you die, all you do is die, and yet you live

I never intended ther­apy to take such prece­dence, but it’s become the re-occurring event around which I work all my other plans. I’m still learn­ing how to be an emo­tion­ally healthy per­son, while unlearn­ing the destruc­tive habits I devel­oped to sur­vive the rela­tion­ships of my past. They affect me every sin­gle day, and I know I’ll be doomed to recre­ate the dra­mas of my ear­lier life unless I have out­side help. At the same time, it’s not a process I can rush. Every ses­sion leaves me emo­tion­ally exhausted, and I need a healthy dose of happy to recover1. It also takes time to process what I learn, reflect on ongo­ing behav­iours, and put new tech­niques into practice.

I’m for­tu­nate to have found a com­pe­tent ther­a­pist with whom I’m com­fort­able, espe­cially when doing cog­ni­tive work that often leaves me unsafe2. After so many months, he knows enough about me and my his­tory to under­stand the kind of guid­ance I need. There’s no struc­ture, but he always lets me start. As a per­son who’s spent his entire life being socially sub­mis­sive, the role rever­sal is a wel­come change. It’s a reminder that the time is mine, that I’m free to be myself, that I get what I want out of our hour.

Sometimes, I catch myself wish­ing he would val­i­date me with­out the need to explain myself, but he con­sis­tently remains the neu­tral ally (albeit one with plenty of com­pas­sion). I’ve learned that it’s impor­tant he never side with me out of loy­alty the way a friend might, so I can trust his opin­ion is always bal­anced and fair. Other times, I wish he would sim­ply tell me what I need to know, but he lets me come to real­iza­tions by myself, to make sure I’m always in con­trol, and to avoid influ­enc­ing me by the act of mak­ing a sug­ges­tion. It’s a unique role in my life that he plays well.

I dread the pain, but still look for­ward to every ses­sion. So much of my progress is tied to the mem­o­ries I’ve kept in the back of my head and the emo­tions I’ve left to expe­ri­ence. It’s an oppor­tu­nity to show myself com­pas­sion, while flex­ing men­tal mus­cles I don’t get to use often enough nowa­days. Not to men­tion the grat­i­fi­ca­tion and hope that comes with uncov­er­ing long-seated, self-defeating thought patterns.

Heather hasn’t been com­ing in with me lately, but she still comes with; I don’t need her as a wit­ness as much as a sup­port when it’s over. It’s com­fort­ing to know I have a part­ner who accepts me now amid all this uncer­tainty, and will con­tinue to no mat­ter who I become. She’s the one who tends to my wounds at home, the love I’ve been miss­ing my entire life, the rea­son I’m strong enough to do this work. The least I can do is strengthen my bond with her by learn­ing to be more a trust­ing, patient, and accept­ing person.

  1. Something that usu­ally involves turn­ing into a blitzed-out her­mit for a few days. []
  2. I’ve always won­dered what other people’s expe­ri­ence with ther­apy is like. I don’t know a sin­gle per­son who goes on a reg­u­lar basis. []

5 comments

  1. It seems I know more and more peo­ple who attend ther­apy on a reg­u­lar basis. I’m not sure that I actu­ally know MORE peo­ple who do, or if peo­ple are becom­ing more com­fort­able talk­ing about the fact that they do.

    • That’s com­fort­ing, cause I know more peo­ple who are com­pletely clue­less and prej­u­diced about ther­apy, than peo­ple who actu­ally under­stand it. The clos­est to an accu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion I’ve ever seen in media is when Claire inter­acts with her coun­cil­lor in the first sea­son of Six Feet Under. Otherwise, it’s all the old “head­shrinker” stereotypes.

      • Yeah I think the media is still very far away from being able to deal with ther­apy, men­tal ill­ness etc, in a nuanced man­ner. It’s too bad because this influ­ences how peo­ple per­ceive things a lot.

  2. I attended ther­apy for 2 years start­ing 8 years ago. I was very help­ful at the time. It helped me through some dark times and helped me real­ize I needed to cut off con­tact with my toxic fam­ily. It got to the point where sur­vival was either me or them — my ther­a­pist helped me choose them. It was the best deci­sion I ever made. Haven’t been in con­tact with any­one in my fam­ily in 7 years and I have never been hap­pier. That’s not to say it was all wine and roses.

    After cut­ting off my fam­ily, my ther­a­pist tried to be a sur­ro­gate mother, and at the time I wanted that but it was mas­sively unhealthy (and inap­pro­pri­ate on her part). To the point where she was caus­ing argu­ments between my wife and I. Then some­thing inside of me snapped. I was able to take what I had learned from ther­a­pist and use it to show her that our ses­sions were no longer healthy for me and I stopped see­ing her. I’ve gone a few times to other ther­a­pists over the years but haven’t stayed long. I really don’t need them any­more. I was finally able to rely on myself and deal with the pain that, even to this day, will man­i­fest itself even at the slight­est inter­ac­tion. It is dif­fi­cult but I have a bet­ter sup­port sys­tem within myself and my lov­ing, patient, and sup­port­ive wife.

    You’ll get there Jeff. Not that I know where there is really. It is a jour­ney — some days are bet­ter than oth­ers. You try to deal, get sup­port when you need it, learn (good and bad), then move on. Life is a great adven­ture that some­times will slow you down. The key is to keep moving.

    Good luck! You are on your way and being sup­ported, and that is what matters.

    • Wow, your story is remark­able. One would trust a health­care pro­fes­sional not to abuse or con­fuse the client/patient rela­tion­ship, but I guess doc­tors are human too. I’m glad ther­apy helped you rec­og­nize the unhealthy influ­ences in your life, and gave you a voice to make the right changes. It sounds like you got exactly what you needed out of it, and you made it through the expe­ri­ence as a bet­ter person.

      Thanks for shar­ing. Your story is an impor­tant and help­ful reminder that even though I implic­itly trust my ther­a­pist to guide me, he’s not infal­li­ble, and I’m still the one who knows what’s best for me at the end of the day.

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