I may not end up writing about every appointment. But, since this was the first one I’d like to pat myself on the back a little for actually showing up.
With this new job, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get this done this summer. But, my main therapist at the VA was able to find an expert in prolonged exposure PTSD therapy who was able to work around my schedule. I just had to find a way to get there. She was able to meet me at 4:30pm for 90 minutes. My day usually ends at 4:30pm. But, if I can get things done early, there’s no problem cutting out early. I was able to find a way to do that this week. But, it may become hard to do so every week over the next 12 weeks. At the end of the meeting, we spoke about it. I told her I really needed this and was willing to find a way to make it work. But, there may be days when I could be up to 15 minutes late. I explained my schedule and that it may be unavoidable with my current job. She said she could make it work if it was only the occasional 15 minutes late. That made me feel better. I’ll do my best. But, I needed to know that she could work with me if I had difficulties.
Walking into her office was less of an issue than I expected. I’m fairly familiar with the VA hospital. But, it’s the first time I’ve seen it so empty. The place really dies at the end of the day. As I got off the elevator, I remembered that I needed her office number that I didn’t write down. I quickly took the touch out of my pocket and pulled up Google Voice. As I was listening to her message, a young lady walked up and asked if I needed help finding something. I would have accepted her invitation if I could remember the ladies name who I was there to see. But, I thanked her anyway.
I accidentally walked past her office and doubled back when I noticed my error. She came out and asked if I was who she was expecting. I introduced myself. It wasn’t hard walking in. But, then I noticed her very cluttered office. She had paperwork stacked up in various spots. There were books on shelves. I have this annoying habit of not being able to relax in a new environment until I have everything memorized. I tried to ignore it so it didn’t interrupt the conversation. But, I told her about so she would be aware.
This meeting was meant as a get to know each other kind of thing. She told me about herself. Where she went to school and how long she had been with the VA and in what capacity. She then, wanted to get to know me. She told me she had read some information my main therapist had sent her. I suspected that she already was aware of my gender dysphoria. But, I also knew that I would have to actually say it outloud for it to be brought up.
I was able to broach it fairly well. Well, I couldn’t look her in the eye when actually saying the dreaded “T” word. This happened quite frequently. When I actually said “I had a gender problem.”, she didn’t say anything other than “Yes, (counselor) did include that in her notes). But, she also didn’t break out a Bible. She didn’t squirm in her seat. She didn’t break out a knife and ritually cut me up into pieces. This whole thing about society becoming more accepting is very odd.
She also asked me to speak in generalities about the incidents that bothered me. I brought up the two that bother me the most. The incident with the grocery workers and the incident with the California Highway Patrol. Both were hard to talk about. I guess writing about something is easier than actually having to say it.
She took notes while we spoke. And she was able to put me at ease while we talked. And later, she reminded me that I had said that I had used the words “shame” and “embarrassment” while speaking about these incidents. I spoke about how I felt like it was my fault.
I asked her if she could provide more details about what would happen later on. I explained that I needed to know to help better understand and feel more at ease before these sessions start. She explained that part of it will involve speaking about the incident as if it’s happening right then and there. She noticed my iPod Touch as I entered and told me that we’ll be using that so that I can record and listen to those sessions later on. There will be homework. Besides listening to myself recount the incident, I’ll also have to spend progressively more time in areas I constantly avoid. Hence the term “prolonged exposure”.
There was a time not to long ago, when I would have avoided this kind of therapy like a curse. About 5 years ago, when the idea of PTSD counseling was brought up with my private practice therapist, I actually stood up and walked around the room. It wasn’t until I was made aware of it, did I realize I had put my chair in between she and I. I didn’t like this idea at all back then. I wasn’t ready to confront it.
I first started seeing a therapist when the relationship with the girlfriend was falling apart. At the time, I knew on some level that I was depressed. But, since I had been depressed since birth, I didn’t know how depressed I actually was. When the words “social anxiety” were first introduced to me, I had to go look it up. Thankfully, we were able to find one medication that helped both symptoms. I dove in full bore in an effort to conquer my social anxiety. I didn’t think the two incidents we spoke of today were that big of a problem. After all, I had accepted that I did something stupid. Live and learn. Never do that again.
But, as time passed over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that as the social anxiety has started to ebb, something else was left behind. Whenever a trans friend mentioned going out in female mode, I quickly balked. I couldn’t imagine doing such a thing. No matter what solution to help manage my fear was brought up, I dug in my heels. I wouldn’t go out with a group. I wouldn’t go get my makeup done in public. I wouldn’t dress up in the privacy of a friend’s house. I wouldn’t even show up in male mode to group meetings and change in the restroom. NO WAY!
In my mind, I imagine people hiding around every corner just waiting for me to accept my punishment. I know, intellectually that this is absurd. But, I can’t help it. No matter what I do to push myself past this, I can’t do it. It’s too heavy. So, I’m doing the responsible thing. I’m getting help.
By the time the meeting ended, I was a little more relaxed. It was a nice meeting. I trust her and find her very competant and professional. I’m oddly looking forward to it.
Sidenote: On my way out, an employee of the VA was standing at a table speaking to a woman who was walking by. He caught my eye like a smart salesman. He said he was giving away books. Apparently, there is an organization that is giving away a selection of books throughout the year that are picked by librarians. I didn’t recognize the title (And I can’t tell you now, because I accidentally left it in the car). Both the lady and I were a little stunned and taken aback that there was a person standing in front of us giving something away for free. I looked at the book for any tale tell sign of it being a piece of religious propaganda. I didn’t see anything. The guy pawning off these free as in books books said it sounded like an excellent way of giving back to his community. I figured that if I didn’t like it, I could simply give it someone else. And if it turned out to be of a religious nature, it could keep me warm when I eventually go camping. I’ll let you know what becomes of it.