I live in a town where eating disorder treatment is almost nonexistent. Feeling in danger of a relapse, I decided it was time to see a therapist. She was a licensed psychologist specializing in eating disorders and women’s issues. I went voluntarily, not expecting what I received.
Everything was booked and set via email. My choice. I hate calling people. She mailed me all the paperwork from her office to bring with me on my first visit. What I loved when I first met her was that she didn’t even want to look at the filled-out documents during session; she was eager to get down to talking. I was nervous being there, naturally, it’s sensitive material being shared with a stranger. I remember which chair I sat in and how she sat on the couch.
So I tried to fill her in on my 18-year history of eating-disordered behavior. I had no idea what she would react to or even if she’d react at all. Turns out, she wasn’t one of those therapists that stare you down for minutes at a time. She often looked down and away when she was trying to express something to me. I could see the wheels in her head spinning. She often pushed my buttons. Going into therapy not really being able to express how I feel, I was able to tell her in the second year that she really made me mad. I knew I was making good progress when I was finally able to be 100 percent honest about my feelings.
I was worried I would offend her or make her mad. I am a big people pleaser, even when I pay them. Turns out, the more I talked and yammered on, the more she listened. I think she appreciated what I had to say and that I was just getting it out and showing some vulnerability. I was actively engaging in psychotherapy. That was tough for me, but she always went with my pace. I always had something to work on each week like homework. Or, more frequently, a goal to accomplish.
Then she got pregnant.
She informed me early and made sure I had a therapist for the interim. But I felt like a pool of jelly when she told me. I would be on my own for a while. Not only that, I had to try to reestablish a trusting relationship with someone else. Given the amount of maternity leave and knowing she was coming back, I just waited for her. I felt a new therapist would not be wise at the time. I did see one for one visit, but I got a bad vibe and backed off. The click wasn’t there. For me, if I can’t feel that connection, I’m not going to bother. That paid off for me.
Over the course of my three continuous years of seeing her on a weekly basis, we identified main areas of concern. I had to learn that it’s OK to think about myself once in a while. I deserve love and healing as well. She never put up with any of my games that I tried to play. She called me out on lies and bad attitudes. I swore at her once, and she swore back at me. I quickly learned that she was always, always paying attention to what I was doing.
One year around Thanksgiving, I brought in crayons and some paper. I made her sit down and draw or write what she was thankful for. I loved seeing this “real person.” And I loved when she laughed. For me, when my providers show or tell me little things about what they like and believe in, my trust in them escalates. A relationship is a two-way street. And that’s how I built my trust with her and my other doctors.
I did a lot of things because goals were set, and it was very encouraging to have someone who believed in me follow up on that goal. I didn’t want to disappoint her or myself. After all, I was paying this woman to help me.
This past January she informed me she’s moving. Relocating. I just said, “What?” No way. You can’t go. I greatly appreciated the amount of notice she gave me so I had time to adjust and prepare. During this time I stopped and reevaluated why I always showed up, even when I told her I didn’t want to come sometimes.
It was the encouragement. The challenges. The dedication she put in. The comfort of having a friendly person working with me. It was the confidence in myself that continued to rise each time I saw her. It was her unshakable faith in me. She never gave up. Ever.
I always thought therapy was for nutty people. In the beginning I was embarrassed to tell people I was even going. By the end I often said, “My therapist told me…” and I would conduct my own little psychotherapy sessions with friends. Whether or not I always showed it, I always listened to her. Even when I would stare out the window, watching rain and snow blow, my ears were never closed.
I said goodbye this last Wednesday. I had a very fun visit with her and was sure to show my appreciation for all the help she’d been. I was stoked to be there. I was ready. And much to my surprise….
I cried all the way home.
Psychotherapy proved to be an extremely rewarding experience. I always tried to outsmart my therapist, but she always had a one-up on me. It just humbled me and helped me realize there are just some things I don’t know much about. When you trust, you build and grow. It’s hard, yes. Just do it one time, and you’ll notice yourself doing it again and again. Before you even know what’s going on, you’ll start feeling that little pinch inside….confidence. I can hold my head high.
I’m worth it. And so are you.