After a talk with my therapist, I have been assured that Oversharing in Therapy is not possible. We determined that I was using a lot of emotional reasoning when I thought that, because the only specific fact I could come up with was that when I overdosed she didn’t ask me much about it. She was trying not to pry and make me uncomfortable, whereas I was uncomfortable and therefore needed her to pry.
When I came home, I finished reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Near the end I found this paragraph regarding communication between the author and his wife:
We gradually evolved two unspoken ground rules. The first was “no probing”. As soon as we unfolded the inner layers of vulnerability, we were not to question each other, only to empathize. Probing was simply too invasive. It was also too controlling and too logical. We were covering new, difficult terrain that was scary and uncertain, and it stirred up fears and doubts. We wanted to cover more and more of it, but we grew to respect the need to let each other open up in our own time.
I truly do understand the sentiment and respect that this worked for him, but for me it’s completely the wrong approach. I am so used to conversations where no one is actually listening to me, and to being expected to not have any thoughts or feelings that conflict with others, that it is near impossible for me to volunteer information. I require a long pause in the conversation before I feel confident to jump in and share, and most of my conversations are with people who cannot handle even a second of silence.
Even if I do get the silence, it’s still hard to be open about how I feel. If someone is asking me questions, I feel more confident in sharing the answers. It gives me a framework for what to say, by only needing to tackle one question at a time and not having to figure out how to organize my thoughts. Plus, if I’m not being asked questions, I feel like the other person is just waiting for me to shut up so she doesn’t have to listen to me anymore. There’s always the risk of the questions pushing me too far past my comfort zone, but I’ve never had a problem with telling my therapist to back off.
Once we’d cleared the air about this misunderstanding, I finally got to discuss the issues regarding the overdose that I kept dwelling upon. I don’t feel like I’m completely done with the topic, and may bring it up again at some point, but we discussed things I didn’t even realize were bothering me until I said them. I had some concerns about the way the staff interacts (or doesn’t) with clients, and my therapist suggested I bring those up with someone who has influence on the unit. I don’t know that I will, but I’m at least considering it. I know there are changes being made to their procedures that should improve the experience, so it may be irrelevant to bring up at this point.
It occurred to me while writing this, that I never explicitly told my therapist that I need her to pry. It’s something I’ve thought many times that I need to tell people, such as when a staff member in inpatient yelled “Are you okay?” from across the room and I mumbled “Yeah” when I clearly wasn’t okay. There’s no way I’d have been comfortable answering that question in more detail under those circumstances, but had she approached me with a more specific question (maybe “Why are you pacing the halls?”) I think I could have explained what I was upset about. I was prepared to tell this person she needed to pry, but before I had the chance I was told I was being released.