Monday, January 7, 2013

Did I Mention I'm In Therapy?


I talk about my therapy sessions a fair amount here in these essays. I've also been talking about them with my father and mother. This goes against what I learned throughout my childhood which was to keep all that sort of stuff hidden. My mother is the child of an alcoholic and that "keep it in the family" stuff comes natural to her now after so long of living it.

The first time I ever went into therapy was because my wife and I were talking one evening and she stopped me in the middle of a sentence to ask a question: "do you realize that you're yelling at me?" I hadn't noticed it and I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why I was yelling at her. She said that I was so angry, that I had been angry for more than a year. I was shocked. Not because she had said it but because I really was angry and couldn't remember how to not be angry.

So I went into therapy. My first therapist was pretty bad and I was relieved when he let me know that he was going to be moving on and not taking on clients any more. I hadn't known how to break up with him. It was years before I got back to therapy but when I did I was connected with the right therapist and that's who I continue to see. That's who has helped me to find happiness. It's really quite remarkable the journey she and I have been on.

I talk about it here because therapy is an important part of my life and I see no reason to feel anything but pride and gratitude about it. If someone else is trying to find a way forward and tries therapy out because of what I've written, well that would be just fine. If another person reads about my therapy and no longer feels any need to hide their own therapy from the world, that's cool too. And if I can get my parents to cast aside some of the stigma that they feel about getting help, that would just be huge. I don't bet on that last thing, but I keep talking about it just in case things had that effect.

My friend is in the business of helping struggling parents. I've been reading some of the things that she has written about her own struggles. Each time I read her, I feel better about how it was for me when my children were born. The period from the birth of my first child through just a few years ago was as trying as anything I've ever experienced. It made failing out of college look easy. There were times that I thought it would drag me under. And I thought I was alone. I thought I was at fault and needed to hide it all by putting on a face. Everyone else was handling it. If I wasn't, that meant I was a loser, a screw up, a bad man.

Reading my friend's stuff I see that it's natural to struggle and that it's just as natural to seek help. She's at a point in her life when she can offer help to others and I would imagine that she will be to others what my therapist has been to me. She will be a lifeline, a fixed point in a chaotic universe, a calm voice in the maelstrom.

With my parents, I don't hold on to my childish fantasies of transforming them. They are who they are and that's that. Well, to a point. I'm not going to get my mother to relax and enjoy life without her nervousness. What I might be able to do is to show her a little of how I have been transformed and keep inviting her to see that she is not the only person struggling. I can tell her about my own troubles, let her see that help was offered to me, that I took it, and I have no shame in having done so.

I'm not a therapist, I've just been helped by one. Still, it seems to me that the key to my therapy has been my therapist's kindness and generosity. My parents don't need me to get a license. They need for me to be kind and generous. Not indulgent. Kind and generous. Those are things I can do. I just need to pay attention to my own therapy, notice the therapeutic things like what my friend is doing, and then try to shine that light around my world as though I were a lighthouse. The fog is always thick but there is always a safe way to shore.

Write on.