2023 by D. I. Jolly
“Hello Milton, it’s good to see you again.”
Dr Franklin held open the door so that he could walk in, and take his usual seat.
“Hey doc, yeah, yeah good to be back.”
There was a couch, but that always felt a bit too cliché to Milton, so he sat in an arm chair.
Dr Franklin took his usual seat across from him, and flipped through a small black note book until he found Milton’s most recent page. In addition to typed notes and files, Dr Franklin also kept diaries of his patients which he would offer to them when they finished their final session.
“How are you feeling today, any better?”
“I am, thank you. It was a nasty flu, but it’s all cleared up now, so, so that’s good.”
“I’m glad to hear it. Now, I know we’ve only missed 3 weeks, 2 sessions, and we were making some good progress with your feelings of rejection and replacement, but before we get back to that, I feel I should ask if you were staying home just because you were sick, or because you were sick of me?”
Milton reached for one of the glasses laid out and poured himself some water. The truth was he’d been thinking about that question for a few days, and he still wasn’t entirely sure what was going to come out of his mouth when he started talking about it.
“That first session, sickness. 100%. I mean I had dragged myself to work that day and the day before, but by that night I was finished. I mean, I know that physically coming here is easy. I walk in, I sit down, I know that this is a place of health and healing, it’s where someone sick should be, on some level anyway. But mentally it can be so taxing and mentally was where most of my problems, sickness wise, were. I was just so foggy; I couldn’t really curate my thoughts to answer simple questions let alone think about how I felt or why I felt that way.
The second session though, … I don’t know if it was sick of you specifically, but it was definitely sick of this place. At some point in the week someone had said to me ‘sometimes self-care means not going to therapy, good for you’. And I got so angry at them, but it planted this weird little hate seed in me. I was already feeling guilty that I’d missed our session but still gone to work, and the two came together to start this spiral of resentment and guilt.
Telling myself ‘Why should I be guilty? I pay for this shit’, which led to things like; ‘not everything that has happened in the last year has been a trauma, even if it was traumatic at the time, bad things can happen without leaving scars. Why does everything need to be so dragged out and exposed. Why can’t things just get some time to heal before being examined or before the next thing starts. Why can’t I just take a break without it being an issue, without it becoming something I have to feel guilty about!'”
Milton took a sip of his water and let out a sigh, and Dr Franklin waited, not writing, not frowning or leaning forward, he just waited.
“And it grew, and it grew, and all the time while this was going on another voice in my head was saying, ‘and this is why I go to therapy, this is why it’s a good idea.’ Not that I’m going to go insane if I miss a couple of sessions, we’ve had longer breaks then this. But something about this time just escalated so quickly, and so uncontrollably. I just couldn’t get a handle on it. And every time I tried or thought I’d gotten myself back to a sensible space, I’d trip over some invasive thoughts that flooded my mind and fucked it all up again.
I knew that I was getting worse and that this was a place of health and healing, but I also found myself feeling like this was the place that was making me sick, the cause of the conflict. That if I wasn’t supposed to come here today, if I wasn’t guilty about missing a session because I was actually physically sick, then I wouldn’t have the conflict and I wouldn’t have the problem that needed to be solved. And that conflict was ripping me to shreds.
Honestly, I have never had more anxiety, and stress, and fear about coming to therapy than coming in today. …
Not even the first time, not even the first time I admitted that I needed help.
Doc, I mean, honestly, until I actually walked through the door, I wasn’t sure if I was going to actually walk through the door.”
Milton took a breath and waited to see what more would come. He then searched his mind for anything he felt he missed, for an idea that might have slipped away. But he found that for the first time in days, that his mind was clear. He’d finally said everything he needed to say, to the person he needed to say it too.
Likewise, Dr. Franklin continued to sit and wait to see what would happen next, waited for Milton to take a few breaths and digest everything he’d just said.
“That sounds very intense, and knowing you, I imagine you’ve not gotten the kind of sleep you really need since this started. But at the same time, it shows a great insight. You’ve been fighting with yourself, and it’s been dark and unpleasant. But can you see that you waded through all of that, and still, despite the overwhelming negative self-talk, the doubts and the anger, you still actually came here today? Even if you weren’t sure until the last moment, you still actually made the healthy choice. And I’m proud of you for that.
And, actually, I agree with your sentiment, even though you didn’t say it directly. I think this is one of your most important sessions, if not the most important. And it’s also the biggest breakthrough you’ve had, at least since you started coming to me. And I want to recognise that, I want to take some time to sit with that, and really take it in.
And then, and only then, do I think we should talk about what the next few steps are going to look like. But first, we really need to be here, in this space, in this achievement. This victory at the end of a long battle. I want you to be proud of getting here, and to take some time to rest, because getting here was so hard.”
Milton looked up at his doctor, and took a sip of water to help swallow away the thought of tears, then nodded to himself.
“Thank you, thank you doc, I appreciate that. And I think you’re right, I really am so fucking tired.”
Most of the rest of the session passed in a mostly comfortable silence. Milton breathing and taking ownership of what he’d been through, and Dr Franklin holding the space for that to happen.