Some people go to talk therapy, others find solace living in the gutted intestines of a mouthless kitty. You’ve got options.
Hi-ho, hi-ho it’s back to therapy I go! And for the first time I’m really happy about it. In the past when I’ve sought out therapy (or was kinda sorta forced into therapy) it’s because I was in a really dark place and was afraid of sliding all the way off the cliff. But this time is different. First, it is nothing related to eating disorders of any kind! That alone feels like kind of a coup. I’m still doing really well not weighing myself, eating intuitively and working out just 1 hour a day. While I still struggle with some of the classic disordered thought patterns, I’m getting better at recognizing them for what they are.
Rather, this time I’m going back to therapy more as a preventative measure – to get a grip on my problems before they get a hold on me. I have a few personal things I’m working on, more related to my history of sexual abuse and my anxiety issues. This month is the anniversary of both the assault that my ex-boyfriend ended up going to prison for and also the anniversary of when I spoke in court against him. These dates, along with the ever-increasing darkness, make December difficult for me but instead of just suffering through it and hoping this year will be better I decided to be proactive about it.
There is another first in this therapy go-around that feels significant: my first male therapist. Originally when I called, I requested the female half of the husband-wife practice but she wasn’t taking new clients and so I ended up biting my nails and imagining the only thing more awkward than Kris Humphries’ GMA interview about getting dumped by the Kardashian Klan (seriously, did you not just cringe for him?) would be talking about my particular issues with a strange man. But, as it turns out, he’s fantastic. (My therapist that is, not Kris. Although he might be fantastic too, he is from Minnesota after all!) And even though I’ve only seen him a couple of times I think that the fact he’s a man might be the different perspective that I need. I’ve already learned a few difficult, albeit important, things about myself and I feel really hopeful about the whole thing. Yet another first for me in therapy.
The best moment though was during our first session – it’s called an “intake” for those of you unfamiliar with the process and you basically tell them your entire personal and medical history in under an hour; it’s pretty much the Olympics of oversharing for which I should totally win a gold – when I was rehearsing my eating disordered he past and he stopped me to say, “You know, there’s this local woman I’ve heard of who talks a lot about eating disorders and body image and stuff. She’s about your age and she writes for The Huffington Post and some magazines. I think she even wrote a book about it. You should check her out!” Yes, I was officially referred to myself. That was one way to break the ice! I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or embarrassed…
But if I’ve learned one thing from writing this blog it’s that the only difference between embarrassment and empowerment is that the former revolves around trying to keep the bad things about yourself hidden while the latter is about owning the bad, the good and, yes, even the humiliating and bringing them all into the light. Admitting that you need help (in my case, again and again and again) doesn’t make you broken. It makes you fixable. And teachable.
I think everyone can benefit from having an impartial, sympathetic person to listen to them and yet even in this day of Oprah and Desperate Housewives there still remains somewhat of a stigma about going to therapy. I wish there wasn’t. It can be hard to find the right therapist – there are definitely some bad ones out there; my first therapist actually asked me for anorexic tips on how to lose weight (I know, right?!) – but the right person can be incredibly helpful. In addition, I think a lot of people feel like there’s some shame in paying someone to listen to you but your family and friends are often too close to the situation and love you too much to tell you what you need to hear. Besides, a professionally trained therapist has tools to help you that even the most well-meaning aunt doesn’t. Lastly, there’s this stereotype that therapy is years upon years of laying on a couch talking about your mother. While I have been in and out of therapy for years (since I was 17 and had my first “not-rape” experience*), I have been more out than in. A good therapist will be solution focused – to steal a phrase from my own – with the goal of helping you to be less “stuck” and more independent than when you started. There should always be an end goal in sight.
The great thing about wearing my crazy on my sleeve like I do, is that it gives me the freedom to be really open about things like going to therapy, taking anti-depressants and getting so obsessed I watched both seasons of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse in about a week and have since been writing fan-fic in my head. (You will be grateful to know that I am too busy to commit any of it to pixel so the world will be saved that atrocity. For now.) This freedom has made me want to give other people the space – if they want it – to do the same, which is why I share this with you today.
I need therapy. And if you do too, I hope this will give you the push you need to make that first (difficult) phone call. I’ll be right here with you.
Is it weird that I’ve always preferred female therapists? Do you have a preference? How do you feel about therapy?
*Weirdly, in 5 years of writing about deeply personal subjects this post is the one that still to this day makes me the most uncomfortable. When people ask me if I ever regret anything I’ve shared, this is the post that comes to mind (as opposed to the one where I admitted to, say, losing a panty liner in the middle of an aerobics class). I’ve actually pulled it off my site several times only to end up putting it back up again. There is a lot of weakness in it – both in the subject and the writing – that makes me all squicky inside. And yet the comments are an absolute gold-mine of support. If you’ve ever struggled with a “not-rape” I urge you to read the comment section!