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Letter from the Therapist 
15th-Aug-2007 12:56 pm
Dear IB
She never did spell my name right, but I think that's OK. I rarely wrote it down for her.
We have now come to the end of our stipulated 16 sessions of CAT
At £50 a session, that's £800 I've spent on this. I sincerely hope it was worth it: that's money the InnerRents originally gave me for orthodontistry, before I decided one slightly wonky tooth wasn't worth £1,000.
I wrote you a letter earlier outlining the issues with which you first presented [me] and this second letter aims at summing up how far we have come in addressing those issues, as well as noting what remains to be reflected upon
I intended to post the first letter, but never got round to it. And of course, when I said earlier today that I'm all cured, &s, I was being facetious. Ignore that.
I feel that one big turning point in the therapy (a 'penny drop') was when you realised how much you were waiting for others to approve of you and your plans for the future. You recognised this in relation to your career plans but perhaps it is also the wider picture which you saw - that attempts to demand reassurance as a person were also highlighted. I have said before how your 'babysitter' in the shape of talking books was insubstantial in terms of intimacy from carers and how this has driven your tendency to dissociate in the form of fantasy stories, for example, or negative thinking about others' opinions of you - or the Monopoly board as an image of life
Lot of backstories to this paragraph. The big turning point in question is one I talked about at the time (post linked to below). Because a lot of my life is 'My teachers say I'm clever and should go to Oxbridge'; 'My parents think science is cool and I should be a scientist'; 'Drakhen and the Greek want me to live with them'; 'Batya said in chat she'd like me to play Melaka Fray'; 'Hey, this random internet person likes my Angua/Carrot fic and wants me to write more'. And it's very very very difficult for me to know where to draw the line between: taking people's opinions into account with what I'd be good at when deciding what I want and outright just doing what I'm told. RP people will know how easily suggestible I am in terms of characters and plot lines. Sad Club people (*cough* Sam *cough*) will know how persuadable I am in terms of game strategy (tempered by my competitive streak, which is rooted in another dilemma). Everyone who knows me knows that I rarely ever say no.to anything.

That's day to day, and that's... well, it's not fine, but it's little. But it's when I said out loud in therapy: so I'm going to finish my PhD and if people then think I should do... wait, did I just say that? that I realised this was dominating my life too much. That I was more or less incapable of making a decision without worrying about approval. Having recognised that, I sat back and thought, to Heck with this. I'm going to do what I want to do, which is big and scary and I might fail, but it'll be something I do for me.

It's clearly about reassurance and approval - I don't trust my ability to make decisions, and I don't trust my self image enough to know how I am, I need other people to tell me I'm good at something, or making the right choice. This could be tied in with my super-competitive streak - if I'm not winning, if I don't get a First, if I'm not inundated with positive feedback, then I'm not good enough. This is probably a result partly of being a precocious, intelligent child who was used to high marks, winning poetry and drama competitions, breezing in maths and English, &s, and yet having this inability to connect to people which meant actual friends were thin on the ground. Friendships were something I had to work at - and admiration and respect is an adequate substitute in a lot of cases.

I separate intellect from emotion, and come from a very intellectual background, where I was encouraged to think, to reason, and to be fair, at the expense of freedom to feel, and to be selfish and biased. My emotional and  - I don't want to say spiritual, but I will anyway - education was handled by stories more than interpersonal relationships. I learned to read using the Ladybird talking book series - not the titles shown here, but the Ladybird Classics, which back then included The Lost World, Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Real, high quality escapist fantasy. These were used to quiet me down on a long car journey, or when I was restless at bedtime, and so on. And for all the therapist says it was 'insubstantial', neither me nor the InnerRents would change this for the world - stories are my life, and I don't know what I'd do without them.

However, there you are - I come from an intellectual background where emotional stress wasn't dealt with very well, and I found sanctuary in stories. You can insert background with my heavily biased childminder here as well, if you need more reasons for me to retreat there. This is my 'zoning' phase - when I lose myself in a story world in my head. Sometimes this is fic, or an RP idea, but at other times, it might be real world theoreticals, and that's when paranoia comes into play.  I can spend an unhealthy about of time making up stories about how my friends all hate me, about what they're saying behind my back, or what they're going to say next time I see them. I'm anxious about people's opinions, and I like stories. So I make up stories about people's opinions.

The Monopoly Board - I'm quite amused by how much my therapist fixed on this. I've just always assumed everyone had one. It's a board laid out in my head that represents a year, with coloured stretches for 'winter', 'summer', and corners for 'Christmas' (jail) and 'Easter' (Free Parking) - The first day of September is 'Go'. And I use it to reference where I am and where I should be. And if I find I'm actually in 'Easter' when it's actually three months after Easter, I panic. It's just how I measure time in my head.

OK, on with the letter:

The second and perhaps equally important change was a cognitive one - where you recognised the three categories of being, zoning out and productivity and were able to monitor and adjust those.
I'm proud of this, being able to recognise that sometimes just not feeling like doing something is a state of mind that I can recover by doing it; by recognising when I'm zoning out in a bad way, and pulling myself out. Not 100% there yet, but the ground is laid.

Thirdly, an image which sticks with me is that of you seeing yourself on a train going from one journey through a tunnel to another. This was an image of passivity and reactivity - one which has now been replaced with your getting off the train and driving- forging your own path - through the countryside. In fact, this image has translated into reality where you have now decided that you do not want to be an academic per se - have a position as your father suggested that would make your place in the world; rather, you prefer to finish your PhD and then go into writing and communication.
I'm dead proud of that image. See here for the post I wrote on it, and I still stand by my decision, and I know the InnerRents do too. The conversation she's referring to is one that took place over a fambly dinner earlier this year, and it went something like this:

InnerDad: So have you decided what you're doing after your PhD?
InnerBrat: No! I have to finish my PhD first! I have to decide these things already? Can't I just get a job?
InnerDad: No, you can't. It's about time you decided what you want to be?
InnerBrat: ...Can't I just be the InnerBrat? I like being the InnerBrat! (I don't want to be Elfstar, I want to be Debi!)

And I came out of that all angry and bitter. Well, not very angry and bitter, but my back was at least a little up. Firstly because I don't have faith in my own decisions, but also because I felt there was pressure there I didn't want - I want to enjoy the journey, not worry about the car I'm driving. But I know I will always worry about the car I'm driving, and whether or not the 'rents are proud of me for driving it.

I have noted through our meetings that you have become increasingly relaxed during the sessions and I feel this has been an in situ demonstration of how you may more easily relate to others - a learning experience which can extrapolate to relationships outside the therapeutic one - an experience which you have for some time already been enjoying with your partner, Bing. With Bing, you can be and not do-- something which I doubt you learned at an early age with your parents or which you had with schoolmates as you grew up. With Bing you can enjoy a mature dependency, a non-demanding relationship is good for you and one which I hope you will increasingly try to find with others; specifically, a relationship where you are not vigilant of others' demands (both said and unsaid) of you and where you are not being called upon by others to perform. I think that your historical reliance on others' demands of you was manifest in the silences during our sessions when you would ask me "should I be saying or doing something now?"
Dude, I was paying for those silences. And they were clearly just there to test me. And the reason I became more relaxed is I got used to the therapy - I understood how it worked better. But it's also probable that I let go of worrying what she thought of me - it's OK to be honest with your therapist and not take care of what she knows about you. That in itself is probably a massive step, though I realise from other people's experience with therapy that I was very lucky indeed with finding someone so easy to get on with. For a start, unlike a friend's therapist, mine has never told me that my bisexuality and rejection of gender roles clearly mean I'm FTM cross-gendered. (I mean, WTF?)

Also, I have to take a time out here and say: "Lookit, agoodshinkickin, we're like mature and healthy and stuff. THAT MEANS WE WIN."

What she means is the way our relationship is rooted both in IM and IRL. Daily one of us logs on, looks for the other, pings, and after the rounds of 'caretaking' (How are you? How is Al[1] today?), we can have a conversation or fall into absolute silence for ages, just happy to have the IM window open, and occasionally saying random stuff. I don't have this with other people, conversations with whom I have to think of as either 'active' or 'closed', and the window is open/closed appropriately. In person, it's just as relaxed and talky and... well, comfortable. Which is amazing.

I'm getting there with other people too; the flatmates and I are getting on better thanks to me realising my assumptions aren't always right, and understanding myself better. Other friendships are fading as I realise I'm not getting stuff out of them, or strengthening as I realise I don't need to worry about what I'm putting in, and it's all good. My interpersonal relationships are more mature now, and it's satisfying. And a lot of that is Bing's influence in my life.

You say you have found the therapy helpful in identifying and discerning your anxiety, in seeing it for what it is and somehow going through it rather than [give] in to panic. You can now objectify your feelings of anxiety, you can treat the symptoms for what they are as well as identify and adjust the variables which have contributed to the underlying anxiety state. Furthermore, you are able to take practical steps for appropriate feedback and productivity where you do not diminish nor sabotage yourself - you can now show your ongoing work in regular stages to your supervisors

I do recognise panic attacks coming on now, and more importantly, I can assess where they're coming from now, and they don't scare me as much. I'm not getting a panic attack daily any more, and I'm comfortable. The most recent anxiety attack I got was in sorting out the tickets for CatiCon - I thought I'd found cheap tickets, waited a week to book and they disappeared and corchen and I spent two hours online looking for reasonable tickets for all of us, which we found. I had Clare on one hand and Bing on the other to keep me grounded, and I recognised why, and more importantly I was able to explain why - sense of failure, money issues, feeling that I'd let down people were all belayed by the fact that the people affected were my friends and would understand, and that these things happen. I channelled that frustration into anger at the train booking websites, and I managed it fine.

I never go to my supervisors for help except at the very last resort, out of fear that they'll judge me on what I've done and haven't done. This crushing worry about their opinion means I don't talk to them about my work. We're fixing this, with honesty and currently I'm waiting for them to get back to me. Meanwhile, I'm doing work to show them next time. :-D PhD's going well.

Talking things through has helped - as has recognising the three states I mentioned earlier and recognising themes of 1) passivity, 2) looking for validation and 3) compulsive caretaking. You are well on the way to tolerating difficult feelings and thereby being able to live with yourself more peaceably. Now you can continue to work on this
Passivity is 'letting things happen', or letting other people make decisions for me. It's part of looking for validation, in which I have to have people's approval of what I do or there's no point doing it. Compulsive caretaking is obsessing over someone else's well being, and having to do everything I can for them, for a number of reasons. I'm more assertive and confident right now, and it's working wonders.

I wish you all the best with your future and look forward to seeing you for your follow-up session in three months' time
It's good to feel good about myself. I can't recommend Cognitive Analysis enough. Even if you can't afford the therapeutic sessions, try a self-help book. There's something empowering in self-exploration.

And I'm done.

[1]Bing's kidney stone was named Al Swearengen, because of what he did to her vocabulary
15th-Aug-2007 02:20 pm (UTC)
The viewing of conversations as 'active' or 'closed' kind of mirrors real life interaction - I think of it as being in the same room as someone. I generally feel obliged to talk to everyone in a room. Having Bing's window open and only talking into it occasionally just represents us sitting in the same room not talking, so I can just randomly throw things into that window without having to open up the conversation with 'hi how are you?'s. I think it's that I don't have to worry about forgetting she's there. Nor do I ever worry that randomly saying something will open an IM window she doesn't want, or anything else that's randomly tied to IM etiquette. It's all, to me, tied up with what the person on the other end of the IM expects from me, and I don't worry about that with her.

The supervisor thing is important, and I can only adivse honesty at all counts, as my supervisors are actually very supportive when I admit I need help. I just have this terrible habit of lying to cover the fact I need it. Open communication with supervisors is my new Major Goal.

Gamewise - I'd be more worried about your absence if I wasn't actually beginning to get comfortable with what has been done while waiting for you - it's not like you've caused a delay in the threads that Jack's not in. I was more worried, assumed you're bogged down with work and stresses right now, at not wanting to be the hassler and stress you out more. We can talk about it as soon as you're ready.
15th-Aug-2007 02:31 pm (UTC)
I am sitting here nodding vigorously at the screen, just so you know. Word on the IM interaction mirroring things in a room, and the need/desire/whatever to talk to everyone in said room, which you witnessed in person with me at Millicon, I bet. (Which adds a whole new dimension of fun to what happened afterward, la. If you don't know what I'm talking about there I'll update you in email if you want; suffice to say it doesn't affect/wasn't about you, though!)

Augh, re: the supervisor thing. Yes. I am far better at that than I used to be; I suspect it's one of the marks of the overachiever/perfectionist that it's difficult to ask for help/admit that one needs it because then -- at least in my case -- "omg they will think I'm incompetent and I'm not really I'm not!" I am better at it than I used to be, after running up HARD against a wall of what I could manage alone and crashing to the ground, and it's good to be reminded from time to time that I need to mentally check in with myself on such things so's to be careful to maintain/pursue that open communication you describe.

Gamewise -- if it wasn't for the fact that there's so much people have been able to do that doesn't require my presence I think I would have just collapsed. *wry* I'm really glad of that, more than I can say, AND for how much you and Heater and others have done in just running with things and having fun and all. You're not/won't be stressing me out more. What I'm trying to do right now, so you know, is to finish my part of the transcript (which I know people need very badly to make progress in those areas, augh) and to get all my captain-threads up, and to set up a hopeful timeline for posting.

(Work and stresses yeah, thanks to some unexpected things I won't go into here but can privately? But they are slowly being sorted. Slowly.)
15th-Aug-2007 02:47 pm (UTC)
By all means email me if you want to, cause I worry and I care, but only if you want to talk about it.

Me and Heater? We've just been indulging our couple and stretching a three minute scene into a long self gratifying post. My plan at the moment is to tackle each thread in chronological order to herd people and make sure Mal can go back as soon as possible for Steph's benefit, and play out my own threads in the meantime.

I can take on some transcripts if you want - I did all mine and then worried if doing other people's would be rude, but it won't take long to get them up. Y'know, between Supernatural eps

15th-Aug-2007 02:54 pm (UTC)
A long and awesome self gratifying post. *grin* Email notifs are helpful to me for keeping up, you see.

I love your plan, I think it's a very good one, and I want to subscribe to its newsletter. Also, I am going to take you up on that re: transcripts, if you do have time and are willing? Because, yeah. *stuffs guilt in a box and drops it in the ocean* And if not re: time whatever, I trust you to tell me so.

And now I must run to work -- but I'll email later. :)
15th-Aug-2007 11:40 pm (UTC)
*pokes head in* Now I wish I'd popped my head in sooner to ask about transcript help -- I'd totally have offered to do transcripting, because there have been a few nights where I haven't been up for active RPing but could certainly have banged up transcripts.

So I'll also offer, if you still need some assistance in that area. *will e-mail*
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