Lessons from counseling

I’ve been seeing a counselor since July. I find it very helpful though I still have times when I’m not as talkative as I’d like to be. Of course, when I get home after a session like that, I can think of a dozen things I wish I had said. I’m probably not the most verbose patient even on a normal day, so when I’m having the type of day where I struggle with talking, I worry that I come across as brain dead. It’s possible that waking up earlier would help, to give myself time to do more than “get ready.” My appointments are at noon so I usually wake up at 11:00 a.m. and leave at 11:45. I reach peak talkativeness at around midnight when my shift at work ends. If my counseling sessions happened at 12:15 at night, I’d probably overstay my welcome every time.

I’ve been to counseling in the past at various times. The first time was during my parents’ separation so I must have been about 13 years old. It’s possible I’m not remembering that correctly, but I remember why we were there. I remember one session that included my brothers and I think another that included the whole family. I don’t recall if we went multiple times or not.

I do remember not knowing what to say. I needed and still need a lot of prompting. It’s hard for me to effortlessly carry on a conversation. I had doubts about returning to counseling this time around for that exact reason, but I think it’s going just fine.

About a month ago, my counselor was asking me questions about my family and what our relationship is like. I can’t recall how the subject came up. I didn’t re-enter counseling due to any kind of family issue, so it’s not a subject I tend to talk about very much unless it’s just casual stuff. Sometimes I talk about my brothers and my parents and what they’re up to, but again, just casual stuff.

I think my counselor was trying to get a handle on what my relationship was like with my parents. We somehow got on the subject of my Dad. I told him that I have a good relationship with my Dad, though it was not always that way, particularly after my parents separated. I told him about some of the guilt I still have about the way I treated my Dad back then, for example, when I would refuse to visit him at his new place. I had also screamed and yelled at him in anger more than once and acted in a way that was almost certainly hurtful to him. I’m sure it was hurtful because I intended for it to be hurtful because I wanted to punish him. My counselor asked me if I had ever told my Dad how I felt today about these things that happened back then. I started laughing at the thought of how terribly awkward and uncomfortable that would be. I said maybe I would, eventually. I have this image in my head of a situation that happens years from now in which my Dad is on his deathbed and I give him a handwritten letter explaining how I feel.

It’s good to write this out, because I can see immediately how ridiculous that is. It’s ridiculous to first of all carry around this assumption that my Dad will live for (x) amount of time and that we will all definitely have a clear idea of when the end is near and we’ll be able to prepare for it. That is a fantasy. It’s ridiculous to think that I have information that he might want to hear and I’m withholding it out of embarrassment, or fear, or something I can’t put a name to. There are a lot of ridiculous things about the whole scenario, but those two aspects of it strike me as being the most shameful.

It also might be ridiculous to assume that any of it would have any great meaning for him. I don’t actually know that it would. It might just be an assumption borne out of watching too many movies.

One good thing about Now vs. Then is that Nowadays I tell my Dad I love him a lot more often. Before we hang up the phone I make sure to tell him “I love you.” We hug more often than we used to. My brothers have told me that they don’t do this, and that’s fine. I think at some point I just decided that I was going to try treating my Dad the same way I treat my Mom when it comes to affection. With my Mom, it has always been easy to say “I love you” and to give hugs. So at least I had something to start with.

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