Therapy got switched to this morning, Tuesday, instead of my normal standing slot on Wednesday. Since we missed last week because of the snow, it’s been nearly two weeks since my last appointment but I still have no interest in going. With therapy, I guess absence does not make the heart grow fonder! True to my word, I spent a dedicated block of time last week on self-orchestrated “therapy,” writing and thinking through problems and feelings. I actually found it equally, if not more, beneficial that structured therapy appointments with my licensed and trained provider. In fact, I felt happier and more empowered to effectuate change after my own “session,” compared to the sadness and melancholy that overtakes me after my real appointments. It’s starting to feel counterproductive to sink $120 per month into something that makes me miserable when I desperately need that money for other things, or could apportion it to more enjoyable or helpful pursuits. If I’m not reaping any benefits that I can’t otherwise obtain by my own recreated work on myself, what’s the point?
Every Wednesday, I’m so cranky and filled with dread about my appointment. I’ve started controlling the duration of this sourness before the appointment so that I’m less anxious and miserable about the session before it even happens, but even still, I seem to suffer after the appointments with headaches from crying, a palpable void of emptiness that I feel, and irritability the rest of the day. I never feel like getting back to work and I feel like all my emotional wounds and scars are ripped open and throbbing in an impossible-to-ignore fashion. Since I’m home all alone in the cold house during this post-session emotional hurt, the distraction and comfort from the dredged up angst, bad memories, and depressed mood is non-existent.
The sessions also are so socially taxing, with all the conversing and eye contact and personal sharing, that my communicative ability for the rest of the day plummets. I become totally tapped out. Selective mutism overtakes me; I cannot schedule other appointments, make calls to friends or family, or interact with people in the outside world. I don’t even communicate verbally with Ben for the rest of the day, though we may email or text. All of this makes me feel powerless and potentially unable to advocate for my needs, which drives up my anxiety.
It’s not as simple as just telling myself, “Well, talk! No one is taping your mouth shut!” Autism affects people differently, but a common issue is this transient, or permanent, inability to speak. Brief periods of being rendered nonverbal have occurred throughout my whole life, ranging from minutes to a day or two, and have tended to crop up during times of stress, pain, sadness, fear, or feelings of social inadequacy (for instance, after being mocked, teased, or committing an accidental social faux pas). The longest stretch for me was following the attack.
The notion that therapy may not be serving me well at this time has been in my head for a few weeks now. I’ve tried to keep an open mind and a positive attitude about the appointments and keep the purported benefits and therapy’s potential instrumental role in my long-term psychological goals in mind. As mentioned, I’ve also strived to keep the nervousness and dread to a minimum and confine whatever negatives feelings that might ensue from the discussions with the therapist to the session itself. Although I’ve made strides towards achieving these aims, I’m still finding the negatives are outweighing the positives.
Thinking through how well last week’s self-directed session went and how I experienced all of the same benefits and more, without hardly any of the negative consequences is causing me to seriously consider stopping official sessions altogether for now until either my situation changes in some way that warrants professional help or until my own efforts to guide my improvements prove ineffective. I’m thinking today might be a good time to broach the topic with my therapist and discuss potentially taking a sabbatical from our appointments. Even the thought alone has me in a better mood about the impending appointment and the whole therapy situation. Why should I continue torturing myself and shelling out money I’d much rather use elsewhere, when I’m disciplined and educated enough at this point to replicate the beneficial aspects myself?
Obviously, I know I’m not a trained therapist, but it seems I have enough experience now and enough work to do that my level of knowledge and skill set is more than adequate. More than that, perhaps it would be even more appropriate and successful because I can tailor my activities and thoughts to meet my needs and cognitive differences. I think I owe it to myself to at least give it a shot and grant myself the chance to try. I’m my own harshest critic, so I’m confident I’ll be able to be honest with my need to return to my therapist if I deem my own instruction and guidance to be incompetent.