I made it a good three and a half minutes into my therapy session before breaking down into tears.
I was already feeling miserable. My foot was hurting so badly that I had to wear sandals, which I hate doing. I was tired. I was still angry about the doctor’s visit.
My therapist asked something about the doctor, I forgot exactly what it was. All I know is that is what started my emotional spiral.
“I hate her. I don’t need to see her again.” I turned away and started crying. My therapist sensed right away that something was wrong and gave me the box of tissues. She asked me what was going on. “Nothing,” I said, as usual. “It’s not nothing, I can see that very clearly.”
“She put COPD on my medical record. I don’t have COPD. I’m only 30. Why would she do that?”
Then I started crying even more, this time out of sadness as much as out of anger. My therapist knew about the COPD diagnosis, but didn’t really know what COPD was, or the severity of it; she’d only ever heard of the term in passing.
I told my therapist that this wasn’t the first time I heard the diagnosis, but it was the first time a doctor made it official on record. For some reason, there was something about seeing it on paper that made it sink in for me. And I hated it. I see COPD as a slow death sentence. There’s no reversing the damage. You’re basically fucked and doomed to a slow, suffocating premature death.
My therapist was doing her best to make me feel better. She said we had focused so much on preparing for how I would handle the actual visit, that we never went over how I would handle whatever medical problems may come up. She talked about how medical science is always improving and coming up with new advancements and treatments, and that a few years down the road, maybe there will be something for COPD and I could live a better life.
But I wasn’t having it. In my mind, I was envisioning a life on oxygen and a death before age 45. I spent 29 and a half years in hell only to free myself and experience a different hell altogether, for the remainder of my life.
I eventually stopped crying only to continue directing my anger at my doctor, finding other reasons to hate her. Then I started to get overwhelmed and stopped myself. My therapist asked what was going on.
“I need to pee” I said. It was true, I did need to pee, but it wasn’t why I had changed.
My therapist told me to go ahead and use the restroom. I told her no, that I would be okay. She told me again that I could go and come back and continue therapy. I said no, saying that my feet hurt and I didn’t want to get up.
“Well, you can’t pee in my couch.”
“I’m not going to. I’m fine.” This was not the first time we’ve had this battle. The humor quickly turned to seriousness. I clearly had to pee (my legs were shaking) despite my absolute denial and insistence that I was fine. My therapist asked me why this was so hard for me. I told her nothing was hard for me, that I was just fine. She asked, in a firm tone, why I couldn’t assert my needs.
I quickly responded without even thinking, shouting “because my needs don’t matter.”
And then I cried. Again. Because I realized the gravity of what I just said. And because I’m an emotional basket case. I was letting my mother’s voice overpower everything. I couldn’t have needs then. I’m still believing that now. It wasn’t about pee. It was about so much more.
On a positive note, I did eventually get up to pee. But only because I had made a horrible joke (that made both of us laugh) and ended up nearly peeing myself. When I came back, I asked if we could talk about the weather. I no longer wanted to talk about the COPD or the fuckery of my life. I just wanted to talk about the weather. She asked if we could talk about this again in the next sessions. I told her it was fine. I just need some time. It’s a lot to take in and I don’t think either of us were prepared for this.
My therapist reminded me that there are people who care about me. She cares about me, my other therapist cares about me, my coworkers care about me. The problem is me caring about me. I fall short when it comes to that, and I know that. My therapist reminded me that we all eventually die. Even if I only have 10, 15, or however many years left, I can still do great things. It doesn’t have to be a life spent in anger and bitterness. But I’m not there yet.
Let me be angry and bitter for a little.