I’ve only ever been to see one therapist. I couldn’t tell you if my experience is typical or unique, but I imagine that every therapist has their own style and flavor.
By accident I happened to chose a therapist who has experience treating trauma. I say “by accident” because I didn’t use any care in choosing my professional. I did a loose search in my area for people who had experience treating addiction / related family issues and started leaving voicemails and sending emails, working my way down the list. I had no idea what I needed to feel better or even a good understanding of why I felt shitty in the first place. I didn’t have the language to label any of my experiences as “trauma” and I certainly didn’t appreciate how that specialty could serve me in treatment.
When I finally decided to seek treatment I was so low that I literally signed up with the first person who returned my call. She was the first person who was available to see me. I was so desperate that I figured my situation couldn’t possibly be made worse, that any licensed therapist had to at least be able to talk me off the ledge.
It turned out to be a fortuitous accident.
Among the many effective tools in her arsenal, she works hard to help me develop awareness of my feelings. A question she commonly asks me when we are unpacking a scenario or feeling is, “what was the worst part?” Although I’ve never asked, I feel that this question is designed to develop my emotional intelligence and develop the language to articulate what I’m feeling and why.
The funny thing about such a seemingly simple and innocuous question is that, for me at least, it’s often incredibly hard to answer. Asking me, a person who has made it their unintentional life’s purpose to numb themselves, a pointed question about their feelings is tantamount to asking the average person about specifics of a quantum physics theory or the writings of a little known 18th century poet. Well, maybe not quite that impossible, but not as much of an exaggeration as I wish it was.
A few times in my recovery journey I’ve tried to pinpoint the worst part, or impact, of my experiences. The biggest challenge and hurdle to my happiness and self actualization. Today the answer is: I don’t know how to trust myself.
I constantly and consistently doubt my gut feelings. I wonder if my feelings are valid or something that I am creating for some subconscious ulterior motive. I don’t know if I’m nervous to do something because it’s legitimately dangerous, or because it’s habit — I’m used to doubting myself. I don’t know if I’m fabricating a fear as an easy escape, or there is a real thing to fight or flee.
The deep irony of this is that I’ve spent a lifetime taking care of myself. Not only that, I’ve often had to take care of others too. I’ve survived a lot. Alone. I’ve proven time and again that I am capable not only of lifting myself up by my bootstraps, but that i can do it with the added challenge of trying to save others too. Did i mention those people I’m trying to save have no desire for my help and are often kicking, screaming, and berating me while I try to drag them along with me?
I’m kind of a badass. Misguided sometimes, but a badass nonetheless.
Logically I know this to be true.
Emotionally. Not so much.
The horrible paradox of this whole thing is that this strong and capable independent woman is so scared to be alone with herself that she lets people convince her that she needs them.
I hope someday I accept that I’ve moved past the scared little girl who did what she had to do to survive and take my hard earned place confidently at the head of the pack.