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.