On Thursday evening at 6pm, I have an important date that I am never late for and I never miss.
“oooh!” I hear you ask. “Is it your date night? Is it a catch up with your bestie?”
I go to see my therapist.
For 50 minutes, I pay a dude to hear me out and to help me make sense of my shit, in a way that only a psychotherapist can.
Cue the tumbleweed…
So this is something that I have wanted to write about for a while and not really known where to start. For some reason, acknowledging that I have weekly therapy sessions feels a whole lot harder than it should. I mean, I myself, am a therapist! Albeit in a different capacity and with a different medium – but essentially, working with the same psychoanalytical principles that inform my practice. (A music therapist – and don’t be fooled by the word ‘music’! It’s definitely not a light-hearted occupation!)
So why is it so challenging to say that I have weekly therapy?
What I have concluded is, that if I, Amy Ellice, who can talk openly about her digestive system and bra size, but for some reason hesitates to say she sees a therapist – then something isn’t quite right & it needs to change.
So, in order to break the seeming (possibly self-inflicted) taboo on this subject, I am going to explain why I, a neuro-typical 30-something, goes to therapy.
First off – let me just explain that I have not had a traumatic childhood, experienced bereavement or bullying or any other (socially) ‘acceptable’ reason to access therapy. I had a bout of depression in my early 20s where I sought therapy, and then continued throughout my MA training in Music Therapy as it was a compulsory part of my training. (I mean, how can I expect to empathise with my own clients if I have no idea what it’s like to lie on the couch myself?! Kidding – there’s no couch in this therapy!) For a few years now, I have wanted to re-engage with therapy, and more recently have made the commitment to do so.
Gahhh – there I go again on the Self-Love Soap Box, preaching it to anyone who’ll listen. But, I have found that engaging in weekly therapy has been a vital part in my journey of learning to love myself. Ironically, it’s been one of the most painful ways to love myself – a bit like a bikini wax. You know everything will look a whole lot neater once it’s done, but oh my gosh, why am I paying someone rip hair out of me?! That kinda painful self-love.
I talk about self-love a lot. Because it’s important. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and yet we spend much of our lives disliking our bodies and picking apart our characters. We then operate from that place of self loathing.
1) I don’t want to die having lived a life trapped inside my own insecurities. And 2) the way we see ourselves impacts all of our relationships, interactions and decision making.
How often do we not go after the stuff on our hearts because we just don’t think we have it in us? What if we each began to operate from a place where we feel grounded in our value and worth?! Everyone confident in who they are and seeing the value in everyone around them?!
I digress. Kind of.
Back to my earlier analogy. Therapy is a bit like a bikini wax for the soul. As sessions progress, and I reveal more of myself to my therapist, I am met with more measures of grace and acceptance. I’m met with someone who gives me the tools to love myself in my own state of brokenness or pain, and I walk a little further on the road to self acceptance. And just like a wax, a good therapist knows how to finish the session of well – a bit like when the beautician applies the much needed soothing gel. I personally, have never finished a session feeling like I was being kicked out the door to be fed to the wolves. A good therapist knows how to handle the timing of the session and bring it to a comfortable end.
Our internal worlds are deeply sensitive and important. For the children that I work with, I often picture their internal world, quite simply, as globe inside their tummy. (I’m not sure Klein would agree with that analogy however). But it’s the same for us fully fledged, grown up responsible adults. So much stuff happens in life, and whether we acknowledge it or not, we are emotional beings. We are designed to feel all manner of emotional experiences. It’s how we make sense of our surroundings and situations, and it plays a big part in how we relate to each other. These globes inside our tummies are a constant buzz of processing and assimilation of every moment of every day. Often our tummy globes just tick along nicely, but what about if we ignore the global warming issue? Or there’s an earthquake somewhere? Our tummy globes can suddenly feel less like they’re ticking along and more like they might implode.
(Please note – I imagine these internal worlds inside our tummies because I am someone who is very aware of the physiological imprint that emotions cause. For me, I often feel these in my tummy and surrounding internal organs. Still not with me?! Think about anticipation creating butterflies inside, or anxiety making your heart beat faster, or nerves making you need to poop… now you’re with me!)
Sometimes the shit hits the fan, or a rug gets pulled out from underneath you. Someone may die or you experience trauma. But sometimes, we just can’t see the woods through the trees, or we just feel so tangled up with going round and round and round in circles in our minds! We can feel so overwhelmed in life and just not know where to start when it comes to making sense of things. Often we try to (and sometimes successfully can) manage this ourselves. We create coping strategies, or we enlist the listening ear of a buddy over wine. But sometimes, its best to call in the professionals!
DIY: Nail or Fail?
My fabulous sister-in-law is a DIY queen. No joke – the other day I saw her use a crazy electric saw to make a hole for a basin in a work surface. She looked epic. So when I bought a new light fitting for the kitchen, she was like “sure!! I’ll be right over to help with that!” After assuring me that she had changed all the light fittings in her house, we got ten minutes in to the job with a live wire hanging down from the ceiling and realised – we needed Kevin the electrician. (By the way, I still totally stand by my SIL skills! Turns out, our original light fittings were not quite as straight forward as they should be!) Anyhoo, Kevin came round and within ten minutes he’d sorted it all out and the new industrial feel light was shining like a beauty.
We could have persevered. We possibly could have figured it out. She’s pretty smart. I would have helped by making tea. But we were dealing with ELECTRICITY and I’m pretty sure that’s not something to do a bodge job on. We needed someone who knew what they were doing.
Therapy is a bit like that. Sometimes a chat with a friend is helpful but your friend will always have their own ideas and thoughts that will influence their part in the discussion. Friends often like to advise – which is fine – but actually if you’re facing some decisions, the only one who has to live with the outcome of those decisions is yourself! Friends are great for sharing (or not) a grab bag of Doritos and giant chocolate buttons with a box of wine. We need these moments in our lives! But a professional therapist is trained to help you find the answers and solutions within yourself. They take the big ball of tangled up wool that your present, and together, you start to unravel it. No “well I would do this…” or “what were you thinking when you did that?!” No judgement, no “shoulds” and plenty of acceptance.
A therapist has a whole host of tools in their toolbox that don’t involve chocolate and weight gain. I know we all like to fancy ourselves as Freud’s long lost cousin (I really do!) but when we are unpacking areas of our lives that leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed, it’s helpful to know your therapist isn’t going to offer their crack-pot theories about why you’re still grieving the loss of your first pet. They are trained to work with you in a way that makes you feel safe and respected. They won’t get up half way through to let the cat in, or to take a call from their mother in law. But then again, a therapist won’t offer you chocolate… so… you know. Swings and roundabouts and all that.
Do I need therapy?
Probably! Yes! I’m pretty sure we all need therapy.
I jest! We are all different and have different responses to our different life stories. Sometimes we really do need professional input and sometimes we are fine to negotiate our own way through life.
There is a myth that something traumatic has to happen in order for one to need therapy. It’s just not true. There will always be stuff to talk about and reflect on for ourselves (trauma or not) as we are unique creatures with many layers. There’s much mystery to us human beings and therapy can help reveal some of the marvellous gold within us. The gold that’s hidden under dust, or locked away in a distant memory. We are made in God’s image and He is he endless in His creativity and mystery – so surely we are also always going to be on a journey of self discovery and acceptance of our unique and beautiful ways?!
Look for the gold
For me, therapy has become a valuable space for me to work through my tummy globe in a safe, consistent, and grace-filled environment. My tummy globe is filled with day to day interactions and experiences that I like to try and make sense of in order for me to function well. It’s a way of investing in myself. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m eating or making sure I work out in order to keep my physical body in shape, so therapy has become a place where I keep my mind in shape. Funnily enough, we are whole beings and our heads definitely impact our bodies and our bodies impact our heads. If I value myself enough to pass on the cheese burger and do 20 push ups, then I wanna value myself enough to help my internal world stay ticking along nicely and making sense of any sudden changes to it’s environment.
What I will say is this.
Don’t be afraid of yourself or what you might find out about yourself. You are a beautiful human being – that’s the bottom line. The stuff that gets in the way of seeing that beauty, is just that – stuff. It can be looked at, inspected and found wanting. And when that stuff gets sorted through, you can start catching glimmers of that gold.
Have a lovely week of loving yourself well!