Today I went to see my therapist. Yes, I have one of those. And I’m happy to say so. I like my current therapist. She’s a wispy, middle-aged, blond intellectual whom I liken to Bonnie Hunt in my imagination. This is good because I’ve always loved movies with Bonnie Hunt. (The first Beethoven movie from 1992, anyone?)
Not a lot of people might admit that they go to therapy because society would like us to think that those of us who do are crazy and weird and have “issues.” But here’s what I say: we’re all crazy and we’re all weird. And it’s the people who never accept this that need a shrink more than any of us.
I’ve been seeing a therapist for about five years now and consider my weekly session with her to be as good of an investment in my health as broccoli and exercise (and eating Haagen Dazs ice cream while watching Real Housewives of Orange County. That’s what I call a real investment in my health — or maybe an example of why I need therapy.)
But really, it is beautifully cathartic to sit and talk with someone who has no idea who you are about the stuff in your life that you would not dare tell your friends or your mother or boyfriend. They can cast no judgment and don’t care if you’re having a bad hair day and stutter when you talk about your feelings or get puffy, red cheeks like I do when you cry. They are there to listen. And I have learned that having someone to sit and be transparent and real with is incredibly helpful and I’d say almost necessary for someone trying to survive adulthood.
My therapist wears a disarming smile that puts me at ease as I talk about life and why the heck I still cut my legs shaving in the shower at 26 years old like I did last night. (Sometimes I shave my legs like an arthritic old lady which results with me standing in the shower screaming like a 7 year old for my husband to bring me band aids. Therapy has not healed me of this quite yet.) Or when I cry about the stuff of life that seems too unfair like the abuse I endured as a kid and growing up without a lot of friends and being picked on at school and at home.
During my therapy session today, I talked about some of these things which ultimately lead to me talking about my dad. The anniversary of my dad’s death is coming up soon and it’s hard to talk about with anyone, really. The details are too painful to think about. Purging my mind of painful memories and working through grief isn’t easy. It feels good when I do, though. It’s sort of like surgery in that way — the operation itself is excruciating and there is a lot of pain, but on the other side of that pain there is the promise of healing. I have never felt bad or worse about anything after I have talked about it in a way that may bring me more peace and comfort. My therapist helps with this.
I don’t always take her advice, though. But when I do, I find that 99.4% of the time, it works.
As I sat there in her cluttered, air-conditioned office with a vase of fresh tulips on the coffee table in front of me and a bookshelf beside me stuffed with esoteric titles about vague psychological concepts like mindfulness and hypnosis, the weight of the moment pressed into me.
I was in my shrink’s office. I was sitting on her couch talking about my life and my father.
It was a good thing for me to be there. And I wanted to be there, I thought to myself.
She continued to listen as I told stories about my father and how his death really makes me feel in the deepest and most intimate parts of my being.
Talking about these things with her has already proven to be an invaluable supplement to my own process of dealing and healing. And it has helped teach me what the benefits of therapy can be, beyond just sitting down and unloading to some stranger with a PhD.
Therapy has taught me how to feel, which happens first by giving myself permission to feel. In this day and age where being chronically “busy” and on the go is the celebrated norm for most in their twenties and thirties, simply feeling the fullness of an emotion and working through it no matter how messy, is a luxury we cannot afford to deprive ourselves of. Therapy has also taught me about how much our genetics and family history and upbringing influence who we become and how we do (or don’t) handle our problems as adults. This perspective is helpful when navigating the tumultuous seas of the real world for the first time.
Most importantly, therapy has shown me that it is okay to be broken. It is okay to not have it all figured out and not understand why our minds work in certain ways. This is a part of growing up, and a part of the delicate and beautiful process of figuring out who we are and what our strengths and weaknesses are in the areas in life that matter most like love, work, and relationships.
I am aware that by telling the world that I go to therapy I am not making anyone envy or admire my life. It might just make people think I’m crazy or that I am one of “those people” with a lot of sad and scary problems. But I am fine with that. For if there is any healing in confession it must start with confessing that we are not perfect to a world that begs us to pretend to be. So when I confess to you that I still accidentally cut my legs when I shave and miss my dad whom I lost so many years ago, I hope to deflate the myth that I am at all put together or well-adjusted.
That is, if you ever got that impression in the first place.
Because if therapy has taught me anything and if there is anything it could teach you, it is that it’s okay to be a little crazy or weird. But the challenge lies in accepting that fact.
And when we learn to love ourselves in spite of the parts of us that feel crazy or messy or weird, we will have fulfilled one of the major goals of therapy: acceptance. And that is a beautiful thing — a truly beautiful thing, indeed.