Yet Another Site I Will Rarely If Ever Use

But Then Again, I Said That About Twitter. Ahem.

  • 15th August
  • 15


Maybe ‘going to a therapist’ is too hard for you right now. But you can put on your coat. And then you can get your keys. And then you can drive to an address. And then you can get out of your car, and go inside. And then, when you are sitting down across from a therapist, you can start finding words for how you feel. I know you can.

Let me tell you about my story of how I got into therapy again. It’s a similar story to the lovely owl above. (It’s also RIDICULOUSLY LONG, so sorry for taking over your dashboard, folks.)

Towards the end of summer 2011 (August-Septemberish), I realized I probably needed to work towards get a job again. And I realized I was in no place to do that as things were standing. The depression that I have had for decades was just too hard to bear at the time… in fact, it was the depression that made me lose my last job.

I realized that I had to start with therapy.

Now, I have had a number of therapists over the years. Most have been ineffective. We didn’t talk about things that were important to me, they were uncomfortable with my “alternative” sexuality & lifestyle, and I left their office feeling like I had wasted my & their time. The one therapist I did gel with was in HS and while he did a good job of holding the pieces together, I was still undergoing the trauma & abuse so we couldn’t actually work on healing at the time. (Plus, I wish he had done more or encouraged my folks to do more about getting the abuse to stop.)

So, needless to say, I was TERRIFIED about trying to find a therapist again. When I looked at it as “going to therapy”, it was WAY too overwhelming for me to handle.

So I broke it down into the smallest steps possible.

First, I made myself look at therapists/clinics in my area that took my insurance (& that I could reach via transit). That day, that was ALL that I expected of myself. All I had to do was look. I didn’t have to call them up, I didn’t have to book an appt. All I had to do was LOOK.

So I looked. And when I was done, I praised myself thoroughly. I told myself I did a good job. I told myself I was proud of myself. And that was it for that day.

The next time, I went 1 step further. I did some serious research on those therapists/clinics. I found ones that I was seriously considering. I couldn’t bring myself to say “consider enrolling in” or “consider going to” because that was still terrifying. STILL way too hard. But I did that, and I was proud of myself.

The time after that, I asked someone to drive me to said places to check them out. I had no intentions of booking an appt… just getting more resources from the places and getting a feel for them. This was scary. I remember how scary this was. I remember being scared getting out of the car. I remember how TERRIFIED I was just walking in the door. I was almost shaking, I was almost crying, and I had to FORCE myself to keep going forward. I was telling myself “come on, you can do this. YOu just have to go in, look around, and possibly talk to the receptionist about the enrollment process. You don’t have to enroll today. Just put one foot in front of the other. Ok, good job. Now the next foot…”

My mother was my driver that day, and she offered to come in with me, but I said no… this was something I needed to do alone. Mom had signed me up for therapy in the past when I was a kid, and it was always disempowering and dehumanizing. I felt humiliated by it. I knew this time, the only way I could get this to work for me is if I was doing it, on my own, for me. I KNEW I had to do this as an adult. Still, knowing she supported me helped.

So I checked out 2 places that day. The one I hated… it was scary, the waiting room felt awful, and it felt just as disempowering as the other places I had been to. It wasn’t the right one for me. The second one… I liked. It felt like it had dignity, it felt empowering… I felt in control & like I could do this for myself. I felt like an adult taking charge of my own mental health in there. I was still nervous, but it felt like something that maybe I could do and maybe it would be ok. (I also liked that it was one-stop shopping: they have therapy, psychiatry, lab tests/blood work, and a mental health drop-in hang out center all on site.) 

So I started going to the drop in center. This was big for me, as I had nothing to get me out of the house & I needed somewhere to go during the day to just be out amongst people.

I found that the drop-in center wasn’t for me, but I had looked into getting into the therapy/psychiatry program at this point in time. We set me up with an intake appointment. I was still terrified. I was freaking out over it. But I was proud that I had gotten that far. I congratulated myself on being such an adult.

So, yes, I was totally scared. But I went. I remember how nervous I was waiting in the waiting room. I remember when a nice, pretty, black lady with lovely dreadlocks pulled back in a ponytail holder & wearing a wool poncho in black and brown came out to take me back.

I sat on her couch & we chatted for a bit & she asked me a whole bunch of questions, some of which were relevant to my situation (my symptoms, how I felt on a daily basis, etc.), some of which were obviously psychological questions but irrelevant to me (did I hear voices? do I have behaviors that I feel I must do in a certain order or a certain number of times?), and others that were irrelevant to me & were more developmentally based (Could I read the words she wrote down? Could I write things myself? What’s the date? What time is it? What season is it?). I knew that my being a very alternative person would come up a lot in therapy, so I knew it was important for the intake person to know about it so that I would be assigned the right therapist. (It’s not always easy to tell these things about our lives that we feel like we should be embarrassed about to a new person that only just met us today, but sometimes, for our own health, we have to muddle through.)

I remember telling her about my alternative sexuality. I told her it’s a large part of my life, so any therapist I’d be assigned to would need to be comfortable with it. I told her the last therapist I had wasn’t. She didn’t judge me or say anything negative about it, but asked me a few informational questions about it as she had no experience with it and actually went over the wording of what she was writing down with me to make sure that what she was writing was accurate to me. I was impressed by this level of caring about it. She wanted to get it RIGHT.

I think I might have also told her that I have had a number of therapists in the past that weren’t right for me (or who did some pretty crummy things, like not allowing me the time to build trust in them before picking up where the last one left off) and that I had had some horrible experiences with psychiatrists, too. I told her about my fear and apprehension. (It’s perfectly ok to do that.) She was very personable and caring about it and reassured me, when I told her some horror stories, that that sort of thing wouldn’t be happening there.

After my intake, she said that she’d sit down with all the therapists later that week & they’d go over it and figure out which therapist would be right for me. That therapist would give me a call later and we’d chat a bit and then we’d figure out a good time and date for our first appointment. I believe she might have let on that she already had in mind who I might be assigned to, but that could be me remembering wrong.

Sure enough, in a couple of days, I got a phone call. A man on the other end stated his name and that he was assigned to me. I remember his voice sounding authoritative. I remember not being comforted by it. I remember being really apprehensive about this whole thing. But I decided to give it a shot. We set up an appointment… for Halloween.

I hemmed & hawed about whether or not it would seem unusual going to my appointment in a costume (I’m usually all about the costumes on Halloween), but I decided against it. I wanted to make sure I got there on time, and ended up at my appointment too early, so I went in the park across the street. I remember one of the maple trees had turned at this point and was GORGEOUS. I took some photographs of the leaves. I was still terrified.

I remember sitting in the waiting room, watching various staff members come in and out of the doors. I remember seeing one old guy in particular, and thinking “Oh, god, I hope that’s not him.” (Turns out he was one of the psychiatrists, I *did* end up seeing him once months later, and he was a sweetie.) A young guy, pretty cute, a little nerdy, appearing about my age pops his head out the door and calls my name. This was the voice on the other end of the phone. This was my new therapist.

I don’t remember much about our first session, except I know we took the time to get to know each other (and do some paperwork). We didn’t do any “work” on that day. We laid a foundation instead. I found out that we both are geeks (me more than him) with a love of Star Trek (shoulda worn the reboot Kirk costume like I was thinking!), that we’re both around the same age (which I figured out via him telling me about his professional past), and that we both love New York City. I think, leaving, that it went well and that this might be ok.

It’s been 10 months now. My therapist has turned into my confidant & most trusted advisor. Seeing him feels a lot like seeing a good friend, but one that you know will give you good advice you can actually trust. I don’t have to talk any differently around him and I rarely have to “translate” things for him. I can swear around him, I can use geek references. (I once said it felt like “everything’s turning up Milhouse” re: my life at the time in the middle of a session. At the end, before I left, he had a funny smile on, and I asked him why, and he said he was thinking about the Simpsons and “everything’s turning up Milhouse”. It was a really cool bonding moment. :-D) (When talking about my alternative sexuality, I have to “translate” stuff, but that’s only from lack of knowledge. He’s always been comfortable talking about my sexuality & he asks intelligent questions so he can understand better.) We laugh, we cry (well, *I* cry), we even tease each other occasionally. We crack jokes & gush over our mutual love of musicals, but, more importantly, we talk about the things that are bothering me. We talk about the things that I’ve been trying to figure out and can’t quite get on my own. Sometimes I ask him a question and he asks me what I think. (Usually, I end up replying “you’re the therapist, I’m asking you. If I could have figured this out by now, I would have.”) Sometimes I ask him stuff and he doesn’t have any answers for me, as those answers can’t come from him; rather, they have to come from myself. But in those times, he helps me figure out my own answer. I genuinely feel like I can tell him ANYTHING.

He’s confided in me on a few occasions too. And I really like it that he feels he can tell me about his life in general (his health struggles, how he interacts with his family & friends, and updates about his newborn), and that he feels comfortable enough with me to help me out with examples by his own life. (There are many moments where I’m just looking to see if anyone else is like me, if I’m not alone in going through X struggle or feeling Y way. Many therapists won’t tell you about their own lives and struggles. The fact that he’s willing to shows 1.) how much he trusts me and 2.) really allows me to compare my life to someone else’s and see that I’m not so much of a freak after all.)

He has this way of saying things that turn on the lightbulb in my head. CLICK. And then I GET it, I GET it in a way I just wasn’t able to GET before. (He’s seen these moments with me, and he says they’re very rewarding for him, to watch me GET it.)

Almost every time I leave my sessions, even if I have just been crying 5 minutes before, within 5 minutes, I have this feeling like I’m doing it… I’m making it. I’m being an adult and doing what’s right for me to heal & grow & change. And that I can continue doing it and continue making it. That maybe I can just handle this crazy thing we call life. I smile and feel good. It’s a very “Mary Tyler Moore/you’re gonna make it after all” moment. ;-)

For the first time in my life, I LIKE MYSELF. I hated myself for YEARS. I still hate myself sometimes. But, for the most part, I actually like myself and who I am and who I’m becoming.

I’m starting to be able to trust my own judgement, I mean REALLY trust it. I still like getting reality checks, which I get from my housemate, my friends, and, yes, my therapist, but I’m finding more and more that I’m right, and, more important, I’m TRUSTING myself more and more to be right.

I was able to cut my abusive father out of my life in February. It was difficult, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My life has become so much EASIER now and I’m not struggling with losing progress because he decided to say a single sentence that would bring me to my knees. This isn’t something my therapist suggested, but he’s never pressured me to try to patch up my relationship with him, either. He understands how good this has been for my life.

He’s helped me when I started a new romantic relationship, and when that relationship took some interesting turns out of serious romantic territory and into “it’s complicated” land, and he’s there for me now that that relationship is changing yet again into something mostly friend-like. He’s given good advice for getting what I want out of the relationship and for navigating my own feelings around it.

He’s helped me get a psychiatrist, deal with my fear & anxiety around seeing a psychiatrist & trying new medications, and he acts as a go between for me and my psych. I’ve had to go through much of the same step-by-step stuff with my psych, too. And, I’ll be honest, even with all of us acting in good faith, I’ve tried some meds that have been downright awful and put me through SO much hell (I also have seem to have a special and unique brain chemistry, so my experiences aren’t indicative of the world at large.) My therapist has always been there to talk me through it.

In short, I have actual real genuine hope in my life, FOR my life, for the first time ever. Which is scary in and of itself, as every other time I’ve ever had this, it’s come crashing down around my ankles, and then I feel like the fool for every having hoped again. At one point this Spring, everything was turning up Milhouse. Then we started playing with psych meds and then my relationship started changing and the other shoe fell. But you know what? Unlike all the other times, I felt like I could get through it this time. That was because of him & his work in me.

He’s been there in good times and through the darkest hours of my life (when, in trying medication, the meds almost killed me via making me deeply suicidal). He’s gone the extra mile at times when he didn’t have to.

When in one of my darkest times, I asked him a very personal question. I apologized in advance if it was inappropriate, but I just had to know. Did he actually care about me or did he only care because he’s paid to care? He said he actually genuinely cares about me. Of course, he’s also paid to care, but he went into his field because he wanted to help people, and he cares about all of his clients.

So I’m cared for. And, most important of all, I know I’m SUPPORTED. No matter what it is that I’m trying to do or that I want for my life, I know my therapist SUPPORTS me in it. He’s there to help me get what I want out of my life. He’s NEVER tried to make me into someone else or tried to turn me away from ANY part of my alternative life or what makes me who I am. He’s always been there to help make me ME. And when I’m troubled or don’t know what to do in a situation, I ask myself “What would HE have me do?” It’s silly, but it helps.

One more thing. You know what else helped me get there? Feeling like I was supported. Feeling like I had someone walking beside me, invisible to the rest of the world, holding my hand and cheering me on. Sometimes it was a caring ex. Sometimes it was a character from a TV show. (Ok, a really hot therapist from a time travel therapy show (Being Erica) that’s on Canadian TV and on US Hulu & Soap Net. Watching Being Erica helped me see that therapy isn’t just for weirdos & freaks, but also normal people who need some help. And that going to therapy doesn’t mean I’m a freak.) If that’s what you need, well, you go and do that. You have no idea how often I walk around doing that. But you know what? If that helps me live my life, WONDERFUL. I want to live the life I want to live and if that means using unique or alternate means to get there, fine. So be it. I’ve decided the ends are the important part here, not the means. If I want to live an adult life, ok, but I sure as hell have never been able to do it by being a standard adult & acting the way they act. So I’ve had to give up on that shame & fear, on that feeling like a freak, and accept the fact that I’m going to have to do things my own way to get done what I want to get done.

I know this was long, but I hope this helps you see the process and shows you some of the rewards that good therapy can bring, even for alternative folks like myself. And to get there, you hold the hand of your imaginary friend, screw your courage to the sticking place, & you take 1 tiny step at a time.

(Source: boggletheowl, via fuckyeahbipolarowl)

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    This is something I need to remember: break it down into small steps so it’s not so overwhelming.
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