The morning after I collapsed to the ground, I entered a therapist’s office for the first time in my life.
No couch to lie on, no enquiring looks, no disturbing images on the walls. I found there a woman, not much older than me, with an empathic look and reassuring manners.
I had been nervous since I woke up that morning, after the usual very few hours of sleep. My heart still running too fast, my head still dizzy, my breath short as I started to speak.
I told her what I had been going through in those last months, listed her all of the symptoms I was suffering from and the medical investigations I had undergone, then cut right to the chase: “I’m in a permanent state of anxiety. I’ve reached a point in which whatever I have to do, even the most natural and peaceful activities scare the hell out of me”.
“Do you have any idea of what the reason of these fears could be? Has anything happened recently that could explain these fears in your opinion?”
I had a couple of hints actually.
“Something has been going on at work lately”. I had been put in charge of a team over the previous summer and I had been working very hard since then. Longer working hours, lots of meetings and some pretty good results. I had been informed about how both my boss and the Company’s management were very positively impressed by my attitude and results. This was going to imply more responsibilities assigned to me and greater expectations of me in my near future. At the same time, some tensions had begun to emerge among a couple of colleagues of mine, who couldn’t stand the professional growth of a younger and less experienced girl. Few weeks before the day I had to leave the office panicking in December, an angry dispute with a colleague of mine had culminated with her bitterly accusing me of being the cause of her unsuccessful professional life. If I had worked less and worse, she would have been in a better job position; this was her argument. I raised my voice and patronized her, pointing out that an unsatisfactory career lasting at least 20 years couldn’t be explained in any possible way by my presence and my attitude, since I had been hired just a couple of years before. I reacted like a lioness in the moment, but knowing that she had been harboring all that unmotivated rage towards me, for God knows how long, made me feel unease every time I thought of it, every time I talked to her, every time I even saw her, since that day.
“And there’s something in my personal life too”. I clearly remembered that the night before that December day, I had been working with some friends at the website for the short movie contest. I remembered giving a ride home to my best friend and listening to his troubles with his latest (soon-to-be-former) girlfriend. We had been getting closer and closer in the previous weeks and that night, for the first time since I knew him, I had felt the instinct to stop him before he got out of my car, hold him close and kiss him goodnight tasting his lips. I didn’t do it, but I couldn’t manage to stop thinking about that desire for the greatest part of the night. And the more I thought of it, the more it scared me.
“How have things been going with your friend since that night?”. “We’ve never actually met again since then.” “Whose choice was it to not meet again?” “It was my choice, all mine.”
Should I have bet on what was the most probable of the two explanations for my breakdown, I’d have picked work. I couldn’t stand the only idea of getting back to the office. The day before my first therapy session, as my GP commanded 3 more weeks of sick leave, having diagnosed me an acute case of stress, I had felt relieved and I couldn’t even imagine how and when I was going to be able to get back to work again.
Once I left that first meeting, predictable as it may seem, I felt like I had just left some of my weight in that office.
“How did it go?” I was asked. “We should borrow that therapist to keep her home with us for a couple of months” I smiled.
I was actually feeling better and for the first time after weeks, as I sat at the table for lunch, I ate my meal enjoying its smell and taste with a voracity I could barely remember.
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