cyclical thinking


recently i've been slowly working myself up to getting a therapist, because i need one. for a lot of reasons. something i do a lot is i rehearse conversations before they happen; i try to formulate my thoughts into something legible, and the way i do that is by thinking them the way i might say them to someone. since i'm thinking about therapy lately, i've been trying to wrap my head around how getting a therapist really works, and how i might introduce myself to a therapist and explain some things about my life in a way that is concise and accurate while still making clear that i am not a hundred percent confident in my own memory or ability to describe things accurately.

i thought i'd start by figuring out what i know; things that definitely happened, which are verifiable and were witnessed or experienced by multiple people outside of myself. this turned out to be sort of difficult, and i ended up sifting through my own backstory trying to figure out what happened when. there are some things that i know happened, you see, that i do not know when they happened. a big stretch of time is, for me, just a sort of blurry jumble. things happened, between 2006 and 2013, but i don't really know when or in what order. a lot of stuff i'm not sure if it really happened or not and i am even less sure of the timing on those, but like i said - i was trying to stick to the verifiable facts.

many of these things are verifiable, i just don't really want to verify them. even for the purposes of internal organization, it feels risky to delve too deep into that whole mess. it wasn't a good period of time, and i don't like thinking about it, and i'm not very good at thinking about it. it makes me sad. i feel stuck and disoriented and lose my grip on the now; i feel as though i am still there in some sense, although obviously i know i am not. it puts me in the mindset i had then, though. it's hard feeling trapped in something you don't even remember that well. i felt at the time that everything was a dream; nothing was quite real, and i couldn't keep track of time as it was happening at all. if i get too deep in the weeds thinking about it, then i end up feeling dislodged from reality.

indeed, i ended up like that when i tried to go over things in my head, and wondered what a therapist might say. maybe they'd ask me some questions about it, or offer validation. if it feels real to you, that's what matters. if it feels real enough that it's affecting you, it still needs to be dealt with, right? even if you're remembering it wrong. if thinking about all of it at once is so difficult and upsetting, take it one step at a time. don't overwhelm yourself like that. something like that, i bet.

on the subject of being dislodged from reality - this is one of those Symptoms that i know is a Symptom, but i never quite know how to describe without making it seem either worse or better than it actually is. i have a lot of those. they say that someone who's really crazy doesn't know they're crazy - so i'm not really sure what to call some things. can something be a delusion if i know it isn't real or reasonable? if i know it's a delusion? it's something else, i guess. i'm not experiencing psychosis, not really. i don't see or hear things, nothing like that. i just believe things sometimes, and the things don't make sense and i know they don't make sense.

sometimes i think i'm not real, for example. this doesn't make any sense at all! obviously i am real. but i still don't really believe it sometimes, and i find it very frightening and upsetting. since i know it's not true and that it doesn't make any sense, it feels silly to talk about. some other ones i'm less confident about, but also feel less like obvious delusions and more like just low self-esteem. 'everyone hates me' is a pretty common thought/belief, and it is not true (or is it...?), but it's not really a delusion in the same way as... i don't know. whatever the mental image conjured up by the word 'delusion' is.

i worry a lot that i might be a liar, which i also think is a strange worry to have. i'm not trying to lie, i don't think, but i do worry that maybe i've convinced myself of things that aren't true. i don't really know if i can be trusted as a source for things. if i'm not a liar, isn't it possible that i'm just overdramatic? i lack reference for what it's like to be someone else, so i don't really understand how to measure things that are just "my feelings."

this is the kind of thing i imagine myself saying to a therapist. it seems like the sort of thing one ought to talk to a therapist about. i don't really know, though; at the same time, a therapist isn't going to be able to look into my memories and tell me which ones are real and which ones might be fabricated. they weren't there, it's impossible to tell. if they tell me everything i remember is real and that i can trust myself, how do i know i can trust them? how do i know i'm not simply being indulged?

validation makes me nervous. being agreed with and believed makes me nervous. maybe i shouldn't be believed; maybe i shouldn't be validated; i really don't know. and a therapist is just a person with training and experience, not some sort of psychic or time-traveller. they're making a decision of whether or not to believe me, just like anybody else might. they can't be more of an authority than i am, and i feel like that's what i want.

but this, too - is this weird? do i just have strange reactions to ordinary processes of thinking, ordinary aspects of the human experience? am i so dramatic and easily befuddled that i have convinced myself that i am mentally ill because i find being an ordinary human being difficult? everybody wonders about their own memory sometimes. "hey, remember when...?" is a question meant to prompt collective remembrance, a request for external corroboration. remember when that happened? am i imagining that? did that really happen?

...and now i get annoyed with myself. now's the part where i think, "this isn't even staying on one topic. how am i supposed to communicate all of this? i need to focus. i was supposed to just talk about one thing, and now it's a whole bunch of loosely connected things, and someone might want to look at how loosely connected the things are and my scatterbrainedness instead of the content of the things. i have to restructure this to prevent someone from engaging with it in a way i don't like."

now i imagine a therapist interrupting me, telling me that this is a lot, pausing to try and figure out what to address first. should they press for details on my vaguely gestured-at "things"? should they address the rambling first, or the disconnection from reality, or the self-consciousness? maybe they'll want to ask me to take a few steps back and summarize more succinctly. this is a wash. too confusing. gotta try again.

this sequence of thoughts is one i've had a lot. i hope it'll help to write it down, to feel like i'm done with it at least for now.