Once upon a time far FAR far Far away there was a land and its name started with the letter “t” and ended with herapy. Just outside the land of herapy there was a girl named Raylynn and she decided that before she could move out of her cardboard box called f-ed up and miserable into a glorious beachside mansion of peace and happiness she needed to go see the queen of herapy whose name was Jenn. And then their journey began. Raylynn, her big pink journal with colored pens tucked inside, and Jenn with her blank pieces of white paper, blue ink pen and a clipboard.
When I made the decision to go to visit Jenn, I was a MESS. M to the E to the S to the SSSSS. To protect all parties concerned and to keep the muck tucked away in history (right where it belongs), I’m not going to detail the WHY I went because it actually became a secondary reason by the time I was done.
There is a four-letter word out there that is very misunderstood and misused. It is the word COPE. I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t cope with my family, I couldn’t cope with being a grown-up, I couldn’t cope with a boy and I couldn’t cope with my emotions being all over the place and in time bomb status all the damn time. And it was pretty well-known to my inner self that there was some bottled up toxic sludge that needed to be addressed. Talk about super awesome when you walk into a complete stranger’s office and look them straight in the eye and say, “um ya, I’m jacked up. Can you help me?” And then she looks at you and says, “I can help you, but it’s going to take a LOT of work on your part too.”
There is another misconception about “therapy” that if you GO, you will be FIXED by GOING. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. It takes work from both parties and the most work is going to come from the person looking at you in the mirror; yourself. And that work will continue into the rest of your life after therapy. Yes, you need to communicate with the sources of struggle, but it may be that you can’t and all you can fix is yourself.
I am going to highlight the Top 5 things I learned while in therapy that I think everyone can do and benefit from.
1. Journal, Journal, Journal. On visit 2 I was equipped and armed with a very fat journal and colored pens so that I could write it out. And she told me to write my story. Write out every character and their role and their demise and how they were affecting me and what I needed to do to deal with them better. She said, write it like a story, because it is a story…it is your story. A bit of a dicey, swearword-laden bitter diatribe was more like it, but nonetheless, it was my story. AND, the genius thing about journaling is once something is written on paper it is transferred from the emotional side of the brain to the analytical side. A purge in every sense of the word.
2. Exercise. There is ABSOLUTELY no way I would have made it through therapy without my gym membership. I would wake up every morning very angry about the reality of peeling back my rotten onion and I wasn’t sleeping that great anyway. So, I would roll out of bed and head to the gym for at least 30 minutes. That’s all I could give. And I did. Every.single.day.
3. Find your reporting angel. Therapy is desperately difficult because you’re bearing your soul to a stranger but you’re still trying to process and heal. So, find that person you can confide in and that will not judge you as you go through this angry healing ordeal. My angel is named Melanie. God bless that amazing friend of mine. I adore her because she listened and didn’t ever judge me on how screwed up I was and the choices I was making with some situations in my life because my coping skills were basically shot. She and I still talk almost daily and I know that I always have her to remind me that I have made HUGE strides since those horrible days and that I can make it through anything because I have those skills to cope.
4. Have a reward ritual after the therapy session. Can we all say cheese fries and Sonic Diet Cherry Limeade? Nom nom nom!!! That was my reward ritual. I would go to therapy after work so it would be late when I was done and I would usually cry on my drive home and I knew that once I had those cheese fries and a Sonic Diet Cherry Limeade that I was going home and going to bed. And it was code for my friends that if it was a “non-therapy day” and I was in trouble I could text them and say, “it’s been a cheese fries day” and they were on my doorstep and we were headed to the Training Table for cheese fries and a vent session.
5. Let yourself be mad for 24 hours. I usually would have a detox day after therapy and it generally wasn’t a very good day. If you ask a cancer patient they will most likely tell you that the days after chemo treatment SUCK. You’re sick and tired and have the looming reality of it not working and on and on and on. Therapy really is mental chemotherapy and those days after are tough. But, they are not impossible. And after 24 hours it’s time to get to work and focus on the next weeks tasks that your therapist has set.
I will remind you, if you’ve made it this far in the post, that if your opinion about therapy is if you GO, you will be FIXED by GOING then you are WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. It takes work from both parties and the most work is going to come from the person looking at you in the mirror; yourself. I am not cured. I am not a genius at coping. 2013 presented some huge setbacks for me and I had to really work through them, but that is the POINT. I had the tools to do it and I did. And 2014 has been a flying cluster year of curve balls too.
The moral of the story: Life is not easy. And if you feel like you live in a cardboard box just outside the land of herapy, then find your Jenn. Because living in a mansion of peace and happiness (by the imaginary beach with a yummy drink with an umbrella in it) is far better. And so rewarding.
Until next time, my lovelies.