Reflecting the year in therapy

Just over a year ago, on 3rd January 2019, I started seeing a therapist again. Here are my thoughts on the past year. 

I’m glad I decided to seek help through therapy and the sessions have really helped me. However, because my issues have been going on for so long, I think that there’s still some way to go yet. 

It has been good for me (and probably for my husband) for me to have had someone to express my feelings and talk to. I think that sometimes I just needed another outlet, other than him. I think it’s helped me to not be angry all the time. It’s also helped me to be more aware of my temper and to be able to manage my response to people. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I think I’m going in the right direction, although lately I’ve been rather stressed and also a bit downtrodden with respect to what’s going on in the world. The shittiness of what’s going on around the world are making me feel rather despondent and somewhat lose hope in humanity.  

On the issue of social anxiety and awkwardness, I sometimes felt that some of my therapist’s comments or suggestions weren’t very helpful to me and actually made me more anxious. For example, when I expressed feelings of awkwardness and apprehension in social settings or when meeting new people, I remember several times when she suggested something along the lines of “just do it” or “what’s the worst that could happen?”, which to me personally doesn’t really help. I feel that the word “just” makes it worse for me. The thing is, my problem is that I can’t “just” do it, so suggesting that I do feels counterproductive for me. It makes me feel like if I can’t just do it then I’m a failure. I know that I have a tendency to overthink pretty much everything but telling me to just not think doesn’t make me not think. If anything, it makes me think about them even more.  

On the issue of my sister: I’m of two minds about what I want my relationship with her to be, or whether to have one at all. Right now, it seems nice not thinking about her but perhaps that’s just avoidance rather than getting at the root of the problem and trying to solve it. I do know though that I will have to face it – and her – again before too long as she is due to move back into town in the middle of this year, so I won’t be able to avoid her, and how she makes me feel, forever. So, I guess leading up to her coming back, I should probably try to work on some coping mechanisms with my therapist? And possibly how to go about untangling the mess that is my relationship with her? I think that one of the hardest things for me is standing up to her, being more assertive, not letting her get her way just to make it stop, and creating healthy boundaries. I guess I’m afraid of the backlash, and because I’ve used the avoidance method for so long, actually confronting her seems like a really daunting prospect. I remember my therapist saying before that when someone (like a small child) is screaming and shouting, or having a tantrum, it’s not always worth arguing back, and if you keep responding to or giving in to the child then they’ll know that their tantrums have worked and they’ll keep using the same methods to get their way. But then, how would I draw the line, create the boundary? When does ignoring become avoiding conflict or giving in? Actually, I have been reading up a bit on that, and they mostly seem to make sense, but putting it into practice is much more difficult than “in theory”. 

What I would perhaps like to work on more, as well, are how not to overthink everything, my anger issues and social anxiety. I’ve done a lot of reading on the issue of social anxiety, and it turns out that there are a lot of people like me. So, it’s not uncommon to be socially anxious or awkward, nor to overthink things. While I don’t want to change myself completely (I actually like that I reflect on things and consider things I and other people do rather than just go through the world blindly without caring or thought), but I could do with scaling it back a bit sometimes. Are there “exercises” I could do to help with this, I wonder? I find that I am quite often unable to let go of the simplest things and tend to dwell on them unnecessarily.  

Chronic self-doubt has also hindered both my academic and social developments, so I would also like to address that. I’d also like to be more assertive, whilst avoiding being aggressive. I appreciate that these issues probably stemmed from the issues with my family, especially my sister, but I would like to somehow separate them from each other if at all possible. I’d like to try to make the most of living here and not be cripplingly unhappy here, constantly pining for some other unattainable place, because it’s not helping me nor my husband. So, I think that working on some of these underlying issues would help me to be more equipped to cope with living and working in a place I hadn’t originally chosen for myself.  

One of the things I realise now (after having written all of the above) is that I don’t think I want to change myself completely. When I started out on this journey, there were many things about myself that I desperately wanted to change so that I would be a “better” person, or a happier person, or so that I could “fit in”. But at the end of the day, I don’t think I want to change the core of who I am. I’m someone who is forever conflicted within myself, oftentimes awkward and anxious around people, an overthinker and constantly doubting myself. I quite often find myself on the edge of groups rather than in the middle, constantly at odds with people (even myself). I would perhaps like to be more confident and assertive, more easy-going around people, able to set boundaries with my sister, and less quick to anger at the “smallest” things. But I also like that I’m complicated, and a lot of the so-called “negative” things are what make me who I am. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I would like to make some improvements, I don’t want to strive for something I think I *should* strive for. I would like to be more comfortable with who and how I am, flaws and all, and not constantly beat myself up about it.  

These are some of the things I have been reflecting on.