Transformation: The Pains of Therapy

I left an easter egg in the first post of the year that I was seeking help for my depression, and I found a counselor.

Luckily, my employer offers an employee assistance program (EAP) that covers up to five counseling sessions free of charge.  These counseling sessions can be for anything, depression, grief, marriage, etc.

Take it from an HR professional, don’t snub your nose at EAPs! If an employer has a good EAP, use it! They’ll help with dependent care, child care, legal assistance, health concerns, financial assistance, you name it! They’re designed to people balance their work and personal lives.  Better call them!  ೕ(˃̵ᴗ˂̵ ๑) 

It took me a loooooong time to commit.  I just felt embarrassed and insufficient for therapy, like my depression wasn’t heavy enough for a counselor.  I literally was measuring how critical my depression is compared to what I believed warranted therapy.  If it’s not that serious, why waste the counselor’s time?

Also, I have a fear of being vulnerable.  I’m nervous and tense every day to the point that my shoulders always ache.  Usually, I’m anticipating being rejected by someone who doesn’t like what I say, how I think, what I do, etc.  If I can’t be transparent or if I’m nervous about the counselor, how was therapy going to help me?

Swear, I’ve been working for the same employer for the past 15 years and no matter how many staff meetings we have, I’m ALWAYS nervous to speak.  I mean lip quivering, hands sweating, word fumbling nervousness.  It’s actually at a staff meeting that the co-worker complimented me on my style.  She did it out of kindness because it was painfully obvious my anxiety increased 1,000 fold when I had to explain to her, the new girl, and all (EIGHT!) of my other co-workers (that I see almost EVERY DAY!) about my job functions.  She helped complete my sentence and gave me a compliment to calm me down.  By then, most of the group was having side conversations.  She effectively ended my nervousness without anyone noticing. ٩(๑˃́ꇴ˂̀๑)۶

A mood swing at work stopped my over-thinking and I reached out for help.  It was all web-based, through their client portal.  I had to submit a request for counseling and describe why.  The EAP then sent me approval via email with the name and number of a recommended counselor… then I requested someone else.

I knew that, with all of my anxieties and inhibitions, I’d never open up to someone I didn’t feel comfortable with.  I really feel social prejudices and systematic racism also affects my depression.  I needed to confide in someone that could understand, so when I learned of an African American counselor that helped a co-worker through the loss of her father, I asked the EAP to connect me with her.

Now that my fifth counseling session is tomorrow, I can say it’s been an incredibly tough journey.  I cried a lot and had two anxiety attacks, but the fourth counseling session reeled me in a depressed state for three days.

Like usual, the counselor asked me how I was doing and conversations lead to me stating that I question my self-worth.

“Do you call it that?”

I said yes, and she asked why.  I couldn’t be honest, so I summarized my value amounted to the usual issues of self-image, feeling valuable…and I trailed off.  I started to get emotional thinking of all the horrible things I’ve told myself over the years.

The counselor stood, got a whiteboard, told me we HAVE to explore what I’m upset about and instructed me to write it all down so we can discuss each one.  I cried badly because I felt I was laying myself bare to be ridiculed.  I had to face in writing that I’ve told myself I’ll never be pretty, intelligent, strong, interesting or loving enough for anyone else AND that no one loves me.  The counselor, another human being, was going to judge me for it.  It hurt like hell.

I cried my eyes out for at least 15 minutes and tried to stall until the hour was up! I was like 8-year-old destroying tissue and hiccupping over something I didn’t want to do.  I didn’t even finish the list.  I just wanted the whole notion to disappear.  The counselor reassured me that I could take my time and that there’s nothing wrong with expressing emotion (cause I was legit crying all over the place!).  She even gave me privacy…which may not have been a good idea if I didn’t have some self-control.  I almost erased the board before she could see it! “Ψ(≧ω≦)Ψ“ *cackles*

“You wrote ‘pretty enough.’ You must think you’re pretty, but not pretty ‘enough.’  Define pretty.”

What do you say to that? I didn’t have a good answer.  I mumbled about being fat, not having an attractive face, that my aesthetic isn’t portrayed in media, that black women aren’t seen as desirable.  She dispelled the rest, but not the fact that the odds are stacked against black women in dating, “I’ll give you that.” But, she challenged me to define pretty and to tell myself that I am pretty and why then we’ll begin tackling the rest of my list.

I remember crashing in my bed and crying myself to sleep.  I was so emotional and downtrodden at work the next day that I really could’ve called off and stayed burrowed into my bed.  When I tried to affirm that I’m pretty, oh my god, the tears! How could I say that?!

But, after pacing myself and steadily trying,  I had a breakthrough.  It started with just, “I’m pretty,” without choking up.  And over a few days, I realized that I can’t trust and force myself to measure up to other peoples’ definitions of pretty.  This was probably why the counselor wanted me to have my own definition.  So many people believe certain things are attractive, how can I be all of them at once? And, if people aren’t being honest with themselves, I can’t wait for them to validate me.  Some people think fat people are sexy, but they’ll never introduce their fat lover to their friends or family because they’re embarrassed and fear being shamed.  How is this a healthy measurement?

I realized my definition should be absolute:  I’m pretty because I am.  I’m not limited to other people’s standards and I can’t counter this logic with negativity because as long as I’m alive, I’m pretty.  I can choose my own standard so I choose something infallible.  I’m just pretty.

“You need to love yourself.”

I began to connect, “I’m pretty because I am,” AND because, “I love myself.”  It’s the icing on the cake.  It’s that added touch that will make accepting my new-found logic a bit easier.  Not only can nothing take away my prettiness from existence, but loving all parts of me will make the work ahead with the counselor a bit easier.  I’ve by no means conquered these issues.  I’m not cured.  I’m making progress.

So tomorrow is the fifth and final session covered by the EAP and we’ll have to decide if I should continue therapy with the counselor on my own.  Although these sessions have been rough for me, and almost felt counterproductive, the progress, even by this much, has me hopeful that I’m on the road to recovery.  I’ll hold on for a bit longer…hopefully the price is right lol.


 

It’s my desire that anyone reading this will learn that therapy is great at any moment in life.  Attend as many sessions as you see fit, but don’t ignore the signs.  Recognize when you need help and don’t discourage yourself.

Also, the purpose of this entry is to give a realistic depiction of the hard work necessary for therapy.  Therapy is not an immediate solution, but a way to guide you to recovery.

Sorry for the long post, but hopefully, there are some takeaways.
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