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The 6 Most Important Things My Therapist Told Me

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

“I refuse to believe that you are comfortable.”

As I was talking to her about why I was scared to stop self-harming and stop my pattern of self-destruction, I described it to her as “comfortable” to me. I told her that this is what I knew, and so this cycle of destruction is comfortable and leaving it terrifies me. She told me that while she understood what I was saying and while it might be what I know, she refused to believe that there was anyway I could possibly be comfortable with destroying myself. She told me that I wouldn’t still be seeing her if I was comfortable. And if I was, to give her a call when I was uncomfortable…because if I was comfortable there was no point to this. That really helped me put things in perspective and recognize where I was at.

“You don’t believe people can change. You don’t believe you can change. And that belief is very deeply rooted in you.”

Even though this may sound hopeless, it was the most powerful thing my therapist ever told me. For years I searched for the “why.” I never knew why my depression started, why it got so bad, or why it has lasted so long. And there’s still a lot I don’t know or understand, but her telling me this gave me more insight than I had ever had previously. From a lot of people, in a lot of ways, I started to believe at a young age that people — myself included — were incapable of change. This belief dangerously advanced as my depression hit and I felt like I was destined to be depressed forever. I could not change. I could not get better. I would never be happy. Those weren’t options for me. As a result, I did things to support that belief leading to my own self-fulfilling prophecy and vicious spiraling cycle of deep depression. Recognizing that, and coming to terms with it, was huge for me. I have never received insight like that from a therapist before, and I really think it is one of the most important things I heard for my recovery.

“You will never be enough for your mother. And that is OK.”

To be clear, I love my mother; but I have a very complicated relationship with her. I am definitely at fault in parts of the relationship. But for the first time in my life, I started to learn that it is not all 100% my fault. I started to learn the manipulation that has occurred over the years, and how my mother’s distorted voice has affected my own inner critic and voice. I started to learn that I cannot love my mother the way she wants me to love her; that my version of loving her does not match her version. But I’m learning that that is OK. I may not be enough for her, but that’s OK. I’m learning that I don’t have to attach myself to her words, and they are certainly not worth me hurting myself over.

“There is a reason you are still picking up the phone and seeing me.”

I have had extremely negative past experiences with therapy. A long time ago, I stopped believing I would find a therapist that could help me. Yet, this one is different. She has helped me more than I thought would ever be possible. However, a lot of times I question if I can really do this whole recovery thing, if I even really want it. It is very easy for me to convince myself that I am content where I am because I am incapable of getting better, and therefore should just learn to be satisfied with where I am. Yet, my therapist does not let me believe that. She recognizes that there is something in me that does believe I can change, that wants to change and is willing to give it a shot. If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t be seeing her still.

“Give yourself a fighting chance.”

I often tell my therapist that it’s been “X” amount of years and I still haven’t been able to get out of this. She always responds the same way and questions if I was even really trying to get out of it during all that time. She tells me that I can’t think that way because I have never given myself a real shot. Of course there were periods I tried, periods I stopped cutting, periods I really did try to be happy and see beyond the darkness that felt like it was consuming me. But there was so much I didn’t know then, and so much I still needed to learn. She tells me that the only way I will ever see a change, the only way I can ever get out of this, is if I get out of my own way for two seconds and give myself a fighting chance.

“I’m proud of you.”

I don’t know if it’s just that I never say these words to myself or if I don’t believe I deserve them, but any time anyone tells me these four words, they just hit me in a very deep and personal way. I struggle to give myself credit for the victories I do have, and instead am often very harsh on myself. So if I make it through a night without cutting, or stick up for myself to my mother, or choose a positive coping skill instead of a destructive one — it means a lot to me for someone to recognize that…and for someone to be proud of me for that. I’m hoping that in time I can start to celebrate those tiny victories myself and be proud of myself for those things, too.

Photo credit: Icealien/Getty Images

Originally published: June 9, 2019
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