Meeting with a new therapist is a bit like going on a first date–exciting, full of potential but hella unnerving. I’ve always been hell-bent on impressing my therapists with my great insight and wisdom. Which can make for an awkward therapist first-date.
Typically, I wait until I’m dangling on the precipice of a dramatic, jagged emotional abyss before I make a therapy appointment. I always think–against all odds–I can get all bootstrappy and handle it (whatever it is) on my own.
This particular time, just over a decade ago, it was infertility, crippling anxiety, and the sheer terror of navigating the full human range of emotions totally sober. So, you know, at least I was bringing a lot of material to work with.
I like to be prepared.
But even then, with all pressure and pain making it difficult to even breathe, I spent the first therapy session trying to convince the new therapist that I was completely normal.
How do I know about my unconscious master-plan to convince her of my expert level normalcy? Because she told me. Gently. She was a soft-talker. A careful question asker. I thought her overly-conciliatory tone and her constant encouraging affirmations were going to drive me bananas. Instead, they gave me a soft place to land.
She saved me from myself.
And she started by unravelling this whole “normal” bit.
From the time I was 8 years old, I’d been convinced that I was a complete weirdo freak. And that no one would love me if they really knew me. And, also, that I was completely irredeemable.
This made for a super-fun inner voice. The life of the party, really.
But this woman patiently listened and pulled at threads that seemed like they were attached to a different psychic sweater entirely, and yet… by the end… that restricting, suffocating sweater of “normalcy” lay destroyed at my feet.
It was like magic. But it wasn’t. It was hard work that her unwavering kindness and belief that I deserved better–even when I didn’t agree with her–made possible.
She pops into my mind sometimes when I’m doing yoga.
It’s okay if that seems weird. I’m not really caught up on the normal thing anymore.
And it always happens when I’m doing a heart-opening pose.
Yoga has been part of my path on and off since the darkest days of my active alcoholism. It was my toe-hold for the long, winding journey of pulling myself out of that hell. Those first yoga poses I learned allowed me to reconnect spirit to body, after a 6 month blackout (those 6 months really are totally lost to me, except for fragments here and there. And those fragments, honestly, I’d rather forget).
What finally pushed me into making that first, awkward therapy appointment with Dr. Soft-Talker was a heart-opening pose. I was doing yoga alone in a room, eyes glued to a video (I hadn’t quite tamped down my perfectionistic tendencies at that point. Progress not perfection, y’all). The soothing, rhythmic voice moved me into a pose that pushed my chest forward. Show the world your heart, he suggested from the screen of my laptop.
I physically couldn’t do it. I could not push my chest forward. I could not show anyone anything. Because there was so much ugliness, so much I hated inside. The fear was absolutely breath-snatching.
I sat down and cried at the sheer hopelessness of it all.
I found myself in the therapist’s office just a little while later. Being awkward. Totally avoid showing her my heart at all costs. She found it anyway. She was pretty damn good at her job.
And now, when I do heart-opening poses, which are some of my favorites, I can feel the love (for myself, humanity, the universe) open me to all the magic and beauty and tenderness in the world. And I feel such deep gratitude to this woman who believed that normal was bullshit and that I deserved more.
It’s been a process. Just like getting sober, healing and living a big, beautiful authentic life is a journey. Sometimes I’m good at it. Sometimes not so much. But I hang on to the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I build on them. And I keep trying.
New day. New try.