inhale, exhale, slow down

As you know, the last few days have been tough. I started feeling better yesterday afternoon though, but the depression hit again on my way to therapy. I didn’t want to rehash everything that’s been happening; I didn’t want to think about anything any longer. I just wanted relief and understanding, and, surprisingly, I got it last night in therapy–sort of.


Most sessions start with me manically describing every detail of my week; it’s like a giant exhale. I don’t feel much at that point, because it’s all very shallow. There is a little anxiety, I guess, because I’m processing everything so fast. I want to get everything out there in the open and let my therapist decide what to look at. Inevitably, at one point or another, he stops me, asks me to take a deep breath, and slow down. I smile. There’s no more anxiety, but now I don’t feel anything at all–which is sometimes worst.

Sometimes I say a few more things, sometimes I don’t, and then he decides what to focus on, and more often than not, it’s the things I don’t want to touch; it’s the subject I speed through even quicker, hoping he won’t hear it. I like this about him; he knows what I don’t want to touch, and he makes me touch it. Anyway, we talk for a bit about the subject, still superficially. I’m a little anxious; I can feel the tension creeping up from my stomach, like a tank slowing filling with water. And then it happens–

“What’s beneath?” he asks, knowing I’m going to shut down. “What are the underlying beliefs–that’s what I want to know about.”

I manage a few more sentences before shutting down. The remainder of the session is like pulling teeth. He brushes right up against my beliefs, and I push back. I get angry, frustrated, and very defensive. I feel attacked. I feel threatened. I feel like he’s not on my side. It usually gets to the point where I don’t say anything for the last five or ten minutes. We sit in silence. Sometimes he talks about how difficult therapy can be; sometimes he even congratulates me on coming in and doing the work, which is the last thing I want to hear in that moment. Thankfully, there’s a beautiful picture of the ocean right behind his chair. If I look long enough, I leave the room altogether.

I become the ocean.


Last night I did something different, though. I started out by talking about the thing I didn’t want to talk about: my suicidal thoughts.

“I don’t know what to do when I have them,” I said. “It’s hard. Most days I just have them while walking down the street–looking up at every building, wondering if it’s high enough for me to die if I jumped off it. But over the weekend, the thoughts intensified. There was intention. I may have had a plan, I’m not really sure. When they get that intense, I’m not going to call you. I’m not going to call anyone. When I’m that low, I only want to binge because that’s the only way I know how to regain control.”

I paused, letting this seep in. His facial expression changed; he was visibly upset. Sensing I had more to say, he nodded.

“But I’m scared because binging is becoming less and less effective. I can’t rely on it anymore. I’m scared that I won’t be able to quickly pull myself out of my next deep depression.”

I talked about the wedding, and the holidays, and my upcoming class presentations. I’m scared of them, yes, but they are not the cause of my suicidal thoughts. It’s easy to blame them, but the real culprit is beneath.

“Tell me about the beliefs?” he asked, as always.

“I’m a monster inside,” I said. “An ugly monster. I’ve made so many bad decisions in my life. I deserve everything I’m going through. It’s all my fault. People do not like me because I’m not like any of them–and I made the choice not to be like them. I will fail. I am a failure.”

“There’s more there,” he said. “It’s in the room. We just nicked it.”

At that point, I was flooded. I felt a bit nauseous. All I wanted to do was leave, but I didn’t. I never leave. I guess I like the pain, or I just don’t want to disappoint. I thought he was going to push back against my beliefs again, but he didn’t, something different happened–

“You know,” he said, “if it becomes too much you can ask me to pull back. It’s okay.”

He gave me exactly what I needed in that moment: space. I looked at the clock: five minutes left. Five minutes of silence and me staring at the ocean. I am that ocean, I told myself over and over and over again.


7 responses to “inhale, exhale, slow down

  1. Hey Mike,

    Confronting yourself is never easy, is it? Although this has become less frequent, I do feel strongly suicidal for no apparent reason sometimes. It happens totally out of the blue, so I often get too panicked and scared to do or think anything. I am scared of my intense suicidal feelings, but I now try to face them no matter how real they feel at times. I thought I should never bother anyone when those feelings get so intense, but I now believe the best thing we should do first and foremost when suicidal is to call for immediate help. It’s totally natural for any of us to wish for death when the world overwhelms us, which is not bad at all. What is bad, though, is not asking for help by speculating doing so may bother those around us. I know this can be terrifying, but I believe you will see what is beneath your suicidal feelings if you face them straight. Once you get to know the core of those feelings, you will get to know yourself better and therefore become more comfortable with yourself. You don’t have to do everything by yourself, Mike. Step by step, you do only what you can do at your own pace. If you need a sympathetic ear, you always have us online. That is all we are here for, so I hope you feel comfortable expressing yourself as honestly as possible on your blog. That way, your friends can tell what you feel and extend a hand to you. Sorry I rambled on and on! I hope you’re feeilng better now.

    • Hey Takashi- For me, when the thoughts get intense I feel it’s less about believing I’m just bothering people; it’s that I don’t want any help because I don’t feel like it will do any good. You’re right, though: I need to reach out more to people when I am feeling that low. I am feeling better. I’ve been taking care of myself these past few days. All it takes is one good decision, then they all just start building on one another. I’m feeling much better about the wedding. It may not go as well as I would like, but I think it’ll be okay–and I’ll be okay too. Thanks for all your kind words and insights. I hope things are well for you. Oh and by the way, I love your ramblings. Keep them coming! 🙂

  2. Talking about these things is never easy. Good on you for starting the process. Thinking of you for the coming weekend!

  3. What an emotional session. But it sounds like your t gave you what you needed when you needed it. It feels great when your t is in sync with you, doesn’t it? I’m sorry to ask, as you’ve probably written about it here, but how long have you been seeing your t?

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