Membership does have its privileges

A long time ago, I read an article that said that Americans were more likely to admit that they shoplifted, smoked pot, or that they engaged in illegal gambling than to admit that they saw a therapist once a week. For a long while, I was one of those people. I felt that being in therapy is like being in a club that you really liked but you’re also a little embarrassed of being a member, like the Renaissance Cookery Club or the Students for Elf Freedom.

The stigma of being in therapy was something that I had to work on for a long time. For years, I kept it from friends and family. And although I am a psychologist myself who always supported one’s desire to go to therapy, I didn’t talk about my own therapy unless someone asked me directly. So today is a little coming out of sorts, and it’s a big deal for me. I have been in therapy for over 10 years. No lie. Over.Ten.Years. In those 10 or so years I have changed into someone I am beginning to like and care about. Someone a little more compassionate, someone who is a little more sensitive, someone who is a little more forgiving of herself. By being a patient, I have learned to be more patient with myself and others. Perhaps not enough or often, but I am getting there. (see, that’s me being patient!).

There is something else I have to admit, however, and it is that during those 10 plus years, I not only saw a therapist once a week I also attended a therapy group as well. This group, which formally disbanded this week, saved my life many times. It is not an exaggeration. They saved a life that I thought at times wasn’t worth much. These women, whom I would have nothing in common outside of being members of a psychotherapy group, shared my desire to heal and to grow. Although the cast of characters changed through the years, they held me through tough times of self-doubt, despair and through the tyrannical hold of memory. They rejoiced with me when I got in doctorate school, passed comps, finished the dissertation, graduated, and finally getting my license. (They don’t know this but they were some of the people I chose to dedicate my dissertation). They knew about my relationships with my family, my friends, and Janie (don’t worry Janie, not everything!) and they called me out on my expert ability to believe my own bullshit. They did this many, many times. Their relationship with me was what I needed, what I longed for in my life. They made me own my desire to be seen the way that I am, with all the inconsistencies and contradictions, and to learn to love it. They gave the honor of allowing me to accompany them on their path, wherever it took them. By sitting in that group every week, year after year, these women gave me the medicine that I needed, medicine that I use with others in my work. And although I will never see them again in the context of a group every Tuesday night, I will always carry them with me, for the rest of my life. And for that I am eternally grateful.