I am a firm believef that good therapists receive their own therapy to become more and more self-aware and to never stop growing/pushing their growing edge.
My own therapy started many years ago at a very bad time in my life when I thought my anxiety was going to take over and I would have to quit school. Anxiety/depression work eventually turned into trauma work, and I now have less frequent sessions with my therapist. Today we had a phone/video session and I was struck that she said she was proud of me. It just sort of forced me to look back at how far I have come. I think it’s important for therapists to do this… recognize their own growth/seek therapy. I am not saying overly self-disclose in session with clients or make anything about you in a session. I AM saying to take care of yourself and maybe some intentional self disclosure can go a long way and can also “humanize” the therapy process. You are NOT just a blank slate, you are a human.
I still haven’t really fully processed what my therapist said… being proud of me. That’s not something that I hear very often. After the session I just sort of sat where I was in the grass in my yard for a few minutes and teared up. I let my mind drift back to my first session with her. I was so dissociated, but so good at hiding it that she didn’t. even. know. She said that it took her a while to realize how dire my situation was and that at one point she was working to “accept”/get her mind around that I might end my life at some point.
And I hadn’t planned on living to be 30 (I am today and have no more serious thoughts of ending my life).
Let me say that again. I hadn’t planned to be here.
My anxiety was so bad that I promised myself that if I didn’t get better by 30, I would allow myself to end it. End it. End me. End the pain. I held on to that during some rough moments as a way out. Anxiety/panic/agoraphobia to the extreme feels like being rubbed raw/having the foot on the gas pedal and on the brakes ALL. DAY. EVERY. DAY. when you’re activated. You jump at stupid things, you are SCARED for no reason, even if you try to use your brain to tell your body not to be scared, it DOESN’T WORK. It takes so much time, energy, therapy, and EFFORT to make all that manageable… and sometimes I can’t believe that I made it so far. I can’t believe sometimes that I’m able to function as well as I do… academically, with my clinical work, with everything. I’ve come so so far. I’m not shy about any of this… because I’ve processed the worst of it and continue to process it… I am functional/happy, more happy than I’ve ever been. And my therapist is a huge part of that. But even if you’re a therapist who ISN’T doing well right now, I think it should be okay to acknowledge that. That does NOT mean working with clients while impaired, but acknowledging where you are to yourself and to others who need to know. I feel like therapists have this unwritten code that you have to have your shit together or at least look like you do. My therapist has never been like that with me… she’s been real.
Today she was talking about how working through what I have (and still do) can be so helpful in my clinical work… and I think it does afford me tremendous insight. I know what it’s like to want to claw your face off and jump out of your skin and worry that you just won’t be able to work full time ever in your life because you just can’t calm down. I know that. I know those fears. I know them well. Sometimes they still creep up. I get that. I have access to that type of experience. I realize that if someone seems aloof they may just be super anxious. I can tell when someone is dissociated. Really, really well.
I can’t say that I enjoyed all the parts of my journey, but I can say that I think it will help me… to be who I was meant to be and to help other people. And I think I’m just only starting to become aware and comfortable with how incredibly powerful that is. And how incredibly powerful I am.