When I worked with a very nice group of doctors and was advised by one of them during the wee hours of a a night shift where we chatted about our interest in art and the topic came up that I might benefit from talk therapy. Not the heavy psychiatrist variety with meds and beds. Not the endless list of support groups available but engaging with someone for a time and really learning about my issues over several years, no one else involved just me. Sometimes there is couples or family therapy yet that is different than going to individual therapy. To me individual therapy is really a private journey.
Also note that I don't mean to belittle serious psychiatric care and medications by blythely dismissing it as meds and beds. I just wrote that to differentiate between the two. To not lump talk therapy together automatically as other more serious mental health help. Although now I look back and wonder what I was so afraid of. Also sometimes medicines are necessary or admissions for a variety of situations. I just didn't want to scare anyone right off the bat. The benefits of a hospital admission are many including: a sense of being taken care of, an authority agreeing that there is a problem, just a period of recovery and education and to get back on track and get organized for other services. All very healthy reasons.
This doctor was very sweet who encouraged me to go. He told me that his first degree had been in photography and he had traveled around Europe and had saved so much money in advance that he over estimated his money needs and returned with 1500 dollars extra. Geek-city! Another evidence of his un-cool status was he wore grey Rockports with black socks. I guess it would be going to far to say that I wish I had one of those linty black ole socks to build a shrine with them? Ode to the linty sock.
I would soon appreciate him and his soft guidance and often fantasized about the thank you letter I would hypothetically have liked to have written him. A nice person. Who sincerely gave me some good advise. He suggested two or three years to go over my issues so that I could just enjoy life more. Basically reducing my contant emotional pain. I went and it did.
My own experience up to then was a one time appointment arranged to see a friend of my mothers who I was totally mortified, creeped out as I am certain he was under her direction, although I was a teen so what does anyone expect. Also a second appointment of a person who prescribed me meds with me not saying one word at 19 years old. It was all a little frightening for me. I think I wanted to be more happy and successful somehow and I didn't know what I wanted or how to go about it.
I remember Dr. C. over several conversations explaining patiently to me that I would be a great candidate for talk therapy. I was working had few social stressors and had a both a bachelors in Fine Arts and a technical degree to earn a living. He encouraged me to go talk to someone stressing that "we don't know why it works we just know it does". This comment I would play around with in my head. I had such two such strange experiences with that one time experience in therapy as a teen and than this even stranger showing up without saying a word and having seemingly been diagnosed and given a script that I never took and worse subtly threatened but I won't go into that.
So my first experiences and general attitude of fear and loathing for therapy were long established even before these uncaring experiences by a working class background were therapy was frowned upon. In my understanding only people who were the worst way went to therapy. So I had been trained along the line that professional help of any sorts was a failure and worse a symptom that you would be a nut. So working around these really sweet kind doctors was a revelation. They were nice and many went to therapy, came from good families and just worked on their stuff.
These were handsome rich kids with straight nice teeth came from homes were their parents were supportive and might have even had professsional degrees who worked and helped them pay their college and the visited each other and they still had issues? Could this be real seemingly successful and highly fuctional people still having issues and going to therapy, to me incredible and a wonderful lesson.
I felt that these seeing these nice doctors in their lives who jogged and dressed so nicely might be right in suggesting that a professional person for talk therapy could be helpful on how to handle things. Professional guidance when issues came up to give me more information. These doctors in my work place were very well thought of and seemed to take this kind of talk therapy in stride as just a useful professional experience to help them sort things out. This all in passing gab fests around work I learned this. I guess what it boils down to is that we all stuggle with life and what to do and our issues. Relationships are complicated, we have pasts, also everyone grapples with social problems like grief, unfairness, replaying out childhood in our adulthood and the next generation being heavily impacted by this etc..
First I asked the work related therapist if I could talk to them which as an employee would be for free. The therapist assigned me had a congential hip defect and I immediatley wanted to take care of her as was my habbit and I couldn't be honest and also I was concerned for my job. Although I went and what happened was she was gentle with me and so my first memories are just pure kindness. I can't remember what I said just that something non-threatening had happened. I couldn't tell her anything honest yet at least it was a peaceful experience.
The next attempt after those three sessions through my work was someone I found that was on my insurance list and yet still I was uncomfortable with going to therapy and I quit after two maybe three sessions. Then about a year later I started calling around for sliding scale places and would talk to these people that sometimes turned me off being too intense. Strange conversations and always not really ready.
I had a list of why I couldn't go to therapy. I worked. I was good with money. I was busy. I had interesting hobbies and supportive friends. I was married and owned a house. Therapy was expensive. It meant I didn't have my act together. I would be looked down on. I was miserable oops that problem.
Finally I agreed to see this one lady I found in the phone book sliding scale who was a nurse who had become a therapist and I really liked her and in fact avoided seeing her by recommending her to another friend so I wouldn't have to see her again. Craftily this friend told me that this therapist had a group partner and I ended up seeing her partner. So after several attempts and many benign or failed attempts I engaged. I became a patient! Paying for myself on a sliding scale. It was about 35 dollars a session.
Oh gawd, she was Austrailian and a bit older and not soft and fuzzy like her partner although I liked her as she was neat and well dressed and into art and I could easily see she was like me somehow. I went to her once a week without fail for three years 1996-1999. She and I would talk and she would reflect back and it was an interesting experience to learn about a person without having to hear their story. Also the beginning of a lifelong lesson of holding my pain and able to carry it and not act it out immediately. It is a great gift to hold our pain as it makes us deeply human and compassionate. In fact happy people scare me to this day; in a big way.
It taught me a lot about learning about someone by their actions and not their hype, their past or their story. It was about how she responded. Also it is great that she was not my friend, it really was not about our friendship it was about her trying to help me get into reality and deal with situations without just going into reaction and denial. I guess some families are good at this mine wasn't. I think I can see some of the elements of guiding and reflecting in tutoring and speech therapy strangely also sports trainer. (although doing leg lifts is not dealing with how we are re-enacting our caretaking role in adulthood).
Nothing can replace the time invested and interacton of a trained therapist by talking one to one in a special time for that it's not like meeting for coffee. It's not an untrained friend or a group where it is highly socially pressured to actually hide these things. Therapy is just a one to one professional interaction and it is healing for whatever reason. It was a wonderful lesson in learning to live in my pain just a little bit at a time. I think this could also be called grieving.
I would almost say those were the happiest and tearfulest years of my life? It also made me interested in seeing therapists if I had any serious life issues that came up in the future. I have heard that there are therapists that specialize in family reconcilliation. I don't know if it was the talk therapy or that I was ready but I got the thinnest I ever was in my entire life, I racewalked four times a week, I investigated graduate school and made a lot of changes in my life for the better during that time. I have seen a therapist here and there one or two times if I am really confused at what to do next. To be honest it is really expensive and painful I was really motivated at the time. Therapy is not particularily fun yet very beneficial.
I really did get to know my major issues. Yes I still react to them and probally will continue to react to them for the rest of my life. What is different is that due to my experience in talk therapy I am able to make better choices and not always bolting from one painful feeling to another trying to avoid them as a reflex. It brings to mind this Smashing Pumpkin song, despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage. After therapy less rage and less cage same rat. I am not as interested in the fripparies of life although who doesn't want to earn a good living. Just not everything is a show. I don't feel like a circus performer anymore. Living a fake life performing for some invisible crowd in the shadows (as much). I still have a creative tendency and find a lot of enjoyment in artistic activities, I still like to racewalk and also swim.
What I realize is that I am really grateful that I had that experience with talk therapy. It was invaluable. It still is as I learn new things from that experience all the time. Therapy is a double edged sword as it is painful as well as helped me into reality. I definately would not have done it unless I was really in enough distress to go. It is not fun and nobody would go unless they needed the extra help. Although I love that Dr. C. told me that there is a certain mystery in it of "we don't know why it works we just know it does". Therapy is also called psychotherapy and psychoanalysis and sometimes people take medication. What I found so cool is that god spoke to me through a man wearing linty black socks and Grey extra comfort Rockports.