When You’re Not Really “Just Fine”
I recently switched my therapist. The last one was nice enough, but I think that was partly it. She was way too nice. I want to leave therapy feeling challenged and introspective and not just have someone validate everything I say by nodding their head at me the whole time. I mean, it’s nice to have someone tell you you are right about everything, but that’s not therapy. That’s just friendship for hire.
And even my friends never tell me I am right about everything right away, so, as I scratch my head, I still wonder what you call therapy where you just talk to someone who tells you your shit doesn’t stink. I don’t know the technical term, but I think I can at least say it’s a big waste of my freaking time.
So, I switched therapists. And he’s not a cheap therapist. Meaning, I have to pay out of my pocket and he doesn’t accept insurance. But he came really highly recommended and after so long of going to therapy and just getting a bunch of head nodding from really nice people, I decided that I needed more.
Right away I knew that this would be a whole different ballgame. We started off by talking about my childhood and I got really emotional and so then I cried. And then I cried some more. He handed me some tissues and I talked while he pushed me in new directions and asked me some things I hadn’t really thought to answer myself in a really long time. He brought up some things that were somewhat traumatic and for a second I was ready to shut down. I mean, maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t so bad to just have a therapist who nodded their head at me a lot and told me I was awesome.
But I decided to truck through, because as I already mentioned, I was paying a shitload to be sitting in this chair to have him do something other than appease my ego. And I went down the path he pushed me down and I went deep and answered honestly. It was not pretty. I think we had moved to a second box of tissues at this point and I am pretty sure he was wondering how this hot mess had landed up in his office.
We ended the session and it brought up a lot of things for me, which were now just closer to the surface. I agreed to come back in and see him soon. But I also vowed to myself that I would show him a different side to me. I wanted to be in control of myself and not the blubbering, snot and tear stained individual who had brought all my clouds into his sunny little office that day.
And so I went back to my next appointment and this time I did not cry. I was totally put together, you will be all pleased to hear. Even when he asked me a few questions that I knew were borderline tear material, I reigned it in, took in a deep breath and fought through the pain. And I thought I was witty and charming and showed some of the better, sunnier parts of my personality to him.
But then he asked me something funny.
“Kiran. On a scale of one to ten, how happy would you say you are today?”
And I thought about it a little and exaggerated a tiny bit because I think that’s just expected on these things and said, “Well, of course, I have some things going on. But I would say I’m a solid 7. Definitely a 7.” I nodded to myself.
“Really?” he asked. “Because if I were to say it, I would say you looked more like a 3,” he said, meeting my eyes with his somewhat intense gaze.
“A 3?” I asked, incredulous.
“Yeah. Maybe even a 2.”
“But if I am a 3 today, what do you think I was the first day I came to see you?”
“Well, I think it’s fair to say that you were pretty low that day, so closer to a 1,” he offered.
Now, let me be clear. There was no part of this conversation that was mean or asshole-ish or demoralizing. He was kind and caring in how he delivered this to me. It was just very, very honest.
“Is it because I’m wearing grey?” I asked, hoping that might have swayed him. I mean, maybe if I had worn a peachy sundress, I’d be more like a 5. Maybe even a 6.
He shook his head. No.
The thing is, my way of giving myself a 7 was my way of saying “I am fine.” It’s what I tell everyone who asks me as I go about my day. “How are you?” they will say. And I will respond with my ever positive, “I’m great!” or “I’m fine!” or even, “Oh, just bloody fantastic!”
Isn’t that what the world wants to hear?
But on this day, with this particular doctor, I tried to tell him I was fine. And while I can get away with it with almost everyone else in my life, this doctor saw past the bravado of my false 7 and called me out on it.
I think about the empty “I’m fine”s that I give. Or the ones that I receive. And I wonder sometimes if it’s not incredibly important to maybe be a little more honest and let our loved ones and friends know that we too can see past the “Everything’s fab!” inertia for the times we know that it’s damn well not.
I know that one of the reasons I often default to “I’m fine” is because I don’t think anyone is really prepared to hear my real answer. And I’m not saying I need to list out all of the reasons I am NOT fine for the checkout boy at the grocery store next time he says, “Ma’am, how are you doing?” (First thing that was not fine there was that he just called me, Ma’am, thank you very much.)
The funny thing in trying to convince others sometimes that everything is just coming up roses, we often make ourselves believe the same thing. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to BE positive and to wear the rose colored glasses. I adore rose colored glasses.
But there is something wrong in not acknowledging certain truths. In hiding those truths behind empty smiles and peach colored sundresses and empty reassurances to ourselves and the ones we love that “everything’s fine” when sometimes, “everything’s not.”
I guess my point is this. I challenge you to be more honest with some of the people you love and to encourage them to do the same with you. It’s ok to be a 3 some days and you can try your best to show the world you’re a freaking 7, but you owe it to the ones you love sometimes to just say, “I’m a 3 today. I don’t know why and I don’t know what will fix it, but I’m a freaking 3.”
I realized pretty quickly, I wasn’t going to be really good at pulling the wool over my therapist’s eyes. So for now, he’s a keeper.
But just to be safe, I was thinking of wearing something a little brighter next time. Fuchsia, anybody?