I feel the need to tell everyone, before they read this, that I personally feel like my chosen topic is something that has a stigma attached to it, even though it totally doesn’t deserve one. You may now proceed.
It’s no big secret to people I’m friends with, or even just people I see when I walk into the office of LifeWorks in Uptown every two weeks, that I’m going to therapy. I know it’s not polite to mention, and it makes people uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the idea squirm, but my Tiffany’s Book of Manners didn’t say anything about mentioning mental health issues, though it was a tad bit concerned with the state of my unwashed clothing…so I’m going to (clearly) unabashedly admit that I’m in therapy. Ta-da!
For the past year, I’ve spent mountains of time in that office (and out of it) improving myself. When I noticed my receipt dates starting to look a little familiar, I saw with no little bit of shock that I had missed my one-year of therapy anniversary. This may not seem like a big thing to you, especially if you’ve never had reason (or you’ve had lots of reason and no balls) to go to therapy. Or maybe you’ve been to therapy, and you’re all “Meh. What’s the big deal?”
It’s a very big deal to me. I’ve tried self-improvement before. Several times. Notable times, actually, because they never ended well. These times involved books, liquor, diet plans, devotionals, and yes, even other therapists. But usually, I just came out of those experiences convinced that I was screwed up and helpless and being a baby and I just needed to grow up and deal with my shit.
So last February, when I decided that I needed help with learning how to function happily in my environment, I skeptically went in search of a new therapist. Preferably one who was affordable and not so school-counselor-y. After making my appointment, I nervously informed my dad that I’d be giving the whole “therapy” thing another shot. Ever the fake-optimist, I described the philosophy of LifeWorks and its website features enthusiastically, trying to convince myself as much as my dad that it was a good idea.
“Where did you find these people?” he asked.
“I Googled ‘non-traditional Dallas therapists,'” I told him.
Neither of us felt any better for that knowledge, I don’t think. And so I entered the office (after getting lost in the dark) on February 22 a nervous wreck. It was probably good that first night that I was about ten minutes late, because if I had been early, there’s a good chance I would have sat in the waiting room for thirty seconds before I chickened out and bolted, leaving only a check for the cancellation fee in my wake. In any case, I was so embarrassed to be late that I swept through the door and straight into the office without even stopping to be too nervous.
I still remember being mildly charming that first session with my therapist…pretty much on my best behavior except for the part where I told her “Well, I mean, I have to see if I actually like you first,” when she asked if Tuesdays would be a good meeting time. She wasn’t too offended, though, because when we made our next appointment for the following week, she laughed and said, “So I guess I passed the test, huh?”
To be honest, that first full month of sessions, I wasn’t that sure about her. I mean, I liked her, she didn’t put me off, and I definitely wanted to see if we could be productive. But I was taking it day by day…and that poor woman sure did get a lot of information out of me in that month, with a lot of humoring and coaxing. At some point, I decided to start trusting this woman, and I can honestly say that I’ve never made a smarter decision in my life. Except for my decision to invest in a purple couch. That was a solid choice.
Anyway, now, after a full year in therapy with an amazing counselor, I can happily say that… I’m still just as fucked up as I ever was.
Therapy isn’t supposed to fix me. GOD, I wish it could and that it would, but that’s not really what it’s there for, as I’ve learned. Therapy is there to help me deal with myself and learn how to function as a normal effing human being – while still being happy with not only my life, but with who I am.
It’s not an easy road to walk down, but I knew that going in. My thought process was: there are some things I need to fix, but I can’t fix them alone. I’m single, I have disposable income, I should probably get on that before life starts getting too complicated.
And guess what? I was right. Looking at my life now, I can’t imagine starting a self-improvement project that big right now. I have so much going on at work, and so much swirling around in my head about my future and my choices…I just get overwhelmed some days. Luckily, I’m already in it. You don’t just stop a home remodel once you’ve started ripping down walls and taking out old plumbing just because you get really busy at work. You keep going – because you know that in order to have a new and improved home, you have to keep pushing through all the chaos. That’s where I am right now.
Yeah, some days it sucks. Somedays I leave that office and I can’t stop crying. Somedays I have to deal with things that I’ve had safely tucked away in a back corner of my mind for years. Somedays all the strategies and new behavior patterns I’m working on blow up in my face. Somedays I catch crap for how I’m changing from people – or worse, I catch it for the simple act of going to therapy.
Let me stop and give everyone a piece of life advice right now: If your friend is doing something that makes her happier or helps improve her life in some way, guess what? It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in it. Shut up or you’re a horrible friend.
Truth-telling…it’s one of my new things. Not that I lie a lot, I just censor myself. And as far as the therapy goes, no, I’m nowhere NEAR done. It really is like a home remodel (the literary device works, let it marinate for a minute) – the problem that you’re trying to fix looks easy enough on the surface, but once you start busting through that wall or tearing up those floorboards, you find termites and water damage, and your work just quadrupled.
And yeah, people will ask you why you’re even bothering – why not just buy a new house? Because a house isn’t a home, and this is your home (or, in my case, my head). Why didn’t you get a quick patch for that wall or just cover the cracking floor with carpet? The answer, too, is the same for therapy and home remodels: because sooner or later, you’re going to have to address the real problem. And as time goes by, the cracks will get larger, the structural integrity of the house will weaken, and then you’ll be left with an even bigger mess. So, you see, procrastination really does hurt you when it comes to stuff like this.
If you stick with it and follow through, I think the end result will be much better than you could have ever imagined. I hope I’m right on that one.(Photo credit: bretts-kleenex-box-9 by dandeluca)