When my daughter was five months old, whatever dam that was holding back my postnatal depression broke and suddenly I was caught up in an ocean of emotions.
I was drowning. After calling my doctor, I was instantly put on medication and it was suggested, in huge big neon lights, that I see a therapist. Therapist. The word made my stomach lurch. I had tried therapy for a little while during a pretty strong bout of depression in my teen years. I remember walking into the office, hearing the meditation fountain and seeing all of the books about therapeutic breathing.
The thought proved correct. I hated it. I hated the smell of incense, the thousand Dalai Lama quotes pinned up around the room, the woman’s whispery voice and above all else, the mediation fountain. I hated the fact that every time I said something, she would cock her head to the side and look at me with these concerned eyes. I remember thinking that there must be a class in therapy school that teaches you how to make this “concerned” face. I imagined thousands of therapist graduating, along with their diploma they are handed a hundred laminated Buddism quotes, an incense holder and a zen rock fountain. “Go forth young therapists and heal!”
After about three sessions, I decided to end my therapy.
So here I am, two kids, massive waves of depression, a bottle of pills and a task: to give therapy another try.
The last time I tried therapy, I was young- nineteen, no doubt filled with angst and hormones, and clearly that must have contributed to my previous experience. The thought of locking myself in the bathroom for eternity didn’t appeal to me, so with a sigh, I began “The Great Therapist Hunt of 2015”.
It a few months to get my first appointment. Therapy during the week can be hard when you are a stay at home mother of little kids.
I pulled up in front of the building full of hope. I was older, wiser, and the stakes were higher. I needed this to work. I took the elevator up, palms sweating, stepped out, walked down the hallway, opened the outer office door and there in the waiting room… a meditation fountain. She had graduated with my old therapist. Those old feelings began to return. I tried to push them back as best I could. One meditation fountain can’t mean the complete undoing of all therapy sessions, right?
I talked, she gave the “concerned” look, I tried to ignore it, remembering how hard I worked to get here. But then halfway through the session, she asked me to close my eyes and give my inner seven year-old a hug. I was mentally done. It was then that I realized that angst and hormones had nothing to do with my initial aversion to therapy. This just wasn’t for me. Maybe, therapy as a whole just wasn’t for me.
There was one thing for sure that wasn’t for me, and that was scheduling the sessions during the week. I had to find childcare each time and even had to bring my daughter with me to one of the sessions. Even if I could find it in myself to make the fountains, concerned looks, and zen vibe work, my life wasn’t working around the physical act of getting to the office. I had to stop.
A few weeks later, my incredible husband gave me the news that a woman in the building where he worked did sessions on the weekend. The weekend! Suddenly my mind flew, there was one problem gone, but one still remained. I didn’t like therapy.
That night, I watched my children playing with my husband, one thought in my mind: they were worth one more try.
I remember walking down the wooden hallway, nerves making my hands shake and preparing myself for the sound of that meditation fountain. I found the door with Emily’s name on it, pushed it open and… no steady rhythm of water on rocks, nothing. I almost thought to check her name, did she have a degree? No fountain surely meant no degree. But Emily had a degree, she had a degree without a fountain, without the laminated Buddha quotes, and without the incense. What was going on here?
Then the session started and it was as wonderful to me as an office without all the trappings that pushed me from therapy to begin with. The concerned look was turned into mutual laughter and thought provoking analysis. There was no hugging of inner children, no breathing exercises, just two women, acting like detectives in some Agatha Christie novel, trying to put a complicated puzzle together as a team
I realized then that therapy WAS for me. It was very much for me. It’s funny to think now, that the realization that just as all human beings have their own methods of facing the world, so do therapists. Therapy is not a one size fits all solution.
Some people need the fountains, the breathing, and the Buddist quotes. Some people need a sounding board for the random synapses that fire in their human brains every day. But I needed a someone I could laugh with, and even make light of some of the darkest parts of my life. I needed someone who looked at situations and saw the humor in them. Someone who could help me find it again too as I pondered the reasons I stayed on the path that led me to lock myself in the bathroom. I came to realize that I had lost my humor. My amazing therapist Emily helped me find my humor again.
For me, the way you gauge if your therapy is working for you is: are you jointly trying to find out what you’ve lost and trying to regain it? Are you on the path together? Because, like it or not, you and your therapist have an intimate relationship and one that, at times, might be more intimate than the one you have with your significant other. If there’s something that creates a block to that intimacy, it’s time to pull up anchor and go fishing in another cove. But don’t take your pole out of the water.
Yes, there are other fish in the sea and they don’t all swim the same way. And they don’t all have meditation fountains.