About a year ago I found a therapist I actually like. She's different: she doesn't have a beard, and her office doesn't have a single Persian rug in it. Instead of blandly listening to me babble, she helps me make constructive plans and changes. If she weren't my therapist I think we'd be friends.
The other day she flat out tortured me: she made me sustain eye contact for three whole minutes.
Dear God, I nearly climbed out of my own skin.
I had confessed to her that making eye contact during conversations is something I have to make a conscious effort to do. It makes me uncomfortable, but I know that other people expect me to look them in the eyes when talking and listening. They think if I'm not looking them in the eye it means I'm not paying attention to them, but it's really not true; sometimes eye contact distracts me from what a person is saying, and I have to doodle or focus on something over their shoulder to actually hear their words.
So Dr. Evil sat close to me and told me to maintain eye contact with her while she talked in a non-threatening and supportive way. We locked eyes. After a few seconds, my feet started pedaling. A few more seconds and my right thumbnail was stabbing into my left palm. Stay here, I told myself. My throat closed off. Stay here. Breathe. I vaguely heard the encouraging words she was saying.
"Can I stop?" I begged, swallowing tears.
She moved to a chair across the room.
I felt visceral relief.
But Ryan's eyes, I can look into Ryan's eyes all day and feel nothing but wonder and amazement.
When he lets me.
Which I'd never force him to do.
* I actually have no idea how long it was. It felt like half an hour.