When I was younger I never would have imagined that I would become a cheerleader for therapy. Then a difficult situation that I had no control over gave me no choice but to ask for help. It was survival time and I needed help navigating the murky waters of life. My new life guide, or life vest as she feels like at times because therapy definitely keeps me afloat, is everything I have ever looked for in a therapist.
I tried therapy maybe twice in high school and a short period of time during the end of my first marriage. It might have been my perfectionism, stoic German heritage or complete denial of my imperfections, but I didn't glean anything from those therapy sessions. Or at least very little. I always knew exactly what to say so that it didn't really seem like I needed help.
Obviously I wasn't ready in the past for personal growth. Then life hit me upside the head and said: "You don't have a choice. I'm throwing every possible challenge your way and you need help." So I called. Immediately.
Going back to my problem with perfectionism that I mentioned in my first blog post, I'm embarrassed to say what I did during my first appointment. You see, my therapist has her clients fill out a questionnaire and write down what you're hoping to get out of your sessions. Not only was I very specific but I also made two versions of my response. The second version had an additional section that explained what I was looking for in a therapist. That I needed someone who can keep up because I think and talk very fast. I wanted someone who could provide guidance and not just a "how does that make you feel?" therapist. I was very serious about all of this. I didn't want to waste my time or money and needed to know if she could keep up. After all, I had an exceptional amount to fix. (At the time I was so naive that I didn't truly understand that everybody has issues and challenges.) When I arrived at the appointment I asked her which response form she wanted: the shorter one or the detailed and blunt version. Of course she requested the blunt one. Recently she brought up the list and we had a good laugh because I've come a LONG way since the woman who had a list of requirements for her therapist.
Therapy has been life-changing. I allow myself to be completely honest and real with my therapist and it is the only time I have not felt judged when doing so. She has this remarkable way of pointing out my flaws and mistakes with zero judgement and always with compassion. Her ability to empathize on any topic is astounding to me. This process has taught me what it truly means to empathize.
I studied a lot of psychology growing up and in college and it's always been a passion of mine. I knew that focusing too much on psychology during therapy might detach me from truly feeling emotions, another thing I have learned how to do in therapy. Instead of distracting myself from emotions through coping mechanisms such as tv, food or obsessing over my husband (I sure do love that man), I can focus on me and work through the emotion or issue at hand.
Sometimes it makes me sick to talk about myself that much. Yes, I see the irony since I'm writing a personal blog post right now. Since I have a tendency to be wordy and repeat myself, it feels that much worse when I spend twenty minutes straight talking without a break. Honestly, what I often want to do is ask my therapist questions about her life.
I remember sitting in the waiting room reading Therapist magazine and there was an article for therapists about how much they should share about themselves with their clients. It basically said that it is up to them but to be careful about oversharing because it could lead to problems such as clients focusing too much on the therapist's life and experiences. Or they might find out something they don't like about the therapist which may hinder their own treatment.
Some days I wish I could trade places with my therapist and have her handle all of the difficult challenges I am dealing with. She would know what to do. She's experienced and trained. It may not work out the way I want it to but she would be making the healthiest decision for me. Of course this is not an option and my therapist is a professional. She doesn't tell me what to do but works through problems with me so I can figure out the best solution for me.
I have discovered that it's not always easy taking what you learn in therapy and putting it into action. Sometimes I go a little overboard and go to one extreme with the newest life lesson I learned. Other times I am like a defiant child and I don't want to do the right thing because it's going to hurt or be incredibly uncomfortable.
Here I am, a year-and-a-half after I started therapy and I rarely miss a week. I told a good friend of mine about my self-help day and that I get all my tears out on that day. She joked with me that it's too bad it's not on Friday. It could be #FridayCryday. I honestly don't understand why everyone isn't in therapy. I still have some self-doubts and I'm still way too hard on myself when I fall back into old habits but, thanks to therapy, I'm on my way to becoming a much better version of me. The real me. She was in there the whole time.