I started seeing a therapist almost 20 years ago when I was having some issues with friends, boyfriends, my parents, my brother and just trying to enter my 20’s. I went for a few months, figured some shit out, and moved on with my life with a new set of tools, a little more confidence, and a greater understanding of myself.
About seven years later, I found myself back with the same therapist, trying to get over my idiotic jealousy issues and learning how to live with someone I knew I’d be with for the rest of my life. After six months, I had new tools, new confidence and a whole new outlook.
As you can see, I look at therapy as a way to work through things, learn some ways of coping, and move on. I’m not one of those lifers who can talk about myself weekly for years. (Not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with that!) I want to learn and leave.
A little over a year ago, I called this therapist again. I was dealing with a very sick father, a two-year-old, career issues and a feeling that I was lost. This time I felt pretty torn apart and I knew I truly needed help. I almost immediately felt like I was being rescued. I felt like Allison (That’s what we’ll call her) was in a helicopter and she was beginning to drop down a rope for me to grab on to, to pull me out of the muck that I was wading in. I knew I had to do a lot of wading before I could actually grab on to the rope to be pulled up, but I was willing to do any and all of the work I had to do to be saved.
This time therapy was sticky and painful and hard. In the past I had dealt with more ego-related issues and wounds, and they were mostly on the surface. What I had to deal with now was far more serious. These wounds had already created scars and I had so much digging to do. Almost every week I cried, and every week it was a surprise to me. Sometimes the tears were cathartic and felt like a gift. Other times I was crying from a place I hadn’t wanted to ever visit, and maybe even didn’t know existed.
I thank God I don’t have the kind of pain that results from real tragedy. I’ve had a pretty freaking good time of it. But, just by the virtue of being alive, we all have pain. And we all deserve to try to heal that pain. I was dealing with the inevitable death of my father, finding out about my childhood (which even in doing so, I found to be cliche’ but completely eye-opening and NECESSARY), and my struggles as a sometimes-working-actress and happily permanent mommy. I was learning, growing, filling my toolbox to overflowing, and starting to feel a little more sane.
Then my dad died and everything became murky again. The rope I had begun ascending slipped from my hands and I once again dropped into the muck, this time fearing an even more difficult climb up. For those of you who know me, or know me through my blog, you know that my father was a driving force in my life. He was a rock for me, and someone I spoke to or saw daily. His positive attitude influenced me every day, and he had been ill since I had been pregnant. His death is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with and I felt beyond lost and shattered.
I took a short break from therapy, just to get things in order and get my bearings. And then I began again. Through the profound sadness, I learned I had strength greater than I knew and that the pain I felt would never go away, but would change. I found out for the first time how I wanted to represent myself in certain situations that were both old and new to me. I became different and, in my opinion, better. I had a new-found faith in myself and those I love. I was doing all of the work I needed to do, and I was climbing the rope again. This time, I found myself near the top, almost boarding that helicopter.
Two weeks ago, Allison told me she was moving out of state and that I only had one session left. I felt like someone slapped me in the face, and I sobbed. I was truly surprised and freaked out by my reaction, and I apologized profusely. Of course I knew there was no reason to be sorry. But I was blown away by the amount of tears that were streaming down my face. And I wasn’t even sure at that moment why I was so completely sad.
After talking about those “feelings” for a little while, we moved on to other things. We wanted to get the most out of this hour and the next, which would be my last with her. In the week that followed I realized why I had so many “feelings” about her leaving, not the least of which was that she had gotten me through so much and had been there for me in my darkest days. She had helped me to be a better person and to find my inner strength. She helped me to mourn and to celebrate and to be a better mom and wife through it all. She had also been an objective voice at a time when I needed that the most. My last session was mostly spent figuring out how to not feel guilty about going on a quick trip away with my husband. She gave me 100 great ways to make Garrett feel happy and comfortable that I know I will use for years.
She encouraged me with this blog and my career, she cheered me on when I chose to stop working for a while, she guided me to find a place to be, physically and emotionally, when I needed to sob or to sit in quiet. She got me to walk daily and to stand up for myself.
She got me up the rope.
I’m not quite on the helicopter yet, but I’m almost there. I know I can get there myself and with the help of those that love me. I can even throw myself a little more rope if I need it, because I have that in my toolbox.
I am grateful for Allison and for therapy. (And for the recommendations she gave me in case I need someone in the future!) I am truly better for it. And it only took 20 years.