Opening Up to my Therapist

It has taken me a long time to talk about certain things with my therapist. I started to see her about two years ago, or maybe a few months before that. I wanted to talk about a specific issue with her, but when I tried to bring it up in my first session she reacted by changing the topic abruptly. I didn’t know whether it was a reaction of disapproval of what I was saying, or disbelief, or maybe she just thought it wasn’t important, and I should focus in something else rather than that. So I never mentioned it again for the next two years, even though I kept making covered references to it in case she would want to ask about it after knowing me better.

There were times she seemed to realize I was keeping something from her. There were some questions she asked that I couldn’t answer. But they were very open questions, such as “what is worrying you so much?” or “what do you do when you spend the whole day in your room on the computer?” Her questions didn’t imply any willingness or acceptance to discuss my specific secret issue. And I couldn’t bring it up unless I was completely sure she was going to be on my side, and that she would not judge me.

Time went by, and my references to the subject in question kept increasing. Last year I considered studying school psychology for months, but didn’t mention it in therapy until this year, when I was already enrolled and it was just a week before class started. She noticed I had been hiding it for a long time and she asked me why: “it’s wonderful that you’ve found a course of studies you love so much! Why would you not want to talk about it?” I told her it was just that I didn’t consider myself good enough for it, and that I thought I was too old to be at college and not working.

I started volunteering at an autism NGO at the end of March, but my therapist only found out at the beginning of May. Again, she thought it was great. So why didn’t I tell her earlier? I said I was afraid that she wouldn’t approve. But why wouldn’t she approve, she wanted to know. I said I didn’t know.

Last Friday I finally opened up. I told her I had been anxious about being unemployed, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about my last interview. I told her I had done something I wasn’t really embarrassed about, but that saying it to her did embarrass me, more than I could tell. She was really curious and insisted many times, until I finally told her: “I asked for help I shouldn’t need. I asked for help to get a job.” She reassured me that it wasn’t embarrassing or shameful; most people in my country need someone’s help to get their first job. But now she wanted to know whose help I had sought. I said it was an NGO and then tried to change the subject, but she didn’t let me off so quickly. “Did you ask the people at Brincar, the NGO you are volunteering for?”

I sighed, defeated, before telling her the truth. No, it wasn’t at Brincar, because I know they don’t hire any paid workers/professionals, as they don’t have much money. It was at APADEA, another autism NGO. They had a program for unemployed young adults, and I emailed them to participate in it. “So why are you ashamed? She asked. “Were you afraid they were going to think you are autistic?” She asked now.

“No, I wasn’t afraid of that. They actually had to think I’m autistic, because the program was for autistic people only. And that’s fine because I was actually diagnosed with autism as a child. My parents told me so when I was 21.” (It had happened just a month before I started to see my therapist, with the specific goal of assimilating and accepting this new and shocking knowledge about myself).

By the questions she asked afterwards, I can assume it came as a surprise to her. She didn’t remember our first session, in which I had told her about my PDD-NOS diagnosis before she changed the subject and asked me about my childhood and my parents. She also seemed to find it hard to believe that a highly-verbal and normal-looking young woman could actually have autism. She didn’t outwardly judge me for participating in the program, but considering what she thinks about my abilities, and by the way she has tried to normalize my struggles, I guess she might probably judge me inwardly.

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