From the time I was 18, I have always been fascinated by the workings of the mind. This mind that we can’t place anywhere in our body, but which controls everything in our lives.
All my life, I have keenly felt the mind’s absence and also its presence. I have seen my mind blossom. I have seen it shiver and curdle in a mess. I have seen mental wellness – that beautiful synchronicity of emotional wellness – and I have seen mental illness. None more devastating than when I lost my brother to suicide.
When I started therapy this year, I didn’t start willingly. I was pushed to it. I thought I was super-cool, handling everything until life gave me a shove this year and said, “About time you clean up the mess in your head, woman.” I didn’t even realize that I was living in a mind-mess. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to be in a mess to take up therapy. We think that we “need” therapy because we have some “problem.” But I don’t go running or work out because I think I have a problem. I work out because it just is part of me – it’s part of training my physical body to realize its wellness. I realize that we need to look at therapy as just part of our overall wellness. To recognize and live in compassion for ourselves and others. Not to think that therapy is about fixing our broken selves because that is an act of fundamental aggression to ourselves – as if we need fixing like our cars in the garage.
We are beautiful in our brokenness. We are broken because we are beautiful.
If we can lovingly feed our bodies with a walk, nourish it with berries and almond milk, we can lovingly feed our minds with words of care, thoughts of healing, and spaces of allowing it to be: a space where we look at the mind as the sky, and not the septic, sewage tank that we think needs treatment.
When I did decide to take up therapy, I didn’t look for serious qualifications. I chose my therapist online on a whim: she has pink/purple hair, and I felt I could identify with someone like that. I went by instinct because you can look for the greatest credentials, but if you don’t feel a rapport with your therapist, then all those qualifications come to naught. My instinct was right: I enjoy my rapport with my therapist because she has a precious ability: she makes me laugh even when I relate trauma. And humor is the most under-rated CBT technique. She hasn’t given me a single ‘solution’ so far and nothing earth-shattering in insights either. But she has given me space for less thinking and more understanding.
Too many people take me too seriously. The respect I receive, although I am thankful for it, can be dangerous for your ego. My therapist doesn’t pander to my ego. If I say, “Right, my kindness is just a professional facade,” she grins and says, “Yes, it is.” I stare at her, flabbergasted, and then realize that she has just pricked my little vanity bubble. And it makes me smile to see that someone is doing that.
It’s tough to condense your life of 40 years into 45 minutes. I am anxious about each session because this is not about just venting. There’s work to be done. Anxiety. Anger. Trauma. Abuse. Words that linger in our heads, dancing a chaotic cosmos of deep-rooted pain. But these words can coalesce into beautiful meaning if we put the right work into it. I worry that I don’t know how much I should reveal or how less for each session. Does it matter? How can she get the “full picture,” I wonder anxiously. And then I see what I am doing. I am trying to make even my therapy sessions perfect. An Excel sheet of organized columns and rows of my life. Why am I trying to control my therapist’s own approach? She knows she is perfectly capable of asking me anything and also not ask what I don’t want to share.
I feel like I have run a full marathon after each session. Tired. But also proud. I feel vulnerable but also safe. I feel exposed but protected.
I should have done this years ago, I know. Because only when we learn to love ourselves can we become better in our professional and personal lives.
I will continue to document my therapy journey because writing, I hope, will bring more awareness of the fragile, beautiful world of our minds.
May you find your happy place today. Be it in a book, a leaf, a hug, notes of blue, a samosa, a client’s warm words of praise, or a million-dollar sale. May you be a wee bit flabbergasted.
5 Replies to “Notes From My Therapy: Chapter 1 From The Book Of Messy Minds”
Smytha, I read your response to my note, and all I can say borrowing the mantra from Veda is Om Shanti.
PS, the little martian gave me a good chuckle.
Smitha, many times I guide myself by reviews just to have an idea of what readers say about the book, yet I don’t take at heart their personal opinions of the book, author or narrative, I like to discover that myself knowing we read books that we’re drawn to and enjoy—something very personal. I found your review brutally honest (as someone wrote) and I take your word of the discrepancies of the world you know (India) and the author’s world to be far apart from each one’s realities and perceptions. When I read books I note the distinction of the type of book I’m about to read: fantasy, fiction, realism, history… and The Henna Artist clearly says it’s a historical ‘fiction’ which I understood right away was a made up world in a real setting (India) in this case. I also write middle grade books, indie author, studied writing for over 15 years (I’m also a professional translator) and yet I dare not to criticize anyone who write and tell them their writing is not up to part to my idea and perception of writing a fictional novel. Not everyone likes my books (middle grade fantasy ghost stories) knowing that I understand that there is a reader out there who enjoys them and I’m sure children who do not like ghostly stories won’t be picking up my books to read) all perfectly understood.
I read for pleasure, I get into books and lived with the characters, their lives in their places, I don’t compare reality with fantasy, I just read, enjoy immensely the book, then I finish and I move on to another.
India…my husband and I love India, and its people (having dated as a young woman in New York City, a lovely brilliant Brahmin doctor from India.) I also read many books by Indian authors and I would say I enjoyed them immensely, the book you say it’s written for white woman (Am I white? Jewish, Sephardic, Latin America?)_ I don’t like Jane Austen my females authors are more like: Alice Munro, Doris Lessing, Wislawa Szymborska and so many more . . . (this would tell you my age group– I’m a female from the women’s lib time heheheh.)
Smytha, your ‘gospel’ is kindness, propagate that with your reviews and lessen your authoritative narrative of what India is and is not in the eyes of Alka Joshi.
Thank you, Clara, for taking the time to express your thoughts so eloquently. I couldn’t figure out this post comment for a while since it had nothing to do with the post. I would like to say that I have updated the review to reflect that it was never meant to be a review, and that my thoughts on it are valid, but it was never intended to be anything more than my thoughts. So, while I humbly accept your admonition, I would like to say that my thoughts are still valid, and my opinions matter. That’s what books should be. I know that Alka doesn’t have an issue with my little note on her book. And all my responses to the comments encourage readers to read the book, and I have only expressed joy when others have disagreed with my views, happy they liked the book. I do think that’s kindness too. 🙂 And as for my ‘authoritarian’ narrative, I wish I was that. This is my reading of the book based on my understanding, and no one is more authoritative than the reader. So, let’s leave the narrative, shall we? And focus on reading and discussing those differences rather than give it any more importance? Thank you, and I send you light.
My updated text:
Update Dec 2021: This little note of mine on my experience with this book seems to have taken off in ways I never intended. To everyone who writes to me, please note that this is not a review. It’s one person’s very personal observation, and will never reflect anyone else’s opinions about this book. Please read or support the author in other ways. But also, please allow the reader to have their say. That’s what books should be. We read. We love the words. We love to talk about the experience. Anything as stuffy as a ‘review’ is not what I intended with this note. It shouldn’t stop you from reading this book, although I respect the choices we make when doing so. I have enjoyed the lovely comments, and even more so, from the ones who loved the book. I can only wish you joyful reading experiences – let’s read them all, yo!
I am going to enjoy these, I know. And I really like the sound of your therapist. She makes you laugh *giggles*
Haha. I am getting better….at….laughing.