There is a sacredness to our relationship with our therapist. We open our hearts and ask another person to peer in. We share our stories, show our scars, expose our most tender feelings and protected memories. There are times when we share with our therapist things we might not share with another person, even a spouse or close friend. We have faith that our therapist will honor and respect us. For many of us, there will be few relationships more intimate than the one we share with our therapist: intimacy based on trust, truth and emotional vulnerability.
I have said, again and again, that being unwell is not hard. This is only true in that it requires very little effort, on my part, to remain stationary, locked in the same patterns. After years with an undiagnosed mental illness, I have all the tools required to survive; if surviving is my only goal. Over the years, I cultivated some spectacularly innovative, but ultimately impractical, coping skills. When I am at my worst, all I have to do is dig into my bag of homemade salves and I can find some way to temporarily sooth my hurt. I can be selfish and self-indulgent. I can be restless and self-destructive. I can be quiet and emotionally detached. Usually though, I end up at sleep. Sleep, which quietly consumes each day with such quiet efficiency that entire years disappear, unnoticed.
In reality, being unwell may not be hard, but it can be incredibly painful. It can be isolating. It can be complicated. Juggling the day to day tasks of living can be an effort. There is too much or not enough of everything. Things are too bright or too dim. Things are too big or too small. Ultimately, I reached a point when breathing hurt and the air on my skin felt felt like wool. My level of discomfort directed my day. I only began therapy because being sick became unmanageable. Frederick Douglas once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” This is so true, my friend. After all, if staying in the same place wasn’t so uncomfortable, would any of us reach out for help?
There is an old proverb that says, “When the Seeker is ready, a Guide will appear.” To the seeker, the proverb instructs both to “seek” and be “ready” for a journey. For me, that journey is both inward and outward – but self-inventory can be messy and exhausting. I live with so many regrets: all the times I chose wrong, all the times I behaved badly, all the missed opportunities. Shame is a heavy load to carry. It is especially heavy alone. I understand that I need help. I accept that I can’t do it all by myself. I called to the universe for a guide. I did not call for an oracle or a savior; I called for an experienced traveling companion. I looked for someone whose light would illuminate my path. Someone to walk beside me, listen to my fears, and help me carry my bag of homemade salves. I knew, above all, that I needed someone who could help me, along the way, lay down the things I no longer need.
I asked for help only when I came to fully understand that I need a guide, to walk beside me and help with the heavy lifting. I accepted help only when I came to fully understand that I AM THE SEEKER and I must be ready to travel. Staying sick, staying in the same place, can be easy. Change is hard. Still, I understand that change is necessary in order to manage my disease. I am learning that mental illness can feel like a line of stones, tethered to your ankle, or it can feel like a pebble in your shoe. Either way, when movement becomes necessary, change is inevitable.