I had my first psychotherapy session when I was 30 and was back at school again in a far flung foreign country. At that time, I had been contemplating suicide for some time as part of my existentialism quests. I had always had an affinity for big questions in life and felt that at the end life is purposeless since we will all die. I generally feel that life is not interesting and not worthy fighting for. My existentialism quest stretched out abit when one day I caught myself dangerously crossing the road with my bike. I didn’t do it to commit suicide ( I knew car crash would barely kill me). I did it to gauge people’s reaction towards dangerous behaviour (Again, part of existentialism quest).
I wouldn’t have actually gone to see my university therapist at that time had it not been free. First, I just wanted to talk to someone and practiced my English. Second I knew seeing a therapist was an acceptable activity in the West and assumed that while living abroad it would be my only chance to experience it without losing face. And the last it was free. So there I went. I was assigned for 10 session an hour therapy, once a week.
My therapist was a rather young British lady (in her mid 30s I supposed). She was very soft spoken and would look at me with a pair of sympathetic eyes. I felt bad coming to her since I was afraid that my misery would eventually get to her. I had never been to a therapist before but had a vague idea of what one should do when being in one. Sitting on the couch, I told her that I had contemplated suicide and the following dangerous bike incident. She told me I shouldn’t take such an incident lightly. I argued that the idea of suicide flashed through everyone’s mind once in a while. She made a point of saying that it didn’t occur to everyone but I didn’t believe her. She wanted to know about my source of unhappiness and since I couldn’t identify it I simply speculated that it has something to do with my lonely life. I wasn’t depressed with the nature of my life but was concerned that I preferred to live such a dry life when I could have a more cheerful life. I told her it could be my upbringing. My parents are very private persons and I grew up not emotionally detached to any of them. I find it hard to make connection to my parents and friends, to some extent. I remember telling her about a gap in my socialisation skills, in which I can behave properly but have no idea how to be intimate with friends. My social skills do not stretch further than formal talks and small chats. Beyond that is uncomfortable for me.
I can’t remember the name of my therapist. Was it Jane or Caroline? I only remember it was a typical English name, one of which you have heard over and over again. Her office is located in the back wing of international student support building. It was a small room with a set of chair and dimly lit. I was sitting facing her with a small coffee table between us. When the session was over, she would slightly tilt her head towards a small alarm clock behind me and signal me that the time was approaching.
In my very few last sessions, I also told her about my experience with religion and its activities as a way to find meanings in life. It was an unfruitful venture. Religion baffled me and I came out feeling that I would be better off without one. She told me I shouldn’t try to keep coming back to religion whenever I had life problems since the solution could lie somewhere else. she was making a legit point. I was turning too much to religious supports at a time when I already knew that it wasn’t making an impact in my life.
Now that I have finished with the therapy session for more than a year, I felt like I didn’t make improvement in the way I perceive life. Life is still long and unbearable for me. I will not commit suicide, will not take drugs or put myself on any antidepressant. I just feel that life resembles serving time in prison.
Inspired upon reading Couch section in the NYT