Exactly three years ago today, I went to my first therapy session.
I had gotten to the point where I had made such a big mess of my life that I could not see any way out of it. Where I never told the truth anymore to anyone, including myself. Especially myself. Where I was having panic attacks in the bathroom at work, rocking back and forth while whispering the sinner’s prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner,” like Franny Glass at the height of her nervous breakdown. Where I wanted my husband to die just so I wouldn’t have to confront the truth of how incredibly unhappy I was to be married to him.
I logged on to my insurance company’s website, performed a doctor search, and came upon a therapist with the last name Flowers. My sister used to tell me that one day I would marry a man with the last name Flowers, and my name would be Spring Flowers. I thought, I married the wrong man and my name is not Spring Flowers, but this lady’s last name is Flowers, and so she must have the answers. I was obviously not capable of rational thought at this point, but it seemed as good a reason as any to pick a therapist from that very long, overwhelming list of strangers.
As it turns out, it was a very good reason. In fact, I think it was exactly the right reason. Over the next year and a half, through our weekly and sometimes biweekly sessions, I came, very gradually, to see that there were two pieces to the puzzle of why I had found myself in such a mess.
The first piece is that I was not awake and actively participating in my life. I was not, essentially, alive at all. But I began to see that life doesn’t have to look any certain way. And that I had made bad decisions, but I was not a bad person. And that there are no “bad people,” anyway, just hurting people who get desperate and do hurtful things. I began to allow myself to not only feel my feelings but to validate them as well. I began to ask myself what I wanted out of life, and then I began to allow myself to step into that life.
I decided that I had this piece down, and I was doing okay enough to discontinue my regular sessions. My lovely therapist agreed. And then I got a tattoo to celebrate my having learned this lesson, albeit in the hardest way imaginable.
A lotus flower to symbolize beautiful, hard-won, active consciousness.
A year and a half has passed since my last session, and I think I’m finally ready to tackle the second piece. Starting tonight, I’m going back to therapy to figure out how to love myself. The plan is to get a tattoo on the inside of my right wrist when I get this second part down. I’m thinking a heart.
Learning to live and learning to love. You wouldn’t think it would be this hard. But it is.