I believe in therapy, although my beliefs have changed since starting therapy. I believe therapy has power, wonderful, enlightening, color-of-sky-changing power.
I always thought I knew who I was. Outspoken and loud and different than my twin brother and other siblings. I stood out, even among my friends, in physical appearance and in musical tastes and other interests. I thought this meant I knew myself.
In junior high, we had health science class. I was enthralled with our assignment; tell your friends and family how you feel in relation to their actions. Complete the sentence: I feel blank when you blank. I tried this activity with my mother. I was so proud of the exercise, certain it would stop our screaming fights. I filled in the blank, but she would not respond. She was not in the mood.
My mother’s father was an alcoholic. As a result, she doesn’t drink. My therapist has explained to me that alcoholism can affect other generations. How my mom learned to deal with her father is probably how she deals with me. It helps me to think that some of the problems between my mother and me might stem from the difficulties she faced. I think she continues to protect herself.
I never drank until my junior year of college. Drinking is fun, but it became a hobby that kept me from developing interests outside of alcohol. It stunted my growth. Since ending my relationship with alcohol, my interests, what I really like to do and see and listen to and play and watch and talk about and experience, have developed. I’ve figured out more about me since I stopped spending time at the bar drinking (which has been difficult to do because I work for three bars).
I was once known as the queen of the silent treatment, in fact, one close friend told me I introduced her to a whole new regime. The silent treatment allowed me to push all my feelings way down deep. But now I’m learning to look at each feeling, to turn it over in the sunlight, to study it and rub my fingers over the grooves. Each time I look at my feelings I’m learning more about me. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be mad, disappointed, jealous, competitive, rejected. I try to revel in the sour tastes. And the feelings dissipate. When I face them, it doesn’t hurt anymore.
Knowing yourself means loving yourself even if you feel something you were taught was wrong. That has been big for me, getting over the guilt. Learning to love myself, even if I’m not perfect. Therapy has taught me to believe in myself, even the so-called bad parts.
I believe going to therapy is a sign of strength, not weakness. I’m still learning about me and about who I want to be, but I believe therapy has been the key.
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