25 Mar 2011

Therapy

13 Comments Personal Crap

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.

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Lisa Arch likes being a working actress... but LOVES being a Mom!
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13 Responses to “Therapy”

  1. Reply Brandie says:

    (((hugs))) I too have spent some time with an Allison (well, really an Arthur!) I’m sorry she’s moving. But I’m glad she was there to help you when you needed it.

  2. Reply Sherry says:

    I admire you for working through your issues. Losing a father is one I know so well. I’ve never gotten help and I still expect him to walk through the door. I was very much a daddy’s girl and I adored him! He was 35 when he passed away from a heart attack and I was nine. Unfortunately, only us children were home when it happened.
    I have learned to not take every day for granted and to tell my family I love them often. Jason doesn’t seem to mind his mom telling him she loves him all the time. Which is a really good thing 🙂
    You are such a good person and you are so strong! What a wonderful role model for your son. You always inspire me and thank you for always sharing 🙂

    • Reply flawlessmom says:

      Sherry, my gosh!!! He was 35???? And you were home when it happened? Holy crap, girl. I don’t even know. It sounds like you’re doing such an incredible job with your son. I hope you would find someone to work through that stuff if you ever feel you need to, though. I’m telling you… It’s invaluable.
      And thank you for those very kind words, as wel.

  3. Reply David says:

    Lady, having lost my own mother more than a decade ago, I understand your pain (and I won’t go any further into it — sometimes, the act of revisiting is both release and anathema, depending on one’s state-of-mind). However, I just wanted to tell you that Allison is right–all of us have more strength than we’ve ever dreamed, and it takes certain challenges to bring us to ourselves, to see our true states, reevaluate and push forward. You’ve also got a blessing in your family–from what I’ve seen so far, your people are the right kind of folks, and you guys are in each other’s corner, always. That’s more than many people ever have in this world, and be grateful for that, and stay blessed!

    Well, I have to resume my duties here at work–by the way, I happen to be part of the office gang here on ‘CH’, and it has been a genuine pleasure every time we see you on camera (you have a personality that’s beyond description, and you’re able to relate to folks on their level, and we are very, very thankful for that). Keep up the good work, STAY STRONG, and continue being the worthwhile person that you are. It’s all any of us can truly be, in the end.

    • Reply flawlessmom says:

      David!! What do you do on CH? That’s wild! Thanks for all of those lovely words. I take them to heart. And yes, the blessing I have in my family is beyond words. I am so very grateful.

  4. Reply Koch says:

    No idea your therapist was moving. I find everything out either on your blog or your Twitter now. I am so sorry. I mean, how the hell do you start up new with someone else? Unless that someone else can help you see OTHER sides of all your many life coins. (Life coins? What?). Fresh perspectives could be good. Or really annoying. Either way, you’ve beat a lot of bad shit down.

    I wish I knew my dad. You are so lucky. Once you get into your 40’s, YOU’LL be the therapist, believe me. In many ways, you already are. You help me all the time.

    • Reply flawlessmom says:

      Koch, you’re finally realizing I don’t ever want to talk to you face to face. Thankfully, we have this place to connect. And that way I never have to hear about you. It’s a one-way street. All about me.
      Yes, I’m sure seeing someone new would be an interesting and fresh perspective. And I’m sure I’d learn more. But for now I’m taking a break. We’ll see how it goes. I think I’m ready.
      And I am so lucky I knew my dad. I hate that you didn’t.
      I love you!

  5. Reply Laura says:

    Lisa… This blog was very moving and touched my heart. I am glad that you recognize the gifts that a therapist can bring to your life. I wish more people would see them in their role as life coaches.

    I have always seen myself as a person with decent coping skills, which I attribute to being a nurse and always having had professional mental health colleagues to talk things over with in “hallway consultations”.

    My mother died 4 years ago suddenly and unexpectedly. She was in Missouri and I was in Philly, so I wasn’t able to be with her when she passed. I felt so guilty and sad and none of my usual ways to cope were helping. I couldn’t get past feeling angry and cheated out of not being able to say goodbye. I went to see “James” and I swear for the first 4 sessions, I did nothing but sob the entire time. But, eventually he helped me say goodbye to Mom in my own way and let go of the anger and extreme grief and help me to see that some of my reaction was unresolved feelings from losing my father years before that I had never really dealt with. It was painful at times, but very healing. I don’t think anyone else could have helped me but a therapist. I haven’t been back in a few years, but I would never hesitate to go again. I still use some of the techniques he taught me in everyday situations.

    I understand your sadness at Allison moving on. She sounds like an awesome person.

    But, it sounds like you are in a great place to use your strength and the tools Allison gave you. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Reply flawlessmom says:

      Laura, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
      Comments like this make me realize that I started this blog for more than just getting my own thoughts out. It’s also for hearing from people I may not even know, who have something to say. I appreciate it very much. And it helps me. Thank you.

  6. Reply AL says:

    Really great blog entry…and the comments as well! Realizing that we are all in this together even though we are traveling the same path(s) is comforting and inspiring all in the same.
    We hosted a celebration of life here yesterday and I am always struck by the similarity of the journey we all share with strangers… the loss of a loved one, expected or not. In this case, the lady was the same age as myself, her children, likewise reflections of my own with precious, much loved grandchildren sharing the grief.
    Such an individual and unique experience, the loss of life. It sounds so trivial, like you just misplaced someone, or, if lost, could be found? In a way, that is true, when the treasured memories outlast the sorrowful, and when we find someone who, can, lend objectivity and practical “life lines” to keep our footsteps, one in front of the other.
    Blessing to the healers, however they come into our lives.

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