Saturday, February 7, 2009

Reminiscing....why I began therapy 3 years ago.....

“You need therapy. I know that probably makes you want to flip me off, but so what!” My friend told me one August afternoon, after listening to me complain once again about feeling depressed. She went on to say, “you’re a dear person, but your well established defenses (like tendency toward sarcasm and keeping yourself too occupied to look deeply within) won’t serve you very well in the long run. The truth is knocking hard on your door. Take it from someone else who’s ignored the knocking herself.”

I’d been to therapy in the past….several times! Therapy is useless, in my opinion, a complete waste of time and money.
“I don’t need therapy,” I said to myself in the mirror one morning as I was trying some new cream guaranteed to minimize the puffiness under my eyes, a tell-tale sign of hours of crying.
“I’m fine. Better than fine, perfect! I came from nothing, and I’ve made something out of my life!” I smiled at my reflection in the mirror, turned and walked out of the bathroom and headed to work.
As I stood in line at Starbuck’s awaiting my morning latte, I continued pondering what my friend said. What is a therapist going to tell me about myself that I don’t already know? I rolled my eyes remembering a time my mother entered a treatment center and as part of her treatment, I was required to attend the al-anon meetings. The group leader said to me, “You’re a very angry young lady.” What insight he had! Of course I was angry. Who wouldn’t be? It wasn’t long after that meeting when my mother decided sobriety wasn’t something she desired.

All week my friend’s words continued to replay in my mind. I finally relented and made an appointment with a local psychologist. The doctor I selected had an office in the basement of an old, historic house, which was nothing like the mental picture I created. I pictured her office to be much like the psychiatrist’s office in “The Soprano’s”, professional and updated, with a separate entrance and exit so patients could avoid an uncomfortable confrontation that might occur if everyone used the same door. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that nothing is like the movies. “What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. I wasn’t really interested in the well meaning thoughts and advice of a psychologist, I was already taking an antidepressant and I figured if that wasn’t enough, than nothing would be. She wasn’t going to be able to tell me anything I didn’t already know, and it wasn’t like she could turn back the clock or fix any of it. What was done was done, no sense talking about it. Been there, done that….bought the t-shirt!

As I stood outside her office, contemplating making a fast break to the door before it was too late, the door opened and out stepped Dear Psychologist. She was an attractive, petite, woman, slight and thin, with shoulder length blonde hair and soft blue eyes. She was dressed in khaki slacks and a plain t-shirt. My imagination had created a picture of a much older woman, dressed in a black business suit with hair pulled back into a tight bun, and stylish brown-framed glasses, again, not like the movies.
Dear Psychologist motioned me into her office, pointed to a well worn blue recliner sofa and invited me to sit down. I had no desire to be there, or sit on her couch, but being a woman who proudly holds the Presidential title of the “I care what people thinks club”; I did as I was told. She sat down across from me and asked, “How can I help you?” Excellent question, I had no idea of the answer, but an excellent question, none the less. I left her office with a 6 page questionnaire, a combination of physical and mental health questions as well as my goals for therapy.

I asked my friend about the questionnaire. How much effort should I put into completing it? What kind of commitment was I willing to make. My friend said, “Half measures availed is nothing.” In other words, I was liable to get out of therapy only what I put into it. If I was in enough pain, and wanted to change in more than just a surface way, and if I didn’t want to continue to repeat old patterns of self-destruction and avoidance, than I would commit to the full measure, whatever that might be for me. It was a struggle to even admit that I was in a place of darkness, that I had not escaped my past pain-free, as I had led everyone in my life to believe. I spent hours thinking about my “commitment” to therapy. Deep inside, I knew that I was struggling, that even the simplest tasks had become monumental. To those who knew me on the outside, I was ‘living the dream’, but I knew that inside I was dying.

One morning, several days later, I poured myself a cup of coffee, wrapped up in a blanket and stepped outside onto my back deck. As I was breathing in the crisp morning air, and taking in the view of the snow capped Rocky Mountains, I suddenly realized that time was going to continue on whether I liked it or not. I had a choice to make; I could choose to fight my internal demons, or continue to run and hide from them. I decided that since therapy was what was right in front of me, I would open the door and let it in. And that’s just what I did.

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