Thursday, September 8, 2011

what i have learned in therapy.

with leah, june 2009

a couple of weeks ago, i went to my last meeting of group therapy. 

i've been seeing a therapist since february of 2010, and then stopped doing monthly one-on-one visits, and switched to a weekly group therapy in june of 2010.  i didn't really want to stop group therapy, we were just getting started into the trauma work which i had been wanting to do for months.  so it was a sad time for me to stop, but because of a new baby and ben's school schedule, i decided that at least a break was needed for now. 

sometimes, i look at who i was back in february of 2010, the super-intimidated girl who was sitting on the couch and not knowing who she really was, and i can't recognize her.  other times, i feel like that same girl until i hear those closest to me say, "wow you've really changed" {in a good way} or "i can't believe you did that!  you've really come a long way!"  and i'm reminded that i am different.

i know there's a stigma.  i know that some people think that therapy is crap.  that you're just going to lay on a couch and ramble on about your childhood and bring up old things that don't matter.  or that others think that therapists want to tell you everything that's wrong with you so you'll keep coming back to them to fix you & put money in their pockets so they can pay back all of those student loans they accrued.  and there may be some therapists out there who do that, i don't know.  i can't vouch for all of them.  what i do know was that wasn't my experience whatsoever.

and it's my belief that those who say those things about therapy have either never gone, or have gone when they weren't ready to really work.  it isn't easy to look at unhealthy or ugly pieces of yourself, or of your family or of your past.  it can be embarrassing or humiliating, or shameful, or scary, or just uncomfortable.  and those that i have been around who have not been ready to see those things yet and change them, always seem to blame somethings....or someone else, and stop going.  or never take that step to go in the first place.

it was scary to take that first step.

i went into therapy already knowing what was wrong with me, i didn't need someone else to tell me.  i had some anxiety, i had a low self-worth, i had trouble with boundaries and saying no to people, i let others treat me unkindly and would take it over and over again because i thought it was the "right" thing to do.  i allowed myself to be guilted into a lot of unhealthy things.  i felt that anger was bad and so i rarely allowed myself to feel angry over anything and instead i stuffed it down and didn't deal with it.  i had experienced trauma, and had never acknowledged it or talked about it.  and there some things that happened in my childhood that i did need to work through.  we are products of where we have come from, so if i had issues, i wanted to dig them out from their beginning source and process them.

i knew my issues, but just didn't know how to work them out completely by myself.  i knew what to do on nights when i couldn't sleep because my mind just kept spinning and spinning, going through what lay ahead the next day, or worrying about caleb's health problems or our student debt or relationships with others that were getting rocky. 

i could distract myself by reading a book, or watching t.v. or something like that.  i just didn't want to have to do that anymore.  i wanted the anxiety to be gone, or at least less frequent, and i didn't want to take medication for it.  i hadn't taken any yet, and am not against medication if it's needed.  but i wanted to get to down to the cause of why i couldn't sleep, couldn't let go, couldn't relax.  and work on those things so that i hopefully didn't need medication.  i was worried that if i found a medication that could just help me sleep and put a band-aid on the cause of my insomnia, that i would use it as a crutch and never work things out or change my pattern.  and that i would have to rely on it for the rest of my life.  {like i said though, i'm not against medication if it's needed.  but i do believe that those who use medication for these purposes should also be seeing a therapist to see if they can be working on the things that have caused the need for medication in the first place.}

anyway, once i started therapy, it was like i couldn't get enough of it.  i felt an immediate change inside of me.  my friend andrea described it perfectly by saying that for her, it was like she had been in a dark room and someone turned a light on.  that's exactly how i felt.  but once one light had been turned on, i wanted more light.  i literally felt my spirit hungry for it.

i came to a lot of realizations and some were not so much fun to see.  i wrote about one, {the lies that bind us, part 1}   and poured my heart out while writing.  i vowed to never go back to being that person again.  one that could not admit my fears or faults or even recognize them until it was almost too late.  i'm not grateful that i had that experience, but i am grateful for what i learned through it.

as i went through a few months of shedding layers, my therapist suggested moving to a group therapy.  her belief was that group therapy speeds up the process of moving and changing.  because you are with others who not only see good things in you, but that can sometimes bring out the worst in you.  and it's hard, but it causes you to then have to work again. 

once i got in the group therapy, i never looked back.  i've written several times about my experiences in there.  not a lot, but just little pieces that i was learning.  it was scary {again} that first day.  i was shy, {which i know is a shocker, coming from someone who blogs a little TMI quite often} and pulled back.  i didn't know how to trust these 11 or 12 other women.  i thought that i had problems and they probably didn't so much. i was scared to open up, and to trust them. but i kept going, and kept learning. 

we were given different assignments to work on.  dealing with anger, or losses, or trauma.  i worked on these assignments even if i didn't want to.  where there is emotional resistance, there is something underneath it.  so i pushed myself to do these assignments with my whole self.

we would each take turns getting up to describe our assignments.  i hate hate hate speaking in front of other people like that, or being put on the spot.  i don't like an assigned spotlight.  but i also knew again, that standing there vulnerable in front of others would push me.  so i did it.

and one day, during one assignment, something happened to me.  i won't go into detail here, but as i stood in front of those near-strangers who were becoming my friends...i made a decision to be honest.  100%, all-ugly truth honest.  i talked about things that only ben, myself and God knew at this point.  and i cried.  the cry where you can't talk because it literally hurts for the words to come out of your throat.  tears streamed down my face and yet i stood up there, and finished what i needed to say.

after i was done, my therapist had me sit in a chair and let the other women gather around me and say things to me that were kind, and honest.  i'm hard on myself, especially hard on myself when it comes to my faults.  and hearing others say the good things that they saw in me even after i had told them the worst things....well that day, for me, the healing really began.

and that was when i wrote these:

i started to see the good in myself outweigh the bad, for once.  i became more honest than i ever had been in my life.  and i was no longer ashamed of my mistakes or my faults, or my weaknesses.  i began to allow myself to believe that i'm beautiful, no matter what size i am or what my skin currently looks like.  

my relationships were changing with everyone around me.  most of them for the better.  my therapist had said that as i really began to dig out the unhealthy, i would start attracting more healthy relationships, and the unhealthy ones would either change or most likely end, and i really found that to be true.  there was some sadness along the way, and loss.  it hasn't just been easy or fun or happiness and rainbows.  but the benefits have definitely outweighed the negatives.  the relationships that i do have are based on trust, and love, and kindness, and respect.  being able to say hard things to each other in kind ways, and hear hard things from others.  work through those things, forgive and keep trying.

my relationship with God has changed, deepened, and i am coming to a place where i truly know that he loves me.  not just believe it, but know it.  and more importantly for me, know that i deserve that love, just by merely existing.

i believe that therapy literally changed the course of my life.  i could keep going the way i was going, and struggle sometimes, but be just fine.  but i don't want to be 'just fine' anymore, i want to be great.  and at peace with myself, and take care of myself.  and it's not just for me, but for my husband and my children, my family and my friends.  

i'm going to keep going when i can, doing trauma work through one-on-one appointments with a therapist.  and honestly, if anyone is even considering going, and wanting to change.... my advice is to just do it.  if you go once and hate it, then change therapists and go back.  and keep going back until you stop hating it. 

it's so worth it.

at least it was for me.

p.s.   no, i was not compensated in any way by my soon-to-be therapist husband.  i know you're thinking he put me up to this as a plug for his impending future.  :)


Erika said...

Thanks for writing that, Lynsey... you are amazing!!

Jessica Marie said...

Therapy can be so scary to write about and participate in. You are one brave woman.

Bec said...

Lynsey, thanks for your honesty and bravery. I went to therapy after my father passed away unexpectedly (while I was on my mission). It was the greatest thing for me. I wish my family would consider it. You're a wonderful writer, too!

ClancyPants said...

You are stunning. I love you so much in a we've-been-friends-forever kind of way, and yet I've never met you. I really look forward to the day that we meet in real life. REALLY.

And I've had almost the exact same experiences as you with therapy. I could probably copy and paste this post to my own blog and it would all fit... except that Ben stuff...

ohmylanta said...

Nice disclosure at the end! :)

This is a great post Lyns. My hubby and I went to therapy together this last year. The first six weeks of visits consisted of me conversing in a superficial manner. But honestly, it took that long for me to peel back the layers of what I truly struggle with. I am amazed at how easy it is to slap on the layers of denial for the purpose of appearing well put together or for the purpose of achieving unrealistic expectations.

I can relate to those sleepless nights and spinning thoughts. I have found peace in reading books about the Savior. In hopes of coming to know him better and thus... myself.

But I very well may need to add to therapist job security so that I can figure out how to get off my medication for depression. That problem was completely self inflicted, but I hope to some day come to terms with my mistakes so that I can be free from medication and the idea that I am a failure while on them.

Strange though. I do consider myself a very happy person. Anyone that sees me in church from week to week would be flabbergasted to know that I have demons in my closet. I guess that just goes to show that we all do! Life is for the learning.

ps. In your other post I noticed your darling room with black and hints of green - LOVE IT! Those bubbly colors reflect your fun personality.

How is Andrea BTW? Is she as tired of dating as my newly divorced sister is?? That mormon singles scene can be a hoot!

Which brings me to my next point. Have you read the book
The New York Regional LDS Singles Halloween Dance (or something like that?)

I heard it is a screaming hoot! (beware.... I heard there are some cussing words) But I did hear that it was a hilarious read. THought about getting it for my single sister!


Anonymous said...

You are such a wonderful person, I have known you since you were little. I had the opportunity to teach you and know of your sweet spirit. I still look at you as wonder of God's creations.

turleybenson said...

I'm reading this a few years after the fact, but I am so grateful I found it (through CJane). I'm telling you, your post today was an exact and specific answer to prayer for me. Thank you so much for sharing. I've felt despair all week and now I feel hopeful.