I have a friend (a few actually) who strongly advocates for therapy. I didn’t pay her gentle and numerous suggestions much attention at first to be honest. Instead, I’d read her posts stating “ Everybody should get a therapists!” or “ Do yourself a favor. Go to therapy!”,consider for like a millisecond, then swiftly dismiss the idea with a Nah, I think I’m good. I reasoned, I’m not in crisis right now. Plus, I have a few compassionate witnesses to vent to when I’m going through. That should be good enough. I dodged therapy for years. After only three sessions I’m seeing I’ve been in my own way…for years. Yes, I love reading self help books, practicing gratitude, talking to God and writing my prayers out. Yes, I could’ve probably maintained and lived a decent life with doing just those things. But deep down I didn’t want to just maintain or live a decent life. I wanted to live my best life. I wanted 40 to be my best year yet. So with the courtesy of a little nudging, I finally acquiesced.
While on vacay in Miami I mentioned to my friend, “Yeah. I’m thinking about going to a therapist. Maybe there are some things /new strategies I can learn to help me navigate my life journey better.” As soon as we got back from dinner my friend pulls her laptop out and says, “Let’s research some therapists in your area now.” Maybe she knew I’d talk myself out of going (again). Maybe she knew my follow up game would be weak on this. Maybe she knew another friend had recommended someone just last year to me. I even took the contact information down. I visited the recommended therapist’s page. And that was as far as I got. “But we’re on vacation” I whined. “It can wait. I’ll do it once I get back to Maryland.” “No, we’re fine. Let’s do it now.” (In other words, Girl Bye).
Something about my now therapist’s face, her write up, and overall aura (through the screen) made me feel as if she was the one. And I was right! Although I was nervous about our initial 15 minute phone consultation (What am I going to say? What am I supposed to say?) it went rather smoothly. I felt safe and at ease while speaking with her during the brief consultation. She asked introductory questions and told me a little about herself. She asked me what prompted me to seek therapy at this time. “We’ll, nothing’s really going on in my life right now. I turned 40 recently and I’d just like to become as self aware as possible.” She seemed pleased with my response. She assured me that self awareness was a great reason to seek therapy. That pleased me. We met the following week. On a Thursday. I was really nervous. I even considered rescheduling. A 15 minute phone chat was simple. But an entire hour of just talking? I may not be able to pull that off. What if she starts asking me questions that make me feel uncomfortable? What if I get stuck or mis-express myself when asked cold questions ( I have a fear of misspeaking, not expressing my feelings and thoughts clearly.) We’re just going to be sitting there looking at each other, trying to feel gaps of awkward silence I bet. Boy was I wrong! So, so, so wrong. Lol.
1. An Opportunity to Speak and be Heard
I actually confused and amazed myself during my first session. I talked the ENTIRE time. I honestly didn’t think I had lots to talk about before that first session. In most settings with other adults ( I talk my head off in the classroom but that’s different. Lol) I’m typically in the cut, listening and observing. So I surprised myself going on and on like a motor mouth. I left her office feeling ten times lighter, as if I finally had a chance to unload all the thoughts circling around in my brain for God knows how long. Thoughts I didn’t even know I was trudging along with. My therapist lightly probed, was attentive, nodded her head to show she that she understood me. It all felt really good! And it made me want to share even more. Every other week it’s as if I’m the host of an hour long talk show with an audience (my therapist) clinging on to my every word. The spotlight is solely on me. (Insert smile here.)
2. Helping Me Get More In Tune With My Thoughts and Feelings
Remember when I said I have a fear of misspeaking, not clearly or articulately expressing my feelings and thoughts around said feelings? Instead of misspeaking or mis-expressing myself I’ve opted to simply not say anything (or much) at all. I’ve learned, after 2 sessions, that this isn’t necessarily a case of ‘ That’s just how I am’ but rather… I’m not in tune enough (yet) with my own feelings to be as expressive as I’d like. I’m not certain about you but I didn’t grow up with a whole lot of emphasis on feelings. You grind and work hard. Handle your business. Understand that life happens. But under no circumstance are you to let it break you. That’s it. And I’m not mad at this at all. I appreciate my upbringing immensely. But I also understand this could be why I’m at a slight deficit in the areas of feelings, emotions, and oral expression. My next assignment was to record my feelings in a journal. When given this assignment, I initially thought, Hmmm…not certain what this will accomplish but I’ll try it. Can I just say that that simple assignment has proven itself to be quite effective! I’m feeling more in tune with myself. Lol. My new favorite question for myself is, So how are you feeling right now? I journal about how I’m feeling, why I’m feeling said way, and develop a plan if need be (Like if I’m feeling stuck or discontent I spend time identifying why. Then come up with a few action steps I can realistically take to move toward being and feeling unstuck. Nothing will change over night but just having a plan in place feels so empowering!).
3. Helping Me Get in Tune With What I Really Want
I’m realizing there are areas in my life where my wants are fuzzy (unclear). “So what do you want?” my therapist has asked a few times. I pause and in a talking-singing voice respond, I don’t know. I didn’t beat myself up for not knowing. And let me tell you, for some reason it felt freaking amazing simply realizing and admitting the truth. I. Don’t. Know. I’m not getting what I really want because I haven’t taken the time to actually consider what I really want. (Ah-hah moment!) But now I can address the fuzz and focus on what I really want. I realize if I’m not clear (specific as hell), I’ll get (continue to get) ‘something, kinda, sorta but not quite’ what I really want.
4. Holds Me Accountable
I know I’m going to do the work (like reflecting on and outlining exactly what I want) because I’m being held accountable. I have shitloads of Self Help books but I don’t believe I’ve ever fully completed any of the suggested assignments that accompany them. I happen to follow through at a higher percentage with a little extra motivation. My therapist is like a coach who’s not going to allow me to waste time playing goofy games, who wants me to perform at my absolute best.
In closing, I’m eager to uncover, learn, and pursue more during this journey. I wanted to become as self aware as possible during my 40Fine year. I’m feeling so grateful that with the help of a therapist it’s happening. Slowly. Surely. Happening…