“How is your anxiety level right now? Why don’t we raise it?”
That is what my counselor just told me after 45 minutes of session time. We spent most of the session with innocuous conversation and suggestions. Then he just asked me that question. I said that my anxiety level was low. He stated that was expected now that I was comfortable with the routine and knew what to expect. Initially in counseling, I would have had a higher score due to heightened anxiety but would now be used to meeting with him.
At the beginning of the session, he said that he would probably try to heighten it soon but not now because I was expecting it. And so the session went on as we talked about the outcome of my recovery versus the process. We discussed crafting my sobriety statement with my wife and how that should be similar to a mission statement, but one for my life and marriage. I should make it a couple of concise sentences that I could remember and quote.
We spent several minutes on anger. My wife has anger and I don’t always know how to respond. My counselor stated that the goal was to let yourself be angry without hurting anyone. He specifically referenced Ephesians 4 where Paul talks about in your anger to not sin. My counselor pointed out that God expects us to be angry and that anger is a necessity. However, don’t sin, don’t “hurt” anyone including yourself in your anger. Explore it, let it happen, dig into the root and secondly, don’t let the sun go down on your anger, in other words….deal with it.
And then he changed the focus, 45 minutes into a 1 hour session that turned into a 1 hour and 15 minute session. He asked me a simple question:
“How did you respond when your discovery occurred? Where did that drive you? How did you feel?”
I answered that maybe shame? I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t name how I felt.
“So, where is your anxiety level now?”
I answered that it was high and rising.
“Why is that? So here is what I suspect and have suspected for some time. Every week you come in here with this jolly front. You seem and come across in a good mood. I think its a defense. I think you are depressed. You told me coming out of your disclosure that tests showed that you were depressed. I think that is true. I think you suffer from depression and probably anxiety. So where is your anxiety level now?”
Through the roof, I said. And I am very uncomfortable. I had never felt that emotion. That touch on the base underlying depression that I didn’t know was there. My wife has pointed out to me that she knew I hid my emotions, that I avoided them. My counselor said the same thing. He told me that he thought I didn’t know how to handle them or experience them, that they terrified me and I avoided them. He suspected that I had difficulty naming my emotions at any time because I constantly avoided them and didn’t experience them.
“So how was that whole situation? How did that experience feel to you, touching your emotion? Did it feel raw? I suspect it did.”
Yes, that is exactly what I felt. Raw but more accurately……exposed. Unprotected. Vulnerable. That was the most terrifying 10 minutes I have had in my recent memory, worse than discovery or disclosure. My anxiety and terror were at a very high point. Now what do I do with that?