Yesterday’s session was the one that new T had “warned” me would involve her teaching me a lot of things. It was very informative and helpful, and it also gave me more insight into how she works and the knowledge she has.
When we started, she first asked if I had an agenda for the session, and I said I didn’t. She started to say that these first few sessions she is talking a lot but that, ultimately, I should come in with something to talk about. I told her that I actually did have something that I wanted to talk about, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it with her yet. I have been wanting to discuss recent things with my father, but it would make me feel so vulnerable, and I’m just not ready for that with her. She said that it’s okay that I don’t want to talk about it yet, but that we could, in the future, just discuss what it is that keeps me from sharing. She also said that she knows I need to be able to figure out whether I trust her or not, which is the main reason I don’t want to share quite yet.
She mentioned a couple of things about trauma and explained the difference between big T and little t trauma, which is something I already knew but liked hearing her explain. It was good to know what she thought fits into those categories, and even based on a couple minor things I told her, she thought I had other big T traumas that I’ve never even considered a trauma, so that was surprising to me.
Then we moved on to the “lesson.” She talked a bit about the biology of the brain and how our brains react when we’re under stress, especially traumatic stress. I also knew most of this already from my undergraduate courses, but it was a nice refresher, and good to know how aware she is of these things. She talked about the amygdala and the hippocampus and the circuit that runs between that and the pre-frontal cortex. She explained how, when triggered, our reactions are ruled by the amygdala and hippocampus until the pre-frontal cortex comes online. She also said that when we undergo trauma at young and important developmental ages (0-5) that it can also change the biology of the brain. My abuse started when I was 5… I wonder if that applies to me as well.
She then went through the entire list of symptoms that can occur in people who have experienced trauma. For each, she wanted me to indicate whether I see myself as having that symptom or not. I said yes to every single thing she listed. She could tell, partway through, that I was getting uncomfortable with the fact that I was saying yes to so many things and tried to reassure me. She did that to help me make sense of all of those symptoms and to validate that yes, I have been through something traumatic. My immediate reaction, though, when I kept saying yes to ALL of those symptoms, was how messed up I am. I told her this, and she said it wasn’t her intention. She said a couple other things and then said that she would stop trying to fix my sadness/depression and just let me stay there.
This is the thing that I’m worried about with her, because I get the feeling that it makes me wrong or bad to have any negative thoughts or feelings around her. It scares me. She’s said a few things about how it is what it is and this is just where I am right now, but I get this feeling that it’s only okay for me to be here for a short period of time before she expects me to move on. I can’t handle that pressure. I’m hoping I’m wrong about that.
She went on to tell me about the window of tolerance and gave me a sheet to do as homework. It has three levels: hyper-arousal, window of tolerance, and hypo-arousal. On the sheet, she wants me to fill in, for each level, what thoughts, feelings, behaviors/impulses, and somatic awareness I have. I did the form last night when I got home, and it is interesting to me to establish a “window” like that. She said that, in session, if I ever find myself going outside of my window, I need to tell her immediately, even if she’s in the middle of a sentence. She said that we will not be able to accomplish anything if I’m not in my window.
She also wanted me to write down 5 resources to use to come down from hyper-arousal or up from hypo-arousal. I haven’t been able to finish that one yet.
At the end, she said that, at some point, she also wants to discuss what happened with old T. She said that she wants to understand what happened because she does “not want to be a part of that.” I felt intimated when she said that, though, because she had a quite intense look of seriousness. I felt like a child being scolded. I’m probably just being too sensitive, though.. But I am still trying to figure out if this will be a good fit. I am still not sure yet.
So, that’s where we are right now… in a place with a big question mark in it.