Monday, February 16, 2009

Focus on being "REAL"

Sometimes we enter into a therapeutic relationship without doing our research and understanding what the process is about, what we expect from the therapist, etc....and this makes it difficult to ask for what we need, state what we don't need - and come to a consensus with the therapist on plan of treatment, boundaries, expectations, etc. At least this has been true of me. Of course, there are many of us who enter into a therapeutic relationship because we know we aren't "mentally healthy" and we are 'nudged' into therapy by someone who cares about us. And if we aren't 'healthy' enough, on a mental plain, it's difficult to know what we need, or even communicate the basics in therapy.

If we have come from an abusive past, it may take a year or more to actually begin to see the therapist as someone we can trust, someone we can count on to help us, well, understand ourselves. We may go into therapy limiting information about ourselves. Perhaps we tell the therapist in the beginning of therapy that we are *depressed* - but do not disclose much of the past. We do this for good reason, too. We grow up with the belief that no one can be trusted, that we are 'bad' and no one loves us - and that eventually everyone we meet will either abuse us, use us or leave us. At least this has been true for me.

My mother is an alcoholic. I grew up knowing that my mother did not love me, that she never wanted me and the only reason she 'kept' me was because my maternal grandmother would not let her give me up for adoption. I know this because my mother took advantage of several opportunities through the years to tell me this. My mother abandoned my older brother and me in a hotel room when he was 2 and I was 6 months old. She and my father took us 1000 miles away from our 'home' and left us in search of booze and cigarettes. A few days after she left, we were discovered by a woman who called the authorities, who then notified my grandmother. My grandmother flew 1000 miles (standby!) to rescue us and bring us home. Grandma was a school teacher and the time and she had to take off work, AND miss her Aunt Bea's funeral, to come and get us. I know this because I have heard this story many grandmother loved us so much she took off work, missed her favorite aunt's funeral and flew stand-by 1000 miles to "rescue" my brother and I). By this time, my mother was back, and she decided to come 'home' with us. Of course the "best" place for a child is with her parents, so we were not taken away from my mother. And really, (she says dripping with sarcasm) it wasn't her fault, it was the alcohol that made her do it. I did not grow up feeling loved or wanted, and was often shuffled back and forth between my grandparents and my parents - because my grandma thought it was important that I have a "relationship", albeit an abusive one, with my mother.

I had been in therapy before....therapy, ACOA, Al-Anon...I tried them all on, and I never found a fit. And I was so good, such a fine actress that all of the "professionals" dismissed me as someone who had it all together and didn't need therapy. I always did well in school, I was a 'model' student, bright and studious, I had many friends, was involved in many school activities, active in church, I never rebelled....why, they were simply amazed that a child who came from such a disruptive background could escape unscathed. The only 'professional' that said anything at all to me, who questioned my facade, was when I was in high school and my mother was in a treatment (again!) and I attended meetings once a week, as part of HER treatment. The man (I have no idea if he was a "therapist") told me I had a lot of anger. Wow Einstein! That was tough to figure out! But that was it, he didn't inquire as to why I was angry, or ask any questions....just a statement, "You have a lot of anger."

About 3 years ago, a friend of mine at the time told me that I needed therapy. I was having panic/anxiety attacks, obvious signs of depression...I knew she was right....and so I conceded and picked a therapist who took my insurance plan and made an appointment. What could it hurt? At most I'm out a $15.00 co-pay for a visit. I don't know what made me continue to go week after week after week. I don't know why this therapist seemed different. But after about a year, my therapist said to me, "Isn't it tiring? Being so fake all the time?" What? I wasn't fake - I was bubbly and energetic...busy and successful! Fake? That week she gave me a home work assignment: read the "Velveteen Rabbit" (and I have to admit, I'd never read the book before). I read the book - big deal! So a rabbit wants to become *real* and so he can feel pain? Why would I want to do that? I realize that isn't the 'message' of the book, but that was what I took from it at the time. I didn't get it. I had no idea what she was trying to say to me, what was the message?

I entered therapy because I was 'depressed', 'anxious'.... My therapist treated my depression/anxiety. But there was much more than that, and I don't know if she is just intuitive, or a private investigator, but she seemed to know it. And she seemed to know just the right time when she had gained enough of my trust to ask some deeper questions. I guess you could say Dear Therapist knew that I was complex, even with what little background we had covered, but she had no idea of the extent. And I couldn't tell her, a stranger, about my pasts. It was shameful, a dark secret I had locked away years ago and placed in a box on the top shelf in my closet. The things that were in that box were things I wanted to forget, things I was unable to talk about, reveal to anyone. Secrets that were shameful. Things I had escaped from and ran away from....But they followed me.

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