Thoughts on therapy

by Anna (pseudonymous)

What we think our therapists think of us.

It’s a wonderful feeling to realize you are finally on the right track. When you find a counselor who recognizes that your depression and anxiety, your quirky personality traits, and possibly your chronic illnesses are most likely holdovers from your abusive, traumatic childhood (which really was abusive and traumatic – you had a suspicion, but you just weren’t sure because as far as you knew your childhood was perfectly typical). When you attend group therapy sessions on learning to deal with stress and you listen to other people’s stories and they sound just like you. Here are people who understand because they’ve been there. And you want so much to rush across the circle and hug them and cry together because you know; you know.

It is a similar feeling when you finally start reading some of those books that have been on your Amazon queue forever, like Toxic Parents by Susan Forward or The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, or when you find a website like this one, and you are shocked to find that you are reading about your parents and your childhood… and yourself.

But it is also terrifying and emotionally exhausting. You learn that abusers are unlikely to ever change their behaviors, and you begin to wonder what hope you have of ever turning your own life around. You hear from those in your group that they’ve been in therapy for years, and you wonder if that means therapy doesn’t actually help – you worry that you’ll be in therapy for the rest of your life. You’re a little disconcerted because since you started therapy all you can think about is the abuse you suffered; the memories are fresh, the old wounds have been ripped open to bleed anew. You cry a lot more. You relate almost every emotion and interaction to your childhood experiences (“Does he really not like me, or am I still suffering from rejection sensitivity born of my parents’ neglect?”). You begin to worry that you’re going to feel like this for the rest of your life, and you aren’t sure if you can handle that.

But you won’t feel like this forever. You are going to turn your life around; you already have. You are not alone, and you don’t have to do this alone. Somebody hurt you, and they had no right to. You’re going to figure out how their abuse has affected you and what you can do about it. You’re going to be okay. In fact, consider the possibility that you already are okay; you are not broken, you are not less than. You have the ability to end their control over you, once and for all. Now get to work – and know that if you ever need someone to talk to, you’ve found them here.