I (Still) Need Therapy.
by P. Braithwaite
A few months ago I wrote an article for the Huffington Post called, I Needed Therapy; Do You? It was liberating to discuss my mental health journey, and the feedback was really comforting. It turns out I’m not the only one who needed therapy. Lots of people feel the things that I feel. Even my mom shared stories with me about times when she felt like I had. My dad, well…my dad was actually proud of me. He wasn’t ashamed of my admission. I got emails for several weeks from people who’d been inspired by my confession.
It’s comforting to know you’re not alone.
In an ironic twist of fate that I couldn’t even write, my therapist informed ON THE DAY that the Huffington Post piece was published, that we had to end our relationship. For the most part I took it in stride. I had, after all, claimed that I “needed” therapy. I felt that perhaps the need was behind me, and it was smooth sailing from here. She said it months ago and I proceeded to ignore the end. I treated it like I would if my hairdresser told me she was moving to Tokyo, or my favorite clothing store was closed for business.
I pretended it wasn’t really happening.
As my time with my therapist draws closer to an end I find myself afraid of the future. If, for me, therapy is about giving your pain the respect it deserves, than where does my pain go post-therapy? Who is supposed to listen to me bitch for an hour? Whose job is it to help me heal? I’m not sure…
I’ve come to understand that most people do not seek help because they are afraid of relying on it. It is scary to trust someone enough to help you, and to know that someday you will again be alone. Help, at least productive help, is only temporary. Week after week, I trudged into my therapist office and sat across from her. Week after week I said things aloud that I wouldn’t have been able to say to anyone. I said things aloud that I couldn’t even say to myself. Week after week, I had one hour to be completely vulnerable. Week after week I had someone who completely listened without having a self-serving reaction to my statements. I could be shocking, I could be selfish, I could be a little crazy…and it didn’t cost her anything. She was someone whom I couldn’t offend by being myself.
My therapist is the most consistent relationship I’ve ever had. And now it’s ending.
I’m reminded of what people say about meditation. You begin meditating 15 minutes a day with the understanding that you are “learning” how to meditate, but somewhere along the line you begin to realize that life is a meditation. The fifteen minutes are just training – they are the least meditative part of your practice. Perhaps therapy is the same way, perhaps my entire life is a therapeutic experience designed to heal me and keep me honest. Maybe these last two years were simply training to help me learn how to see the therapy in the present moment. Every moment, perhaps is the therapeutic experience….or maybe I should find a new therapist?
I don’t know.
I do know that we all have a right to find a safe place in this world. We all have a right to find another human, be it a therapist, a coach or even a clergy member, where we can go when we need help. We all deserve love relationships – both romantic and platonic – but we deserve a space where we can be free of the obligations that come with those ties. Sometimes friends and family cannot handle our pain, and sometimes we cannot take theirs. Sometimes we fail our friends and family, and sometimes they fail us. It is our most common misconception that those who help us create the scars can/are obligated to help us heal them. More often than not, they can’t. The task of healing is ours, but that doesn’t mean we cannot seek support. We all deserve to take our pain seriously. It is only when we know that our experience is valid, that we can move beyond it and stretch into new definitions of ourselves. We have to let the poison out, before we dress the wound.
I am still afraid of where I will put my pain when therapy ends. The anticipation of the end has been feeling out of sorts, and I’m nervous that my big fat emotions will swallow me whole, but here is what I know: At the core, I am strong enough to find support when I need it. With therapy or without, I am brave enough to face my daemons privately (and blog about them publicly).
No matter what lies ahead, there is no one I’d rather be, than myself. And that knowledge is enough for me today.
And so it is.
What are you healing from today?