I was looking at some posts and videos about therapy today, just to see if other people are sharing my experiences.
I found some surprisingly negative stuff, people saying therapy is for people who can’t face reality, yada yada.
Well, a lot of people have written articles debunking therapy myths, so I can’t add anything new, but I’d like to share why I chose Therapy.
- it was not because my depression and anxiety are so debilitating I cannot function.
I can sleep, eat, and work, I don’t feel bad all the time. The feelings are not usually very strong when I do, more of a nagging “something isn’t right” kind of feeling.
The reason I decided to seek therapy despite that is A. I didn’t want it to turn into that because I ignored the problem, and B. I don’t want to act in ways that will hurt the people around me.
With abuse and trauma and neglect, the problem is all you’ve seen demonstrated is the wrong way to handle stuff, therapy cannot replace good parents, but your therapists ideally is showing you a healthier way to listen and talk about feelings and problems, and helping you find what will work for you. In place of being shown it as a child, you can choose to learn it as an adult.
2. I didn’t want a pity party.
What drew me to therapy versus just some kind of support group sort of thing was I wanted to be able to learn and apply for myself so I don’t end up dependent on other people for everything in my life. My therapist acknowledges my life was hard, but doesn’t linger on how that makes me a victim, I’d hate that.
3. I ran out of options
The thing is, therapy is not always necessary. A strong friend group, family, and community can help you the same way.
The problem is, if you need therapy, that’s a good sign you don’t have any of those things.
That was the case for me, I have loving family members, but not ones who are very emotionally healthy and strong in the areas I need to grow in.
I have friends, but few I can really talk to, I end up encouraging them, more than they contribute to me. Also, people don’t want to talk about abuse, it scares them.
My community was somewhat supportive, but not on an intimate level where I could talk things out and figure out how to move on.
I’ve sought these things for years, and not had as much success as I could wish, so rather than wait until I do, Therapy seemed the wiser choice. Give me some breathing room to build better relationships.
Of course, it can be frustrating not to have those things, but to not have them should not be the end of emotional healing and growth.
4. Therapy is a way to acknowledge my need for help.
It’s dangerous to try to handle everything yourself, but I am tempted to do it. Therapy is a commitment that will keep me from being able to do that, even if I wanted to. It also keeps me talking to my family about my struggles because they are aware of what I’m doing.
5. Therapy is not an escape from the hard stuff.
I did not want to ignore what happened by putting a band-aid on it. Therapy does not do that. The idea is to face it with the attitude that it does not define you, and you can keep it that way by developing healthier habits.
A little look at what this is for me:
A lot of the process of healing is something I’ve been working on for years. So, my therapist knows she is not talking to a novice. So far she focuses on what I need to be encouraged to keep doing it. And to not give up on thinking it can get better, which was what I was tempted to do, and still am sometimes.
I lived in the ad situation for years, it affected me in ways I’ll still be discovering for years, and that’s okay. Because good emotional health does not depend on knowing every thing that bothered you ever before you can be good again. It depends on knowing how to treat it when something comes up.
Also, having issues does not mean you live out of them, as I’ve said before.
One of my defining issues for years has been “It’s my fault”, my dad used to blame me for literally everything that upset him about our family.
My therapist says he was all the more angry at me because I refused to accept his blame. My dad upbraided me for “fighting him” which meant all I resisted and argued and called him out on over the years. he didn’t break me. But he tried, and just knowing he tried was traumatic.
Perhaps some of you know what I’m talking about. Maybe the person didn’t go all the way with a threat, or an attack, or a bad decision, but just that they did part of the way was scary, and you didn’t know if they’d go further.
The more my dad tried to scare me, the more I fought it.
There’s a quote I found about depression that goes like this:
That’s what it is like for me. I was holding my family together by sheer enduracne, it felt like, until I just couldn’t do it any more. I ignored my suffering. Or I faced it alone with God because I had no one to talk to.
I came a lot further because of God, but turning to God can become a way of avoiding it, not because God does not help, but because you can stop actually seeking his help in your attempt to use that to justify not needing anyone else. God’s help may be in other people.
6. I thought God told me to.
Avoiding therapy was stressing me out more than my other problems were, now at least that is off my plate.
I did not want to need help, but the thing is, I also do not want to live my life by that desire. The one to be stronger than other people just to make it easier for myself. Being smart has always made college classes easy for me, yet in classes I do struggle in, the worst of it the people who have an easy time and have no pity for those who don’t.
I’m the classmate people ask questions of and what the homework is, because I don’t mind telling them. Would you ask the person who acts like they are better than you for knowing?
Even if I stumbled through without therapy, I don’t want to be the type to judge people for needing it. I have had a weakness for being afraid of people who are broken, partly because I lived with it for so long, but I want to have compassion for them and be able to help them.
(Note: I know someone who thinks that handling things on their own has always gotten them through life just fine, but this same person rarely if ever confronts people about what they don’t like, shares their feelings, admits to needing help, or is able to sympathize with other people. They are not a bad person, they are a kind person in many ways, but you just can’t talk to them about anything really deep and expect understanding. So it can be deceptive to assume you are fine just because you feel fine, maybe you aren’t miserable, but your life could be lacking so much meaning in it because you settled for barely getting by on your own.)
7. Therapy will, I hope, make me a better person.
My hope is to be a better sister, daughter, wife, friend, and christian for gong through the hard steps of therapy now and not later.
In all honesty, it can feel like it’s only making it worse. After a session I feel like my insides got poked with a stick on all the raw spots. I can feel off for days afterward.
But even with physical sickness, treatment can make you feel worse.
I used this analogy with my sisters (two of us have or have had braces)
Therapy is like getting braces.
Your teeth may be really messed up, many teeth problems can cause serous issues later in life if left unchecked, like breathing problems, infection, or bone damage from incorrect chewing. Teeth can grow in on themselves and be very painful.
But you’ve had them that way your whole life, since they grew in, you’ve grown up biting and sleeping the way you do, you’re used to how it looks. It’s just your teeth.
So, when your parents make you get braces, it feels awful. It’s painful for the first few weeks, and then with each new tightening, the pain is fresh all over again.
If you’re like me, you have a bunch of appliances, it gets stressful changing the new methods time after time, just when you got used to it.
And then, finally, you have that perfect smile you always wanted, the work is over right, only took 2 and half years…
but, then you have a retainer, or your teeth will go back into their old habits.
You see how it’s the perfect metaphor?
Teeth are as stubborn as thought and behavioral patterns, if you aren’t careful, they get out of hand fast. They are hard to correct, and without diligent care, braces can get pretty gross and give you cavities.
Therapy is like braces, it hurts, every session can feel like a new tightening, until you get used to it. even then, what if a new element is introduced later that starts the pain up all over. Even if in reality it’s only a couple years, at the beginning, that seems like forever.
And afterward, you know it won’t stay fixed without help. You have to “retain” what you learned in therapy in order to maintain a healthy life.
Maybe not getting braces won’t be fatal (it can be with extreme dental problems) but it will leave you in a lot worse shape than if you just bite the bullet for a couple years.
My dad, ever the example of what not to do, did not wear his retainer or keep gong ot the dentist, and his teeth got crooked again and he ended up with a painful infection, had to get most of them replaced.
And you may not be so lucky with emotional and behavioral problems.
My dad almost preferred not having the real thing, it can be easier that way, dentures and fake teeth don’t rot, right?
Just so superficial relationships with people who won’t challenge you may last 20 years, but never be anything really valuable.
I like to keep my real teeth just like I’d like to feel my own feelings with really deep relationships. So, I’ll take the harder but healthier method.
Therapy does not get me out of hard work, it just keeps me form blowing it out of proportion. It keeps things in their proper place, much like braces do.
That’s what I have for you today, I hope if some of you were wondering about what therapy is like, this answered your questions. This is just my experience of 4 sessions, so I’m barely getting started and not all therapy is the same, but it’s what I have available.
Until next time–Natasha.