By Julie Walthers of Ghost Editorial
I found a woman through an online portal for psychologists. She had everything I was looking for: Her office was nearby, she took my insurance, and most importantly, she had an open appointment almost immediately. This therapist had also indicated in her profile that she employed Mindfulness-based (MBC-T), Cognitive Behavioral (CB-T), and Solution-Focused Brief (SFB-T) approaches in her sessions. Surely whatever anxiety issues I was having could be addressed by using one of those techniques, right? I was ready.
When I walked into her home for our second session, she gave me a stack of tarot-like cards and told me to choose no more than 10. It was a large deck–maybe 50 cards with vaguely optimistic words like Opportunity, Dance, and Dream inscribed on them. And they all had detailed art nouveau illustrations of women in various fantasy environments (climbing up a staircase to the moon, sleeping in a pile of floating leaves, hanging around a really pretty swamp with just a bed sheet draped around the shoulders, like ya do.) I chose eight cards but can only remember the key words on three of them: Goals, Power, and Help.
When I was finished picking my cards, I happened to notice several Buddha statues positioned strategically around the room. Everywhere I looked I felt the judgmental gaze of a Buddha statue. Peace comes from within, I sensed he was saying. Run away from here.
Buddha or not, I was excited to find out what we were going to do with my cards, and to be honest, I was sort of hoping that she would tell me my future and then read my tea leaves (for the record, Fortune Teller was not listed as one of her specialties, but I was excited for a potential Teen Witch moment).
I was disappointed when she simply sat down and asked for me to explain why I picked the cards I did. (Well, lessee here. My GOAL is to be able to get in the car and drive places without panicking, I would like to find the POWER within myself to control my feelings, and I need your HELP to do it. Good?) For real, though, couldn’t she have just asked me what I wanted to talk about without the pretense of magic and mystery? Geez, Louise.
Before the disappointment of not hearing my fortune had faded, it was time to do some visualization practice. I had no idea what the end-game was — hell, I didn’t even know what the start-game was since there wasn’t exactly a formal introduction to this next part of the meeting. Just like during any other doctor’s appointment, I trusted the process and just did what I was told.
“Close your eyes and imagine your very first anxious experience. Which way was the energy moving? Show me by moving your hand clockwise or counterclockwise.”
I was actually so confused for a second that I didn’t move anything. “What energy? What’s the difference? What does each direction represent?”
“It doesn’t matter, just move your hand.” I chose counterclockwise because I decided that the nervous energy I’ve internalized would logically be moving towards me rather than away. Obviously.
“Ok, and now pick a number to represent your anxiety.”
I couldn’t decide if she wanted me to pick a number that represented how I felt at the time of my first anxious experience or how I felt in that moment. She didn’t seem to like me questioning her, so I decided that 7 seemed like a reasonable answer. I’m almost always a 7.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Page 2″ ]
“What color is your anxiety?”
“What shape is your anxiety?”
“Round?” I could actually feel the Buddha in the corner mocking me.
“Great. And what color makes you feel good and calm?”
“Ok, now imagine that blue sparkles are taking over the red.” She said blue sparkles very deliberately, pronouncing each word slowly and clearly. “See the blue sparkles moving up through your head and through your body. Now take a deep breath and exhale. What number are you at now?”
I tell her I’m at a 5. I really don’t feel any different.
“A 5? Ok, let’s do this again. Imagine the blue sparkles moving clockwise through your body. Up through your head, down your arms and legs. Your whole body is full of blue, beautiful sparkles. You are glowing with a brilliant blue, sparkly energy. Now take a deep breath and exhale. What number are you at now?”
I tell her I’m at a 3. I’m actually at a 9 because I’m frustrated with my inability to see my insides light up with beautiful blue sparkles and overtake the red. “You’re only at a 3? Wow, you’re tough. Again then.”
Fuck. Alright. I’m over this. The next go-around I tell her that I’m at a 1, just to speed up the process. I guess I’m not a mindful person. She wouldn’t let us stop until I was at a 0. Fine, I’m at a 0.
We still had 20 minutes left in the session when she said that she was going to open up the discussion to me now. I didn’t even know where to start. So I asked about this blue sparkle technique (what I imagine is commonly referred to as the BS-T in psychiatry circles).
“OK, so, this is something that I can do whenever I’m feeling anxious or I’m in a similar situation as when the feelings of panic start?”
She looked at me like I had just farted. “No, it’s done. There’s no more anxiety.”
“There’s no more anxiety?” Strange. Having no more anxiety felt very much like having a lot of anxiety.
Her face scrunched up. “No, there’s no more anxiety. Not with that situation or with any other similar situation. You addressed the first time where you felt anxious, and you just dealt with it. You don’t need to do this again; it’s done.” It was like she was some sort of cerebral magician explaining her trick to a 5-year-old.
I just stared at her and didn’t say anything because I was literally speechless. I looked into the Buddha’s eyes to see if there were any hidden cameras, because this had to be a joke, but I only saw that judgmental look of his. Told you so.
I slowly got up from the couch, wrote out a check for the deductible, and made another appointment with her that I had every intention of canceling. The email was already written by the time I put on my shoes to leave her office:
Thank you for your help, but I will have to cancel our upcoming session as I have decided to go in another direction with my therapy.
As I left her town home, I pretended that I was actually cured. I visualized millions of blue sparkles emanating from every part of my body. For a fleeting moment, it even worked. But as I began to walk the five miles back home, purposely not calling an Uber so I could get the steps on my Fitbit, the lightness of the moment faded and was replaced by absolute bewilderment.
Nothing is permanent.[/nextpage]
About Julie Walthers
Julie Walthers is an English teacher by day and copyeditor by night (and by weekend and by summer vacation). When not trying to explain homonyms and thesis statements to high school students, she can be found attempting to maintain her Top 3 position on the Fitbit leader board, or on the couch watching Netflix and questioning her life choices. Do not speak to her in the morning before she’s had her coffee. You can read more at Ghost Editorial and follow Julie on Facebook.