Tuesday, 9 March 2010

If It's Tuesday ...

... it must be psychotherapy. So this means that this crazy mixed up lady doesn't sleep well on a Monday night and wakes Tuesday morning with anxiety that makes doing even simple things time consuming.

I never eat breakfast on a Tuesday morning because I feel sick at the thought of it, just as I used to on a Friday morning when I was having psychotherapy before. I start to panic about making sure that I leave the house with plenty of time to make my appointment, allowing for problems with getting a bus that never materialise, and consequently arriving at the hospital long before my appointment time. I usually get myself a cup of tea at the little kiosk on the ground floor of the hospital, and if it isn't too cold or raining too hard, I make my way out to the hospital's little garden to drink my tea and have a cigarette.

The garden can be a tranquil place to pass the time for both patients and visitors. There are numerous squirrels that can be seen racing along the fences and onto the roof of the covered area in the far corner of the garden. A robin guards his territory from all comers and will ferociously attack any bird, no matter their size, if he thinks that they have come to take over his home ground. Sometimes the tranquility is broken by the squawking of parakeets that have become indigenous to the area.

Sometimes, and this morning was one such occasion, the tranquility is broken by shouting from the exercise area provided for the patients from the psychiatric intensive care unit; it is separated from the garden for the main part of the psychiatric hospital by the wooden fence of the hospital garden and the high wire fence around the exercise area. Today there was just one patient in the exercise area when I entered the garden and she was making sure that people knew she was there. The area behind the psychiatric and general hospitals is a park and is used as a short-cut by many people particularly those going to the hospitals from the local station and by others trying to shorten their journey to the local college and to a nearby comprehensive school. The patient in the exercise area spent about 10 minutes or more shouting to anybody that she could see, begging them to set her free or telling them to study hard. Eventually she was called back in from the area and quiet was again restored to the garden.

After having to race up to the fourth floor last week (which isn't easy for someone with an arthritic hip which plays up terribly in the cold) I was constantly looking at my watch this morning to make sure that I wasn't late. The consequence of this was that I arrived at the fourth floor 15 minutes early and then had to sit waiting for my psychologist to come to collect me and take me to his office. That meant 15 minutes for the calmness that I had manage to achieve sitting in the garden to disappear and 15 minutes for anxiety to take over; stomach-wrenching anxiety that was physically painful.

Today's session seemed to pass in a flash. My feelings changed from minute to minute; it was hard, it was painful, it was emotional, it was thought-provoking, I was frightened, I was anxious, I was angry. We talked about whether I saw it as a form of torture, for that is often what the expression on my face as I enter my psychologist's office seems to indicate. We talked about whether I felt that the therapy was working and we talked about why I find it so hard to stop turning my anger against myself.

There were moments this morning when I felt so angry that I felt as though I was going to explode, and one moment when I literally saw red. Yet, on leaving the hospital this morning I felt calm. I felt that although the session had been hard work that I had tried to engage in that work in a way that meant that I wasn't punishing myself. And at the end of it I had a sense of well-being that I don't think that I have ever felt before.

I'm sure that when next Tuesday arrives I shall be anxious as usual, but I also know that it is possible for me to work at the therapy and for it to help me to stop trying to martyr myself by directing feelings at myself when they should rightly be directed elsewhere.

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