On Therapy

Where Therapy Is

Sometimes I hate therapy and what it brings up for me. I hate facing my failures, challenges, and the force of my own emotions. It’s the place where I am most raw and vulnerable, hurt and so wanting. Where I want to cry and let go but am too locked up sometimes to do it in the one place where I can and it’s okay. It’s where I feel desperate and helpless, dependent on another to see my self-worth when I can’t.

But it’s also where I can begin to see my strengths and start to hope. It’s where I can be accepted and maybe start to accept myself. It’s a place of balance when I feel unbalanced, a support to help me find my own support within myself. It’s a place where I begin to discover trust in small raw moments as I let my guard down and let someone else’s compassion and perspective in.

It’s where I learn to let my mind broaden beyond its narrow confines and become more flexible, letting in tentative sunshine where I saw only darkness. It’s a place where despair fights with hope, and frustration battles desperation to change. It’s a chaos of frightening emotions, though not necessarily only negative ones; positive emotions can be terrifying if unused to, or if there is fear of losing them.

Therapy is a place that is confused and clear, broken and whole, lost and found, triggering and easing, shaky and solid, shocking and predictable, burdening and relieving all at once. It’s where you might walk in calm and walk out in tears or walk in crying and angry and walk out shaken but calmer. It’s where I discover that while trust has been broken it can be built up again, like me.  

It’s where I learn that where I see myself as messed up I can be built up and am handed the tools and encouragement to do it with, another’s belief in me lending me strength until I develop my own muscles. It’s where I give up and decide to try again, where I feel safe and vulnerable simultaneously. I can laugh or cry, speak, or shut down and it is okay.

I can be alternately understood and misunderstood, communicate or speak in riddles. It’s where I sometimes push boundaries and other times learn them and develop them. It’s a place where I work my muscles until I’m sore and then run for miles; where I fall countless times and stand up again. It’s a place where I fight for my life even if there is sometimes no trace of evidence. 

It’s a place sheltered from real life even as I drag the mess of real life into it; a cocoon where I take my inner reality and learn how to channel it safely and capably into the real world outside of here. I love therapy and hate it. I can make fun of this world to others and yet know starkly that it is nothing to joke about; that it is life-giving where I saw my life as over prior to entering.  I despise and respect myself for being in it. I crave it and resent it. I wait for it and dread it. 

In therapy, I can yell in a whisper and scream so quietly without a sound spoken that no one hears but my therapist can. I can cry without a sound and have emotion read when I speak with no emotion.

I can feel the feeling of no feeling and acknowledge the depth of despair in not wanting to live but feeling too weak to stay with the pain; of wanting it to be over but wanting to live a whole and healthy life seemingly out of reach.

It’s a place where I learn to look at the dreams I had and see possibilities while acknowledging the reality of what I am missing and some things I may never be. And that life can go on and I can be complete with all I am missing and satisfied without having all I want.

It’s where I can accept or fight to understand that my not normal is normal and that normal may not exist. Therapy is where things can make sense even when they don’t seem to and there are two ways to think about the most contradictory elements. It’s where someone can see I’m not okay when I say I am and can dissect my situation logically without blocking out emotions and mix the two together to form a truce.

Who My Therapist Is

I like my therapist and am upset and hate her sometimes too because she’s there to get a point home, make me face reality so I can build it, and sometimes I don’t want to or can’t be present to understand it because I can’t deal. There are times when I can’t communicate and feel hurt and angry at the misunderstanding that results. I am learning to notice that and not judge or blame; how to validate the difficulties and fears blocking me and accept myself with it, yet work to improve it. Therapy has taught me to do this. As much as I feel bound to it sometimes, it is my choice because I want to heal. Here someone believes that I can.

And because they believe that, I will. I am learning to internalize that even if it takes time it can still happen. That my small steps can be big, and that progress is not a straight line but a complex dance, forward, backward, and forward again. My life is not condensed into a file, it is a part of the human heart sitting across from me, and for that I am grateful.

My therapist is an instructor and guide, yet not a dictator. She is a shaper yet will not model me into the image of her choice. She shows me the puzzle pieces and teaches me to fit them together, assisting yet not completing. She begins a thought and lets it sink in, takes a half-baked thought and brings it full term. She starts to plant a seed and lets it grow, keeps watch over the flowers as they bloom, sometimes replanting stems where they were previously trampled and uprooted so they can grow anew.

She combines personal perspective and experience with objectivity. She monitors the vital signs of emotional health and the red alerts of crisis, patiently holding on through the push and pull of trust and progress with regression, knowing the fine line of when to press and when to ease up and how to read between the lines. She merges skills and guidelines with flexibility, empathy with humor, understanding with boundaries, compassion with firmness, and validation with reality.

It takes a wise mind to learn and internalize all this. But it takes a caring heart and soul to really do it, putting it into practice.

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