I was tired. I was so tired that standing felt like effort; sitting felt like effort; everything about living required effort. I wasn't too alarmed because I'd felt some variation of this fatigue for the last five years. I assumed it was because I was awesome and I worked too hard. Ambition, after all, is tiring business. Lately though, it had gotten inconvenient. I found it hard to teach. It was hard to take a shower. I was suddenly aware of the effort it took to breathe. So I did what any tired person would do: I went to bed for a week (or six).
When that didn't work, I went looking for help.
I sat across from my therapist -- a really youthful woman with kind eyes and great bangs. She had a small notebook and a pen that doubled as an audio recorder. I suddenly felt pressure to perform.
"Have you thought about suicide?"
My mind scanned moments. Moments I'd stared at Brooklyn traffic and considered leaning in. I remembered more moments. When I was 22, on my way to a job I hated, and I just sort of hoped the train would flip over and injure me. I didn't want to die... I just hated my job.
"Not seriously," I replied. "But I keep having the thought that I want everything to stop."
She nodded in that way therapists nod to show empathy, and scribbled into her notebook with her little recorder-pen. Shit, I thought, Now she knows I'm crazy.
In our second session I made some declarations.
"I don't want medication. And I can't become one of those people who talks incessantly about her therapist to anyone who will listen. Those people are really annoying..."
"You don't strike me as a person who would do that," she said. "You seem very aware of social cues and norms."
"Yeah," I countered. "I am."
The irony of this post doesn't escape me.
I entered therapy as a writer with an unfinished thesis, and as a teacher terrified of teaching. I was a girlfriend who wanted to push her boyfriend down a flight of stairs (lovingly). Mostly I was tired -- too tired to see the relationship between what was fixable and what was not. There were other things I didn't realize either. I didn't realize my boyfriend was suffering from an addiction. I didn't realize that my issues with teaching could be linked to feelings of inadequacy. I didn't realize that my daddy issues were impeding my professional success, or that depression ran in our immediate family. I had no idea that my feelings were supposed to be an inner guide, or that outer circumstances were reflections of my inner state. Therapy was a spiritual awakening.
But also, therapy was really tough.
Therapy, even at its best, is not a magic wand. I think that's why people try and avoid it. It is the act, little by little, of pulling yourself together in a way that's both mindful and deliberate. Therapy is about giving your pain the respect it deserves. It is being brave enough to confront your secret shameful self. It is an act of deep intimacy and self-love. It is sitting and looking long enough to see that, even with all the "stuff," you are basically okay. Being 'okay' is a powerful thing.
Here's what I know as truth: All of our relationships are a reflection of relationship to self. The love without is indicative of the love possessed within. We are all throwing our pain and brokenness at each other. We are all hurting each other, scaring each other, and loving each other to death. So as mindful souls and conscious lovers, we must get serious about our own healing and personal growth. We can make ourselves healthy so we can give the best to those we love, and maybe (if we're lucky) inspire them to do the same. If not, it doesn't matter because we're on the road to wholeness. We still throw our shit around, but at least we do it less, and some days, that just has to be enough...
At the end of a shitty session, my therapist once said, "Think of this room as a container for your emotions. You can come here and unzip, and when we finish you'll zip up, hopefully, a little lighter than when you came."
I needed that. I needed a safe container. I needed therapy. Do you?
For more by Patia Braithwaite, click here.
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