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the plunge...

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OK, I'm jumping into the deep end... i'll try to tell you as much as i can without getting too long winded or super boring...

I'll try to hop around a little to give an overall picture without getting bogged down in details. I fit most of the criteria for OCPD and I can have an annoying tendency to rephrase and restate everything (see that? "rephrase and restate"--redundant!) to make sure I'm completely understood; sometimes I feel ashamed if I haven't explained something well enough and people have to ask questions (but I really LIKE people to ask me questions--go figure; I'm such a paradox)...

My real name is Sean and I've been in therapy for about 7 months now. I'm about to turn 34 and this is my first experience with long-form talk therapy. I've been on & off meds a couple times in the past 15 years. Currently, I take 80mg fluoxetine (Prozac) for depression, 60mg methylphenidate (Ritalin--20mg x 3) for AD/HD (non-hyperactive variety), and 0.5mg clonazepam (Klonopin) as needed for anxiety.

The Gordian Knot is what's inside... I'll explain in a minute.


Wrapped around my amygdala is a boa constrictor named Transference. I try to wriggle away and her grip squeeeeeeeezes....

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.


At the end of last year, I used the therapist finder on the Psychology Today website to find my current doc. (I highly recommend their free extensive search database if the listings on this site do not work for you.)

I was looking for a Psychiatrist who also does psychotherapy so I could do some "one-stop shopping" and get meds from the same person I was talking to in treatment. I've always believed there is a lot more going on deep inside my emotions than just the Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression I had been previously diagnosed with. I wanted to talk someone who is an expert on the brain chemistry, mind, and emotions, so I chose an M.D. (psychiatrist).

Specifically, I was looking for a female psychiatrist in my area who is also near my age. I wasn't sure exactly why, but those three components (female, psychiatrist, same age) were very important to me. (I've learned more about the whys in the past few weeks).

I chose the doctor who best fit my intentions... little did I know how well she fit! (I found out later she was born 10 days before me... can't get much closer in age than that!) Plus her picture on the Psych Today website looked like someone I could really talk to.

We started weekly sessions in February and almost immediately I was hooked: on therapy, on her, on learning about myself, on psychology--more specifically psychoanalysis. (Doc self-identifies as a psychodynamic psychotherapist, and she is a member of the local psychoanalytic association.) In fact, my wife will tell you I've been TOO hooked and quite obsessive about my therapy journey. I'm trying to dial down the obsession...



I have a choice of the comfy 'fainting couch' or one of two chairs across from my therapist. I've tried the couch a couple times, but I'm much more comfortable when I sit facing her, so I can see her eyes and facial expressions.

Sessions are 45 minutes. Usually I talk for about 20-25 minutes, then she 'recaps' what she's heard me express and gives her insights. Then I comment, explain, correct, or confirm the things she's said and we have more interaction for the last few minutes. She is always exceptionally careful not to label me or judge me. It is amazing how she remembers me and the things I've talked about from week to week, since she doesn't take any notes during our sessions.

Unlike previous short-term therapists I have been to, the doc is not super-encouraging or quick with a compliment or an ego booster. At first, I thought maybe when she didn't say much or react when I speak poorly about myself it meant she didn't care, but I've come to realize that one of the reasons I speak so badly about myself at times is to manipulate people into encouraging me--and she doesn't fall for those games.

One of the things I've known for a long time is that practically my entire self-worth is wrapped up in my perceptions of what other people think about me. I long for approval and I will walk miles out of my way not to disappoint people. (I've thought of making a t-shirt that says "Self-Engineered to Aviod Disappointment".)


Here is a piece of verse I wrote a couple months ago about my struggle for approval:

tell me who you want me to be

so i can be that for you

tell me who you want me to be

so i'm imprisoned in amber

tell me who you want me to be

so my dreams become burdens

tell me who you want me to be

so i disappear


From the time I was a small child, I've practiced the art of performing--for my parents, teachers, peers, sisters, friends, Sunday School teachers, girlfriends, etc. I've been everything to everyone. My personality radically changes depending who I'm with and what they expect of me. I've developed quite a false self (thank you, Winnicott)... to the degree that I don't have a very developed sense of who the real Sean is... Everything I do seems to be aimed at pleasing someone or avoiding the disappointment of someone else.

I've thought if I ever write an autobiography (it wouldn't have to be much longer than this!), I'd probably call it: "Lego My Ego: Building Blocks for a Near-Perfect Performance". (Please don't steal my title!)

Honestly, if I ever thought I could get my performance in life to a level of exact perfection, I would be willing to give up any sense of who I really am.


In everyday life, I am the most seemingly well-adjusted person. Even some of my closest friends think I'm the funniest, most creative, flexible and easy-going person they know. And sometimes the chronic ripping anxiety inside me is the only thing holding up that facade.

I am "high functioning" outside. Inside I have the emotional maturity of a 3 year old. I'm in therapy twice a week now.

The Gordian Knot is my term for the baseline anxiety I carry around with me every day in the pit of my stomach. Many days I can distract myself from it for a few hours, but it is always there. I cry often in therapy. The Gordian Knot is made of shame, guilt, loss and anguish, all intertwined.

(The historical Gordian Knot was a huge twisting mass of ropes that no one could untie. Legend says that Alexander the Great took his sword and slashed through the center of the knot so all the ropes fell away. I long for such a decisive resolution to the problem of me.)


The most recent piece to my emotional puzzle has just emerged over the last week. It really seems so huge and significant right now. I saw a program on TV that made me think of my childhood and, on a hunch, I started searching psychological journals online (one of my favorite things to do, since my wife has access to them--she's in a Psy.D. program).

I found one case study from 1980 that described me to a "T". I grew up as the older brother of twin sisters. My parents were a matched set. My sisters were a matched set. I was 'other', the one who didn't get asked questions when my sisters were in their twin strollers and who didn't receive birthday cards from friends and relatives who sent my sisters lavish gifts.

It turns out these siblings of twins in the case study each eventually identified that they had been on an unconscious search for a 'surrogate twin' all their lives. Friends, lovers, spouses--none of these things satisfied them. They were always looking for something deeper, more organic... they were looking for someone with which to establish the "twinning reaction" where the egos become blurred and merged.

This journal article was a revelation for me. I realized I have been constantly searching for that "twin" that I never had--and currently my therapist is filling that role for me. We are just beginning to analyze what all of this means--the ramifications and how I can fill the longing I've felt for so many years (and which will never be filled in the way I've desired--I will never find my twin).


There is so, so much more. In love with my therapist? Check. Bouts of crushing depression? Check. Issues with my overprotective, uber-conservative parents? Absolutely.

I suppose I've got a lot more to say, but this has been a lot for one night.

Thanks for reading.

Sean (always with the Gordian Knot)

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Therapy, the psychodynamic sort you seem to be partaking of currently, is a process of self-discovery and personal growth. And it is deeply about exploring and understanding relationships between people, as it is through other people and how you relate to them that the picture of who you are independently emerges. Thank you for sharing this intimate picture of your journey.


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  • 2 months later...

Hi, thanks for the interesting take on the twin thing. I have three children, a beautiful daughter of 19 and twin daughters of 16. Your words gave me some insight into the lonliness of being the oldest of that type of family. I know she feels left out and she has said that before. She has had intense long lasting relationships, but i have always thought she was too young for that type of committment and I worry what is behind it. Maybe the completion idea is what it is. Thanks for sharing. Aunt Dina

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