We often under-appreciate the value of support we need at the ending of a long term relationship, when our own self-supporting system is at its minimum. However, what made me start thinking about getting therapy help was the intrusive idea that I would never love again after that loss. It was the time when I was feeling so emotionally disabled, so emotionally numb, so lost about my own identity, full of nightmares at night and during the day that I had to do something.
So, I woke up one morning ready to sign for the MOST IMPORTANT DEAL of my life.
Psychotherapy it was.
I have suddenly felt relief in sharing the pain with someone who would be there for me and listen with empathy. I could cry, talk, hate, love, be angry, be upset, and get information about every stage I was going through. I discovered that what I felt was acceptable. That my losses required time and space to grieve. That anger is in place when people do things they shouldn’t in close intimate relationships.
However, no one told me that therapy is a long-long road with drawbacks you cannot undo, once you have started it. No one told me long term therapy would change my interaction system with others, habits, that it would require new skills. Most important, I didn’t expect it to last so long – 3 years have passed, and we still keep meeting with my therapist. They don’t really tell you how hard it may be to re-discover yourself day by day, re-build yourself after hitting the bottom, re-view your new choices and take them despite everyone else’s discomfort.
1. THERAPY IS A PANDORA BOX.
Only many sessions later I got to understand that there was no way back to who I had been before I entered my therapist’s office. I discovered that all that work we have done with my therapist was just a grain of sand. That in order to come to terms with myself I need another 100 sessions and in order to fix all the traumas, a life wouldn’t be enough. And lots of work had to be done outside that office too.
My initial core issues have been replaced with some related stuff I that needed to be fixed too. With my marriage-divorce issue solved, we moved to another subject. I have suddenly visualized my choices and my father’s importance in the whole story. I managed to heal that wound only to discover that I am stuck in the family system of values, fighting it so hard. Every struggle of mine led somewhere else. However, I got good news too – once you manage to face these challenges in your therapist’s office you develop safe techniques that you take with yourself in the outside world, learning to fight (or tame!) your demons alone.
2. BOUNDARIES PROTECT, BUT ALSO ISOLATE.
At certain point it all comes to a simple understanding that in order to be happy we need to learn how to protect ourselves, establishing boundaries. This often means trying different reactions. It means applying different behavior with people we meet and setting up that red don’t-approach-this-zone line. Of course it often results in being harsh, aggressive, and non-compromising too often. Of course it cuts down a huge crowd of people to individuals who remain around. Especially when you start re-establishing boundaries with people who matter in your life, you feel the difference acutely. Many people leave at this point. And that void feels depressive until right people start coming. Until some of them stay. But that takes time and efforts while you’re fighting it alone. Or well, with the therapist by your side.
For example, at certain point I stopped complaining, which I had been doing extensively long. I couldn’t stand others’ others doing it too. Most of people whom I knew either took distance or left. I felt lonely. I started to question the price for that peace that swallowed me entirely during that first year of therapy. But if you could only imagine how much energy came out of that loneliness a bit later. How much available space there was for people who cared about my feelings, people who wouldn’t harm or intend to manipulate. People who wouldn’t label me, expecting me to be comfortable. No one would ever again ask me to be milder, softer, and more flexible just because I was a woman. Healthy boundaries that are coming from within, help coming to terms with own differences, accept who you really are.
3. THE ROLE OF TRAUMAS.
When you start thinking of the roles of traumas in your life, you may get scared of that pain that would eventually come out during sessions. But opening those wounds is important in discovering basic responses that sabotage your normal routines, your relationships, jobs, hang careers, desires. Hidden reasons behind procrastination? Or on the contrary, that never-ending chase for bigger houses, better cars, and higher positions might be that escape route where you don’t feel small and unimportant anymore. But who are you outside those things?
I believe that my own traumas have pushed me forward to do things, discover myself. They hurt so much that I needed to get released from my demons, so I started to write. It was my way was to express myself safely. Traumas pushed me into relationships that were suppose to change me, until I understood that healing my own set of issues meant to actually start feeling enough. Not enough turned to be my pass to whatever success I have achieved in my life. But all my achievements tasted bitter after the initial excitement was over. No matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough with whatever I did. Closed circle.
But what if certain traumas hurt so much that you just can’t get there deeper? What if the person you adore the most causes you that unconditional pain, and accepting this means losing a sense of life meaning. What if you cannot heal short time and cannot live long term with it? Will the therapy be able to help you find a solution once that door is opened and there shall be no way back?
4. PARENTS ARE ALWAYS AN ISSUE.
You love them. You hate them. It is the most constant relationship that you would have during your life, whether they are still alive or not. They are your model, your Gods, your back up plan. They are also the endless source of your traumas, your example of oppressing the feelings, your patterns of behavior, your genetics, your inherited disease, or your invaded boundaries.
The good news exists, however. After going through all stages of loving-hating them (better with the help of therapist) you eventually come to terms with who they are, two simple humans who started this life from scratch, just like you do. You learn they didn’t and wouldn’t fill you in with things you need most, yes.
Whatever is missing in you, you have to put it there yourself. Man, this turns out to be the most difficult task. When you take the responsibility of loving yourself more, doing for yourself what is best, protect yourself from harm and making yourself happy. Maybe hating your parents after all was a way easier job to do?
5. YOU’RE SINGLE DURING OR AFTER THERAPY.
You stay single for a while.
Oh, wait. That doesn’t mean you cannot or shouldn’t flirt, enjoy good company, or meet new people. Single means out of the relationship, and happy with that, full stop.
One of the beautiful therapeutic effects is to feel good with yourself. Discovering what you like and want you don’t. Strengthen your new habits, lean on your new achievements. Celebrate failures and success alone. It is worth and healthy, before considering starting something anew. In a different way and with a different approach. And maybe it shall work better this time. Or maybe not, who knows. But that loneliness is one of a kind, learn to lean on it.
6. YOU FEEL IT IS NO LONGER WORKING.
After some time of therapy, when initial excitement about changes and your own world system gets modified, you suddenly discover that you’re stuck. Nothing seems to change anymore. You get into relationships and they don’t work. You no longer find common ground with your co-workers. You have the hysterical argument with your parents, as if you’re a teenager again.
One year after I have started the therapy I found myself at the dead end, failing to understand what was wrong, where was the trick, why the hell I was going back to basics, enraged that nothing really changed.
Well, I was enraged. Angry. Scared.
But then I have noticed something. I went through that storm alone, without my therapist, and I handled it. I went back to her, telling things have been developing slower now, and she said it was only normal. You cannot change yourself entirely every few months. It’s a dangerous practice. But handling the old changes and the slowly developing you was in place.
We had these days lindy hop dancing seminars where the teacher told us – You, guys, are heading up from intermediate to advanced level. So you no longer learn new steps or moves. This is no longer the focus. Now, you feel the next steps. And your next level – the advanced – is about mastering the rhythm of the things you have done until now. Learning musicality of the moves you know so well. Going back to basic steps and review them in another key of moving your body. Try that.
Psychotherapy turned out to be that new mirror that helped me see the sides of myself. There is no magic trick behind it all, and no changes are coming without me wanting to embrace them. It is just another job I have started in excitement, and continued as a routine.
However, the friend who softly pushed me into therapy told me my life would never be the same when I entered my therapist’s office. Today, embracing new challenges and expecting new answers, I can state for sure, my life is different. And thank you for that, Nadia.