Sandy doesn't like the couch she sits on in therapy. Honestly, she would much rather sit on the floor with something solid at her back and not some over fluffed pillow. Demonstrating that tell is beyond the level of trust that Sandy has with her therapist though. Sure, she trusts her to keep this confidential. She just doesn't trust her ability to make a difference.
And that's the issue.
The therapy isn't helping.
Sandy still talks. She answers all the questions. She reads all the articles. Sandy hasn't found a single coping mechanism that actually works. She thinks it's just like childhood. Once again hard work doesn't open a magic door.
Sandy didn't know that she'd secretly hoped that therapy would magic the pain away. But she had, and now she knows that it won't.
She's a little lost with what to do next. Therapy had always been the last line of defense. The big red button she’d push when the shit’s hit the fan.
Sandy sinks farther into the couch and has to consciously stop herself from crossing her arms. This isn't a time to mope. She resettles herself in her seat. The couch is too large for her small frame. She has to sit on the very edge of the cushions so that her feet are planted on the floor. She doesn't like them to dangle.
Condition therapy has circled around most of the articles. It has its own chapter in that book. Sandy understands the concept. Do the things that make her uncomfortable until they don't anymore. Sandy thinks of it as 'buck up and shut up.’
But Sandy had gone out to eat with her family and almost cried. She had caught a glimpse of herself in a window. She had looked at herself and seen nothing but a failure. She had sat there wondering how many people saw it too.
Dinner was agonizing, and it shouldn’t be.
Sandy's mother is Japanese, and it may be stereotypical, but that means that Sandy was raised to be polite and nice. Sandy has always been grateful for this. She likes being kind.
But there’s more to Sandy's family than this. For one, Sandy's family does not confide in one another. They do not talk about their problems, their fears or any personal concerns. They are painstakingly polite, even to each other.
Sandy's aunts and uncles talk about work and their children. She has never heard them talk about her uncle's alcoholism which led to his divorce. They have never brought up her aunt's chronic eating disorder. They never speak of her mother's dead daughter. Sandy has always wondered how her family could just as easily be strangers talking about the weather. Their conversations never hint that they are related, that they care about one another.
Her family has been raised to endure. They have not been raised to ask for help. Sandy thinks she can safely call this pride. She also thinks it’s a case of mass denial.
This is why Sandy had to ask her mother for help twice, when Sandy's mother is the most helpful person she knows. It still hurts when she thinks about those two failed attempts, even if she does understand why her mother refused.
Both times the conversation ended like this; verbatim, "Why can't you just get over it?"
Both times her mother had walked away.
It is the most horrible thing that her mother has ever done. Sandy wonders if she realizes it.
Sandy has been seeing her therapist for weeks now. None of her family has mentioned it. Sandy knows that they know.
Sandy has an appointment to see a psychiatrist. Those are the doctors that prescribe pills. Her therapist is a believer in the two-pronged approach. Sandy read that damn book. She knows that medication combined with therapy is a highly recommended treatment. Her appointment is not for another five weeks. Sandy doesn’t ask about the long wait.
Instead, her therapist gives her surveys, the kind with directions that say on a scale of 1 to 5. Sandy fills them out, and her therapist circles the ones that must stand out amongst the pages of questions. She doesn't ever show which ones that she has circled. It seems like a secret in a room that's not supposed to have secrets.
Sandy has started to exercise. The book and her therapist recommend it. Sandy used to be very active. She took gymnastics for years as a child. It made her ridiculously strong. She played tennis in high school. She had been fit and healthy.
Sandy always liked the idea of sports. Her mind might not have been that sharp, but her body was hers to control.
And sports have always provided a reliable distraction. Sandy threw herself into tennis. When she wasn’t studying then Sandy was practicing. She played six times a week. She played even when the blisters on her feet opened up. She played until she all but passed out on her bed at night.
That’s all tennis was for her.
There were too many hours in the day. So Sandy filled them up. She played so she wouldn’t have time to acknowledge how scared she was.
And she was scared.
Sandy felt like she was born in debt; like she could never be enough.
So Sandy distracted herself with tennis. It made her feel stronger than she actually was.
Sandy is weak now. She can barely do any sit-ups, and pushups are out of the question. Instead she focuses on balance exercises that she enjoyed as a gymnast. It takes weeks, but Sandy slowly builds up some strength.
And of course, the exercises help. They make her feel better after every workout. It's a chemical thing; a dopamine thing.
It doesn't last though. In a way, it doesn't feel real. The chemical high dissipates as quickly as smoke in the air. Sandy wishes she could bottle it up and keep it forever.
Mornings are the worst for Sandy. She wakes up and feels used and miserable. She rolls right out of bed and starts to exercise. It helps.
One day Sandy doesn't want to feel better. It's strange but true. Sandy wakes up and feels awful. She also feels bitter, frustrated and angry. Sandy wants to wake up happy. She doesn't want to have to trick her body into releasing 'feel-good' chemicals.
Sandy doesn't exercise at all that day. She tries to chase that feeling of happiness with logic and fails miserably. She goes to bed early, and the next day she wakes up feeling worse than ever. Sandy rolls out of bed and starts her exercises.
The happiness still feels fake. Sandy will take what she can get.