My opinion is a little skewed when it comes to therapy. I know I could probably benefit from it after everything I have been through but my short-lived experiences with it have left me cold and skeptical.
First experience – I was about 14 when my mother insisted I see a therapist. I honestly don’t remember why she felt I needed it, especially since I was pretty much a parents’ dream – didn’t get into trouble, not at home or in school, got great grades, loved my parents and didn’t want to ever lose their trust, no drugs or anything like that. To this day, I don’t know why she wanted me in counseling. We went together to the therapist and he spoke to both of us together and then also separately. At the end, with us together, he told my mother that I was a perfectly normal teenager and he didn’t see a need to treat me. Duh! But, on the way back to our car, my mother told me that the therapist had no idea what he was talking about, although she never took me to see anyone else.
Second experience – the depression I felt just after my son was born was immense, as was beginning to deal with the incest of my childhood which kept me from being a full-time mother. My mom, again, recommended I see someone but this time I felt it might be a good idea. The therapists’ name was Catherine and she seemed nice. But as time went on, I noticed she liked to place everyone into some pre-designated box, whether it fit or not. She did personality testing on me, both ink blots and multiple choice. She thought I was very dark inside because all I saw in the ink blot images was ghosts and monsters. Well HELLO – the ink was black with abstract images – of course I saw monsters! If the ink had been color, maybe I would have seen something else. And then, an answers I gave on the multiple choice test concerned her – it asked if I thought anyone was out to get me – I answered ‘yes’. She was all over that, saying it was a sign of schizophrenia. She never even asked why I answered that way before going into her spiel. At the time I worked with a girl who told me she didn’t like me (her friend and I liked the same guy) and she admittedly kept doing things to make that guy not like me. Catherine seemed like she didn’t want to believe me. Then one day, she asked at the beginning of the session what I wanted to talk about. Nothing bad had happened that week so I told her I didn’t know. She got very stern with me and said, “Well something must have happened since you’re being so defensive.” What? I wasn’t being defensive at all – I just didn’t have anything specific to talk about. I never went back after that session.
Third experience – just prior to a custody battle, my son had been exhibiting some behaviors that were unusual for him, even saying that he didn’t want to live (his step-mother at the time was terrible, even abusive to him); my son was 6 years old! As part of the custody hearings, the court required my son to get a couple counseling sessions, in which his father and I accompanied him on the first visit. This therapist’s name was Kristi. She spoke with our son, then Dave, then me. I told her, among other things, how my son had told me that his step-mother insisted that she was his real mom, that he had come out of her tummy. This really bugged my son and he kept telling me that it wasn’t true! He was also forced to call me “Sarah” in their house – he would get in trouble if he referred to me as ‘mom’. In one of the greater shocks of my life, Kristi told me that those things were normal step-parenting issues. I don’t think so, you idiot! She made the situation worse, not better.
Fourth experience – I was really struggling with authority figures on the job, along with other anxieties that seemed to be increasing. I decided on my own to see a therapist. With the bad luck with women in the past, I decided to try a man. I only saw him once – this was the session: he had me sit next to where I had been sitting and told me to look at myself in that empty seat and tell him all the good things about her. PANIC! I can’t do this! I tried and I was sweating and uncomfortable the whole time. It was similar to role-play (see below) and I can’t do that. He finally saw my reaction and stopped that lovely little exercise. Along with other things he said and did, this guy was totally not right for me and I didn’t go back. At that point, I gave up on therapy – maybe it just wasn’t for me.
Last experience – the women’s retreat. Although this wasn’t typical therapy with licensed therapists, it’s still important. I have a couple psychological blocks which date back to high school and still exist today. One – I can sing in front of hundreds, but not a just a couple or one, and two – I can’t role-play or do visualizations. I literally cannot get myself to do these things. One day during “sound therapy”, the lady wanted me to write a song for myself, just a few musical notes, no words, and to sing them for her. I couldn’t do it – anxiety hit my like a brick and I shut down. looked at me kind of odd and tried to understand why I couldn’t do it, but I couldn’t explain it. Although she was gentle with me about it, it was the first time that they found me “difficult”. The second time – we were supposed to close our eyes and visualize ourselves doing something we really enjoy. Well, for me, when I closed my eyes, all I saw was black – the harder I tried, the more black I saw. I told this lady that I had nothing – the look she gave me was one of complete disbelief. Then, when were supposed to role play about our future, she told us, “If you do this exercise, you can cross over into happiness and if you don’t (looking at me), then you can stay and drown in your own misery.” Seriously? I looked at her and said, “Well then I guess I will drown!” She laughed and tried to pretend that she was joking but she hurt me none-the-less. Her attitude towards me the rest of the retreat was different than it had been before. All I could think was – I come to this retreat where it is supposed to be safe to be yourself and to not feel rejection or disapproval from others – and there I was, once again being seen as “difficult”, like I just didn’t want to do those things, like I was just being stubborn – they didn’t understand at all that I literally couldn’t – my brain and my body would not let me! I actually left that retreat feeling like I really was different after all, like I really was bad. If they couldn’t see past what abuse had done to me, how could anyone else?
The past couple years, I have on a couple occasions considered trying therapy again. The truth is, I just don’t see it helping me. How can talking change anything? I’m tired of being judged and tired of being misunderstood. I have been through so much, so many things, where would I even start? I know some people have great success with therapy and I am happy for them, really I am. But me – I just don’t think it would work.