It’ll Pass

I had my last therapy session with my second ever long-term therapist last month, on June 22. I started seeing her in late May of 2018, almost a year after I moved to the Washington D.C. area. In contrast to my first long-term therapist L’s snarkier and more detached yet caring style, this therapist had exuded warmth and nurturance from the beginning. We spent this last session celebrating my growth and wishing each other well.

One theme that came up a little bit during our four years together included how I reacted to my mother’s consistent emotional abuse in my childhood. We talked about flight and freeze and how some people feel an urgency to escape a traumatic situation (e.g., me) whereas others become immobilized in the face of it (e.g., to an extent, my father and brother). From a young age I devised a plan to get out of my childhood home, worked hard to make that plan happen, and then I left. Over the past few days though I have dedicated some mental space to honoring the pain I felt seeing other members of my family suffering under my mother, who had less of a desire to extricate themselves from her completely and move away like I did.

As an empowered bottomTM, I like to recognize the ways my tendency to approach issues instead of avoid them works out for me. When I felt mental distress and wanted to deepen my self-awareness, I went to therapy and persisted. With my closest friends, I put in effort to make our long-distance friendships work so that they provide a similar if not even more profound level of connection than any romantic relationship would. I invest effort into my work and invest even more effort into maintaining a strong sense of self outside of my work. My second ever long-term therapist always told me that I never get in my own way.

This tendency to approach poses problems for me in certain situations though. Most recently, I felt this strong desire for an unavailable man. I won’t go into more detail just in case he stumbles upon this post, though I will say that he’s a beautiful Asian man and amazing inside and out and he’s also perfect not like I’m idealizing him at all lol idealization never heard that song! Anyway, I wanted to solve the issue of my attraction toward him and make myself stop feeling attracted to him and yet I could not. I had to sit with how I felt pulled toward this m*n and could not engage with him the way I wanted to.

This whole approach tendency issue reminded me of one of my favorite television shows, Fleabag. Without spoiling the show, at one point a character shares a super vulnerable emotion with another character. The other character responds, with a profound gentleness, “it’ll pass.”

That line struck me because it reminded me of how sometimes in life, you just have to wait for certain events or emotions to pass – you can’t action your way out of everything. For example, when I think about the grief I felt about a couple of my past friendships ending in 2019, I did do things to process those experiences, like talking about them in therapy and with my best friends, reflecting on them while taking walks, and writing about them on this blog and in my journal. Still, the emotions associated with those friendships ending simply needed time to pass, even with all those tangible action steps I engaged in. This notion of waiting for things to pass feels a bit uncomfortable to me, because I want to take action like I had been forced to as a child to survive. I want to make a plan to address the issue, to overcome the obstacle, and to emerge only a little scathed.

With emotions though, sometimes they just take time. And the nice part is that I’ve never felt an emotion, no matter how awful, that hasn’t eventually reduced in intensity at some point. I think the combination of active coping with giving space to let the emotion simmer tends to work out the best, at least for me.

Last night as I contemplated how I wanted to structure this post, I went on a walk on the Charles River and thought about my second ever long-term therapist. In the dark path next to the river, I thought about how I’ll always associate the town I lived in near the D.C. area with her, a compassionate lesbian with many dogs and many cats and many other animals too. I reflected on what she helped me realize about myself, about how I can loosen up my desire for control even when it feels difficult to do so, about how I can set the terms for my friendships how I want to. I felt a mixture of gratitude, nostalgia, and hope for her wellbeing. I let the feelings happen, and I walked back home.

A couple of weeks ago I found a gorgeous public library within walking distance of my apartment and it brought me much satisfaction. Yay books for bringing me more satisfaction than 98% of the men I have gone out on dates with! Though, I do not necessarily endorse the books in this picture (see my Goodreads profile for more on that.)

What adaptive traits do you possess that sometimes may turn not so adaptive, and how do you cope? How do you sit with emotions or experiences that elicit pain (and, I also recognize that certain things that create pain like systemic oppression need to be dismantled for sure)? How have you managed to continue thriving when the most beautiful man you’ve met is unattainable (I’m joking I think??) It’s been a few weeks because residency has been *wild*, from June 30 to mid-August I’m in-person everyday from 8am to 3:30pm with tons of additional work, 99 million research projects I have going on outside of residency, men who want to go out on dates with me who I don’t have time to see nor really much interest to see, etc. I wanted to share this post though and would love to hear how folks are doing! Until next time.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “It’ll Pass

  1. Wow, that is busy, one of the most intense times of your studies, I feel. Keep at it!

    A mantra I use a lot (I’m using it with this quite frightening heatwave we’re having in the UK) is “this, too, shall pass” which is a good way of reminding yourself that even a high pitch of whatever will eventually fade. I also like “All will be well and all will be well and all manner or things will be well” which is from Julian of Norwich.

    Doing OK over here (apart from the blasted heatwave which has come during a week off I’m calling a Reading Week but has removed two days of doing anything BUT reading) and waiting for some online CBT modules to come through for me to do, apparently a therapist does review the case first (or I’ve got forgotten). Working, running, seeing friends, trying to support best friend through looking for a new house … the usual with added bits. OK worrying over a few friends but that’s what you do when you have a chosen family, right?

    Oh and ditto on that plan: I WILL escape. And we did! And we continue to!

    • Thanks for your encouragement Liz! Yes I love you utilizing that mantra which aligns so well with the theme of recognizing the temporality of things. I hope the CBT modules are helpful and I’m glad as always to hear about your multifaceted life which I try to emulate. And I concur about worrying about chosen family – worry can definitely act as a sign of care though I hope it’s not too stressful for you! Yes for us continuing to thrive after having escaped. (:

  2. Wow – you’re so busy! I don’t think you even have time to sleep… let alone date.

    I wonder if most people try to avoid confronting problems and issues because they don’t know how, it can cause conflict, pain or it may trigger a fight / flee response. I remember seeing someone’s social media intro which read “the only exercise I get is running away from my problems.”

    You’ve given me a lot of things to think about with this post. I tend to avoid conflict and sometimes that doesn’t really address a problem or issue.

    p.s. if you trademark empowered bottom, should that be in caps (ie. Empowered Bottom)? It’s just a grammar thing.

    Also – tell us more about this new hot Asian guy. You drop these tidbits here and there and not even a forensic detective can glean more information from your blog. 😉

    • Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment Matt! I think all of the reasons you list, like causing conflict, experiencing pain, and triggering a flight/flee response, are all empathetic ways to understand why someone may not want to take accountability for their actions. It’s so interesting to me when people write things like that on social media (the exercise running away from problems comment) and then do not do anything to like, change that approach in their life. o_o I guess naming things can be easier then actively dismantling them.

      I’m glad that this post gave you things to think about! Also lolol your comment about the empowered bottom thing made me laugh thank you so much for that. I am keeping things deliberately vague about the hot Asian guy so that if the hot Asian guy in question stumbles upon this blog he won’t know it’s him haha, maybe one day I’ll drop more details though!

  3. Another wonderful post from you, Thomas. A lot of things to think about here and thanks for sharing so honestly about topics. It sounds like your second ever long-term therapist was a good match for you and was meant to be in this season of your life. Walking away learning and growing is probably one of the best things you could have asked for.

    I found it interesting when you said with your closest friends you put in a profound level of connection, perhaps even more than a romantic relationship. I also like approaching friendships that way these days, and a lot of my friends are scattered across the globe. Being honest, raw and actually making time with each other whether we catch up in person or chat online…and there’s always something so special about such profound connections. You don’t need to explain yourself to the other person, you don’t feel the need to.

    I agree emotions reduce in intensity over time. I guess with time, there’s always distance between how you felt in the moment and right now where you are. Emotions will pass but you probably will always have some sort of recollection of the situation, which you can always reflect on.

    Lovely to hear you have settled in to your residency. Hope it all goes well. Keep up the wonderful work you do and your writing too 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment Mabel! I concur my second long-term therapist was a great fit. (: Yes I am so grateful for my closest friendships they are amazing. And I appreciate your validation as well of what I write about in terms of emotions, like letting yourself feel them while knowing they will fade in intensity. Love that song. Looking forward to your next post too and hope you are well!

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