I go and I find the one and only answer every week
And it's just me and all the memories to follow
Down any course that fits within a fifty minute hour."
- Dar Williams
Being that my heritage is one-half Czech farmers and one-half Irish immigrants, I can safely say I hail from a long line of extremely tough people. My ancestors cultivated the land by breaking rocks and plowing fields on foot. They birthed their own babies, pulled their own teeth, set their own broken bones, and got on with it. When I imagine my strong Iowan forbears doing various earthy things, talk therapy is not among them.
Where I come from, you work hard, you help your neighbors, and you're grateful to wake up on the right side of the sod every day. When something goes wrong in your life, there is always someone who has it harder than you, and you suck it up and soldier on without dwelling on it. Which is why, despite the fact that I spent several years of my adult life ruled by the whims of early coping mechanisms gone diabolically awry, I was in my early 30's and on the verge of a total stress breakdown before I thought to myself, "You know, it might not be a bad idea to TALK to someone about all this..."
Fortunately, at that point in time, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, where people don't believe in an unexamined breakfast, let alone an unexamined life. I started seeing a no-nonsense therapist named Mina Skoutelakis (say that five times fast) who steered me away from the crash course I was on, then handed over the wheel several months later when I had learned how to better navigate my psyche. I walked away from therapy a happier person, healed in many ways, with a bunch of great tools for dealing with life in a productive and positive manner.
Now, I am about to embark on another trip down therapy lane, with a new therapist (whose name isn't nearly as fun to say). I am not in crisis, I am not spiraling out of control - in fact, I really like my life. But I have decided, after much deliberation, that my psyche needs a little fine-tuning. I want to take some polish and rags and detail that sucker.
I am currently bound to a specific situation that challenges me beyond the limits of my own good sense, and this is the main reason I decided to talk to someone again after all this time. But while we're at it, I'd like to tackle the little voice that, amidst all the blessings and richness of my life, persistently whispers that I don't deserve to be happy, and that someday soon the other shoe will drop and it will all go to hell. That voice seriously needs something new to say.
This time around, I know what to expect out of therapy, and I know what a relief it is to shine that good light into the dark corners. But no matter how well you think you know yourself, or how rational you fancy yourself to be, therapy shows you stuff you aren't expecting to see. It's like a jack-in-the-box. Turn the crank, enjoy the happy little tune, and then - WHAMMO!
So, I am a little bit excited and a little bit nervous about my first appointment Thursday evening. I know that no matter what, I am in for an interesting ride.
And now, because I can appropriately work one of my favorite quotes about therapy into this post without too much stretching, I am going to close with someone else's words of wisdom (so much easier than coming up with my own).
This is from Cary Tennis, the awesome advice columnist at Salon.com:
"I know I recommend therapists a lot. It's because the right therapist can truly provide priceless service. Our relationship with ourselves is the one thing we cannot escape. We have to live with ourselves all the time. So anything that makes living with ourselves better and less painful is money well spent, if you ask me."