When I Was Reminded of the 'Growing Pains' of Therapy
I’ve been to therapy before. OK, that’s an understatement. I’m what I like to call an “advocate of therapy.” I’ve used it. I believe in it. I basically tell everyone I know they should find a therapist. For me, therapy has always been a positive. Something I would do for me. To help me. I would almost go as far as to say it’s my “me” time. How many parents out there hear what I’m saying? Where else can we go and have peace and quiet and almost one whole hour of uninterrupted time to talk about us? Then add the topping of leaving therapy feeling as though there’s been some kind of weight lifted off our shoulders. Just writing about it makes me want to call my therapist and squeeze in a mid-week session!
But then it came time for my husband to see a therapist. In my heart of hearts, I knew it was a good thing. I was looking forward to it. Hopeful. He had struggled with depression for as long as I had known him, and it was only masked by his use of alcohol in our younger days. Given my love of therapy, you can imagine my enthusiasm when he finally agreed to start counseling! Looking back on the beginning of this journey, I’ll always hear the words of my therapist, “Janae, your struggle is going to be remembering that he is becoming something entirely new.” I shrugged it off happily. Of course he was! He was going to therapy. He was going to be changed. Transformed. It was going to be amazing! Butterflies. Rainbows. The whole happy nine yards!
What I forgot in my enthusiasm was how painful change can be.
I forgot that in between the old and the new, was growth. And growth can only come with an abundance of growing pains.
I had forgotten from my own therapy from years ago — the therapy that probably saved my life and allowed me to become someone who can see butterflies and rainbows — the word I had to memorize was perseverance.
So the day came when my husband came home from counseling, and I was short with him. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t happy. He’d just gotten an hour of “him” time. What was his problem? And in that moment, in my nicest “I’m over being home alone with the kids, why aren’t you completely revived after seeing the therapist” voice, I called him out on his attitude.
One of the first things he was working on was communicating, and I was blown away in that moment at how he conveyed the emotion of being hurt. Up until this time, and throughout his depression, the only clear emotion he could convey was anger. He simply looked at me and explained how not everyone has the same experience with therapy that I had. For him, in order to get to the good, in order to see through the journey to the other side, he has to go through some muck! He was delving into areas he had avoiding his entire life. And this strong as steel man was breaking. He was feeling emotions he hadn’t allowed himself to feel in years. And all the while, he was trying to be what he couldn’t be for us in those times of battling depression. He was trying to be more present. To be more joyful. To be more kind. And to have hope.
In what some would see as a moment of weakness, I saw a moment of strength. I saw my husband fighting a battle that most won’t ever know the pain of fighting. And in that moment, I was humbled by his choice to be honest with me, to be transparent in what he was going through.
As the spouse of someone beginning this journey of therapy, I am learning what my role is. I will be hopeful. I will offer grace. I will listen. I won’t forget that perseverance matters. He will get there. I will continue to be his safe place to land, and I will remind myself my love is so needed.
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Thinkstock photo via shironosov.