Therapy: Discovering and Working Through Problems

It was extra difficult to sleep last night because of the heat and humidity. The air temperature reached 96 in the afternoon here, and it was muggy on top of that. I watched a lot of Hallmark movies last night and read the entire young adult novel Eleanor and Park. While the story was a quick read, engaging and emotionally provocative, I would have rather been asleep. Even though I’m sure the book is geared toward a younger audience, it pulled at my heartstrings and left me thinking about the characters once the last words were read.

I’ve been making progress during my self-directed therapy, despite, as I mentioned last week, the fact that it’s causing me some emotional unrest because of the feelings, thoughts, and realizations I’ve uncovered and faced. I’ve been spending a consistent 60-90 minutes per week on my independent sessions, except for the weeks I have a professional therapy or psychiatric appointment. In those weeks, I just do one session of 30-45 minutes. If I’m one thing, it’s consistent.

In yesterday’s therapy session, I was taking stock of the work I’ve done so far in the three months I’ve been doing these self-directed appointments. That makes it sound like it was just a lazy use of time recounting what I should already know about where I started, what I’ve done, and where I am now. On the contrary, I think it’s important to evaluate how things are going and if I’m on a trajectory that’s getting me anywhere towards my goals. I’m thrilled to determine I’m making tremendous progress, but if this were not the case, it’s this reviewing sessions where a critical objective lens is applied to the prior sessions and slated goals that would discover the ineffectiveness of my plan and work. Even Ben had concluded that my progress has been real and impressive.

I’m not looking for kudos, but it sure is gratifying to make any improvements, especially those achieved under your own ideas and direction. I’ve spent the bulk of my time doing CBT-type work focusing on my anxieties. Accordingly, I think the most progress has been afforded on this side of my issues. Depression is a bigger beast and I have much more work to do there. If anything, I’m probably a bit more depressed these days than I was at the onset of my self-directed work. However, that’s partially a product of worsening circumstances in my life (harder situations right now than in the winter) and partially because I’ve had epiphanies and discovered wounds, issues, and pain that I was either completely unaware of, had repressed to the point of nearly forgetting, or thought had been resolved or otherwise no longer challenged my emotional standing. It’s not a pleasant feeling to realize you have problems you didn’t even know you had or that you thought you had resolved. That’s a space I’ve been standing in over the past couple weeks especially, and it definitely challenges my confidence and pride. I have a lot of work I need to do on myself and some big painful losses and feelings I still need to face and try to make peace with. Whether I continue independent or guided sessions, psychotherapy is likely going to need to remain a fixture in my life for the long term.

I’m fortunate to have grown up in a family where seeking mental health help and psychotherapy was normalized. My parents have both worked in the mental health field in different capacities for part or most of their professional careers. Although none of us attended therapy sessions when we were young (except for a stint my mom made me do as a junior in high school), the idea of needing therapy wasn’t a point of shame. I think it would be difficult to have to also overcome worries or embarrassment about needing therapy on top of battling the problems that necessitated therapy in the first place. What I’ve learned about therapy in the years I’ve done it with any regularity is that the relationship with the therapist is paramount for having a positive experience (it must be trusting, mutually respectful, and feel safe) as is my desire to truly work hard. It seems you can kind of skate by in therapy, discussing issues with some emotional detachment or without expressive vulnerability and completeness. If you really want therapy to cause change, you have to buy in and push yourself to be brutally honest, transparent, and willing to expose all your inner thoughts, worries, and feelings. It’s a stressful and uncomfortable place for many people, myself included. No one wants to be stripped of their protective boundaries.

This week, it’s just self-directed sessions because I had my in-person one last week. I still haven’t decided if I want to add an extra session with my trained therapist this month or just keep with my single session. I have the money, logistics, and emotional tolerance to consider. I’m too busy next week with medical appointments to even entertain the idea. It would need to be the following week and frankly, I operate on such a day-by-day basis, that I have no intention of scheduling an extra session that far in advance. Time will tell.

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