Thoughts on Therapy

Sometimes, this is what recovery/being recovered looks like for me:

I have to take extra care that all the nutritional labels are either directed to the back of the pantry, or upsidown and against the cabinet shelves. 

I have to actively tell myself that my pants aren't smaller. And even if they are, I could stand to gain some weight. And even if I have gained weight, it's ok. 

I have to decipher whether I would normally have that FOOD if that part of my brain wasn't so heightened and, if so, still eat it if it sounds good.

***

I have always felt that when my mind kicks up, it's for a reason. Something going on in my life, feelings I haven't processed, etc. When it does, the first thing I always try to do is figure out where it's coming from.  

This is rarely easy or straight-forward. And I'm aware that, sometimes, it might just be chemical/brain-based— that, for whatever reason, that day everything-about-me-which-can-short-circuit does. These days days are very difficult for me to handle and accept, because there is little I can do. If I can't figure out a probable cause, I can't examine it and feel like I'm DOING something. I know I am not the only one who struggles with needing to "actively do something"; it is a large contributor to my actions and tendencies. And it requires continual practice on my part to understand that, sometimes, not doing anything is doing something.

Regardless, lately I've been starting to dig into some deep down stuff. Therapy can be such a process; I've had to start at the top of the muck and keep digging away and away, like an archaeologist. And only recently have I started to get to some things that are ingrained. Things that didn't happen and I needed them to. I have had an inkling of an understanding regarding these Things for a while, but had never determined what looking more closely at it all would do. I am aware of it enough, I'd think. And nothing now could change it. But I don't know. I suppose if I poke at it, like I'm beginning to do, and it still bleeds, then it's still something I need examine. If it's not scarred over, or fully healed, and it still can turn on that part of my brain, then it's still unresolved. And it's just like anything else I've ever done in all this—no promise that rummaging through painful self-reflection will feed any benefits, that nothing will come from it other than more pain and more days where I have to be even more careful with nutritional labels than usual. That I could very well slip after nine years of steadiness. 

But there has never been any promise, has there? Just the closing of my eyes and sheer god damn stubbornness.

And yet here I am— in all my fight and floundering— and I will keep doing that which scares me.

Finding Therapy

Can I just take a moment to talk about how absurd it is to find a therapist?

Not to be mistaken for going to therapy, because that’s one of the bravest, smartest things anyone can do. But the act of actually finding a therapist.

This is, of course, skimming past the insane courage it takes to accept you might be dealing with The Thing, as well as the courage to actually go TALK to someone about The Thing. Especially when society tells you to ignore or be ashamed of it. That The Thing is something you can out-think, ignore, or beat on your own like, you know, diabetes and asthma and cancer!

...

Ok, ranty blog about that mentality (as well a blog regarding the courage it takes to seek therapy) will happen some other time. Right now, background info: I moved across the country a few months ago. Back in my home state, after a few bad eggs (oh wow, that’s another great blog post... therapy is good, I swear!), I found this spunky god-send of a therapist. She was respectful, understanding, smart and funny as hell. And cool shit can happen when you find a therapist like her. I’m like, almost a fully-functioning adult now!

In all seriousness, she probably saved my life. And I think therapy often needs to be ongoing – especially if you’re someone like me who has The Thing (#1 – 4). There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s just how I was made. Yes, some days it’s harder for me to accept them, but I’m doing pretty damn well for where I am and I’m proud of that. Regardless, I think the brain needs a check-up just (if not, especially) like other parts of the body. Afterall, the brain *is* another part of the body, an organ like the heart, yeah? So, sometimes I needed to see my therapist once a week for a while and other times I was in a good spot and spent years without seeing her at all.

Anyway, I moved. And my therapist wouldn’t move with me (le sigh), so I figured I would have to find a new one eventually. And since past therapy has helped me learn a lot about my own mind, eventually has become now.

Thus, the absurdity of finding a therapist. Because, if you’re not lucky to have recommendations (which can still be a "let's wing it" deal) then, really, your only other option seems to be where I am right now.

On Google.

Yep. I am looking for a person with whom I can entrust the deepest most uncomfortable parts of myself in the land of cat memes and Kim Kardashian’s ass. It's sort of counter-intuitive if not downright scary. But I put my blinders on and threw a couple operative words in the search bar like: not-sucky psychologist/therapist, in (my area of the world), The Thing (#1 – 4).

That’s really kind of it. And, by the power of Google, all these names pop up and, essentially, you’re looking for a god damned brain surgeon on the internets.

Which, if you're me, looks something like this:

Dr. Emelle Shauvhausen! That's a fun name! How do I even pronounce that? Em-EEL? Em-me-LEE?

Fitszy MacBaggins? Okay, either a hobbit or a stripper. Got it.

Dr. Skiddlywink Fartsypoops. I… I don’t even…

Some of them have little blurbs or websites, which definitely helps you get the sense of them a bit – what they might focus their work on, how they approach therapy, the types of therapy they use. But, if you’re like me, that can just make you even more obsess-y about it:

ok, Dr. Shauvhausen uses CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – that's like, all the rage these days, right? But Miss MacBaggins uses a psychodynamic approach. That sounds fun, but it doesn’t have an acronym. WHAT IF I NEED ACRONYM LEVEL HELP?!

Speaking of acronyms, they always have two or three after their names and I rarely know what they stand for. I mean, M.S. Yes, Masters of Science. But in what? My friend has a Masters of Science in Engineering, I'm not so sure how much that will help when I'm blubbering about my dog or something, you know? Psy.D, ok... I recognize that one. LMFTWTF... how is that different from an M.S. or a Psy.D? What if I'm at Ph.D. level neuroses? Damnit, why don't I speak the Rotakas language? They only have like, 12 letters in their entire alphabet!

Eventually, I'm not going to lie, you resort to pictures. I’m not proud of it, but honestly – what else is there to do? Miss MacBaggins has a kind smile but large, hairy hobbit feet – no judgment here, but good to know I guess. Dr. Fartsypoops has kind eyes but a fancy haircut. I am not a fancy hair cut kind of person. What if our approach to haircuts clash and things don’t work out?

In summary, finding a therapist is kind of ridiculous. I’ve been thinking there has to be a better way to do it, but I haven’t been able come up with anything. I imagine calling to chat to get the sense of who he/she is might be helpful assuming you aren't like me and avoid phonecalls at all costs. I also know some therapists have a ‘first session is free’ type deal since that’s usually you both getting comfortable with each other and seeing if it works out anyway. But, honestly, even if we came up with some other way of finding a therapist, it’s going to be scary no matter what, isn’t it? I mean, hell, I’m scared and I know ­– first hand – how much therapy can actually help.

So, short story long, I’ve had these three therapists on my phone for a week. I’ve looked through their pictures and read their blurbs over and over. And really, what it comes down to is I’m going to have to choose one and then I’m going to have to get in my car, drive to an office, meet a stranger, talk about The Things, and see if I even like the person. And that sucks, because therapy is hard enough as it is. It is hard and uncomfortable and exhausting. But so is fighting demons. And, frankly, I have too much awesome life to live to keep putting this off.

SO, I am sending an email to Dr. Fartsypoops (shockingly, not her real name) because she looks very kind and I like what her blurbs had to say.

And, also, because her office is in “a brick house”, which immediately led to singing/imagining a montage of me walking to therapy in a 70’s velour track suit belting The Commodores song.

Whatever is a deciding factor right?!

J.D. knows what's up!

Recovery and "The Moth"

One of the best sentiments and explanations of recovery I ever found came from a TV show. 

That might be silly, but it was so profound to me that, at the time, I was brought to tears. And to this day, I still think about it often. Sometimes dissecting the depth of it. Sometimes just letting it drape over me without any real thought.

So, on second thought, I guess there isn't anything silly about that. Because that's what art does.

Anyhoo, it was an episode of Lost which (I've found) to be sort of a polarizing TV show. So, if you're on the "eh" end of the spectrum, hang with me here because it's worth it. I promise. :) A few days after they crashed on the island Charlie, drug addict, begins going through withdrawl. Previously, he had given his remaining stash to John Locke, telling Lock to keep it from him.

CHARLIE: You hear what I said? I want my drugs back! I need them!

LOCKE: Yet you gave them to me. Hmmm.

CHARLIE: And bloody well regret it. I’m sick, man. Can’t you see that?

LOCKE: I think you’re a lot stronger than you know, Charlie. And I’m gonna prove it to you... I’ll let you ask me for your drugs three times. And the third time...? I’m going to give them to you. Now. Just so we’re clear.

CHARLIE: Why-- Why are you doing this? To torture me? Just throw them away -- Get rid of ‘em and be done with it!

LOCKE: If I did that, you wouldn’t have a choice, Charlie.

Choice is an entirely different part of recovery I think, but that's something I'll have to muse over and write about later.

In summary, though, Charlie's withdrawl eventually worsens, and he comes back asking Locke to give him his drugs for the second time...

CHARLIE: I want my stash, Locke. I can’t stand... feeling like this.

LOCKE: Let me show you something... (Points out a cocoon on a tree trunk) What do you suppose is in this cocoon, Charlie?

CHARLIE: I dunno. Butterfly, I guess.

LOCKE: No. It’s much more beautiful than that. This is a moth cocoon. Ironic. Butterflies get all the attention. But moths? They spin silk. They’re stronger. Faster...

CHARLIE: Yeah. Wonderful. What’s the --

LOCKE: See this tiny hole? This moth’s almost ready to emerge. It’s in there right now, struggling, digging its way through the thick hide of the cocoon. Now I could help it, take my knife, gently widen the opening... And the moth would be free. But it’d be too weak to survive...

The struggle is nature’s way of strengthening it.

 

Now, there's an entire other conversation to have about the interaction between Locke and Charlie, what each of them are doing, how healthy/unhealthy it is for recovery, etc. But this post isn't about that. This post is about that little cocoon with the moth inside, fighting to get out and be free once and for all.

And that is the image I carry with me on my recovery. Most especially in the beginning when there were many relapses and sliding backwards and hatredfrustrationanger that now when I had decided I wanted to get better I still "wasn't".

But the struggle is part of recovery. Not just a "well, that's just how it goes and the way things work" part. But, I feel, a truly miraculous and necessary part. And, with the help of this two minutes, I was able to see that my struggles were actually aiding me. The sliding backwards, the relapses -- they were still moving me forward in my recovery because they were strengthening me in ways I needed to be. In self-understanding, in patience, in forgiveness, in determination, in conviction.

When you're in the mix of it, though, it definitely doesn't feel that way. Because that's what the eating disorder wants you to think -- that those moments mean you are weak. But, in actuality, it means you, and your recovery, are becoming an even greater force of nature. If I backslid again, I could remind myself that I have before, but that I was also able to right my ship. I had the strength to do that. Me. Myself. I had the choice and I kept choosing recovery. And a recovery with relapses and struggles, I think, might be stronger than one that is "perfect".

It’s frustrating for me –- I can't seem to find the words explain how I feel about it. I really wish I could, though. Because, now, that part of recovery -- that horrible, tortuous, hope shattering, drowning-in-guilt, "I can't even do this right" part -- strikes me at as something inexpressibly and achingly beautiful.

Because we can look at those moments and know we have been forged by fire.


("The Moth" script borrowed from: http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/105_moth_network.pdf)