Live by the Plan, die by the Plan

One of the first necessities I remember acknowledging in front of my therapist was “I need a plan”.

I have a plan. by Eric Allix Rogers

We were talking about the Xanax I had been prescribed to help me relax a bit before going to bed and my reluctance to even try it. I had thousands of reasons why I didn’t want to open that little bottle: fear of dependence first of all, fear of losing control over my real-self, fear of being transformed into someone else by those drops, fear of starting it off without knowing if, when and how I could have quit it.

So I needed a plan. I needed a plan to guide me. I needed a plan to tell me when to start, how to proceed, when to stop. I needed a plan to know that a doctor was guaranteeing me I was doing it right. I needed a plan to stick to, to hang on to, to be sure I was not wandering around without a destination, or in the wrong direction.

So I got a plan for my meds. And, meeting that same need, I got a plan for my therapy too: a session every two weeks, from March till the end of the year.

The plan for the anxiolytics worked smoothly: ten drops every night before going to sleep (I never had more than eight, though) for a month, then I gradually decreased the dose, reducing by one drop every 4 or 5 days, for the following month. I completed my one-drop-per-night week by the beginning of June. Then I quit my Xanax and never took it again. The plan was completed and the mission accomplished in two months.

It felt different for therapy.

By the end of October my therapist dusted off the plan that I had carefully stashed in some hidden corner in the back of my mind: “Since this experience is approaching its conclusion…” she began.

Its conclusion…” Damn, I knew it had to come, I knew it was planned, but I didn’t like it this time.

My therapist just said conclusion, softly and smoothly, like it was the most natural and obvious thing that could be happening, like it was the only possible outcome of these last months’ work. But all I heard was END: these meetings are never going to happen again, this space will no longer be, this therapy is over.

“Four more sessions are ahead. We are going to figure out in which way we can make the most out of them”.

I felt like my trainer wheels had been removed very long before and, since then, the only things keeping me up on my brand-new big bike had been therapy and her, my therapist. Now she was telling me that she was going to let me go on my own very soon.

And I felt lost. No, I didn’t actually feel lost, I felt afraid I’d be lost.

I wanted to ask her “What’s our plan B? Will I have the chance to be back here again, if I need to? How? And for how long?” But I just didn’t ask. I kept this fear for me this time; I would have asked her in two weeks, first thing as I’d sit on the chair in front of her again.

“Since this experience is approaching its conclusion, I’ve tried to sum up the things we have talked about so far and sketched them in this diagram. I’m not as tidy as you are with diagrams, but I hope this will do”.

She smiled, I smiled

She had given a shape to 7 months of discussions, she had given a shape to my story. I felt comforted. I need to give things a shape, to sketch them out in a diagram. I had even started to do something similar after my first sessions, but my thoughts, my discussions, my story, they all felt overwhelming as they flowed out of myself and I just couldn’t manage to keep up with all that blob. “She’ll take care of it” I hoped. And she did. She took care of my story on a small squared notebook and now she was delivering it to me.

In the following hour, my therapist listed the main themes, the main points that she had been observing while they emerged from my words and my thoughts:

  • My relationship with my mum and the complexity of it, even a parallelism in the relationships between me and my mum and between me and my best-friend-who-became-my-boyfriend.
  • The importance taken on by the concept of home in my life and my struggle with any form of detachment from it.
  • My perfectionism and the need to continuously get back with my mind to the moments in which I haven’t been perfect, in order to minutely analyze every single detail, track down the mistakes and correct them, repeating the process again and again, till everything is finally shining in its unquestionable perfection.
  • My concept of freedom, that has emerged several times as a need, an aspiration, my personal form of well-being, both in its presence and in its absence.
  • My difficulty in giving my emotional side a proper space in my mind and in my life.

She talked for almost the entire hour that day and I couldn’t manage to stop acknowledging how good she was at doing her job. She was summing up my story and bringing out significance from my months of blabbering. Gosh, she really is good.

She left me with the request to think about that list and figure out what I wanted us to work on in the next two months. I had to pick up some of those concepts and leave out the rest. And it wasn’t going to be that easy, especially knowing that “this experience is approaching its conclusion”.



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