They say therapists have the most problems themselves, and as I get closer and closer to my degree, I’m starting to see what they’re talking about. Ironic as it is, although being a mental health therapist is my big end goal, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of sitting on the other side of the couch myself. However I am doing my best to give in to the process because I know that I need to be able to understand the courage it takes for clients to seek help in the first place. I want to be able to relate to the experience, and connect on that level with each person that comes to see me. Respect their vulnerability. With that being said I have tried therapy myself a couple times in the past, all without much success.
The first therapist that I ever saw was a man. Let’s just say that as a growing young lady, he did not make me feel too comfortable. Opening up to a complete stranger is already not the easiest thing to do, but when you’re 16 and your therapist is a man that seems a lot more interested in all aspects of your high school relationship with your boyfriend than he is your actual well-being, you can get pretty discouraged. I only went to him that one time.
My second shot at therapy was with a woman who I really liked quite a bit. Everything initially went well with her, I felt that I was being listened to and given great advice. Unfortunately she was in some sort of accident, and I don’t remember whether it was motor vehicle or what, but she ended up on some pretty strong pain medication. With that being said, after she was back in the office everything was a steady decline from there on out. I even remember her starting to doze off mid-session, her voice trailing off and then….nothing.
As you can guess that relationship was forced to an abrupt end shortly after I came to the conclusion that someone addicted to pain medication so badly that they were losing and regaining consciousness throughout our time, probably wasn’t who I needed to be seeking coping mechanism guidance from. Even though I was discouraged yet again, she gave me something during one of my sessions I don’t think I could ever thank her enough for. From the Anxiety and Phobia textbook she printed me my own copy of a “Personal Bill of Rights” that I, to this day, have taped up in my bathroom and look at on a daily basis. I hope this list can mean as much for you as it has for me and reminds you of some really important things.
1.I have the right to ask for what I want.
2.I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.
3.I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
4.I have the right to change my mind.
5.I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
6.I have the right to follow my own standards and standards.
7.I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
8.I have the right to determine my own priorities.
9.I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems.
10.I have the right to expect honesty from others.
11.I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
12.I have the right to be uniquely myself.
13.I have the right to feel scared and say “I’m scared.”
14.I have the right to say “I don’t know.”
15.I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.
16.I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
17.I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
18.I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
19.I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
20.I have the right to be in a non abusive environment.
21.I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
22.I have the right to change and grow.
23.I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
24.I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
25.I have the right to be happy.
And now…I am back in therapy for another try. Again just trying to swallow my apprehensions and trusting the process. This time around feels different. I requested a female (yes, requested) and so far everything has run smoothly. She explained at the beginning of the session that it was just a “Get to Know Me” meeting and that after she asked me all of my questions and took notes, the case would go to a board of about 10 therapists who would then review and decide who I would be assigned to. By the end however, she asked if it would be okay with me if she requested to stay as my counselor. I don’t know how else to think of this other than as a positive thing, it felt like a good sign that she wanted to continue working with me. It’s always a good feeling to know you’re wanted, even if it’s just by your therapist (ha-ha).
And so I continue on my therapy journey, hoping to reap all of the benefits I know that it can have. I’ll keep you posted if I learn anything interesting about myself along that way that I know others can benefit from. For now I leave you with one powerful thing I got from my first meeting, and again I hope it does for you what it’s done for me.
On the topic of body image, I shared some of my insecurities. I shared that no matter how many people tell me that I look thin, no matter how healthy my body actually feels, I still see myself as overweight. I shared that I still look in the mirror and see fat. I shared that growing up I really struggled quite a bit with my weight, even joining Weight Watchers in the 8th grade. I can even remember back when a boy Tommy in the 5th grade asked me if I memorized my phone number, and when I said “Yeah why?” he continued on with “I’m sure you do, because every time you step on the scale it’s what you see!” I told her a lot.
And what she said to me stuck. It just clicked. She said, “I can understand. It’s like someone telling you every day as you’re growing up that the sky is green. You believe them. Then suddenly one day, after 15 years of being told it’s green, a bunch of people come up and try to say “No the sky is blue!” Even though they’re right, it’s going to be really hard for you to just believe them, after an entire life of being told something completely different. If it took years for you to learn and accept that the sky was green, it may take a few years to learn and accept that you’re not the same person you used to be. You’re no longer fat, and you just have to now try to convince yourself of that.”
And so I remain in therapy…
(P.S. A little reminder…You HAVE fat, you are not fat. You HAVE toenail, you are not toenail)