Thursday, October 4, 2012

Therapy As the Psychological Equivalent of a Pelvic Exam and Pap Smear

I had an appointment with my therapist today.  My therapist is incredibly gifted.  And smart.  Her office is a safe space and that in itself has immense value.  I'm not, strictly speaking, "in" therapy.  I was for about a year and a half after Tim died.  The grief was unbearable and undercut my ability to deal with any other problems in any of my relationships or in life.  Therapy was a great place to learn how to manage my grief and how to engage in healthy relationships, and how to set boundaries to keep relationships healthy.

After 18 months, though, I was so good at processing issues, that my therapy sessions went something like this:

Me:  So, this is what happened....and this is how I felt....and this is the trauma I recognized behind the feeling....and this is how I stayed present in the moment and resolved the issue at hand.

Therapist:  That was an appropriate and very healthy way to handle this situation.  Why are you paying me for this?

Me:  Because I don't trust my instincts yet, and it helps to have a professional assure me that what I'm doing, which feels healthy, actually is healthy.

Eventually, I came to trust my instincts.  I came to believe that if I am experiencing emotional health in my life, my friends are remarking on my emotionally healthy choices, my therapist is affirming that I am emotionally healthy, then indeed, I'm healthy.  Therapy came to an end.  And while it was sad to leave the warm, inviting, safe space of my therapist's office, I built warm, inviting, safe relationships in my life to take it's place.

Now, I kind of believe that therapists are the psychological equivalent of gynecologists.

I figure it doesn't hurt anything to have a check-up once a year.  Make sure everything is working properly, that there are no pre-malignant thoughts in my process that might lead to cancerous emotions and relational death.

Usually, I arrange a check-up with my therapist when I'm facing a situation that is familiar enough to a previous experience that I am mostly sure I can handle it in a healthy way, but which is sufficiently different from any other previous experience that I kind of doubt my ability to handle it in a healthy way.

Sure I'm asymptomatic, and my flow is regular.  I'm not sexually active, so there are no worries about STDs or pregnancy.  But, you just never know when something might be wrong, and it never hurts have a few cells scraped and look at under a microscope.

And thus, today's therapy session went something like this:

Me:  So, when I called you a two weeks ago to make the appointment, I was facing a situation that I wasn't sure how to deal with, and it was causing me a fairly significant degree of stress and anxiety.  After making the appointment, I decided to try and resolve it on my own, and I did so.

Therapist:  This is so typical!  You know how to process!

Me:  I know.  But this is a special case, so I was hoping, though I've already dealt effectively with this situation that I could get some feedback from you in regards to moving forward, and to verify that my view of this particular aspect of this particular relationship is okay and healthy.

Turns out my therapist agrees with me, though she did offer some fabulous challenges for me today.

And thus, I am still healthy.  A little neurotic at times.  But healthy.

It was like getting the postcard in the mail 2 weeks post-exam with the "No issues found" box checked.

Having my mental health reaffirmed by a professional is a pretty fabulous thing.

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