Monday, February 07, 2011

The personality test

She asks me another question that I’m not sure how to answer. “I don’t know” seems like a cop out and I don’t like saying it. She wants something definitive and lucid, but instead she gets a bunch of rambling that has to be sorted through, like a trash bag when you know you’ve thrown something important away.

I realize she has to think about what I’ve just said, but does she have to stare at me while she’s doing it? She examines me like a specimen under a microscope, and I wonder if she sees the pulse in my neck throbbing faster. The longer she stares in silence, the more anxious I feel. Should I say something else? Should I just wait for the next question?

“I feel like there’s something you aren’t telling me”, she finally says. Her brows are knit together and her head tilted to one side. I open and close my mouth like a fish. I’m not sure which something she means. There are a lot of things I’m not telling her. There are things I’m not telling her that I’m sure she wouldn’t deem relevant to the conversation, but that I want to say anyway. And there are things I’m not telling her because I can’t bear to part with them. I can’t have them shoved under the microscope. I don’t want them examined and pulled apart because I may never be able to piece them back together. I’m afraid to let go of the bits of myself that I think I understand, because there’s always the possibility that she’ll prove me wrong.

I shrug and give a half laugh. She scribbles something on her notepad and I wish I could snatch it from her. Not to read it, just to use it. To flip to a new page and jot it all down, just like this. To show her that I’m not as inarticulate as I appear to be…I don’t always ramble. Maybe we can just email each other instead.

“Do you want to remain in your current position”, she asks. “Is this what you want to do with your life?”

“No”, I say immediately, confidently. I smile because it's the easiest question she’s asked me today.

“What do you want to do?”

“Write”, I think just as immediately. But I don’t say it. Not yet. First I sigh and give her all the reasons I can’t do what I want. I tell her I need to go to school and pick a career that generates more money, as soon as possible, so that I can support my kid. I tell her that it’s not a question of what I want, but what needs to be done. I have a choice to make and, because I find it depressing, I haven’t yet made it. I’m in my current job, not making enough money, not going back to school, because I can’t bear to pursue something that may not pan out financially.

I overload her with information again. She’s got so many things to sift through that when I finally say, “I love to write. It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do”, it’s weighed down and I know it doesn’t have the effect it should.

We touch on so many different things that I’m not sure what today’s objective was supposed to be. And I know it’s my fault. If I could just give her a straight answer, maybe she could form a valid opinion. Maybe she wouldn’t have parroted my own words back to me. “I don’t know.”

As the session draws to a close, I realize that I’m sweating. I can’t wait to get out of there and, maybe I’m projecting, but I feel as though she can’t wait to get me out of there too.

She says she’s going to give me a test to take home. Seventy questions to help her determine what sort of personality I have and in what occupation I’d fit best. I just barely manage to keep from rolling my eyes. Is this middle school? Is she going to tell me that I don’t work well with others and should be in a profession where I have limited contact with the general public? Will I fit into the “artistic circle” on the career wheel?

“Try not to analyze the questions”, she says. “Go with your gut instinct.”

I take the paper and note that it says “Temperament Sorter – different drums and different drummers” across the top, and I have the insane urge to laugh.

I’m wondering if I made the right decision, if she’s the right therapist for me. I’m wondering if I’ll be able to tell her all the things I’m afraid to. I’m wondering if this questionnaire is going to help. I’m wondering if she’s going to be able to sort through all the garbage I’ve given her and pull out the bits that need to be cleaned up and examined…or if that’s even her place. Maybe it’s mine. I feel more confused than I did before we began, and that worries me.

Then, in small letters off to the side, I see the words “please understand me”. They’re nearly hidden under the grey shadow of a hole-punch mark, from where they’ve been copied many times. I feel the sudden burn of welling tears behind my eyes and the suppressed laughter becomes a thick ball in my throat. The sudden change in my demeanor embarrasses me and I fight it back, hide it from her.

We schedule an appointment for the following Thursday and I leave quickly, walking through the hallway with my head down. Once I’m inside the elevator I breathe a little easier. I ride it up and up, out of the basement and past the next few floors. Once off, I make my way through the corridors, turning left and right, navigating the maze of the hospital on autopilot. And all the while I’m thinking.


theTsaritsa said...

Sometimes it's a real relief just to be able to dump your emotions on someone who has no bias to or against you. I've had pretty rotten experiences with therapists, but I did see one that would always make me feel better, understood, afterward. I hope the questionnaire works out.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, this kind of thing has to feel worse before it can feel better.

I gave every new one a month to either click with me or aggravate the snot out of me. After that four week mark, I generally had a good idea of whether I would one day be able to tell them what I was afraid to - and it was so worth it when I finally found the one with whom I could do that.

Good luck. The beginning is often the hardest part.

Sara said...

You know what's really awkward? When your therapist calls you and leaves angry, passive aggressive voicemails. At least yours doesn't do that?

magnolia said...

therapists. sigh. i've gone through a million of them, it seems. some have been ok, some have been holy terrors... i don't know. i've only ever found one who i could totally brain-dump to and be challenged by, but she was at a school i went to and couldn't take me as a patient.

hopefully this works out for you. good therapy for me is like confession for some catholics: i feel so clean, so light when i come out of a session. it's a nice feeling.

Anonymous said...

Aly- I'm proud of you. This is a difficult thing to do. I hit the lowest point and wound up sorting my thoughts out by writing it out then miraculously telling the therapist in story form what I had written out. Might not have been graceful but it was less threatening. I'm sending you a huge hug and all the creative energy you need to work your way through this.

Penny Dreadful said...

She might not be right for you, if you don't feel comfortable enough to say everything. But perhaps you are just nervous and it will take a few more sessions to settle down.

I always used to be a mess whenever I came out of a session, tears for the next few hours. Iced doughnuts were a saviour x

Sharon Longworth said...

This hit me like a great big thump in the chest. Brave and lovely (the writing and you).
I sat here almost shouting at my screen - 'Tell her!' Tell her you're a fantastic writer and it's all you want to do and all you should do.
Shout it from the rooftops.

Philip said...

I've mulled over how to respond. This is just my own very personal view. Most so called therapy is a crock of shit.Jeffrey Masson wrote a book called Against Therapy which is a good read. I'm not saying therapists' intentions aren't good, or that you won't find some of it helpful. BUT - don't go thinking you aren't good enough as you are, cos you are. You may need new habits, new tools and skills. You may or may not get them from a therapist, or from anyone else. Viktor Frankl wrote a good book, Man's search for meaning. Anyway rant over. I was sat in the room with you. It didn't feel comfortable.

latercater said...

I'm glad I'm not the only person going through this right now. Unfortunately I'm living in Moldova and I don't have a trained therapist available to me... and the doctor here keeps trying to put me on medications. What happened to being able to do this by myself? I thought only American doctors handed out anti-depression medication like it was candy...
Good luck with the thinking. I often find that it gets me into more trouble. Eek.

BugginWord said...

Gawd that was beautiful. "And there are things I’m not telling her because I can’t bear to part with them." Especially to a stranger you know nothing about...that gives you no personal morsel in return. I have too much to say about this for a comment. Now my head is whirring. And I have an appt with my shrink in a mere two hours.

Sally-Sal said...

At the heart of it, a therapist is just a person, like you or me.

If they're good, they can help you find what you're searching for, but ultimately, you are the one doing all the work.

Opening up is one of the hardest things you can do. Having the guts to go to a therapist, a complete stranger and open up only speaks volumes about the character you have. That takes guts, and only serves to underline what a truly magnificent woman you are.

I, too, got choked up at the 'please understand me'. I think that's the root of most of it. If you knew you could share your deepest passion, to write, and have her understand, instead of just turn it into some pencilled lines on a legal pad, I think you would've been able to tell her. Because the one thing I know about you is that the problem isn't lack of courage. Maybe it's just the lack of understanding.

Sarah P said...

I was against shrinks for a really long time, because I'd had some really bad ones.

Then, a couple years ago, I went to counseling, and I suddenly understood it. The therapist was a real person, and I found his advice really helpful.

For instance, he recommended I start a humor blog ...

Danger Boy said...

Beautiful post. Not necessarily comfortable, but still comforting. Don't ever stop writing.

Judearoo said...

My experience of therapy is pretty limited but something about this doesn't feel right.

You found that session tough going and possibly of little help but said 'and its all my fault'. Its NOT your fault if it dooesn't feel right. You - presumably - are paying this woman for a service and aren't entirely sure its getting you anywhere. Not speaking about how you feel or giving your opinions on things - I dont think this is you being 'uncooperative' - you're not a child in school. If its making you feel that way then perhaps she's not the right person to be working with.

Of course its a mortifying experience, I dont suppose anyone is comfortable with having even a stranger think badly of them or make judgements. Only thing to remember is she doesn't actually care - which can be pretty freeing. Unlike family or friends she's not going to hold anything against you and I guarentee she's come across far more despicable people than you in her first week.

Best of luck with it all anyway, hon.

Toni said...

I don't think hiding your emotions from your therapist is really a good idea. Sounds pretty counter-productive. She can't help you if you don't open up. (Oh and in case this sounds soapbox-y, I have exactly the same problem, which is why I'm saying it. But it's way easier said than done.) Good luck, though. Seriously. And if this doesn't seem like the right person for you, definitely try another. I have a lot better relationship with the therapist I have now than with the last one I had.
I'm disappointed that this comment wasn't funny at all. -sigh- Maybe next time.

Mrs. C said...

I have something to to tell you, child, and I expect you to listen:

Know what writers do? Writers WRITE. They don't defer the moment nor the labor until they've gone to school, and they don't ask permission, and they don't look for nor await acknowledgement.

They put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and they write.

And they sometimes make a living at it--enough, even to put food on the table and keep the wolves from the door. But they write anyway, with or without pay, with or without acknowledgement.

And you are doing that, some of it, sometimes, every time you come in here and give us some of that stuff. And you do that well--really, really well. And so you should certainly keep on doing at least what you're doing here.

Lemme ask ya: do you also write elsewhere/elsewhen? Do you make it a priority in your day? Every day? Each and every one? You should. 'Cause writers write.

The school thing? Can you get it for free? Then do it; study, though, what fills your soul. And study the people all around you also getting their souls filled. That can provide the stuffs you need to be awritin'.

Can't get it for free? Then the subject you'd pursue: does it offer employment in a field that can fill your soul (when you're not writing) and provide a continuing stream of stuffs upon which to write? All while paying you enough to keep food on the table and the wolves from the door and a nonce of time--the most precious commodity--during which to write each and every day? If yes, go for it. If no, whatta THINKING, child?!

Finally, the stuff that is hard to say out loud to that someone else? The big truths? Try whispering them to yourself; rinse and repeat. Louder, now. When the words form themselves and bubble and push and rabble-rouse around inside you, nearly uncontainable, open that mouth and shout 'em. Tell yourself the truth first, and the second and third and fourth telling come easier and easier.

Nari said...

You know what? That's how you can decie if she's the right therapist or not...she needs to understand you, and you need to know for sure that she really does.

Mr London Street said...

The comments on this have turned into an interesting discussion.

First of all, let's talk about the writing - ironically the thing you thought you couldn't do when talking to your therapist. I thought this was excellent. The shorter, serious posts definitely work well for you and it's an interesting form I'd like to see you trying more of. The image of that writing on the pad is a real sucker punch and you hit the reader with it perfectly.

On the wider question of whether therapy works, I think it's tricky to read other people's comments on the subject. They aren't you and don't have your therapist, so any perspectives, however well intentioned, can only be so useful.

When I went to an acupuncturist for the first time I wrote a post about it and a lot of the comments I got were about how people didn't believe in it, or said "oh, it will work almost straight away" and I know they all meant well but I didn't find it terribly helpful. Especially people saying they didn't think it worked or it didn't work for them, that was the worst possible thing I could have read.

Only time will tell whether you feel comfortable being honest with your therapist and there are a lot of variables there. You are one, she is another and I imagine your situation is a third. I hope it works but if it doesn't, it doesn't mean there aren't other options or other therapists. There's only one of you, but reading beautiful writing like this that feels like exactly the right amount.

Starlight said...

I'm seeing a psychologist myself and this is the second one I went to. The first one was scary and I was afraid to talk to him and tell him what I feel, what troubles me and what's on my mind. After a couple of therapies I called him and told him I won't see him again because I figured out that it's pointless seeing a psychologist I don't trust because he won't be able to help me.
So I found another psychologist and I can talk to her about everything and I trust her. It often happens that I'm more confused when I'm leaving her office than when I walked in. We talk about different things and our conversations often arise a lot of questions. But I know she's not there to answer them, she's there to help me find the answers.

If you can't talk to your therapist, if you don't trust her, find another one. And the third one if necessary.

Drew Benn said...

Very interesting post.

I'm not sure I like the idea of a 'personality test' especially as you describe it. It seems to me a little 'therapy by numbers'

but I'm sure she knows what she's doing!!!

And I completely understand you hesitating in telling people what you really want to do. I find myself dong the exact same thing fr fear of being mocked or looked upon with that sad, pitiful smile people use when they feel sorry for you.

It's horrible when you get asked a loaded question isn't it?

Even when I'm at the opticians getting my eyes checked I still panic I'm getting the wrong answer when the guy changes the lens and says 'is it better with this one? Or this one?'

Like he's trying to trick me and make me look stupid.

I'm probably paranoid... and now I'm rambling... Anyway, great read.

caterpillar said...

Talking to someone helps....writing helps me more....I hope you're doin alright...

The mad woman behind the blog said...

You know, I have the same problem, not wanting to share the words, giving up a part of myself....even when it means talking to my husband.
So please feel our support, regardless of how little results they produce.
But writing, oh girl, please write, write and write some more. Your audience adores you. There have to be ways to get your words out there even if not immediately producing income(in a more traditional format as opposed to blogging.)
We'll be right here.

swati said...

You are an awesome writer and most of the times we are not able to do things which we want to do , and like you wrote that you love writing , continue to write and all the best:). My sister went through it once and I can understand a bit of what you are going through but be positive and things will work out nicely for u :)

etoile said...

Maybe you should just give her your blog address? Then she would know all about you and you wouldn't have to say a thing! :)

Anonymous said...

cripes!!...this is all very deep....i'm pretty sure i now need therapy....

Thug in a Cocktail Dress said...

as a fellow therapist...
therapy is hard work.
the personality test is a crock.
who cares what kind of personality you have?
speaking the words in your head changes the very way in which you percieve your situation. As you muddle through what to say and what to leave out, you will be learning about yourself. Learning is never easy. Muddle through it, sweat it out. You will be grateful.

Becca said...

I've never had a therapist, technically. I've had mentors before, and some of them happen to be in behavioral health as their occupation, but they have been family friends-so again, not technically therapy-but I can say that it can be good like others have said, to just dump your emotions and thoughts on someone who is non-bias, etc.

I don't know you that well-but I'm guessing you're struggling a little bit with liking your job-I always have this struggle. If you love to write, write!!! Your blog is amazing, and that's a start! Just keep writing! Also, our jobs don't necessarily have to be our passions either. I work administration in a small office, and it is by no means my dream job, but it pays the bills in order for me to live out my passions outside of work.

I hope this helps!

Ed said...

I hate those tests.

Everytime they had me one of those packets, I always have to ask where the pee goes.

latercater said...

Oh, and I got served the tests yesterday.

Sandra said...

I could say something extremely cliché like "Dare to dream!" but then I know I'd want to clunk someone over the head for that.
How 'bout this though: It takes great courage to be authentic. That is the truth, and that is not clunk-worthy!
Fantastic post.
You are a writer.