I realize I have some therapy regulars who view these posts (I love you! Please keep reading/commenting and making me feel like less of a weirdo!). As the months go by, I’m becoming a therapy regular myself. I’m not sure how I feel about that…perhaps I should process these emotions with my therapist.
JUST KIDDING. I HATE PROCESSING EMOTIONS. What does that even mean? You process computer programs or chemicals in beakers or film negatives, not emotions. Emotions are never fully “processed.” As in, “Oh yes, I had that sexual assault that happened, but I put it through the processor and now it’s totally fine and doesn’t matter.”
Or maybe that is how it’s supposed to work, and I haven’t been in therapy long enough to get the printout that says, “Congratulations. Your emotions have been processed.” Who knows.
All that to say, now that I’ve been in therapy for a few months, the account in this episode doesn’t seem quite as bizarre to me as it did when it first occurred. At the time, though, I was completely weirded out. It’s worth repeating, especially because it has to do with my husband and today is Valentine’s Day (shout out to Andy – you’re awesome).
My therapist said we were going to “try something new.” Again, I’ve come to recognize this as code for, “Buckle up – things are about to get weird.” She handed me a sketchpad. My face was as blank as the paper in front of me. What was I supposed to do with the sketchpad? She explained that she wanted me to draw my relationship with my husband. I wanted to stop her right there and say, “Wait a minute, this isn’t like those true crime shows where the spouse is always the culprit. My husband isn’t the issue here. My husband is a STAR. He’s the one who talked me into coming to therapy. He’s the one who convinces me to take my medication when I don’t think I need it. He’s the one who’s married to a crazy person and pretends like he’s somehow the lucky one in this relationship. You can process the crap out of me, but leave my husband alone!!”
Of course I didn’t say that. I just looked at my paper and said, “Well…what am I supposed I supposed to draw with?” as if I was going to catch her unprepared for that type of question and get out of this weird activity. My therapist pulled out a box of crayons. A BOX OF CRAYONS.
I have a college degree, people, and I was about to pay someone $75/hr to let me color with crayons. I wasn’t even sophisticated enough for colored pencils. Forget about nice drawing pencils. It was going to be CRAYONS. This was a humbling moment in my life.
I halfheartedly drew some stick figures showing different moments in my relationship with Andy. I filled a page in about five minutes. Not bad, I thought. I explained my drawings to my therapist.
You know how therapists always say, “There’s no wrong answer”? Well, they lie. Apparently there are wrong answers. She told me I drew the relationship wrong.
How could I have drawn the relationship wrong?! It’s my relationship! She said that I drew events in the relationship. She wanted me to draw the “essence” of the relationship. What color was it? What shape was it?
What COLOR was my relationship? Seriously? And relationships don’t have shapes. That’s not real life.
So then, of course, I flipped to a new page and started really overanalyzing everything. I don’t like getting things wrong twice, but I didn’t know how to properly draw the essence of a relationship. I stared at the blank page for longer than was apparently acceptable, because my therapist said, “Just draw whatever comes to mind. There are no wrong answers.”
THAT’S WHAT YOU SAID BEFORE, REMEMBER? OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE WRONG ANSWERS HERE. Silly therapist. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I wasn’t going to draw another wrong answer. I was going to draw a kick-ass, fantastic “essence.” Whatever that was.
Then I realized I was getting seriously stressed out about my coloring page for therapy, and I simultaneously felt ridiculous and also a little bit like, “Dang. Looks like I do belong on this couch.”
Finally I realized I had to reach for a crayon. I was going to pick red, but that’s kind of an angry color. I didn’t want her to think we have anger issues or something. I reached for cerulean blue, my favorite, but then I realized she might interpret that as I’m very sad and it’s clearly because of my husband. Black and gray were out for obvious reasons. Yellow would have looked like I was trying too hard, like, “Look! Everything is sunny and wonderful with us! No reason to suspect anything!” because everyone knows that’s a dead giveaway that she should suspect something. I finally settled on green. Nothing’s wrong with green, right? I figured that if she made me explain, I could say that we both went to Michigan State, and we’re very dedicated to our beloved Spartan green. Or I could try to get deeper and say that there is a lot of growth in our relationship, and it’s very healthy and green like a healthy plant.
Do you see how much I over-analyzed this ridiculous drawing?
Once I had the green crayon and had mostly gotten over the fact that I was paying to color, I had to settle on the shape of the essence of our relationship. Oy. I couldn’t pick a heart for the same reason that I couldn’t choose yellow. A triangle seemed too sharp. I could have drawn some nebulous blob, but who knows how she’d interpret that? That’s like looking at clouds – she could see whatever shape she wanted. She could be like, “Hmmm…that looks like a gun, do you feel safe at home?” when really I thought it just looked kind of like a dolphin holding a teddy bear. These are the things I thought about. I could have drawn a circle, but that seemed really boring. Also, does it bother anyone else that it’s literally impossible to draw a perfect circle? It always ends up looking poochy in one section. I finally settled on a square. She couldn’t overanalyze that, right? (Even though I was doing enough analyzing for both of us, clearly). I drew a green square on the page and colored it in. A solid, secure patch of green. It looked pretty good. Then I was afraid she might say it was too boring, so I drew another square around the first one, basically doodling like I would do back in organic chemistry while waiting for chemicals to process (oh, the irony there).
“Hmmm…” my therapist said.
“Did I do it right?” I asked. “Does this look like an essence? I, personally, think this looks like a very good essence.”
“Yes,” she said as I sighed in relief, “That is what I was looking for. It’s very interesting. Very telling.”
VERY TELLING?!?! OF WHAT?!?!?
I wanted to say, “No wait, I take it back! We’re a blue circle! A pink star! A purple oval with orange spots and green stripes! WHAT DO YOU WANT, LADY?!?!” But of course I couldn’t do that. My essence damage had been done. Why oh why did I have to choose a green square? I wanted to sigh in exasperation throw myself into the couch’s throw pillows, but that seemed a bit dramatic.
“Have you ever considered having Andy come with you to therapy?” she asked.
“Uh, no,” I responded. (Because, despite my OBVIOUSLY MORONIC GREEN SQUARES, he is a good husband! I swear!!)
To make a long story short, she thought it would be a good idea to have Andy come in. “Not because I think you have a bad marriage,” she assured me (which was a lie, obviously. She clearly saw the green square as some secret code for “about to get divorced.”) She thought it would be good for him to hear what we discussed and find better ways to help me cope. Whatever you say, Meg.
In the end, Andy agreed to come in. I apologized to him about the green square incident, since clearly I sent some terrible message about us. Truth be told, though, I think it was actually really helpful for him to be in for a couple sessions (look, the therapist knew what she was doing…which she usually does). After we went back to one-on-one therapy, she did make the comment, “You know…you have a really amazing, really supportive husband. I hope you know that.”
Yes, I do know that. I’m sorry I couldn’t correctly draw that essence on my first go-round.