Therapy is making me… raw

I don’t know why I’m surprised anymore, but the end of this semester kicked my @$$ AGAIN. I was a ball of stress. Having several work trips and events on top of things WAS NOT HELPFUL NO IT WAS NOT THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I turned everything in, but my work was pretty bad. Sub-par enough that I’m pretty disappointed. And sad. And embarrassed. But I’m trying to have grace for myself and realize just how difficult it was and to rest in the fact that I DID IT and that I 100% did the best I was capable of doing considering the circumstances. I am not Wonder Woman and I don’t need to try to be.

It’s been hard to have grace for myself because for a while there I was always at the edge of crying. For over a week, I teetered on the edge of bawling, only occasionally taking breaks to outright bawl when I had moments to myself. I’ve been feeling worthless, stupid, and hopeless about having a career where I am successful and appreciated. And being in the midst of this made me think back to prior end-of-the-semester times and at first I was confused (and self-judgmental) at just how raw I am this go-round. I have handled stress before. I’ve done this “write difficult papers and put on final presentations while working full-time+ at a job that is mentally and emotionally taxing” before. Why is this time different? Why am I handling the stress so much more facially? As in, visible IN MY FACE at all times? Why am I handling this all SO. BADLY. ?

Then I realized I’m not handling it badly. In fact, I’m handling it the most honestly and healthily I have ever before. The thing I should credit, I think, is therapy.

I had never before been to prolonged, consistent therapy before this past year. I went briefly a few years ago, to deal with a particularly fraught situation, but then we moved six hours away and I couldn’t continue meeting with my therapist. While I was sad not to be able to continue with my (wonderful) therapist, I was also in the bloom of newlyweddedness and thrilled about the way our new life together was shaping up. I didn’t *need* therapy (though I certainly would have benefited from it).

Then we moved to Hawaii. And I started a job. And shit hit the fan. And kept hitting the fan. And then the fan was just a whirring cyclone of shit and I almost had a total and complete breakdown. Back to therapy I went, and I found just the best person. And this time around, I’m keeping a consistent schedule of meeting with my therapist. Going to therapy is just part of my regular life, and is one of the things I simply and consistently do. And that means that now when I experienced difficulties, instead of kind of stamping down the emotions and trying to cognitive-bulldoze my way through the pain, instead I think, “I can’t wait to unpack this with my therapist,” or “I really want to hear what Dr. X says about this.” In other words, I am able to let the emotions and the reactions stay present, stay surface, stay accessible. I’m not (as) scared of them because I know I am able to work through them with a trusted, safe, helpful source very soon.

In my therapist I have someone who has a genuine (even if commodified) investment in my well-being. I believe she wants me to feel better, and that she wants to listen. I have someone who will listen to all my stuff and not judge me for it. So on that level I don’t have to be scared of my emotional stuff because I know someone will understand or at the very least help me navigate my emotional stuff without shaming me for it. I trust her.

So all that to say, I think therapy is keeping me raw. Because of therapy, I don’t feel the same need to put up defenses to deal with or navigate my stuff anymore. All my stuff can stay a little more present with me because even if it threatens to overwhelm me, I have someone who will help shore me up so it won’t. This means I also get to deal with my stuff in a healthy, long-term-impactful manner. I am so grateful for that fact that I’m tearing up just writing it. It’s like the painful surgery to fix a knee, or the cleaning of a wound before bandaging it. It hurts more in the immediate, but that pain is just simply part of the process of getting the shit out.

And I got a lot of shit. I am currently a very bitter, resentful, pissed-off person. I don’t like that, but I’m relieved I can admit it so I can work through it and find the happier (though probably still always a little bitter — IT’S HOW I DO) person who wants to come from under that oppressive stuff. For me, feeling safe right now means always feeling a bit raw. I’m ok with it, especially now that I’ve invested in some high-quality waterproof mascara.

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