Okay, so maybe you don’t need therapy. First of all, congratulations. Second of all, fuck you and your semi-charmed kind of life – seriously. I’ve been in therapy since my early teens and in some capacity I know I always will be. Whether I go once a week, a month, or a year – you know how much shame I feel? Zero. Zero fucks given in regards to viewing it as a weakness or thing that causes embarrassment. I remember a time about a year ago that I had an appointment at an awkward time – not enough leeway to go home beforehand, so I stayed at work biding my time in our employee lounge. “Hey Tanya!” my cohort bellowed, “Why aren’t you having a beer?” In case you don’t religiously follow my blog, I work at a brewery, so that’s a pretty standard question. “I’m good, I have an appointment,” I said. “What kind of appointment do you have at this time of night!?” he playfully cajoled. “A therapy appointment,” I replied.
If there was a DJ in the room the record would have scratched and music faded into oblivion. No one really knew what to say or do but that was okay; the reason I said it – was because I was willing to own it. I refuse the stigma of therapy being something you don’t talk about, or that it’s only for crazy people. For me therapy is on the same level of emotional maintenance as yoga and getting stuck with tiny needles. It benefits me in a lot of different ways, and I plan on breaking those down for you right now:
Going to therapy makes me accountable. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve sat down and made vision boards with, or lists of what we were going to do to better ourselves in our lives. I’m not going to lie, 97% of those vision boards entailed getting drunk off of wine. My vision board probably had Cabernet spilled on it which luckily isn’t too far from the truth because red wine will always be in my future. My therapist is legit – she gives me homework for Christ’s sake. She’s the head mistress to the school of my personal Qi. She sets me up for success and if I flake, she’s not afraid to blow the whistle on me. When you’ve got this third party whose removed from your life basically beyond an emotional support and there’s not a lot of personal feelings there? That’s when you get shit done.
Sometimes I really hate therapy because my go-to defense mechanism is shutting down. Believe it or not, it’s way easier to not deal with anything than to begin to deal with it at all. Musician Elliot Smith once wrote a song called “Bottle Up And Explode.” Musician Elliot Smith also stabbed himself in the heart with a steak knife in 2003 and died. Case and point: be the beer unshaken that you can still enjoy – and not a malty beverage so full of pressure that it bursts in your face.
Therapists are professional secret keepers. Unless you say something that makes them feel uncomfortable about your safety or someone else’s they are pretty much your very own Seinfeld inspired “vault.” I feel guilty when I get overzealous venting to friends, or bitch about things that even I know are completely mundane or fleeting. However when you’re paying someone to listen to you, your self-reproach washes off of you as fast as your sins during baptism. Your bitching is billable hours to them.
While I’ve got a pretty good sense of self around it all, sometimes I need my experience normalized. I can go from “I’m having a good day!” to “I’m going to fucking run away and join the circus,” in .05 seconds. I have many moments where I think “Well shit, I’ve really lost my mind.” Times where I feel lost, sad, abandoned, or break out in stress hives. That’s a thing by the way, and it’s super attractive. I recommend it highly to people who want to spend their summer in jeans. Thanks to therapy coupled with a tub of steroid cream, I wore some shorts the other day and I couldn’t be more excited.
Perspective. I get it from a lot of places, and I never cease to be grateful for all I have in this wonderful and wacky life. But having someone to look at what I’m going through and perhaps make me consider something in a way I hadn’t before is an indispensable part of therapy for me. We can be so one-dimensional in how we view what’s happening in our worlds; but opening ourselves to be 3-D gives us the tools to consider, reflect on factors that were previously unknown or ignored by us, and make an appropriate plan of action for solution and absolution.
After the occurrence I referenced in the beginning of this entry, a coworker texted me: “Hey,” she said, “I thought it was really cool the way you handled yourself tonight. Being honest about what you were going to do, that took guts.” It was flattering but at the same time, I didn’t think anything of it when it was happening. I spent 7-years going to school which ended with my Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I’m ascribed to the agenda. I spent that time going to school to learn to be a competent therapist and just because I’m not doing it doesn’t mean I don’t still feel strongly that it’s a necessary and beneficial field. I tell people where I’m going because I don’t believe that humiliation is synonymous with seeking outside help. I want to remove the connotation that therapy or having mental health issues makes you irregular or damaged.
All therapist minded people’s favorite thing to do is quote Carl Jung, so I won’t break that stereotype for you. He says: “There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotions.” You are not irregular or damaged, you are a human and exactly where you need to be. Sometimes it’s hard work, and sometimes it takes time but always know you’re not the only one out there who looks for the extension of a olive leaf every now and again. Just because people aren’t having conversations about it, doesn’t mean you’re the only one experiencing what you are. Sometimes it’s okay to not be okay.