I almost didn't talk about this on the blog because, let's face it... therapy has a nasty stigma in our culture. We don't want to think there's anything we can't handle alone. We don't want to be broken in need of fixing. We don't want to have "emotional problems." We want to do it all on our own and be awesome.
Except, that's not really how it works for anyone when life gets turned upside down. All of humanity is on a level playing field when it comes to emotions and handling hard times, and none of us are immune to weakness in the midst of adversity. And if you think you are, it's probably because you haven't ever had the kind of hard time that brings you to your knees yet. You'll get there eventually (I know, I'm so encouraging :P).
I think people should have to get annual therapy like they have to get
an annual physical. Just a check up, even if nothing on the surface
seems wrong. I especially believe this about marriages. I even more
especially believe this about marriages with children.
I want to be a family therapist, and what good would it do the world for me to buy into a stigma that I believe to be total crap- especially in a field I plan to master? No good at all, I say.
Anyways. My therapist is the best one there ever was. I'll call her D.
She is SO encouraging, SO affirming, and SO helpful. I haven't been to her in a long time because things have been going pretty well, but with M's diagnosis I knew there were some things I'd have to work through.
I wanted to focus on my sadness, loss over M and loss over future children. She let me go on and on, but instead of asking me questions about all of that, she just nodded and said she was so sorry and she understood my pain and validated my feelings. Instead of lingering there, she asked me questions about if I still planned to pursue my masters in marriage and family therapy. I said I wasn't sure, money was scary especially since M would need services potentially for the rest of her life. D looked me straight in the eyes and said "Emily, you have to do it. You have to do things for yourself too, because if you don't take care of you, you can't take care of M."
I needed to hear that.
I realized that a huge part of my grief that felt very selfish was this: I felt like the best days of my life were behind me. I was married and I had my kids and now I would spend the rest of my life trying to fix what was broken in my daughter-- a sad existence with little hope when you know the problem is life-long and has no cure. But she told me that was not selfish, and it was important that I make it a point to not let that be true. I need to do things for myself too. I need to have something I'm passionate about to focus on besides just M's therapy and education.
What a relief. What a weight off of my shoulders.
It's not only unselfish to do things for myself still, but it is a necessity if I am going to be a healthy person and a good mom to M. I needed to hear that.
She said it is also important to have hope. Autism research has come a long way and it's going strong. It is entirely possible and almost likely that in M's lifetime, there will be medication or some sort of something that can help her. I needed to hear that too. I think I'd thrown in the towel on hope in that arena.
Hope is heavy sometimes. When you feel like you're carrying it around, especially when it is completely unfounded, hope can be exhausting. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you it's worth the weight, and it's from God, and it's valuable to have. And when it gets the hardest, you stop carrying hope and hope actually starts to carry you.
Anyway, I am going to have a weekly "Therapy Thursday." I'll just talk about what I'm feeling and learning about myself through those feelings. Because honestly, I think it's a healthy practice whether you are facing hard times or not to examine emotions and thoughts. I'm not going to talk much about my personal therapy sessions with D, because a lot of that is too private for a blog. I'm mostly just going to regurgitate my emotional process here once I've already been through it because I think it's helpful for people to read about others who are struggling with similar (or different) things. Putting myself out there, at least in writing, is just how I roll. The funny thing is, if we had a conversation about this face to face, I'd probably try to change the subject because I wouldn't know what to say. Oh, the power of the written word, and the safety of sitting behind a computer screen :)