Thursday, January 14, 2016

Going to a Therapist and Doing My Best


Me before my appointment. I really wanted to stay in the car wrapped in my seatbelt. 


After months of deliberation and worrying that insurance wouldn't cover it and then knowing that it would but still being flaky I finally sat down and found a therapist.

For those of you familiar with my story you know that I have stayed sober for the most part on my own. I haven't been to AA, I don't have a therapist or a support group besides my blog community, which feels very real and reliable but as we all know isn't the same as a real look in the eye and a real hug. I decided that to go the big further I want to go I needed some in person help. Professional help. Not a friend who might sugar coat the hard truths, or whom I might be too embarrassed to tell about all the sex stuff weighing on me, but a therapist. Someone with training and experience in how to navigate with stuff I'm dealing with.

Then I waited for months. I waited and waffled and struggled and read loads of self help and memoir and my daily Rolf Gates and Judith Lasater and wrote and then didn't write and kept it together and fell apart. Over and over I got the message that I needed someone else, and over and over I made excuses. I spent the better part of last year gearing up to be able to tell someone else my biggest secrets and fears and also my big dreams and plans. Someone who could help me get used to the idea that I am a lovely sexual being and that's nothing to be ashamed about, someone to help me loosen my often strict and rigid standards for myself.

A few weeks ago I started my morning pages again, and meditating every morning. Without excuse or failure I have remained committed to these practices and that built me up enough to do the actual work of finding a therapist. Sometimes things happen so fast!

I started looking at the approved list on my insurance website. I couldn't tell much, and got impatient but kept going. I had to give myself a stern talking to when I wanted to just say fuck it and spend the nonexistent money to go to my former recovery group leader. I looked some more, I got more frustrated. I called one woman on the list who sounded promising and nothing- no answer, no machine.

So I stopped looking and wrote an email to my old recovery group leader asking for help with recommendations. I was honest and said I didn't know what to do. I was just about to hit send when my phone rang and it was her- the therapist I'd called and gotten no answer! She was charming and funny and I felt an instant kinship with her. I made an appointment with her and deleted my email to the other.

There's something funny about going to meet and talk to someone for the first time who knows your big stuff. That before she meets me she knows I'm kinda fucked up. And by fucked up I mean you know you aren't quite there- the place where you're mostly balanced and safe in the world. I'm here- still out kind of lost and looking for more of the map and some help. That there are things that have happened that I can't shake out and resolve because I don't really understand them. There are things I haven't looked at realistically because it hurts too much to do so, and also it hurts too much to let them go.

One of the things I'm trying to let go of is my stale idea of what doing my best means. The problem comes from me expecting everyone else to be upholding themselves to my always high standards and judgements. As in: be perfect at all times my way. Be perfect in my own random proper white knuckle-y way that then meant the house was in order but I was drunk on the back porch and a hungover wreck a few days a week. Now as in I'm keeping it together in all the ways you can see. Trying too hard on the things that are easy distractions and not the content of the actual growth and tasks that needs to happen for me to become more settled and at ease.

I'm reading "Rising Strong" by Brené Brown and it's making me think every day. There's a part about people being their best that came along right when I was really starting to question why I think it's my job to determine whether someone is doing things up to my standards. At home this looks like me coming home from work at night and huffing about dishes I wouldn't have left in the sink or a towel left on the bathroom floor. At work it looks like me just doing more work faster instead of my fair share. In all of this I build resentment and judgement until I'm a superior miserable mess. Fuck that.

She's asked an interesting question: "Do you think other people are doing their best?" Do you? At first my answer was a firm "NO!" I thought more about it and tried thinking that no matter what, at all times everyone is doing the best they can at that moment. That to meet people where they are you have to meet them where they are, not where you think they should be.

Since I started thinking about this best thing I have been thinking about it particularly when I go running. It goes like this: I start to run, my body is cold. I am slow. At that time, my best is small- just that I'm out there, feet plodding one in front of the other. That is my at-that-moment-best. Is it stupendous? Remarkable? Impressive? No, it's pretty regular and totally boring and normally not qualified as "best". Here's the thing: best does not have to be Everest. Sometimes it's just getting out the damn door.

Here's the other thing: what if what I think is totally crappy and awful is your best? Who do I think I am? Someone out there is thinking my best is crappy and awful too. I could only breast feed both my boys for about six months before I gave up. I was drinking at the time and falling apart and that was my best. That I wasn't drinking every day and  I was trying to pump before I did drink was my best. My boobies wouldn't fill, I couldn't stop drinking, I struggled and struggled, my children were hungry. Me giving up and feeding them formula was my best. Someone out there is horrified by that, and someone else thinks I really tried. Everyone's best is different.

Being the best person I want to be makes me the happiest when I am honest about what I am capable of at the time. Best doesn't have to be the dirty word it's made out to be. Best doesn't mean I run frantically all over my life, it means I listen to it and hear it. Best means I honor myself by minding my own expectations and extend myself some compassion and understanding when my best is being a banshee when people won't put on their shoes. It's sharing that compassion and understanding with others too. It also means not being afraid of it, not being scared of failing or falling. It means pushing myself when I want to stay comfortable, hearing when I really need to stop.

The thing I really love is the thought that everyone can be the best. That there is not only one best, but many of them: that I can say "I am the best at running in the woods!" and you can say "I am the best at running in the woods!" and it's all true. Being the best isn't selfish or only. It's not trophies for everyone, it's the inner knowledge that even if I'm not on stage with a prize I know what's up.

Rock your day. :)












19 comments:

  1. Hi Amy. I'm so glad you found the courage to get started with a therapist. I think it's so hard to do this work on one's own, and some of it is impossible to do without a second pair of eyes or ears to sort out what's going on. Fining someone you connect with right away is amazing! It sounds like you're getting ono some good stuff here, which is no surprise because yo've put so much thought into it already. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all goes. And just so you know, you're already the best! xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I think you're the best too- that proves my point ;)

      I have put a lot of thought in, I like how my self talk is slowly shifting from mean to compassionate. I think a therapist will help so much and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm ready for the hard work. Much love!

      Delete
  2. The part where you said you pumped before you drank..... sob. Bless your heart. At that moment, your best was good enough. I am so glad you found a therapist. Only because I know that in my own life and that of my children finding the right one can really change things around and fill us with HOPE that all is not lost. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's never lost. I know, it's sad to think of me pumping away so I could drink- but then it was so normal! And it probably still is. Drinking is so normalized in our culture- it occurs to me that drinking is so "cool" but drugs are a dirty secret- how ridiculous! It makes me mad just thinking about it.

      I love you so Annette. You make a big bright spot in my heart dear friend! I'm hugging you tight. Xxxooo

      Delete
  3. I have missed your writing, Amy! Kristen mentioned you in the conversation we had the other day and had to come over, and what you wrote was *exactly* what I needed to read (funny how that works). I can relate to everything you said, about the stuff in the sink, etc. and especially the running. I find that this "best" thing also ties into comparing myself to others (just to further complicate things, of course). So I compare my best to someone else's. Whoa. So that really stings for me! I can never be the best that someone else is, so why bother? And what is MY best anyways? If I am not conquering the mountain, why bother?
    When I run, I have this weird thing that I have to do "better" than my last run - faster pace, better feel, etc. When I race, I HAVE to get a PR, or it's a waste. And of course, this doesn't happen. I have shitty runs. And so I flog myself over it, because I DIDN'T DO MY BEST. Or did I? I don't know, but what you say makes a lot of sense - "I honor myself by minding my own expectations and extend myself some compassion and understanding when my best is being a banshee when people won't put on their shoes." Sometimes my best is just putting my shoes on and getting out the door. (like today will be).

    Anyway, I am glad you are going to a therapist (I sometime miss going to mine), and I LOVE that question she gave you. It was a "whoa" moment for me too. Great question.

    Anyway, hope you are well and thank you for this :)

    Cheeerrrsssssssss
    Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paul! I am so glad to hear from you, too. I have still been doing a lot of thinking about the whole best thing, wondering how the hell an alcoholic like me could be such a perfectionist? Oh, right!

      So, for running I decided to stop wearing my Garmin and watching the time. I decided that running is my pleasure, it isn't my work. I love to run, except when I get all bogged down in how fast and how far I'm going. So I decided to say fuck all that and I have been really enjoying my runs so much more. I decided that running is like therapy for me, and for my therapy to work it can't be all torture and striding- it has to be for pleasure. I even walk (gasp!) if I feel done. That isn't to say I don't push myself, it just means I listen and am learning the difference between the voice of fear (you aren't fast enough to be a real runner) and the voice of encouragement (you are amazing even if you are slow as hell) And for goodness sake remembering the most important thing: I'm doing it!

      Cheers dear friend!

      Delete
  4. I read and reread Rising Strong too and first time I didn't really get it. But the 2nd time I did, plus the doing your best really stuck in my head too. I found a poster last week that I just had to have after reading that book and it says " No one expects you to save the world otherwise you would have been born wearing a cape and tigths. Just do the best you can". I just love it, it totally resonated with me and I keep talking to myself when things are not so perfect and I am thinking about wine and I wish my life was different and i just tack on the end of the conversation in my head "it's okay I a doing the best I can". Great post - thanks xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I'll have to read it again too. I want to take the "best" out of the quote you wrote and make it this: "No one expects you to save the world otherwise you would have been born wearing a cape and tights. Just do what you can do." All this pressure to have our best life, to do our best, to be our best. I don't like it. I want to be able to just do, and follow that where it takes me.

      Delete
  5. This post has made me gush tears, choking, tight chested, gonna go 'ugly cry' as Oprah would say. I am so choked by so many things you said I actually can't make sense of all the emotions I am feeling. Some of it is I DON'T do my best because why bother? Right? What's the point? Those are thoughts circling around at the moment in my head. Like many others here I appreciate your honesty, frankness and ability to self reflect. I think therapy will be excellent (and tough) as you will have someone feeding back to you live as it happens. I am a huge advocate of therapy and delighted you are going for it, remember the more uncomfortable it gets the more you are heading in the right direction, tough it out. Whoa! I am so shaken by this post as I think it shows me how judgey I can be of others as a way of deflecting all that is wrong in my life. Sending you a big virtual hug and bless you for so real. Gonna go stomp around the moor now with my dogs and figure out what this has really tapped into. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh girl, I love an ugly cry.

      I think that's part of the boundary we have to set for ourselves, like this- look here, today I am just feeling medium, but when we start that "why bother" bullshit is when we need to get extra on the ball and stop to listen to what we really need- whether that's a rest or a challenge or just to breathe and wait it out. I am just now learning how to not use others as a barometer of how I'm doing by just asking myself how I'm doing. This is my one life, and if I'm busy living someone else's life mine just lays there, empty. I hope your moor stomping gave you some good thoughts. Thanks for commenting- it made me think. xo

      Delete
  6. I was so glad to hear this! I have the impression you have been dancing around the idea of therapy for quite some time, but still doing your sober- thing/life- finding thing on your own. You have gotten started, that is the biggest hurdle. It is very difficult to find a good therapist. Serendipity is usually involved. By good, I mean one who you connect with, who gets you, and supports you, but gently nudges you as needed. My suggestion to maximize the experience-having been there on both sides of the proverbial couch-would be to define some specific goals for therapy when you are ready. In concrete behavioral terms if at all possible. It's ok to meander about for a bit, but at some point therapy should help you change non-productive behavior patterns. Change the behaviors and the improvements in thinking and feeling do come.
    That being said, there are moments were merely saying things out loud to another human being can result in life-changing epiphanies. It just doesn't happen all that often.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does help to say stuff out loud to another person- especially one who can pull out things you never thought of before. I have been wanting to go to therapy for a while, a long while, and I finally got to that point where I ran out of excuses and wanted to go more than I wanted to not go. Some of this baggage is heavy! I'm ready to put it down. I know it may sound a little fatalistic, but if I'm lucky I'm halfway through this life, I want these years to be good ones. I've wasted enough time already carrying some of this stuff around. It's lovely to have someone to help show me where to put it.

      My hardest thing is not taking my "capable self" to therapy- but to be hurt and honest and curious without being "ok". Thanks for reading and for commenting :)

      Delete
  7. Hi Amy!
    I have gone to therapists many years. Most have helped me.
    My last one was awesome helping me learn self-compassion.
    xo
    Wendy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Self compassion is such a huge thing. It can heal so much. xo

      Delete
  8. Wow, what a wonderful post. I am so so happy for you that you stuck it out and found a therapist. Those first steps are the hardest, heaviest ones, but they are so worth it. You're honoring yourself, and that can be tough for people like us, the ones who are SO hard on ourselves. I love what you wrote about how you first start running and how that's your best, even if it seems normal or not very best-like. I think you did an excellent job of explaining something that many people don't understand in a simple way. You're such a good writer! Thanks for sharing your story. You are helping so many people :)

    ReplyDelete