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.

Leave a Reply to Brian Cancel reply