Monday, April 16, 2012

Therapy Browner

Deb: I am happy to report that at the ripe old age of 57, (COLIN JUST SCREAMED “57???” ), I have found another thing I excel at. Therapy. I am not only good at it, I am a therapy browner. When I was in grade five, the smartest girl in the class would dress up to get her report card. Party dress. Really. I, on the other hand, tried hard on report card day to look as much as I could like my parents’ signatures.  At this stage in the game I have given up on the dream of academic prowess. My academia fantasies are all drawn from my anniversary copy of Love Story.

I have gone into therapy to help me with the pain, issues, guilt and stress around my parents’ transition in life. I am a very in touch with my feelings kind of person, as you may have noticed, so one would think that I would serve as the perfect therapist for me. But try as I might, I could not find my old psychology degree anywhere, so I thought it was best to call in the big guns. And by that, of course I mean a registered legal therapist.  What therapy has reminded me (yes I’ve been there before) is that the “physician heal thyself” does not work even for the most introspective among us.

I go in to my sessions knowing exactly what I want to talk about, focus on, target. One question or comment from my therapist can take me down a whole new path of discovery. It is a kooky journey. It is sometimes painful, but it is always freeing. And always uplifting. Because it reminds me that I can always change. I can change it right up to the year, week, or minute before I die. And my therapy sessions are little treats. I never have to rely on my dogs to eat my therapy homework as I am always excited to get to it. I have been applying these lessons to everyday life and I am nailing it, I am kicking its ass. I AM therapy. 

It’s funny how I grew up thinking about the concept of therapy. Growing up in the 50’s was all about “what happens in this house, stays in this house”. The idea of therapy was for weaklings, for the rich, and for the rich weaklings. A “quality” person would take pride in conquering one’s own problems in the privacy of one’s own head. They would pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get on with it. “Be grateful for what you have. Stop whining.”

When I first went to therapy I felt a little like that. As soon as I walked through the door, I felt I had failed myself. I was walking through this door because I could not handle it myself.  It was like when I first got a cleaning lady. I did not grow up with one. Well, actually we did—called her Mom.  But for years after getting a cleaning lady myself, I would still leap to my feet when she came into the room, hiding my Instyle magazine under a cushion. Partly it was my shame of allowing myself this gift of help. And partly it was the thought that I could bloody well do it myself, as I was brought up to believe. The same with therapy. But after I started therapy, I realized that it was my own emotional intelligence that brought me there. I was clearly an emotional genius!

My problem however is that once I get started, I don’t want to leave. Previously, my therapist had to politely kick me out. She said, and I quote, “You know at this point you are paying me good money for us to sit here, talk and laugh.” My response was that I had hoped she hadn’t noticed. It is nice to delete your trash with someone who did not have to hear it as a friend, who was expecting to spend a fun evening with you.

And part of me wants to stay because I am a great student. Top of the class. First time in a long time I have done well in school and I cannot wait to get back there! Sadly, I am left wanting for a gold star or even a seasonal sticker. I do feel that the “professional” therapists are lacking in that area. No stickers, no stars, no chewy candies of any sort. But I know I deserve a star. And so does my therapist. I am rockin’ it! Sticker or not, we’re not fooling anybody.

Barbara: Well, Deb, you certainly get a gold star from me (I’ll bring one on our next coffee date)! And, while it’s been years since I went to therapy, and while I did accumulate a fair collection of real honest-to-goodness gold stars in my childhood until I started to … not (cough, math, cough, history, cough, chemistry), I totally relate to your sense of excited accomplishment from the School of Couch.

I had what I like to call my midlife consciousness crises when I hit my late 30s. Nothing had turned out the way I’d imagined and everything felt wonky, false, contrived, exhausting. I finally realized I needed some help. Smartest thing I ever did. I never understand people who rail against therapy, who are insulted and demeaned by the very thought of it. People who, in fact, would probably benefit a really really lot from it.

But I—get this—actually have a little bonus point for you all here, a brownie point beyond my full endorsement of Deb’s charming post. I just finished a wonderful book called How the Brain Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge—it was, in fact, so interesting, I was going to blog about. I probably still will, but one of the many impressive points he makes is that because all our bad habits, emotional and otherwise, come out of the basic science that when our “neurons fire together, they wire together” (ie: I’m sad, I need to eat; something goes wrong, I feel guilty, and on and on), and in order to undo that network (which you CAN do: “the wires that fire apart, wire apart”), you need a kind of systematic mental exercise, like push-ups for the brain. Therapy gives us that exercise. A good therapist will illuminate your weak spots and remind you of them over and over so you can breathe away from the habitual old responses … until the neurons have, quite possibly, finally, wired apart.

I congratulate you, Deb, and I wish you continued success. You are pure gold all the way!

41 comments:

  1. 'COLIN SCREAMED 57????' I am still 'AWWWWWWWWWWWW'ing :) you just HAVE TO BE ADORABLE...! <3
    LOVED IT.....I can so so so relate with you Deb...I am just like you......very in touch with my feelings.....Ive always been very sensitive in nature...(cousins used to pick on me for that..and friends would desert me..coz they thought 'it was WEIRD')I went through some time in childhood when I really NEEDED therapy....But unfortunately my folks thought "Therapy is for CRAZY people" (I mean literally crazy) So I kinda had to deal with it myself.....I'll be honest with ya....not the best thing....I mean its always great to talk to someone who KNOWS what they are doing....But now when I look back I think....sure it was all very very DIFFICULT to cope up with, but it created something even more stronger within me...A DESIRE. A Desire to let go and BREATHE...A thought that "I CAN DAMN WELL CHOOSE HOW I FEEL...AND HOW MY LIFE SHOULD BE"....And one day found the LIGHT in form of a wonderful LAW OF ATTRACTION..ANGEL!! ..And since then that Angel has been looking after me.....So I dont feel alone coz its my THERAPIST...And I am one of those people who keeps every problem within unless talking about it is my last resort...Which thankfully rarely comes...Honestly after finding Law of attraction, I thought the problem was gone...It poked its head up again last winter after a LONG LONG TIME ....(when I couldnt get in touch anyone to TALK about it..) Result. EMOTIONAL TURMOIL!! BIG TIME...Now you'd think that I would felt exactly as I felt before..very powerless and scared...and helpless...YEAH ! I did....I mean if youve ever had anxiety..you'll know EXACTLY what I'm talking about...But, this time, IT WAS BETTER.. I KNEW, HOW TO LET IT GO THIS TIME.....MY FAVOURITE THERAPIST had taught me SO SO SO MUCH...That I had this ABSOLUTE KNOWING...THAT IT WAS TEMPORARY....and I honestly look back at that turmoil and thank it!!! It literally proved me STRONGER....My mom was scared though....literally coz shes seen me in all those times and she knew the next day would be the 'dawn of depression' so to speak...But it was exactly opposite...I was FINE...COMPLETELY FINE....and the best part of all this is....It can NEVER EVER EVER get that strongly negative in my head anymore....coz My positive part is SO DOMINANT. The part that believes that I CAN DAMN WELL CHOOSE HOW I WANT MY LIFE TO BE...is so dominant than it had ever been before...And so the negative is changing from something I RESISTED to something I ACCEPT !!!

    I feel so proud that you stepped up and went to a therapist....Its ALWAYS GOOD to have someone...'professional' to talk about this....And I dont think there should ever be any shame coz there's nothing wrong with it..! Things come and go..but every thought we ever thought stays with us...And its so good when there is someone to tell us 'ITS OK'...Coz it is !!! You dont have to fight your thoughts...you just have to ACCEPT THEM THE WAY THEY ARE !!!!

    Aww and I give you a big bag full of gold stars, candies, stickers everything you want...!!!
    But now that I think about it...I would totally LOVE going to a Therapist if...at all I need to.....And also keep thinking Would it be better and easier if my folks would have taken me to a therapist back then...DEFINITELY...!! BUT now after everything Ive known and believed and ACHIEVED !!!!
    I THINK....HONESTLY I LIKE IT TURNED OUT THIS WAY ;)

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    1. I am a big believer in therapy throughout our lives. But your parents come from a different place regards these things. It has only been in recent years that therapy has been an accepted mainstream thing for all of us. They were probably just panicking is all.But you my girl have found your own way, ways-which to me makes it all the more exciting and wonderful. You have your Angel and she has hers.

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  2. Oh Deb - *hug* - there's nothing wrong with needing a little help, aging parents can be so emotionally exhausting & draining. It's because you love them so much that you need some therapeutic help - if you didn't care, you'd feel fine, okay?

    I was in my 30's when I first went into therapy; a bad relationship was making me very depressed, & it was actually the source of my problem (the boyfriend) who introduced me to my therapist. So we were already acquainted when I had to call her before dawn one morning, weeping & barely coherent. Glad I called her! She helped me through a lot of things that had been bothering me, & gently guided me back into the "I'm okay, I'm a good person" mindset.

    You do deserve a sticker, & here's what I suggest, because it's exactly what I'd do: go get some stickers, give yourself one & give one to your therapist also. And remember - you are a good person, you really are, or you wouldn't care! When it seems as if my plate is getting too full, I just remember that God has promised He will never give me a burden too great to bear. That promise was for you too. *hug*

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  3. Daisy thanks so much. I will take that promise and I will go and buy some stickers too! I'm glad you got the help when you needed it. Sometimes one hit of therapy is all it takes.

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  4. Good for you Deb you are doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. That is as it should be, you can't take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself first. I'm dealing with my mom's aging with a bit of anger at my siblings but I don't say anything just do what's expected I guess. I don't understand why we don't allow ourselves to feel sometimes?

    In the past it has helped having someone to bounce things off of and to have someone giving you their total attention. Sometimes they don't have to say anything and we figure it out just by putting it on the table and looking at for first time. But think about how many years we spend nurturing everyone else in the family and ignoring our own need for comfort. So I would say to you take what you can from it and embrace where you are in your life now. Enjoy your talks this is "you time". No shame, you deserve to be happy, content and at peace always. It is good you have an outlet for these feelings you are having.

    Ironic when I had it available to me I didn't use it, very foolish. And now I find myself without insurance and asking myself how I'm gonna get through these next few weeks. So grateful I can still come here and vent if I need to. I will remember you in my prayers tonight Deb and ask that you find peace.

    XOXO

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    1. Mary that is exactly what sometimes happens. My therapist launches it with one single well placed comment or question and then I go go go and figure it out myself. I love when that happens. Thanks Mary for your good wishes. I will happily accept them.

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    2. Aww, Mary - big hugs for you too! I understand the feeling of anger towards the siblings. When I was caring for Mom 24/7 AND raising 2 little girls AND taking care of 2 households, I really resented my brother & sister just standing by. Then I realized that, emotionally anyhow, I was most likely the strongest one, better able to handle the stress. Sometimes it's all about perspective... much love to you!

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  5. Aww I definitely agree..they were panicking...Its a little orthodox here...and Honestly anyone would do that. But like I said... I would NEVER give up anything for my angel !!! No matter how bad....I always managed to come outta it dust my self and MOVE ON !!!! Love to have COMPLETE control over myself and my life !
    I surprise myself so many times, when I realize I know SO MUCH....and I'm not bragging but I am a good uplifter..and when I am in a place when I have to uplift someone...I am amazed by the power in my words and keep thinking....I know SO MUCH !!!! and Its so so so very good when you KNOW wellbeing abounds......I can taste it..and feel it so much more now....It feels natural..and make me feel very very blessed..AND WORTHY...AND Capable....and I honestly wish that one day everyone would feel that way....And If anytime....(outside of therapy)...you wanna talk....or need me for anything I AM HERE OK...you remember that ! BTW I hope your parents are doing fine...I am sending love and healing energy here..and always thinking about all of you :)!!! <3 xoxoxo

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    1. Shalaka you would be the best uplifter I know! That is sometime I am actually good at too if I do say so myself. However I would much rather be the uplifter than the upliftee!

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  6. I always think of therapy as something I would use as a last resort, when I found I really wasn't coping and couldn't do everything I needed to do. If I found a spare hour in the week at the moment I would feel so guilty if I didnt use it to cook or clean or do something else for my mum! I love how you describe it as a present to yourself. It actually makes a lot of sense to talk through issues with someone who isn't a friend or family member- I always feel bad burdening them when I'm having a bad week. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. You are welcome Samara. I am saying to myself every night and every day that I am doing the best I can. All we give is our best, that's all isn't it? All I can say is that for me, therapy has enriched my experience of life.

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  7. My dearest Deb, I think Anna Quindlen said, "Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings!" but lets face it, delivering up the hard truth to a dear friend is not an errand for the faint of heart...And once it's delivered, what then? Not too many friends, no matter how close the bond, can stick around for the inevitable fall-out in light of the demands of their own lives. So good for you my dear, as a capable therapist - coupled with the obviously stellar student of the psyche that you've revealed yourself to be - can make facing the hard truths a tad more manageable and the soft landings a little bit more frequent. We've talked before as to how your current crisis is different in that there is no fairy-tale ending going to emerge - only a new, probably challenging reality. So if you choose to pack up your soul and take it in for a weekly work-out, good for you! Pulling for you and would remind you that you are always welcome to land on me.

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    1. Annette that was so beautifully felt and exquisitely written. Thank you for these words.

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  8. AAAAWWWW Deb! I LoVe you. You are the difference in your life. Bravo! You are a GOLD STAR :)

    This remides me of one of my favorite stories.

    Original Story by: Loren Eisley

    The Star Fish Story

    One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

    Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

    The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

    “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?
    You can’t possibly make a difference!”

    After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…” I made a difference for that one.”

    XXOO
    Seana

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    1. Awww..thats a Beautiful story Seana...thanks for sharing :) xoxo

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    2. I love that story Seana it makes me think of all the animals in shelters : (

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    3. Seana that is such a gorgeous story! Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I love it!

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    4. Seana, this story is lovely! I am tearing up a bit now. So beautiful, yet simple.

      Mary, I so understand what you're saying about animals in shelters. My mother recently adopted one from a shelter and we had a hard time just taking one home instead of trying to take them all with us!

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  9. I love therapy and I look at it like taking lessons in anything. The more you take the better you get. I have been to two therapists in my life. One I fired after a few years and one I continue to go to for tuneups. I have not been in 3 years but I wouldn't hesitate if something came up. I remember my Dad (who would never have gone if his life depended on it, or my Mom for that matter)asking me when I was going to graduate from therapy (said in a questioning and funny way) and I replied "when you stop asking me and that is part of the reason I go." He laughed and never brought it up again. My parents lived in denial and my Mom now is too infirmed and mentally off and wouldn't benefit from it. Therapy has helped me so much as I am a thinker and it actually helped me think less by giving me tools to let go when anxiety got too high. And of course answers to all my own questions. You don't need stars or stickers Deb because you know already what you deserve and getting actual rewards doesn't compare to the inside knowledge but if you really need some external validation I will bring you stars, stickers and goodies when I come to meet you and Barb. Love you two and can't wait to see and meet you in person in a month or so.

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    1. Oh Madge that made me howl. "when you stop asking me, and that is part of the reason I go". I am so glad you do therapy. I have only had the one therapist but there have been years between going for issues and when I do go it is so wonderful. I will hold you to those stars and stickers.

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    2. "helped me think less by giving me tools to let go when anxiety got too high"

      Madge - Please describe.

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  10. Many people eschew therapeutic help because they have the notion that a therapist will point out their flaws or shortcomings, or simply disagree with them, making them "wrong." They don't understand that this is not what a therapist does; that what a therapist does is help you get yourself and your life into perspective, and offers some tools to help you work through issues that keep you from contentment and satisfaction. Some will avoid a therapist because they don't want to face the hidden pain or do the challenging work of change.

    I have been to a therapist or counsellor when I was struggling with situations and doubting that my head was screwed on straight. Last time, I was told that indeed my head was so firmly fastened to my shoulders and that I might consider actually *being* a counsellor! So there: I was reliably sane after all. That was good to hear and helped me trust myself more ... to trust my own eyes.

    Therapy or counselling is never a waste of time. Even if a person isn't in a pickle, it's like a maintenance tune-up.

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    1. I think you are right. Some people may feel they are being verbally analyzed but of course it is not the case. Or at least not in my experience. What a great thing to happen in therapy-to be told that you should be the therapist. Well done!!!!

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  11. I love you tons deb. I have been to therapy/counseling myself and agree that its a big help. so many things i was trying to repress and deny I was able to face and become at peace with. I see as a great role model and a hero of mine (actually you and colin both are). Even the strongest people need help in time of hardships. I also learned that therapy isn't failing myself, because like you I felt I had, but its being strong enough to know you need someones help. I respect and love you Deb. Thank you Deb and Barbara for these blogs they are amazing and make my day. XOXO

    Love always,
    Katelyn

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    1. How lovely of you to say. Don't forget what a gift you guys are to us too! "Therapy isn't failing myself"-Good sentence.

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  12. Ahhh Deb If I could put into words what you have done to me today. I want to share it but I can't. I tried to, I really really tried to but I can't.

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    1. Oh Erin...actually, you just did. xo

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  13. I have been thinking of going to see therapist for few years now (that's all I'm going to admit), but what has stopped me is that I do not like to eat any pills and (at least here) they almost always give some kind of a medication for depression. Also I kind of can see them locking me in a padded room. This comes because more than one of my relatives has asked my why am I so sane.. I don't see anything why I should be insane, but apparently they do. So I do the next best thing and talk to strangers online :))

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    1. Same here...
      Feeling with you! :)

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    2. Kasku, no good doctor is going to make you take pills. They are there to help you understand yourself but they are not the boss of your body. I know someone who has had good results with natural methods and I know others who take pills. I think it's up to the individual. And if you can't do it, then strangers on line works too! :-) xo
      And for you too Becki xo

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  14. My family don't like therapy either. If someone went it's the sort of thing that would be talked about in hushed tones with disapproving faces. They hold many misconceptions about therapists and what they do. I've tried to talk it out with my Mum but I'm not sure it worked. I could try again and do it properly this time, though... hmmm... Anyway I always say that therapy is like a doctor for your mind and emotions, which are at least as important to take care of as your physical body. I've never been to therapy but fully respect anyone who has.
    Deb I really hope you and your parents will have a better time of it soon <3

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    1. Aimee thanks. Things are progressing slowly but surely. All of your good thoughts help me so much. And yes it is hard to change the thought of generations of family isn't it? One of the reasons I love the time I was born in.

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  15. First of all...I'm always stunned and touched, when I read your honest and emotional entries.
    That you don't hide or act as if nothing's bothering you, makes me love you sooo much!

    Second: I should see a therapist. I know that I need help. Really, I know it!

    But like Kasku I don't want to take some happy pills (I know that it's not that simple)...or worse.

    I don't trust therapists.
    My brother and my father were both in therapy.

    I can't see a change at all. Maybe they feel different inside...but they don't show it outside. And I can't see development. Not at all.

    And I can't talk to people. I can't talk to friends. I can't talk to family members, and I definitely can't talk to strangers. No way.

    Besides, I always think: Heeeey, they don't give a damn. They only want to earn money (might help some people! It doesn't help me).

    It's not that I'm afraid to bare my soul. I can write it down - like I do here. Writing always helps me. Writing is a relief.

    I know things have to change. I know I can't go on like this forever. I don't know what to do. I always think that someday some miracle happens, and everything will be fine again (sounds as if I lay back and relax...I don't. Living is fighting. Living is so exhausting).

    Liar.

    Or the only hope I have?

    Please, don't tell me I should try...because some people have done that, but I can't. I just can't...

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    1. I will not tell you that Becki. I will tell you to never ever stop searching your soul for peace and solutions. Never stop doing that.

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    2. Becki, Becki, Becki... You are my lost twin :)) Writing indeed is a relief. My friend (and also my aunt) both go to therapist and they both were given pills. Both of them have told me how dizzy they are after the meds are taken away. Also my friend has had some bad ones that have made the situation worse.

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  16. In my opinion, there is NOTHING wrong with going to therapy. In fact, I think it is a practice we should all adopt ourselves. I myself have toyed with the idea of going; they offer free services here at the college! I don't have an anxiety disorder or I'm not depressed or any of the typical biases that are associated with people going to therapy. I just think it would be healthy and useful.

    That's what gets me. I am ashamed to say that I used to be one of those people who thought people who went to therapy had problems and needed help. Why would anyone EVER want to pay to have someone listen to their problems? However, going into mental health has really changed my focus. These are just regular people that are taking advantage of an excellent service! I have plenty of friends that utilize this, and they love it! Gives me another reason of maybe considering it for myself...I don't know. We'll see! :]

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    1. Don't feel too badly about it Kelly. I was also one of those people. When I was younger I thought therapy meant you were on your last mental legs. We all live and learn don't we? All I can say from my experience is YAY!

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  17. Deb i sympathize with what you are going through right now . it is a really good idea to get help when you need to . things can and do get too much and i always feel emotions have to go somewhere so better to find a safe place to let them out .

    i haven't been around hear the last few posts as mom collapsed on Easter Sunday and was taken back into hospital again until last saturday . third time in about a month she has collapsed .
    anyway my point being the strange thing is mom was visited by a psychologist Dr Gillian and to my surprise mom told me she talked to her openly . my mom is of the generation that believes you don;t talk to strangers about your problems . the upshot is she has been put on anti anxiety medication . i don;t believe in throwing anti depressants at people who are a bit down solves much but i do believe in moms case(and the case of those that suffer form serious depression) giving her medication is a good idea as mom has always suffered from extreme anxiety long before she had cancer . i hope the medication will keep her a little calmer and that it won;t react with her chemo .

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  18. Linda I totally agree with you. Drugs are very very useful and each case is different. If she needs them and they help and given the givens of what she is dealing with I say WHY NOT?????? I am so sorry to hear that she is going through such trauma. But I am happy to hear that she is covered. Keeping loving thoughts for you and your mom.

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  19. Deb, I'm so happy you've found someone you're comfortable with. It can take a long time to find the "right fit," and when you do, you know it. When you say, "My problem however is that once I get started, I don’t want to leave," you have nailed it. Trusting someone enough to talk about things you may not want to admit to ANYONE is a HUGE step, and you get a sticker for even walking in the door. I think the gold star moment came when you showed up for the second appointment. Saying, "Yup, there really is work to be done here, and I'm willing to do it," and actually DOING it? HUGE. Brava to you, Deb.

    I should have been seeing a therapist years before I actually did, but, as we've noted, older generations didn't view it as necessary. I had a brief "incident" and then "everything went back to normal." (Damn you, 20/20 hindsight.) "Cheer up" is the worst thing someone could ever say to me, yet so many people thought (and still think) that that's all it takes. "Here's that positive attitude, you know you're strong, stronger than you think, you don't need help, etc..." Sigh...

    A therapist, by their very nature, isn't going to judge you for needing or wanting to see one. The lack of judgment is the first thing I noticed, what I value the most. I'm not wrong for going to therapy. I'm not wrong or weak or "taking the easy way out" by taking medication. The psych prescriptions I'm on are as necessary as the insulin I inject. I know what life was like before meds, and I know I'm much different now. I even have a witness to that. :D
    I've found a meds guy (doctor, that is), and a therapist who I finally believe aren't just there to listen to me for 50 minutes. I'm not just so desperate that I have to pay someone to listen to me.

    (I'm curious as to whether those who say they don't want to take any meds take aspirin or Tylenol for a headache. If they're willing to treat physical pain, why judge emotional pain? Some doctors may prescribe things, saying, "Well before we start, I'm giving you a prescription for this." If someone does do that and that's not how you do things, FIND ANOTHER DOCTOR. Not everyone does things the same way.)

    (NOTE: I suggest that, if you need help beyond a couple of chats with someone, and if your health insurance allows it, do not use your PCP as your therapist. They are well-trained to watch for signs, but they are not trained therapists or psychiatrists, and may not be able to meet your needs. A good PCP will recommend you to someone if you and he/she decide you would benefit from more help.)

    Deb, I'll teach the class with you. We'll rock it! :)











    I can't currently see myself ever not seeing a therapist. Part is because I will always need the meds.

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    1. These last two sentences waaaay down at the bottom of my reply shouldn't still be there. I guess I scrolled down a LOT.)

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