I saw my first client in 2017, toward the beginning of my time in graduate school. Before my cohort and I saw our cases, we practiced therapeutic basics with one another, such asking open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions to encourage deeper exploration, or reflecting and paraphrasing statements to get to the gist and the heart of the matter. Though these techniques feel automatic to me now, I still remember how much my listening skills – and my self-awareness – improved when I started using them on a consistent basis.
“You don’t really go toward sadness,” my first therapy supervisor told me, way back in 2017. Continue reading →
“It’s hard to imagine you sleeping,” a casual friend of mine said to me over dinner a few months ago. She stated this in the context of how I like to move, how I like to get things done. Indeed, as a fifth year PhD student, I have published a little over a dozen peer-reviewed publications, I have read and reviewed about 80 to 90 books a year for the past decade, and most importantly I try to engage in consistent self-reflection and self-compassion to improve as a friend and a person. When anyone mentions my “accomplishments” accomplishments in quotes because I’m literally just a Gaysian nerd who wants to sit on my couch and read novels all day lol and also “accomplishments” don’t determine people’s worth I feel a desire to crawl into a pink-colored cave and never come out, which my therapist calls “modesty.” People often ask me though: how do you do so much?
On one hand, I have a lot of privilege. I present as male, and I grew up in one of the ten wealthiest counties in the United States. Without a doubt these factors influence my achievements. I want to own their influence and take action to deconstruct the systems that create these forms of privilege in the first place.
The other day I had a thought spiral about whether I will ever date a man. I felt frustrated, wondering what I had done in my past life (e.g., vote for Ronald Reagan) to deserve my attraction to men, while simmering in the injustice of not having met a man who interests me. When I slowed down and named these thoughts and feelings, I realized: wait a second, I literally don’t care about dating a man. I would be 100% happy if someone told me right now that I will never meet a man I want to date, or if I’d meet this person in ten years, or five. I recognized then that my angst came less from a lack of romance and more so from a lack of control about when and how this person may emerge or not.
A few days ago, I got a text from my bio mom that reminded me of where some of my control issues come from. Continue reading →
I have felt sad and depressed over the past several days because of a change in my life that occurred last week. Though I tend to share specifics about my life on this blog, I do not feel quite comfortable writing about what that change entailed. However, I will say that I feel proud of letting myself feel sad – in my childhood and adolescence, I considered sadness unproductive because it did not help me escape my abusive home life. Now I am giving myself space to feel the emotion, such as by writing about how change has both hurt and healed me in the past.
When I think about change, I remember a time I visited an ex-close friend – before she became an ex – in a state in the northeast and first recognized that I would have to break up with her. Continue reading →
In 2019, I started a clinical placement at a community health center in a city near where I live. This upcoming May, I will end my time there and my relationships with the clients I have worked with for over a year. Because I feel that people in helping professions should practice consistent self-reflection and because I enjoy over-disclosing about my various emotional experiences on the internet writing, I want to process what it feels like to say goodbye from my perspective, the clinician’s perspective. When I soak in my emotions about my impending goodbyes with my clients, I first think about the goodbye I experienced four years ago, with the first therapist I saw long-term, L.
When I reflect on my goodbye with L now, I feel a sense of calmness and serenity, that even though our work together felt difficult, I processed my PTSD and grew a lot as a result. However, when I reread the post I wrote four years ago right after our relationship ended, I remember all the emotions I experienced then. Continue reading →
After experiencing my mom’s abuse as a child, I knew around the age of 12 that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping people and making a difference. Over a decade ago, as a kid, life felt arbitrary and meaningless – like, what force decided that I would be born into a family with this cruel and dysregulated monster? Somehow I decided to create my own purpose: if I could not control the circumstances of my birth, I would take charge of my destiny and devote myself to empathy and compassion.
When BlackPink first released their title track “Lovesick Girls” on October 2, I disliked it a lot. In my initial listens, the chorus felt too shouty and hollow instead of anthemic and resonant. I also tend to turn away from songs that focus on romantic love. About a week and a half later, though, after I listened to some covers of the song on YouTube, the chorus clicked for me and I became obsessed with this bop about the pains and joys of heartache. After listening to “Lovesick Girls” nonstop for about a month and a half now, I realize that I resonate with this song because of the unique way it crafts a somewhat trite message: that it is better to be hurt by love than to close yourself off from experiencing it at all.
The verses in “Lovesick Girls” do an excellent job of communicating the pain that accompanies connection. Continue reading →
My romantic attraction to men often makes me feel trapped. Because I grew up with an abusive, unpredictable mother and because my personality leans toward independence in and of itself, I like feeling in control, like I have the autonomy to shape my surroundings without anyone else interfering. Feeling attracted to men makes me feel trapped because my friends and I have encountered so many mediocre men. I also feel trapped because we live in an amatonormative society that prioritizes romantic love above all else.
Over the past week and a half, I have spent a lot of time and energy reflecting on my romantic attraction to men and my dislike of it. While listening to BlackPink’s song “Lovesick Girls” on repeat nonstop, I started to wonder: wait, what if the issue here is not my romantic attraction to men itself, rather, what if it’s the way we socialize men as well as the way the state and related media glorifies romantic love (e.g., people in marriages get tangible financial and other benefits while people who are not married do not)? Continue reading →
A few days ago, I had a dream about a former crush of mine. In the dream, I reached out to him through Goodreads messenger and asked if he could talk. He said wow Thomas, even in your sleep you’re obsessed with books and Goodreads, no wonder I’m not good enough for you yes and we agreed to talk on Friday afternoon. When Friday morning came around, he messaged me and said he could no longer talk on Friday afternoon because he had double booked himself. He asked me if I could talk sometime the following week instead.
When I woke from this dream, I remember feeling so hurt that my former crush canceled on me. Yet, I wondered why my psyche included him in my sleep, because I feel literally nothing about him at all at this point in my life.
“I’m pretty sure my ex-crush was a stand in for my father,” I said to my therapist a few hours after my dream. Continue reading →
A couple weeks ago I felt sadness at the thought of winter approaching. I struggled to figure out what brought on this sadness. At first, I wondered if the emotion stemmed from the impending coldness and darkness cutting off my ability to go on walks and jogs outdoors, my break from the boringness of staying indoors. Several nights ago, though, I had a dream that helped me realize the true root of my sadness: that this winter marks one year since I broke up with one of my former closest friends.