I promised last month that I would write about my love of therapy. Since today is my birthday, I’m celebrating by making good on that promise and talking about the absolute greatest gift I’ve ever given myself.
I Heart Therapy, But. . .
I started as a skeptic.In high school, friends outed me as bulimic, so my parents sent me to weekly one-on-one counseling for a while. The doctor stayed patient through weeks of silence from me. When I finally spoke to her, we made some progress. She taught me how to question my life in a productive way. I went from only asking myself how I could insulate myself from my life, to asking myself questions with meaningful answers.
--Why was I doing what I was doing?
--What did I really want?
--Would the choices I was making help me achieve what I really wanted?
Around the 6-month mark, the therapist updated my parents. She included a suggestion my father reconsider his controlling, judgemental approach to childrearing. He immediately put a stop to my therapy appointments. He would not stand to have his infallibility as head of his family questioned by anyone.I went back to dealing with things on my own.
6 Years Later
My next therapist came when my then-mother-in-law mother scheduled appointments with a marriage counselor. The therapist, a friend of Dick’s* mother, held to naive notions that every relationship problem had its root in a loss of connection between the partners. — This is not the case in domestic violence! — My ex-husband and I saw her a handful of times over a couple months, missing about half our sessions because Dick was drunk, and we hardly got past the point of orientation with her before Dick refused to continue counseling.
Another Let Down
In early 2009, Dick realized I had access to support to leave him. We were living closer to my Mom than we had in years, and I had met some amazing women through my brother. Dick requested another round of marriage counseling, but this time a Catholic priest my father had recommended. I had known the priest throughout my childhood. He proved entirely incompetent. Before asking any questions, he had made up his mind that Dick loved me and I could be happy in the marriage if I could just remember that.
A few months later Dick was sent to prison for a domestic violence conviction. As a result, the California Victim Compensation Program awarded me 40 counseling sessions.
I Have Seen the Light
My whole world changed for the better, though, during treatment with a therapist paid for by California’s Victim Compensation Fund. My new therapist specialized in dealing with patients who had endured trauma and abuse. She knew how to help me. During the time I worked with her, I learned about the dynamics of my PTSD. I also learned a lot of invaluable tools for dealing with PTSD, many of which I still use today.
2 New Therapists
I have moved to another area, and sought out a new therapist. I spent months researching counselors in my new town. I looked for practitioners who stated specialties in helping people with PTSD from abuse. I narrowed my list of therapist candidates to two and started seeing each. At the time, I had no health insurance, but the big out-of-pocket expense didn’t hold me back. I hadn’t been to therapy in over a year (since my move), was away from the support network that had gotten me through leaving Dick, and desperate for help.
While both therapists provided good care, I chose one over the other because she (my current therapist) has a group therapy option as a companion to one-on-one sessions. I now meet with her about every other week, and the therapy group meets every week.
A Happy Struggler
I still have symptoms of PTSD. I also get let down by plenty of realities that don’t match my expectations, but these things don’t completely define my life. They used to. I don’t need to be perpetually happy to be a happy person. Every day I face my life, with all its baggage, just like everyone else. Now, though, I have so much understanding of myself and know so many tactics for caring for myself and living the life that I want. Therapy has allowed me to transform my hatred for waking up and my fear of going to sleep into love of opening my eyes each morning and a sense of real safety in my home.
I’ll Say It Again
Getting a therapist who specializes in treatment for survivors of abuse stands as the hands-down, absolute greatest thing I have ever done for myself.
I’d Love to Hear from You
Do you struggle with PTSD or other anxiety in the wake of your abuse? Have you tried therapy as a part of your recovery? If so, what experiences have you had?
*Names with stars have been changed.
Rebecca encourages survivors of domestic to speak about their experiences and to lean on each other for support.