My most recent therapy appointment was online because his child had Covid. I suppose that gave me a small advantage as I prepared to tell him how I felt about the mindfulness exercises he had recommended.
Let me backtrack: at the previous appointment, we went through a mindfulness exercise where I was supposed to simply listen to all the sounds around me, not trying to process them but just listening. I listened, but my active brain was spinning in the background; I was processing the sounds, as well as thinking about how I was getting distracted, trying to refocus, and continually wondering if I needed to stop seeing the therapist. For the second exercise, he went to the office’s kitchen, and while I thought he was rummaging through everyone’s lunches, he returned with a protein bar. The exercise was to fully taste and smell the protein bar, feel it in your mouth, and be fully aware of the process of eating it. I did what he asked, but my active brain was thinking the entire time that this was stupid and unhelpful (although the protein bar was very tasty).
Back to this week: As he greeted me and asked if there was anything I wanted to talk about, I looked at the notes on my scratch paper and started into a somewhat-prepared monologue. I said I didn’t think mindfulness exercises were helpful for me because I was stressing so much over doing them “correctly” that I couldn’t do them at all. I can’t shut my brain off for more than a minute or two unless I’m in the right place and time. I let him know I didn’t want to fail therapy for the fourth time, but I felt that some other kind of therapeutic exercises might be more helpful.
I told him that under the right circumstances, I can naturally achieve some kind of mindfulness practice when I am writing creatively, listening to familiar music I enjoy, hiking or being out in nature, or when driving and exploring new places. Sometimes it may only last for a short time, but for a while I can let everything else go and concentrate in the present moment. I also said that writing has been more productive for me than any other kind of therapy, and that it has successfully allowed me to deal with a lot of anger, sadness, and negativity more effectively than with the efforts of any therapist.
I think he was a little surprised, but he took it in stride. He said that we don’t need to do the exercises if I felt like they weren’t doing me any good. He agreed that writing can be therapeutic, and he thought for me writing became a sort of self-directed trauma therapy. We discussed how writing allowed me to take the past fears and memories in the dark corners of my brain, examine them carefully and objectively, and help them lose their power over my current emotions.
Anyway, it was a good appointment, and next time we will be talking about my social anxiety and what triggers it.