'm not sure it was really all that useful except in getting our condo a bit neater. Did a bunch of "neatening" projects while waiting for The Cable Guys to come -- an hour late, of course, so a five hour wait without being able to do much -- and missed my usual lunchtime. Now to go make that liverwurst sandwhich.

It means a lot to me to know you do care, Pegasus. And I hope that you're in the Forgiving Racer camp, so that you really weren't bothered by the 'yes-but' post, rather than just holding back. You is the woman!


Re: We can never be friends!

Posted by lorily on July 10, 2004, at 19:39:01

In reply to We can never be friends! pegasus, posted by Racer on July 8, 2004, at 19:51:19

Racer, I read some of your posts in this thread and you mention not being able to or avoiding writing in your journal, finding it difficult to discuss things with your therapist that you obviously feel okay with here. My little, simple suggestion is to print out what you've written here and supply it to your therapist and stick a copy in your journal.

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