The decision to go to therapy was a difficult one for me. Although I'd long believed I needed it, I just couldn't make the decision to go. It would be expensive. It would take a lot of time. Maybe I was making a big deal out of something that wasn't so serious after all.
So I waited. I tried so many ways to take care of things myself. But the pain was still there. I still shut down because of it quite often.
There came a time when my husband agreed to go to therapy. Things had been really rough between us for a while. And all of his issues were driving me crazy. I was suffocating, trying to live my own life while being ruled by his illness. In a good moment, a moment when we were communicating and could both see the problem, he agreed.
I knew we needed to find someone who specialized in OCD. Even though, for me, the anger was more of a problem. He didn't see the anger as really being an issue, but he could acknowledge the OCD. If we attacked from that front I hoped we would find solutions to other problems as well.
We were very blessed in choosing a therapist. I was working at a treatment facility and knew that the psychiatrist there worked with OCD issues. So I asked him for a recommendation. Who would he say are the best therapists for OCD in the area? He recommended two. One of them was on our insurance. We were off and running.
He's a wonderful psychologist. And really knows OCD. But he was also able to help my husband with other issues. He seemed the perfect fit.
Because my husband was okay with it, and his therapist recommended it, I attended therapy with him. This helped my husband to have a support system and helped the therapist have an accurate picture of what was going on at home. It also helped because I could keep track of my husband's assignments. My husband also has ADD, so his ability to focus and remember isn't great.
One day, after we'd been going several months, something came up about my past. Just a tiny hint. But it was enough. His therapist suggested that maybe I should see someone, that it could be part of my problem with my husband.
That was all I needed. Someone to tell me to do it.
Most people don't know this about me. For so many years, I couldn't do a lot of things without permission or instruction. Part of it was him; part of it was my past. I had spent so many years in trouble for my decisions. I had spent so many years trying to appease the dominant male in my life. I was frozen. Unable to move without being told to. It didn't really show in settings outside my house much. A little at work maybe. But for the most part people thought I was confident and in charge of my own life. They were wrong.
So when the therapist told me I should talk to someone about my history, I obeyed. Not just because I thought I was supposed to, but because I wanted to. I was being given permission to do something I wanted to do.
I asked my husband's therapist if I could see him. He already knew so much about my life I thought it would make it easier. He told me the pros and cons of both of us seeing him. He said that if we were in marriage counseling it wouldn't be a good idea. But at that time we weren't. We were both working very hard to get along and didn't really feel like our marriage was in jeopordy.
So he agreed to see me.
When I arrived the first day I was nervous. Even though I'd been there a lot and talked to him a lot, this time it was about me. And he would be judging me and my life and my choices. That put me into a state of fear. Too much like my childhood.
But I trusted him. And I trusted the process. So I went.
He knew I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect or what to do. So he laid out the plan for me. He said that first day was kind of an evaluation. To see how bad the wounds are. To assess if I really needed therapy. We take the bandages off and examine it. See what we need to do.
He asked that I tell him my story.
And for the next 45 minutes or so I did. I told him things I had been holding in for decades. Things I hadn't told anyone. And I only got up to about age 8 or 9. Time was up.
He said you can tell how many times someone has told their story by how long it takes them to tell it. It ended up taking me three entire sessions to tell my story.
He said he thought I should see him once a week. That there was definitely an injury there. And that we could work to try to heal it. Just the validation that I was really injured meant so much.
He praised the hard work I'd done. Said I'd done well. And told me to celebrate. To mark my success.
And I just stared at him. I didn't understand. I had no idea how to celebrate. I asked for clarification.
He told me to do something I loved to do. Or buy something I loved. Anything to remind me of what a great job I'd done.
I was still clueless. I had no idea what I loved to do. Buying something for myself seemed ridiculous. I hadn't been in charge of what I did or bought things for myself in so long. Probably only for a few years in high school did I even come close to this.
He made some suggestions. A pedicure. A massage. I laughed at him. Not my style. Okay, he suggested a sports magazine. That was closer. I told him I would try.
He also told me to let it go. We would get back to it next week and I was supposed to be happy with my work and not think about it anymore until I came back. Again, I told him I would try.
On the way home I stopped at Village Inn and ordered food to go. Bacon, toast, hashbrowns, and a piece of coconut cream pie. That was my celebration. I took it home and ate it as I sat on my bed. And enjoyed a few moments of peace.
I later got better at marking my successes. As I worked through different issues, I bought a charm. I wear these on a necklace. A simple black cord with silver charms. And each of them means something important. Each of them is a symbol of strength. Of doing the hard thing.
Because, apparently, that is worth celebrating.