I did it. I had my first personal therapy session this week. I’ve done marriage counseling. I’ve done group therapy with my writing friends. But prior to this, I’ve never done therapy just for me. I thought I could heal myself or get support from friends, family or a partner.
Yes, the personal and relationship coach, needs help herself. It is hard to admit that. I should have it all figured out, right? The truth is, even with all the knowledge available there is no substitute for the eye-contact, deep listening and empathy of another human. Even with all the research and experience I’ve gained through practicing with my own clients, it is not the same as having someone actively engaged in helping and understanding me. I must replenish what I give to my clients. I need to be heard and seen to be able to listen to and see others.
Why I put it off
- I’ve seen and heard that the love within us is an infinite source we can always access. If I could just tap into that, I’d be fine. I thought meditation could lead me to that deep inner well of love and peace. I thought if I mastered meditation and relaxation techniques I would feel calm and be able to do more. I would be fine if I could just not get too emotional or overwhelmed.
- I should be able to handle things. I should work through most things on my own. Sure, friends and family can help but they are minor players. They are busy themselves. I just hadn’t found the right combination of self-care tactics to make everything alright.
- I doubted the efficacy of a therapist. They won’t know much more than me.
- I can go months feeling stable and secure. I go months without crying. I can feel relaxed and content.
- I thought a good relationship would eliminate the need for professional help. I just had to find the magical partner to keep me feeling supported and secure.
- I thought I could soothe myself through writing, reading and exercise. I know the tools to make my mind and body strong. I know how to get to my flow state through deep and meaningful work.
Why therapy now
- The truth is I can help myself for a while, but the aloneness and emptiness always return.
- I was listening to Jayson Gaddis’ Smart Couple Podcast and a woman asked a question about burning out her boyfriend. She had gone through a rough time for the last eight months. Her boyfriend had been very patient and understanding but had recently asked for a ten-day break from her. Her stress and depression were making him physically ill. He felt he was on her team but she was not on his. There was not a “Team Us”. Jayson said she needed to have other resources beside him. She needed to be well-resourced. I did not want to burn out my partner. I know being full or having multiple channels of support is important.
- I landed in another state of feeling alone. There are a lot of things I’m juggling — work, relationships, parenting, household duties. Most of the time I’m taking care of everything myself.
- My friends, family and boyfriend are not consistently available. Some of them are not well-resourced either.
- It’s summer. My kids are home with me most days. While I enjoy their company, it leaves little time for deep work. Appointments, meals, interruptions and potential interruptions fragment my days.
- A therapist specializing in nervous system regulation, childhood trauma and attachment theory started following me on twitter.
- I was feeling down and therapy is one of the few resources I have not explored.
What I learned from the first session
- A few tools to help my children not feel like I do. The therapist (an MD with masters in public health and a masters in biochemistry) suggested I hug my kids tightly for an extended time and spend at least ten minutes a day with them individually. Make them each feel special.
- I need to grieve the young girl in me who did not get her emotions validated.
- How much my grandmother and childhood friend made me feel cherished. They both died when I was 20 years old. I don’t think I’ve had that consistent feeling of being cherished since.
- My mom was a consistent supporter but needed a lot of care and support herself. I spent a lot of time as a young person not wanting to burden her and standing by her. I still miss our weekly conversations.
- I felt emotionally alone and not seen in my marriage. I’m sure my ex-husband felt the same.
- The phrase, “Giving cakes for crumbs”. Many sensitive and obedient children learn to please others to get attention. As adults, we do the same thing. We often give a lot but receive “crumbs” in return.
- It’s OK to have needs.
I learned and experienced much more than the above list during our first session, but there are some things I choose to keep between my therapist and me. I felt a sense of relief and hope after talking with Dr. A. We are meeting again next week. My hope is that her help will give me the emotional management and strengthened nervous system I desire to create healthy loving relationships with the important people in my life.
I see therapy as another way to help us live a rich life with depth and emotion. As sensitive people, we spend a lot of time suppressing or denying our feelings. Or maybe we spill our feelings all over the place and need help managing them in a healthy way. Emotions bring intimacy if validated and honored. They bring us closer to our loved ones if we understand and calibrate them. A therapist can help us do that.
**Side note: I felt relaxed and calm after writing this. Maybe it was the uninterrupted time alone. Maybe it was the act of writing. Maybe it was yesterday’s therapy session…
What are your feelings about therapy? Have you ever done it? Has it been helpful?