Apr 1, 2020
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
So my first visit with my psychotherapist, how did it go?
It was amazing!
I was early, very early, as I always am. I sat in the waiting room looking around at all the signs, posters and books dealing with trauma, PTSD, support systems and the like. In that 20 minutes while I sat there (yes I was that early), the gravity of why I was actually there set in and manifested itself as what I call an “almost.”
All part of that “mask” that many wear.
For me, an “almost” is defined as a welling up of emotions to the point of almost uncontrollably bawling my eyes out but then, as I have done so often before, stifling back those emotions and tears until those emotions and tears are no longer visible to the outside world, all part of that “mask” that many wear.
I was greeted by my therapist and taken upstairs to her office. Yes, she had a leather couch which, of course, prompted me to ask if it was the proverbial leather couch found in all shrinks offices. She laughed and said she wasn’t going to make me lay down on it. Okay that was a good start….a little humour icebreaker.
After the formalities of introducing herself to me I was quite relieved to learn that her specialty was PTSD in first responders and that she was quite aware of the firefighter and fire service culture. Ah common ground!
Then the question I feared the most…
We talked about my family and my history in the fire service, then the question I feared the most….”so what brings you here.” I guess it was meant to open the door to discussion because she obviously knew why I was there. It was one of those psychotherapist traps — I know it, and I fell for it!
I talked about the feelings I was aware of, you know, cold, emotionally numb, blow ups, bitterness, sleep issues, avoidance to name just a few. We briefly touched on a few past emergency calls that I brought up but didn’t delve into them very much at all. I brought up a friend and c-worker’s suicide which once again lead to an “almost.”
We talked about my childhood and what I was like after my mother’s death. I was obviously getting quite worked up because she quickly talked to me a little bit about deep breathing and EMDR therapy and progressive muscle relaxation.
I really wanted to lay on the couch but thought to myself, “nope, not going to lay on the therapist’s couch, that’s how all the flood gates open.”
She handed me two wired handheld fobs that I held in each hand that vibrated alternately from left to right while she guided me in deep breathing. Little did I know but that was my first introduction to EMDR therapy. I remember I told her that it was like a guided meditation. I like guided meditations. What do you know? It actually worked and I started to calm down.
There were many “almosts” during that initial meeting.
We talked quite a bit about my comments that I’m a control freak. Bottom line, while she didn’t specifically come right out and say it, but the control freak in me had a strong hold over the emotions that I should be experiencing from the traumatic calls I have gone to over my career as a firefighter.
Holy crap if that’s not what my “almost” cries are, I don’t know what is! There were many “almosts” during that initial meeting. Not bad for a first meeting I guess! Although it was never specifically mentioned that I had PTSD, everything we talked about revolved around it.
Yeah, sorta like if it quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, looks like a duck and flies like a duck, it’s most likely not a dog. I’ve had many more therapy sessions since that initial one and my official diagnosis which has allowed me to progress in my recovery to the point I am now, all with the help of my therapist.