I dread those first visits with a new therapist. The re-telling of family history, recounting of old hurts, justifying stupid actions and not very much in terms of therapy. Except that the telling can sometimes be therapeutic, depending on who listens.
There I sat on the couch in the new psychologist’s office and there we went again.
He drew the genogram, asked about family history of mental illness, delved into all the details of my past. The unhappy childhood, the stressful adolescence, the fun years at uni, followed by heartbreak. The decision to have children with and marry my ex. How stupid was I? It all sounds ridiculous in the telling. There was no great love between us, just a comfortable knowledge of each other (or so I thought) and ten years’ worth of history.
The psychologist asked all the pertinent questions, drew all the right conclusions; I felt understood. We discussed past therapies and my expectations of this new relationship. I think he can help.
I scoffed at CBT and its inability to change my belief system, even though it changed my thoughts. I mentioned previous attempts at mindfulness that aimed to dismiss my “issues” rather than deal with them. We talked about the need to deal with the underlying causes rather than just the symptoms. I feel hopeful.
When I went for my walk later that day, I reflected on past therapies and realised just how much help CBT had really been with my social anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder. I used to be afraid of everything and everyone, stressing out over the tiniest things. Now I take just about everything in my stride because of the techniques I learnt, the new thoughts I learnt to think.
I still get incredibly anxious, except now I can’t even tell what I’m anxious about. Just the “maybes” and probabilities of the future? The “what ifs”?
Underlying my mental health issues is the belief, developed in childhood, that I’m not good enough. I don’t like myself very much and don’t believe that I can, or should, succeed. I don’t believe I’m worthy. Which made me a perfect target for my abuser, who fed me constant, empty praise while undermining my sense of worth and my mental health.
So now, I start the journey again, more knowledgeable about myself, about what works for me and what doesn’t and much more willing to end therapy if it doesn’t get me anywhere.
Wish me luck.