I've been in therapy -- really been in it -- for about six months now. This is my fourth therapist and the only one I've actually stuck with. I don't know if it's the method of the therapy, the clicking of personalities, or the fact that I was finally ready to do something about all of the shit I didn't like in my life, but the past six months have been the best six months for me. I've learned so much and I'm learning and growing every single week.
For years I've loved this song by Dar Williams, "What Do You Hear in These Sounds," but I don't think I've really, really gotten it until now. Now when I hear these words I feel like I relate to them on a level that makes me believe that somehow, in some way, Williams had the foresight to write these words just for me, just to express how I'm feeling...
I don't go to therapy to find out if I'm a freak
I go and I find the one and only answer every week
And it's just me and the memories to follow
Down any course that fits within a 50-minute hour
And we fathom all the mysteries, explicit and inherent
When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent
And she's so kind, I think she wants to tell me something
But she knows that it's much better if I get it for myself
And she says...
What do you hear in these sounds?
What do you hear in these sounds?
I say I hear a doubt, with the voice of true believing
And the promises to stay and the footsteps that are leaving
And she says, "Oh," and I say, "What?"
She says, "Exactly." I say, "What? You think I'm angry?
Does this mean you think I'm angry?"
She says, "Look, you come here every week with jigsaw pieces of your past
It's all on little sound bytes and voices out of photographs
And that's all yours, that's the guide, that's the map.
So tell me, where does the arrow point to?"
What do you hear in these sounds?
What do you hear in these sounds?
When I talk about therapy, I know what people think
That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink
But, oh, how I loved everybody else
When I finally got to talk so much about myself
I wake up and I ask myself what state I'm in
I say, "Well, I'm lucky 'cause I'm like East Berlin"
I had this wall and what I knew of the free world
Was that I could see their fireworks and I could hear their radios
And I thought that if we met, I would only start confessing
And they'd know that I was scared; they'd know that I was guessing
But the wall came down and there they stood before me
With their stumbling and their mumbling and their calling out just like me
The stories that nobody hears...
I collect these sounds in my ears...
That's what I hear in these,
that's what I hear in these sounds...
If you aren't in therapy, or have never been in therapy, these lyrics may mean nothing to you. But for me the are extremely powerful. I think everyone could really benefit from (the right kind of) therapy. Here is a list of 10 reasons why I think I think everyone should take a seat on on the couch:
10 Reasons to Sit Down Now:
- You have time set aside just to talk about YOU.
I don't know about you, but I like to talk about me. I like to talk and talk and talk about all of the things that have happened and are happening. It's so refreshing to just get it all out and to tell it all to someone who isn't related to me as a friend or family member.
- You create a safe haven where you can be completely honest.
It's great. You go in and you are in this place where you can be completely you. You aren't being judged. You aren't trying to put on a brave or cool or interested face. You are you and you can be whoever that is all the time.
- You learn new things about yourself every week (very cool!).
Ever since I've started going to therapy (and I mean really going), I've learned something new about myself and the world every week. It's so exciting and great to learn new things in general, but to learn things about yourself that will impact the world and the way you live in it is really awesome.
- You find ways to better relate to the people around you.
I'm still working on this one, but I definitely think I've made some progress. The more honest and open I am in therapy, the more open and honest I become in life. I am learning why I act the way I do and how that impacts others. I am learning to change and adapt and react in a healthy way to others act.
- You figure out why you do the (sometimes stupid) things you do.
This is really important because I've done a lot of stupid and pain-causing things in my life and I've asked myself over and over again, "Why did I do that?!" Now I'm starting to figure it. It's all coming together and starting to make sense. I am getting some real answers that are helping me to take different, smarter actions.
- You explore the past, which leads to a better present.
I've always been a big fan of just pushing the past away and telling myself, "It's over and done with! Move on!" It's great to move on, but it's also pretty great to think about what happened in the past and how it affects me now. Whether it was something that happened when I was five or something that happened five days ago, looking back helps me to see the present more clearly.
- You open your mind to new ideas and ways of thinking.
Over the past six months, I've learned to see things differently. For example, my therapist really encourages me to think about my feelings (and not my thoughts, which are too very different things). When I experience an emotion, she asks me to identify it, acknowledge it, and think about how I am reacting physically and mentally to it. It's a really great way to use mindfulness every day and it's helped me to realize when I'm getting angry or upset.
- You accept and love yourself for who you are, flaws included.
Okay, I'm not totally there on this one yet, but I'm working on it. Now that I have a better understanding of my past and tools to make my current life happier, I'm becoming more accepting of myself. I'm learning about me and I'm finding out that I actually really like who I am and who I'm still becoming.
- You deal with the hard stuff you normally avoid like the plague.
Ouch. This one hurts. There are a lot of things -- and I mean, A LOT of things -- that I'd rather not talk about. If my friends or family members brought up these topics, I would brush them off or change the subject or (if I were in an especially bratty mood) get up and leave the room. Therapy's not like that. She knows when I don't want to deal with something and she doesn't let me just brush over it. She knows that there's a reason it bothers me and, instead of avoid the hard stuff, we dive right into it and try to get to the bottom of it.
- You wake up one morning and realize, "Finally, I'm really living."
Yes, this has happened to me. One morning, I don't quite remember when, I woke up, sober and bathed in the sunlight coming through my window. And as my dog raised her sleepy little head and blinked at me, I stretched and yawned and thought to myself, "Wow, I'm actually alive. I'm not miserable. I'm not cloaked in sorrow or hiding under the pain of a horrendous hangover. I'm me. I'm here. Right now." It sounds cheesy maybe, but it was really great. Really great.
And -- a bonus -- you suddenly become accountable for the things you do! Let's say I tell myself, "Okay, I'm going to get out this bad situation. I'm really going to do it." Then I wait...and I make excuses...and, even with my friends asking and my family members inquiring about why I don't just stop the pain, weeks and weeks go by with nothing changing. But when I'm in therapy things are different. I make plans. I set goals. I have to go in that office every week, sit on that couch, and either (1) admit that I haven't removed myself from the bad situation or (2) lie. (Word of advice: lying to your therapist is not a good idea. I did it for years and I've finally realized that it's a waste of time and money, and, most importantly, it is a big indicator that whatever you are doing is not healthy for you.) Therapy makes me do things. It makes me act. For years I said to myself, "I should quit drinking. Everything that is bad in my life is tied directly with alcohol-use (either mine or someone else's). I'm going to stop." Did I stop? Nope. Why? Because I wasn't being held accountable. No one was asking me weekly if I had a drink and, in fact, I was receiving the opposite feedback from the people in my life who wanted me to keep drinking. Bottom line: therapy makes you do (good) things you wouldn't normally be able to do.
Even if you're against therapy or think you don't need it (c'mon, be honest with yourself...), try to have an open mind and at least give it a try. Or many tries. It took me a long time -- ten years! -- to finally find a therapist and a place in my life for therapy. Now it is one of the best experiences I have every single week even when, like last week, I was faced with some things I didn't necessarily want to deal with.
I'll be honest -- therapy isn't always easy. I've had to talk about things I didn't want to talk about. I've had to give up things (and people) I didn't want to let go of. I've had to adjust my life big time to make it a healthier, happier place for me. But you know what? I feel great. It feels great to have a place to go where I can be honest, where I can sit down and know that I'm going to have a session filled with new insights and inspirations for myself. It's so fulfilling to see the progress I'm making, week after week. Knowing I wouldn't be where I am now if I hadn't taken the step I really didn't want to take -- going to therapy -- made me want to write this post. Honestly I believe everyone can benefit from the right kind of therapy. Every adult I know (and probably every adult in the world) has issues and demons of some kind, and if they can find the right therapist (trust me, this is the hard part), I really think they have the opportunity to live a much more fulfilling and satisfied life.
Okay, now that you've read my little rant about how great therapy is, let's get down to the practical stuff. I have a lot of friends who, when they hear these rants on an almost weekly basis, say to me, "I'd love to go to therapy, but I just can't afford it." Yes, yes you can. Here are some 5 tips for saving up so you can save your sanity:
5 Ways to Save Your Money (and Your Mind):
- Quit your addictions. Cigarettes, booze, drugs -- they're expensive and, trust me, your therapist will make you quit anyway.
- Stop shopping. Do you need a new pair of jeans or do you want to live the rest of your life in an unhealthy relationship? Yeah, that's what I thought. Put the credit card down.
- Don't eat out. Cut back on a few restaurant meals a week and you could have a enough for a weekly session.
- Create a budget. Do you really think there are many things in your life that are more important than your happiness? Think about what you really need and ask yourself if you rather have it than be mentally healthy and happy.
- Find out if you can get help. Maybe your health insurance will pay for it. Maybe you have a loving family member or spouse who wants to help you out. Look for ways to sponsor your sanity.
Trust me. You can afford it. I don't make a lot of money and I have a pretty serious shopping problem (yes, I'm working on this). I also live in an area where rent is absurdly expensive. I have a social life that involves meals and movies and spending money I shouldn't. If I can afford it, anyone can afford it. And, to be honest, I wouldn't want to spend my money anywhere else. Sometimes I'm holding that check, about to hand it over, and I think, "Ugh, that's so much money," but then I instantly remember how much I've gotten out of every single session and I know it is totally worth every single penny.
Another excuse that reaches my ears when I mention how wonderful therapy is seems to be, "That sounds great, but I just don't have the time." Yes, yes you do. While I don't have children (I know this is a big time suck), I do have a job and friends and family. I have a social life to maintain. I am a volunteer. I write articles for a local lifestyle website. I write on this blog almost every day. I am busy. But I make time. You can to. No matter how busy you are, there is a hour of your week that you can dedicate to you. If you do, every other hour will start be better and more productive. One "lost" hour will not kill you. In fact, it will make you a lot more alive. Here are some time-saving tips:
5 Ways to Find Time to Find Yourself:
- Ask your friends or family for one hour off. You might be surprised at how willing they will be to give you time to yourself. Ask your friend or spouse to watch your kids for a bit. Don't be afraid to cancel a dinner date with a friend if means getting a chance to spend time on you.
- Leave early or take a long lunch. If you can't tell your boss what for, you can probably be vague about it. If you're as lucky as I am to have the best boss ever, s/he will probably be flexible.
- Stop doing things. Okay, don't stop doing just anything. Stop doing the things that are unhealthy for you. Do you spend hours and hours eating out every week? Do you go to the mall too often? Stop it. Stop whatever you don't need to be doing and use that time for your mental health.
- Get offline. How much time do you spend on the internet? Too much? I bet you could spend that time somewhere else...yeah, you know where...Go on. Sign off. Shut down. You can do it!
- Organize yourself. It's so easy to say you "don't have time," but, really we all have a lot more time than we realize. Think about how you spend your day. How could you spend your time better? What can you stop wasting time on?
Remember, no matter who or what or where you are in your life, this life is about YOU. When it comes down to it, you are all you have, and you should spend time getting to know yourself, figuring out what you want in life, and learning how to live the happiest life you possibly can. So go on...go visit Psychology Today's website and find a therapist near you!