What 27 Years of Therapy Taught Me
It takes guts to tell your secrets.
Recently I had my last therapy session for post-traumatic stress disorder from childhood trauma.
After seeing my therapist for 2 1/2 years we finally reached a point where I felt confident in my ability to navigate the world successfully.
It takes serious guts to bare your soul to a stranger.
Had you met me years ago I was a completely different person than today.
I could barely articulate what I felt inside.
I avoided discussing my past if anyone asked.
My feelings and thoughts were a jumbled mess.
I was too shy to speak and believed I sounded stupid when I talked.
My relationship to therapy started when I was in 6 years old.
I remember telling my first-grade teacher my parents would fight.
Shortly after I was in a room with the school counselor using finger puppets to show how my father would hit my mother.
To this day, I still don’t know how social services didn’t get involved then.
Therapy was a rock of security and safety for me all throughout my childhood and adult years.
When you are introduced to the world with very unstable people, all you do is crave stability.
Anyone who seems anything close to remotely normal is a source of comfort.
However at the time it was hard for me to comprehend what stability looked like in a healthy way.
I only knew what stability looked like in an unhealthy fashion.
Most of my life I had an on and off relationship to therapy.
I would go and believe I was better and then stop.
Or I’d go and focus only on my string of dysfunctional partners.
I avoided talking about myself, my feelings or the trauma.
I also felt ashamed to talk about what happened to me because I felt embarrassed.
Some of us trauma survivors can feel misunderstood in our ability to share our secrets.
We need to feel completely supported and safe to open up.
We need to trust the person we are talking to 100% and that doesn’t just happen instantly with a stranger.
It takes guts to allow someone to see the darkest parts of your story.
It’s not easy to show up and do the necessary work in therapy.
The last 27 years have taught me some tremendous life-tools and lessons that I will be talking about until I die.
These are some of them.
Your past is not all you are or will be.
Whatever brought you to therapy in the first place doesn’t mean it will be all you are or will be.
It will be a significant part of you but so will other life-changing events.
I was sexually abused. I was emancipated. I joined the military.
I got help. I graduated college. I fell in love. I had a son.
You see? The timeline of events isn’t all of trauma and loss.
It can yield positive results in our lives despite the stain it left.
Research shows that our negative emotions can elevate us to a better life.
Your story is important.
One thing therapy has taught me is my story is important.
By telling it and sharing the details of what happened I not only help myself gain perspective but I also can help someone else.
People want to hear your story.
People want to heal. They want to be inspired.
I once believed there was no use in talking about the past.
Now I see tremendous value in sharing our stories.
It provides knowledge, awareness and healing.
You are not damaged or unlovable.
This. This. This.
I can’t emphasize this enough.
Because of my past I felt damaged and unable to love or receive love.
I’ve learned my value in the world and that I am extraordinary person which makes me excited to share my knowledge.
Whatever you’ve gone through please know you are not damaged.
You are lovable.
You are someone who just endured a highly emotional and stressful experience.
It’s okay to get vulnerable and to get help.
Bréne Brown has shown us that vulnerability is the key to meaningful relationships including the one with yourself.
Vulnerability means letting someone see you — your struggle and your triumph.
In the last few years I have started to practice vulnerability more and more with people and it’s helped me a lot.
It took surrendering my pride and letting go of old coping mechanisms to force me to get help.
Don’t be ashamed to get help.
Our pride can be an asset but really can hold us back from living a more meaningful life.
Allow people you feel safe with to support you.
It takes these tools to show us a new perspective.
It takes practicing these exercises so that we can build new beliefs and heal.
27 years of therapy have taught me that healing is a lifelong journey and one I am not afraid of to face.