I was chatting with a friend earlier who is having a tough time with counseling. In my experiences there comes a point when the therapist starts getting a little tougher, the questions harder, and the shit starts getting REAL. My pal is at that point, and she has my complete and total sympathy. At the same time, I urge her to not run away (change therapists) or quit because it’s hard. Peace of mind can take a lot of blood, sweat, and billions of gallons are tears. At the end of it all, the price of peace is worth it.
But in the here and now, it’s really hard to watch someone I love suffer.
She is feeling sick to her stomach and crying. She is angry and has already considered looking for a new therapist. In our conversation tonight I had to be the one to say it likely gets worse before it gets better, and to change therapists now would just be postponing and prolonging the inevitable. My friend says she must be near rock bottom, that she is exhausted and feels defeated, and she only wants peace. I sympathize and I hurt with her, but I also know that I must be honest in my assessment and based on my own personal experiences that she is starting to sink yet nowhere near rock bottom. In my experience, rock bottom is being terrified of returning to the therapists office, knowing full well that the painful injuries buried so deeply are going to have their layers of bandages ripped off and something akin to rubbing alcohol poured directly onto to them for a long, slow, never ending burn. When she is so scared of going back and feeling all those things that are going to come out and up and hurt so hard and so bad, then I believe she is approaching her emotional bottom.
When I was first in therapy as an adult, getting to the root of my issues was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was a new mother, had this wonderful, amazing baby at home that was so innocent and happy to see me every single minute I was with her. And she frightened me so much I was driven to seek out a therapist to help me cope.
The first few months were like the honeymoon phase -getting to know me, learning about my days and life and relationships. Then the probing started and the surgical precision of slicing away at the walls and safeguards I had built around my secrets. When I finally verbalized it, I thought the worst was over, that I would soon, finally be free.
I was so wrong on so many levels. I laugh at my naive assumption of release and redemption by simply admitting with the magic words.
Eventually I would be mostly free. But between that start and the day I finally felt relieved and functional at a more normal level, I had been through a kind of hell that still brings nightmares if I have a particularly stressful day. Talking about my abuser and the things he had done to me was akin to having a root canal without benefit of anesthesia during the procedure or pain relievers afterward. To have to go back to that office week after week and relive it and feel it and process it … no one should ever have to suffer that way. It was like being raped repeatedly all over again, only this time is was a trap of my own self-protective making.
I think back on those years – because it took a couple of years for me to start exhuming the crap that was poisoning and crippling me – and I both cringe and feel enormous relief. It was the hardest work I have ever done, and I still feel like the weakest willed person on the planet for not coping better. I have to remind myself when I start that scorching negative thought process that this is not a competition, to see who can heal the best, the fastest, be labeled the most courageous in slaying her dragons.
My life now is better because of I did that work. I never judge if someone is not ready, if they must walk away from the tough stuff and put it back on the shelf for now. But I hope they pick it up again sometime, when they are feeling braver and more supported and ready to face their demons. I believe anyone who suffers from mental illness or has been affected by emotional trauma understands how impossible and how hopeless it feels at first and many times through the process of treatment and recovery. But you get up and get back on and try again until it feels right.
I know I cannot do this hard and painful work for anyone but myself, and the price of peace is high for many of us. We stumble, fall down, even wallow and whine. I was luck to always find the strength to get back up.
This is so not what I expected to be talking about tonight. Most of the day my head was composing the light and fluffy reporting on the food prep and associated shopping in our household. Then a short discussion with M in the car, a much longer discussion with my friend, and voila … here I am in a land so far removed.
The good news is there will likely be a lot more food prep posts coming. Hopefully without another kitchen accident and blood to share. With M and his adventures in cooking, there is rarely a dull moment around here.