A psychotherapist’s office is a strangely plain place. No big beige armchairs or comfy couches romanticized in popular culture as having the secret power to bring forth the darkest demons of the ailed person’s mind. None of those things. You sit and wait your turn alongside others on cold, steel benches, and when it’s time, you knock and go in to deposit yourself in one of the two simple armed chairs while he sits opposite you in the other one and asks you the staple, “So how are we doing this week?”
How are we doing?
“It’s happening again,” you answer in a quiet but clear voice. Usually, you tell him stories of everything that’s happened during the week. Frequently they involve a new guy you’ve met. But this time you want to discuss something more. You’re seriously considering quitting therapy. You don’t tell him that.
Photo credit: Bhaswati Thakurta
“I thought it was over for good. But I guess I was wrong,” you continue. “My head. Just this morning I woke up hopeful, I had a plan in mind, of things I was going to get done and they seemed genuinely doable. I was going to start working on my term paper that is due next month and finally send out graduate applications to schools I have chosen in the States. It shouldn’t have been very difficult, everyone does it, I could do it. Or so I thought this morning. But whom was I kidding?! I can’t do shit…”
“Let’s look at facts here,” he interrupts me.
“Facts?” you ask with a sneer. “Fact is that I’m stupid and plain. Proof? What have I accomplished in the past two years? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.”
His eyes remain closed infinitesimally longer than a blink. “Last time you told me you’ve published several papers in the last year.”
“Yeah, but,” you hesitate.
I hate this. Why can’t you just understand what I’m trying to say here?
“I know what you’re saying and just this morning I was sure that none of it was my fault, that I was internalizing blame where none existed, that I needed to stop looking at everything in absolute blacks and whites, that generalizing was unhelpful. Just this morning I could see my life and all of its anomalies in crystal clarity. Just this morning I was determined to sort myself out,” you’re trying to explain with words and gestures, with everything you have, really. “But it was this morning, several hours ago,” you conclude with your hands falling limply in your lap.
He smiles. You smile back, confused and frustrated.
Why the fuck am I smiling?
“What happened with the guy you talked about last week?”
“He hasn’t texted in five days,” you reply, exasperated at the situation.
“How do you feel about that?”
“Yesterday I was thinking ‘So what if he hasn’t texted me back yet? I’m a catch and if he doesn’t get back to me, he’s the one who stands to lose, not me.’ But that’s utter bullshit! The fact is that he’s young and gorgeous and I’m old and uninteresting. Proof? No guy sticks around for more than a week.”
“Why didn’t you text him?” He asks.
“Why should I? I mean I went out with him when he asked me, I always reply to his texts even though he hardly ever has anything to say. His not texting me can only mean one thing, he isn’t interested.” It physically pains you to say this.
“What changed between yesterday and today?”
What a dimwitted thing to ask! Don’t you know that everything’s changing inside my head all the time?
“Nothing tangible,” you revert. “The only friend I think I have thinks I should keep a diary where I write everything that I know to be a fact because otherwise I get very confused between the truth and my “false beliefs”. But she doesn’t seem to understand that “facts” keep changing shape and color every couple of hours until all that remains inside my head is complete and utter chaos,” you pause and smile a bitter smile. You’ve just remembered something. “You know, they taught us about interpretive research in college. They said that although the truth is whatever the majority believes, for an experience to exist, someone needs to have experienced it. The experience is thus the experiencer’s alone. They said, “Okay, the peacock danced in the jungle. But did you see it?” I haven’t seen happiness, I haven’t seen honesty, I haven’t seen love, I haven’t seen hope. What is the truth?”
“What do you think the truth is?” He asks.
You remain silent for a while. But the clocks ticking. “My truth is a crushing helplessness, a haze in front of my eyes, blinding me, obstructing my vision from seeing what lies five years from now, six months from now, two minutes from now. Now is all I have, and it’s doomed.”
“You remember when we were talking about unhelpful thoughts the last time, I suggested that you make a time-table which is packed with constructive activities and has a specific hour to devote to all the worrying thoughts? Every time you have an unhelpful thought, you push it away and tell yourself that you’ll think about it in the worry hour.”
“I remember, and I remember thinking it was an intriguing idea.”
The only problem is that shit thoughts are like shit itself; you can’t stop either and ask them to wait till 8 P.M.
“But you didn’t make a schedule?” He looks at you inquiringly. “Okay, let’s try it this week…”
Wish I could talk to someone who’d comprehend what I was saying. Of late, I feel like people hear what I say, but they don’t really understand. And I try very hard to make sense of what they’re saying to me, but in vain. It’s as if we were speaking different languages. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that there were different languages for the mentally healthy and the diseased. Ha! If I didn’t know any better.
He’s still talking. Now he looks at the clock on the wall to his left and to your right. Time’s over.
I really need to stop wasting money on this.
“So, I’ll see you same time next week?” He asks.
“Yeah, same time,” you answer and walk out of the room. This is doom.
Aakanksha Tomar is a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Delhi. As far back as she can remember, reading and writing have held a special place in her heart. She is trilingual, with a fourth language somewhere on the way. She can frequently be found in a café with a cup of coffee and a great book.