To Therapy or Not?
With the Pandemic, I feel it is an appropriate time to discuss therapy. It can be help in these uncertain times. I can only relate my experience with therapy and I do have an abundance of that!
A quote from the film "Good Will Hunting" to me sums up a lot of what therapy has been for me. Robin Williams plays the therapist and this is what he says to Matt Damon's character, "You'll have bad times but it'll always wake up.... to the good stuff you weren't paying attention to."
This is why I am pro therapy. My life before therapy was filled with lots of self loathing and dread for what was to come next. There was never a way out of my head and I had no sense of myself at all.
When I went into therapy for the first time, it was 1989 and I was living in NYC. You know you are a real New Yorker when you talk to your friends about your therapist. My first therapist was a young man probably my age or maybe a little bit older. I remember sitting down and saying to myself, "I don't think this is going to work out." The truth was I couldn't stand to be in my body anymore. Life felt out of control. One of the first things he said to me was "So, what is the goal you want to get out of therapy?" My reply was to get better!
After 5 years with him, I was better. I no longer felt small and insignificant. My sexual abuse was no longer a heavy weight I carried around. I felt good about my body and myself. Having a man therapist to talk to about all my sexual stuff may sound so wrong to some of you, but honestly it was the best thing I could have done. It broke my barriers of shame that made it possible to talk to others about my abuse and it made it easier to talk about it to men I have been in relationships.
I didn't go back into therapy until 2003. The years in between, I was in a 12 step program; did lots of transformational work at Landmark Education; and did Justin Sterling's Women's Weekend. Because of all this work, I saw that I could create a better life for myself. In 2002 I decided to go back to finish my undergraduate degree. I went from Fashion Fabric Buyer to Full Film Student!
I decided early in 2003 that I wanted support in this life change, as I had goals that I wanted to achieve. The kind of support my friends were giving me was great, but I needed the kind of support that would help me keep moving forward in my life and actually have achievable results.
Again, I was blessed with a great therapist! This time, it was a young woman. I went in with a clear sense of what I wanted to achieve and not sure how to go about it. Here was my therapist to guide me on this new journey and into the unknown of myself. My goals were as follows: 1. To keep doing well in school, 2. To lose weight, and 3. To be married and have a family.
These goals were obtained and other possibilities as well. I never thought I'd be a Mental Health Advocate and a documentary filmmaker. AND now, I am a blogger!
The approach we took together was to notice the things that stopped me from going forward while I was out in the world and to work on them with her. If I had a date, we would talk about what worked and what didn't. How to set a routine for myself so my school work was done. You can say that using a Life Coach would achieve the same thing, but that's not the case. In therapy you see how you operate and most of this comes from your past. Therapy helps you dismantle some of these things and it also helps you see that some of it isn't about you. Especially if you have an abusive background.
I spent the next 14years with this incredible therapist. She was tough when I needed it, always there in my dark moments, and shared my breakthroughs with enthusiasm! Because of her commitment to me and my well being, she supported me to see psychiatrist because I was having a hard time with depression and anxiety.
I achieved most of my goals by 2008. I ended up going onto grad school in the fall of 2004. Something unexpected and welcomed because it was there I met my husband Jesse. In 2013 I completed my final goal and that came with the birth of my daughter Myah.
Now, I live in Costa Rica and have a new therapist. Again, I have a committed woman therapist who goes above and beyond for me. We have some cultural differences that are fun go look at. She is the one who realized that I was not bipolar, but I have PTSD. My goals have been adjusting to being in a new country, expanding myself so I can be a better mother, and dealing with the tragic deaths of my Mother and Aunt.
So, this is how I approach therapy. My approach may not work for everyone but it has always given me a starting point and, believe me, I have gone places in this soul of mine that I never planned to or even thought of.
Therapy is good for everyone. To me it's so beneficial to sit once a week, look at my life for 45-60 minutes, and vomit out all the stuff from the week...things like my anxiety or what ever is ailing me. A therapist doesn't have an agenda can see things from a whole different perspective. This perspective can alter your life.
How do you find a good therapist? In the States, there are many hotlines and organizations that can help you. A friend may have a good therapist or you may have to go online and research. My advice is if you feel confronted in therapy, then this is probably a good therapist. Therapy is a safe place and being vulnerable is also safe. That's something I got from therapy. Create boundaries with your therapist. One sign of a bad therapist is if they are always telling you what to do! You may have to go through a few therapists to get the right one, but don't be discouraged. I always pray with the intention of getting the best therapist for me. Another tip I always give when someone says they want to go into therapy is to be as honest with your therapist and with yourself as you can be at the time.
The treasure found in a therapist's office is usually found in your own soul. A good therapist leads you to your treasures.
Love and Peace!