Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Therapy, and thoughts about thinking

We go in and the door closes behind us. I slowly exhale, close my eyes. I lie down on the carpet, on my side, my eyes still shut. My fists unclench and the tightness flows out of my shoulders. I take deep breaths, and tremble slightly with the relief of resting at last. The world recedes and I am willing and eager to start working. My red alert button is off, my green alert button is shining brightly.

This is what therapy is like. This is a very accurate description of what happens when I go into the psychologist's room. And yet - it happens only in my reality. His reality would show a client entering and sitting down on a leather chair, putting her book away and pushing down her hands between her calves, waiting for him to say something.

But that invisible lying down and exhaling is the best way of describing what the experience is like for me. It works better than words.

I often wonder what my thought process is like. Verbal, visual? I don't really know. I don't know if other people are more aware of the shape and form of their thoughts? I do know when something bothers me, I prefer having dialogues in my head, working on what I am thinking. But my feelings and emotions - I find it very hard to put it into words. Part of the difficulty may be that I find it difficult to recognise and label my feelings. Part of it is that I am not always aware of an emotion until it builds up and suddenly overwhelms me. If I concentrate, I have a vague feeling of irritation or being uncomfortable, but cannot get to the root of this before it pushes itself to the fore, often due to someone else noticing that something is wrong.

Then, sometimes, I know what is bothering me. It is easier when it is a sensory problem. The cold season is starting, and the feeling of long sleeves against the skin on my arms takes a lot of getting used to. Or the feeling of the socks and shoes against the toes on my right foot. The irritation builds up slowly, and by the end of the day I am out of sorts and have a very short fuse, and my whole body feels like it is minutely vibrating in a very horrible way.

When it is emotion, it is harder. I have the impression that I think about worries, hurts, frustrations etc in words, but when asked to explain, I find it almost impossible. Where are the words then? What I try to say and explain does not match what is going on in my head, and that is equally frustrating to me and the listener. I really hate being misunderstood, and it is made worse by my inability to express myself. Very recently I managed to share something, and my husband exclaimed 'why didn't you say this from the start?' and I sat there thinking 'I knew this from the start, but I only know it in words now'. Somehow the experience, the feelings, the thoughts and the words seem to fly around in my head randomly, and it is hard work, or chance, that connects them and let me express them intelligibly.

Very often, I find it easier to use a simile or metaphor or something like that for what I am feeling. As with the experience of therapy. And the description may not always make sense to others, but it makes sense to me. Some examples - when I see someone I really like, I don't know what emotion I experience, but I can describe it as 'something rising, lifting inside and changing the way I breathe'. Or when I see something really beautiful, it is 'pressure, compressing and expanding at the same time'. Seeing something special, like a small hidden flower, or a fish, is 'silence, stretching very far while condensing everything'. Pain is like red tulips opening and being twisted. Seeing someone being humiliated is like one hand pressing on my chest and the other one around my neck, strangling me. I am sure all these feelings are normal and have labels, I just cannot match the two.

Back to therapy. I am lucky to have a found a therapist who understands Aspergers, and to whom I can relate well. We are not working towards specific, determined goals, using specific methods, but the results are good. I am aware of valuable growth, but am mostly unable to describe it. I often think the most valuable aspect of the therapeutic hour is the switching off of the red alert button. The freedom of not thinking about tone of voice, body language, expressions, not worrying about offending or being inappropriate. Certainly a lot like lying down and relaxing for an hour!


  1. I totally get what you're saying. My emotions tend to wash over me in a sensory experience more than in words. It's what makes it hard to explain to others, or to relay info about how I feel to them. I tend to really get attached to music for this purpose. I once heard a quote that music is what emotions sounds like, and I really thought that adequately expressed how I feel when I listen to certain songs. Sometimes, I find that there are no words to describe what I feel.

    Good post! Thanks for sharing it with me!

  2. I just LOVE your blog posts, Cecile!! You express yourself so well with words...