I started going to a therapist more than two years ago. I have never been secretive about that, while I also have never really talked about this experience in details with people, even with those who are/have been close.
I’m not going to disclose the details of my therapies here, for apparent reasons, but after two and half years, I do feel like sharing two cents of why I feel it necessary to go to therapy and what can be expected from it.
Being an oversensitive kind of person all my life, I’ve always been very drawn to the act of psychological analysis of people and their behavior as I need to rationalize things to counter-balance the “too-muchness” constantly felt. And out of all the human beings, the most puzzling piece for me is, inevitably, myself.
I remember planting the seed of wanting to see a therapist when I watched Annie Hall by Woody Allen decades ago, in which Woody Allen’s character was mumbling about his therapist anecdote in his signature bourgeois self-mockery fashion. I must be in my early 20s when I first watched it and I thought, “wow, what a dream it is to be able to start a sentence with ‘my therapist said…’ one day.” (Yes, I fancied being one of the bourgeoisie and Woody Allen certainly contributed to it.) But back then, seeing a therapist feels more like an immature fantasy, something intriguing and might even be “fun” to try. It came from a curiosity about my undiscovered self, instead of an urgency to deal with real pressing issues.
When I started to seek for professional help more than two years ago, the most straightforward reason was, I guess, the relationship of that time wasn’t going well. And it agonized me a great deal. But I know clearly, deep down, that this was just a symptom, the agony that I was experiencing from that failing relationship. It was the symptom of about 30 years’ accumulation of unanswered questions, uncleared emotions and unearned experiences. I felt that I was drowning in my 30 years of life and I couldn’t resurface by myself anymore, not without a firm pull from another hand. And I felt that that I couldn’t go on anymore if I don’t pause to make sense of my pain, my anger, my sadness, my edges, my misplaced love, my destructive behaviours and my incompatibility with the outside world. That was the real reason why I started to see my therapist, Julia.
It’s been quite a ride over the past two years. In front of Julia, I’ve shed tears a million times, I’ve lost my temper, I’ve argued aggressively, I’ve been triggered badly, I’ve told stories I’ve never told anyone and there’re still more I’m not ready to tell yet and I don’t know if I ever will. I’ve spit out unedited thoughts and I’ve looked hard into my behaviors and decisions over and over again. And I did have my doubts. I’ve wondered if this is really helping anything but I’ve also questioned myself what do I really expect from it. Looking back, it’s a rather slow progress but there is a progress. (I’ve bragged about it pretty recently so I’m gonna skip this part here). Maybe this is a progress that’d happen anyways, but having someone who’s (paid to be) there to have witnessed it and is probably more aware of my progress than myself, is after all, a pretty assuring thing.
The other day I was watching a show, in which one of the characters (starred by Nicole Kidman) was testifying on court for her custody of her children. She was asked by the judge why she wasn’t even confessional about some of her destructive behaviors to her therapist, and she said it’s especially hard to tell her therapist, I quote, “becoz she’s worked so hard on me and, I think I just, I desperately wanted to see myself through her eyes and see progress.” And exactly that line, it simply struck me. I couldn’t resonate more with it becoz there have been many times I struggled to confess to my therapist of things I feared that’d disappoint her that I almost didn’t wanna go to a session.
Today I don’t go to therapy that often. Even when I go, it’s more like a regular dusting instead of some serious digging around or urgent salvage. But still every time I’d prepare myself for the confessional mode and the uneasiness that comes with it. It’s not all comfortable, becoz being 100% truthful about ourselves is not always in our nature. And with the busy urban life that keeps rushing us forward, we’ve more or less grown into the habits of covering up the messy part that we subconsciously wanna shy away from. We probably won’t even realize that if we’re not paying someone an expensive hourly rate to specifically uncover that. And just by being truthful as much as we can, in front of another person’s face, is in a lot of ways, already a significant progress.
I can’t give anyone any advice if they should seek therapy help, as it’d be a completely different journey for different people. And throughout the whole time, I’ve never seen myself as a patient, at most, I see myself as a temporarily lost person seeking for directions. But I guess the least I can say is, therapy does give one a chance to tell the truth about oneself, to chew on the truth, to acknowledge the truth and eventually, to work on the truth. Some people spend their whole life seeking for the truth, some people spend their whole life running away from it. But either way, after all, it is only the truth that matters.
P.S. I titled this piece as “In Treatment” in dedication to one of my favourite shows, In Treatment, produced by HBO more than 10 years ago. It’s definitely not thrilling to watch, with its overly simple setting and characters. It’s like a “salad” in shows, but provoking in its own tasteless way. I’d recommend it if anyone wants a “free therapy.”