Dependence On Therapy

Since we’ve started working together, my therapist has mentioned quite a few times, that she doesn’t want me to become dependent on therapy. Whenever she’d say that, I’d feel uncomfortable and get defensive. Even though she would tell me that she didn’t say I was dependent on it, I still took it as an attack. And I think I have figured out why it bothers me so much. Deciding to see a psychologist (or any mental health professional) is terrifying. I was terrified when I first reached out to my therapist. Deep down inside, on an unconscious level, I felt ashamed.

Even up to today, that shame is still there. It’s died down a lot, but a few fragments of it still exist. The man who calls himself my dad contributed to that most of all. He’s told me so many times how some people need therapy, while others have strong minds, so they can deal on their own. How do I take it? I take it as him telling me, and thinking, that I’m weak because I’m getting help, when I should just suck it up and get on with life the way he does. So here my therapist is telling me that she doesn’t want me to become dependent on therapy, and in my mind it sounds like an affirmation that therapy is “bad, so you shouldn’t get used to it”. I know that’s not what’s being said, but that’s the way my overly sensitive, reactive mind takes it.

I see now why regular therapy sessions are so important. It’s not about being dependent on it. How do you become dependent on the process of therapy? It’s damn hard sometimes, and even if I’m okay during a session, it hits me afterward and sometimes I just want to crawl under the covers and shut the world away for the rest of the day. There were many times that I didn’t want to have a session. Where I wanted to cancel. But I knew that those were probably the times when I should have one. So I didn’t cancel, no matter how much I wanted to.

I read a lot of your blogs, and from what I’ve read, the majority of you have weekly sessions, some of you twice weekly, and you’ve also expressed a hesitation and even downright resistance to attending a session from time to time. So I know I’m not alone in this.

As my therapist mentioned during our short phone call on Monday (which was strangely helpful, which I didn’t expect it to be- mostly because I didn’t know what to expect in the first place), I need structure. I thrive on it. I feel unstable, and everything feels chaotic without it. My nervous system feels under threat. When things are structured, I feel calmer.

When I had 3 therapy sessions a month, I felt more secure. It felt more structured than it does now. Now it’s just all over the place.

Sometimes we open up a topic, but there’s not enough time in a single session to really delve into it. Then having to wait two or three weeks, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I don’t want to talk about something painful, difficult and shameful, and have two or three weeks go by before we can pick up on where we were. It feels like something is lost, and it gets disrupted. I know that the nature of therapy is that just because it seems something has been worked through, it might come up in future sessions again. Sometimes we think the work may be complete, only to discover that it actually isn’t.

Even when I write down things to discuss in the next session, it’s not quite the same. Those emotions that I felt, that were so extreme, die down, and it feels pointless to talk about it. If I do talk about it in our next session, those emotions are a distant memory, and I talk about the situation, or whatever it was, without really connecting with my inner world.

I think it’s important to have that safe, consistent space every week. I don’t show up just to see my therapist. I show up because I want to do the work. If you’ve got a physical illness that requires you to see your doctor every week for a checkup, does that mean you’re dependent and happy to go for those checkups every week? No. You do it because you know it’s important.

In keeping an open mind, if a person can become dependent on therapy, is that necessarily a bad thing? We’re dependent on work for an income. Which enables us to live, to pay rent, have food to eat, etc. So why would it be any different with therapy? The purpose of therapy is to help you heal and to craft the life you want to live. To help us grow, giving us valuable tools in order to function optimally in life. We’re still doing the work during and between sessions. But knowing that the next session is only a few days away helps, as you can more easily bring up any observations, experiences, etc in the next session, as it will still be fresh in your mind. Which, brings that sense of continuity.

Of course, right now I can’t afford to have regular therapy sessions. But when I’m able to, I’m definitely going to invest in it. The point of this post is just to share my view on how I don’t believe that one can truly get “dependent” on therapy, and why I think regular sessions are so important. I’m grateful for my therapist, who really tries to bridge that gap between sessions, and keep the therapeutic relationship safe and secure, which has been so helpful.

A while ago, I heard someone say that attending therapy is a form of self-care. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on this. I like hearing different opinions and view points, so please let me know what you think about this topic.

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A Hostile Takeover

I’m an introvert.

When I spend too much time with a person or people, I start getting frustrated. Even with my friends. I need time alone. I don’t want to spend every weekend with people. Sometimes I just want to spend time with myself. Being lazy, watching TV, reading, studying up on things that I find interesting (such as psychology). There are many times where I crave closeness though. And it comes at the worst possible times. When everyone else is so busy with their lives that they don’t have time to spend with me. I tend to fall into a depression then, and feel unimportant and rejected. I’ve never actually had anyone hold space for me while I was going through a difficult time. When I really needed someone, just anyone, I was alone. Which is probably one of the reasons I’m so attached to my therapist. She’s helped me through a lot of dark moments. When I had no one, she was there. She was (and is) my person. I hold onto the hope that one day I’ll find that person who will walk with me through it all, and let me do the same for them. Through both the good and the bad.

Right now I’ve withdrawn into my shell.

I had to photograph a wedding on Friday. I’m a photographer but I don’t do weddings. But I made an exception in this case, as it was a small wedding and I know the bride. I was terrified. One of the reasons I don’t do weddings is because it’s the one event that you just can’t mess up on. You don’t get a second chance. And I just don’t have the confidence that I feel every other photographer has. I wanted to cancel every day for a week, wondering what the hell had come over me in accepting the job. But when I make a commitment, I stick to it, even if it hurts. Besides, it was a job, and I desperately needed it.

It was so stressful. And now I’m working on the photo’s, before putting together the package that they selected. I’m going to be working on it for the rest of this week. At least I enjoy it. All that anxiety had built up over the week, and now that it’s over, I’m exhausted and just want to be alone.

The photo’s came out better than I expected, but less perfect than I wanted. People keep telling me my photography is really good. But no matter how many times I’ve heard that, it just doesn’t stick. Unfortunately our brains have a negativity bias. The bad sticks, while the good seeps away quickly. It’s automatic, as the brain has a high sensitivity to negative stimuli. Fortunately, it can be changed (with a lot of hard work). You can read more here.

When I’m doing a photo shoot, I pretend to be confident, calm and collected. One of the reviews I received said “she was professional, calm and comfortable”. If only this client knew how I was trembling inside, feeling like a fraud. Don’t get me wrong. I love taking photos. It’s the interacting with people that I struggle with. And the fear of messing up.

In other news, my stepmom’s parents are here for the next two weeks (and they might even stay for 3 weeks), and I’ve been exiled from my room. I’m now staying in my step brother’s room (he’s sharing with his sister- obviously in separate beds). There are now 8 people in the house. It’s crowded, and noisy. I want peace and quiet when I wake up in the morning. To be able to sit outside and not hear twenty voices. I’m not a morning person. I have my own bathroom in my room. Now I need to share one with the kids and my uncle. I can’t shower when I want to, I need to schedule it around when they want to shower, and then I’m stuck with lukewarm or cold water. Even the kids get preference over me, which is frustrating.

I think of it this as a hostile takeover, hence the title. See how I blow things way out of proportion? It’s a talent of mine.

In our last session, my therapist used a REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) “technique”. It goes something like this:
My beliefs: I should have my room to myself. I should have all my stuff around me. I mustn’t let this upset me so much. I must get over it. She’s helping me eliminate the words “should”, “have to” “must”, etc. So I’ve been trying to re-frame those thoughts. Instead of “I should have all my stuff around me and have my space to myself” I’ve been saying: “I would prefer to have my room and space to myself, but they’re not going to be here forever. I’ll get my room back when they leave. Yes, it’s an inconvenience, and yes, I’m annoyed about it, and I get to feel that way”. It’s the anger that I’m trying to replace with less destructive, intense emotions. So I’m practicing this (my homework).

Wish me luck for these next few weeks!

Being My Own Friend

During my therapy session yesterday, I was highly annoyed with myself. I told my therapist that I feel I should be better by now. That I should just get over everything and move on. She told me that I’m very harsh on myself, and set very high expectations. That’s very true. I’m my own worst enemy. My harshest critic.

Then I got to thinking. I’ve read articles before on treating yourself as you would treat a friend. Back then it didn’t make much of an impact on me. But now I get it.

If a friend tells me that she’s a terrible person because of something she’s done, what would I tell her? I’ll tell her something along these lines:

“I can understand that you feel like a terrible person. But you’re human. We all make mistakes. The good thing is that we can fix these things. And those things we can’t mend, we learn from them. Simply by you admitting to what you did and how terrible you feel about it, you’re actually showing me the opposite. If you were truly terrible, you wouldn’t have been feeling this bad about it. That tells me that you have a good heart.”

Now what does it sound like when it’s me that’s done something I’m not proud of? It goes like this:

“You stupid idiot. Once again you fucked up like you always do. You’re the worst person in the world. Can’t you ever do anything right? You deserve to feel terrible about yourself. You shouldn’t even be allowed to live.” Yes, that’s really how I talk to myself. Black and White thinking in full swing. I would never talk to a friend like that, so why shouldn’t I show myself the same courtesy?

I learned a valuable skill from my therapist yesterday, which works great in the context of this post as well. I was going through one of my insecure phases and wondering whether I really can trust her completely. “I don’t want to be here today”. “What if you don’t really want to work with me and you’re only staying because it would be unethical for you to drop me?” Those kinds of things. After 6 months with her, I had hoped those insecurities would be non-existent, but that’s not the case. Just when I feel closer to her than ever before, and am enjoying that wonderful connection, it’s not long until I find myself pulling away and falling into the insecure, negative place again.

Yesterday, instead of reassuring me the way she sometimes does, she made me work this time. I suppose there has to be a balance. She can’t just always reassure me without showing me how to change my own thought patterns and reach conclusions for myself. That being said, she still managed to sneak in reassurances, and didn’t leave me completely alone trying to work through this.

She asked me these kinds of questions for each of the negative thoughts I was having (she encouraged me to look at the facts):

What is the evidence that she’s trustworthy?
What evidence is there that she’s not trustworthy?

What evidence is there that she doesn’t like working with me?
What evidence is there that she does like  working with me?

This ‘little’ exercise took a while. She really makes me work hard, and sometimes it feels like my brain just wants to explode. Not to mention my rage at having to spend so much time on something that seems so trivial at the time. Afterward though, I see just how valuable it really is, and I’m grateful for it. I have so many cognitive distortions, and negative patterns and habits that I’ve developed over the years, so of course it’s going to be hard to train my mind to think differently. I need to be kinder to myself. I need to be my own friend.

I can use this skill to be a better friend to myself. When I start feeling like a failure, a waste of space, or whatever my mind comes up with, I can practice this technique.

“I’m a failure.”

What evidence is there to suggest that I’m a failure?
What’s the evidence that I’m not a failure.

This stuff can be used for anything. Thank you psychology. Thank you therapist.

I’m going to practice being kinder and more gentle with myself, and talk to myself the same way I would to my friends, and other people in my life. If I find myself being harsh, I will re-frame it and ask myself what would I tell someone else if they feeling the same way.

We deserve to be our own best friend.

Friends and Good Therapy

Today is a good day.

Had a therapy session yesterday, and the wonder that is my therapist, managed to help me shake off the depressive and weird head space I’ve been in lately.

This past week, I’ve been avoiding thinking about all I left behind. Occasionally something would remind me, especially while unpacking and packing. I would have a few minutes of agonizing sadness, without the ability to shed a tear, but would recover relatively quickly. After all, I’ve done this before. I should be used to it by now. Right? But no, each situation is different, and this one I had to do completely on my own. This time I had no one to ‘take care of’ but myself. And this time, it was far more intimate and personal.

I had really needed that session. I felt it had given me a sense of hope again. That things might be hard now, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. I can do things to ensure it doesn’t stay that way. I just need to get some structure into my days and life.

Woke up this morning feeling quite positive and lighter than I have in a long time. Met up for coffee with an old friend who I haven’t seen in what feels like forever. You know who you are. 😉 I had forgotten just how good I feel around her. She’s definitely one of those people you need in your life. Someone who builds you up, is fun to be around, really listens, understands, and accepts you just as you are. In short, a truly spectacular person.

One thing I’ve realized in life is that it’s not the quantity of time we spend with people that matters, but rather the quality of that time. That hour yesterday, and the couple of hours today, meant more to me than words can express.

Now that’s the magic of friends and good therapy.