Therapy can leave you feeling lost and sometimes more broke than when you set out but don’t get disheartened. Strap yourselves in and let me prepare you for the roller coaster that is therapy and the questions that you may ask.
Why is it that when we really want to say what we’re feeling, we can’t? Why is it that when the words are on the tips of our tongue, they won’t come out? Why is it that we desensitise from the truth and describe ourselves as factual pieces of information? Why doesn’t our mind let words come out in the order there intended?
I’ve grown to dislike the “Why?”. It makes recovery utterly frustrating. When you walk out of the therapy room and in your head all you are thinking is: Why didn’t I say that? Why won’t the words come out?
I’m lead to believe that this is a protective strategy that our brains use when our thoughts get to scary. But what happens when the above questions are preventing our recovery? Well, I will share what happens… You end up in a funny place where I am now. A place that feels like limbo. Where you know what you need to say but the words won’t come out.
Sometimes I sit in my therapy room and my nervous system is on fire – my hands are sweaty, my legs are tapping and I feel like I’m in some kind of blur. That time is moving slowly around me and my therapist is looking at me in an attempt to break the awkward silence. My therapy sessions never end up how I expect. I always walk in with a clear idea of how it is going to go, what I am going to say and it never ends up that way.
I have wanted to write a piece like this for a while: a reality check on therapy. The truth is recovery is like two steps forward and five steps back, what is fine to discuss one week is not okay the next. So I thought I could share some tips on what I do, so my therapist can gauge where I’m at.
- Create a plan. I have created a plan where I am able to tell my therapist if I feel in crisis by having my safe word. Which for those who are wondering is “pineapple”. I figured that the word pineapple wouldn’t even pop up in a regular conversation so my therapist knows if I am in crisis or very vulnerable by me saying just one word.
- Write how you feel. Through expressive writing, we give ourselves an outlet to vent out our emotions. Even if this is a sentence or a five-paged letter. Quantity isn’t the issue if it helps you to get what you’re feeling out in the open. Sometimes I will write poems and just hand them to my therapist on a scrap of paper as I walk in. It’s a way of maintaining control of your recovery and steering your sessions to discuss what you are feeling.
- Honesty. So this one may sound a little silly however, being honest is the only way to recover. Just say it as it is. Your therapist will never take offence to anything that you say. You won’t recover by lying about your progress.
- Go at your pace. Your are the master of your own recovery. As many of you know I’m still seeing my therapist and we are working through some pretty challenging issues, so sometimes I will let my therapist know I need to slow other down and sometimes for my own protection my therapist will say to me that we need to take a break as she doesn’t want me having a panic attack. It’s all about going at your own speed. Recovery can’t be rushed so don’t re-traumatise yourself; this process can’t be rushed.
- It’s about you. You’re the most important person in this process; have the session tailored to you. I’m in my 20s and we regularly do play therapy where we will paint a picture or play with play dough and these are often the sessions where some of our most productive work is done. Just be prepared to be versatile. I never thought play therapy would work but it’s often the best therapy work we do.
The truth is therapy is so hard. Progress is often unseen or not felt and feels incredibly slow. I’ve never hid it in any previous blogposts on my website that I really struggle with sleep. I’ve had every tablet under the sun and none of them seem to help. I have to fight with myself to grab a few hours here or there. Me and my therapist revisit this constantly and it can feel totally and frustrating that we seem to go round in circles. However last week it felt like we got somewhere. After months of fighting it, we finally cracked it and this week – well I’ve slept for two nights in a row; it feels so rewarding that I have got there finally: that I’m a step closer to recovery, that I did this at my own pace and made it, that I did this at my own pace and it worked. Indeed, perseverance is key.
Lauren Wright is a mental health nurse, charity worker and blogger. Lauren is passionate about writing and telling mental health through both sides of the coin, from her own experiences, triumphs and failures as a nurse through to her own journey of recovery going through therapy and her own experience of mental health services. Laura’s blog also offers useful tips on everyday life when coping with mental health. You can connect with her on Twitter @lwriteblogger