Saturday, January 6, 2007

Therapy Is Hard Work

For both participants.

I actually thought I wanted to become a therapist when I was younger. If you can believe it, I was reading university psych textbooks when I was about nine or 10, in vain attempt, trying to learn how to "fix" my mother. I was always told that she was Schizophrenic but now that I am older, that diagnosis doesn't really fit. Nonetheless, I continued to read about various disorders. The texts were old and "Manic Depression" didn't zero in on the type of behaviour that she exhibited, at least in my young mind.

I later learned about the phenomenon of "burn out" in the profession and as I soon experienced my own early symptoms of depression I realized that this profession could not be for me (note: this is sort of hindsight conclusion about my depression, I didn't really know what was wrong with me as a teenager--I just instinctively knew I couldn't be a therapist.) Coupled with that, living with my mother became more and more frightening. I grew to loathe therapists and psychiatrists. Mom couldn't be "fixed" and I knew it. Granted, Mom has never been diagnosed, Dad did little to help her as that would have shattered too much about family secrets and basically, there was too much at stake for him to lose.

I had seen a couple of therapists as a teenager at my father's bidding as he wanted to have me "checked out" and they were awful. One counselled my father to do whatever he wanted regardless of my sister's and my well being and another saw me separately for six months and found me "cured" after that. I felt no different and that it was a total waste of time. Oh yes, there was one other who tried to hypnotize me and one psychiatrist who saw me when I was oh...I can't remember...maybe 12 or 13 as my father was worried about me being ill due to genetic predisposition. I remained cold and distant and stoic through it all.

I am a trauma survivor and it's taken me a very long time to recognize that. To me, "trauma" always meant something extremely violent like sexual or physical abuse, living through or witnessing accidents or war but that is not the case.

About two and a half years ago when things were extremely bad for me I finally "broke down" and agreed to seek counselling with a qualified therapist. It has been good, it has been challenging and it is far from over.

One of the most difficult things for me is that I have virtually no memory of my childhood. I have some more of my adolesence but things only start to clear up during my adult years. And even a lot of that can be fuzzy. My therapist says that it doesn't matter and I can still heal and get past a lot of what has happened to me. All I know is that things must have been awfully bad for me to have repressed that much.

A good thing I have, an extremely valuable resource, is my older sister. Her memory is in tact. She has provided me with a lot to fill in the gaps. Even though they are her memories and it's still not quite the same, it is still information my therapist and I can work with. In talking with my sister this week, I have found out some more information and in light of what is going on with my family right now, my sister has expressed interest in joining me at a session (although I don't know if we can pack everything in to just one!) I had suggested this last summer but she hadn't gotten back to me so I didn't pry. I am very happy about this but I know it will probably be very difficult. Still, I think it needs to be done in order to keep moving forward.

Therapy may not be for everyone but if you've been through anything troubling in your past or if you are having difficulty in the present, I strongly recommend it. Doubly so if you have any psychiatric diagnosis. It's even more of an added burden then.

I'm not sure when we'll be able to co-ordinate it as my sister lives out of town and it will necessitate her having to travel a fair distance but she's willing so that's all that matters.

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