What Therapy Has Taught Me

Over the course of the last two years I developed a drug problem, specifically cocaine. About this time last year marks the beginning of the climax of a period of self-neglect that culminated in an emotional breakdown on a cloudy winter morning in Portland. The first person I called was my dad, followed by my mom, and then gradually, intentionally, I shared this with as many people as I could. “Get it out there,” I thought. Better not to keep it a secret from anyone. This post is in no small way a continuation of that process.

My drug addiction catalyzed my seeking therapy. And for most people who seek therapy, there is some kind of catalyst that drives them to it, often not by choice. It’s a shame that for me and so many others, therapy was something I only considered after the crisis struck. A crisis is not born of a void. I had plenty of reasons to go before I developed a drug addiction.

I’ve seen a therapist twice before. The first time was in Eugene, Oregon, Winter 2010. I saw a therapist who “outed” me. It was very necessary for me to verbalize my sexuality, as it had been repressed both specifically because it was of the homosexual variety and more broadly because that’s just kind of a thing with Christianity. I had just recently “quit” my faith and I needed some space to explore myself in ways I hadn’t allowed myself to. At the time I just thought, “I’m kind of depressed, maybe if I see a therapist they’ll remind me that I have an amazing life and I’ll feel better.” Like, “coming out” was this distant possibility that I’d maybe get around to but it wasn’t a priority (really queen?). It was one of the first things that came up in my first meeting with my first therapist. And after that I went back a couple of times but I stopped, I think, because I was still reeling from the impact of my first taste of self-acceptance.

The second time I went was for similar reasons. I was feeling depressed. This was in spring of 2012 (I think). Not a lot to say except that I wasn’t ready for it yet and I only saw the guy once. I felt it going nowhere, fast. I could have stuck with it and I might have gotten somewhere, but at that particular moment in my history I was a huge stoner which obviously had a detrimental impact on my general motivation. Things improved when I left the country for the month of June 2013 and got a bucket of ice water dumped on my life by Europe. Getting stoned 24/7 was no longer my primary source of comfort. Going to class and working on a degree that would get me a ticket back to Europe was.

And then along came cocaine, dusting my drunken evenings with a coat of fresh powder and leaving a trail of drama, chaos, confusion, and madness (Alyssa Edwards, tm) in her wake. A year after Europe had gotten me back on my feet, I began to lose my balance once again. I sought therapy, this time with a renewed sense of urgency. My physical and mental health were at stake and this was becoming increasingly clear even before I broke down and admitted to having a problem. My approach was different this time, too. I knew what I wanted: not just to feel better, but to actually help me, to get to know me, to talk to me. This is the brilliant irony of seeing a therapist.

Therapy taught me, more than anything else, how to truly, deeply, completely love myself. This was very good timing, as I also developed a new addiction that coincided with my going to therapy: Rupaul’s Drag Race. If you haven’t seen it, get educated ASAP. Rupaul says the same phrase at the end of every episode: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you supposed to love somebody else, can I get an AMEN up in here??”

What makes us hate ourselves? Why do we self-destruct? For me, it was rooted in this idea that what I actually wanted was separate from what I should want. I wanted greatness and to be followed, but I thought I should want modesty and to follow someone. I wanted praise, encouragement, love, but I thought I should want correction, “hard words”, to be put in my place. I wanted the good, but I deserved the bad. This mechanism was and still is present at the core of my being. It is a darkness within me, a trap in the night, a voice that silences my own. But this voice, roaring in my ears throughout my childhood and early young adulthood, lost a little of its acoustic depth when I began to verbalize my reality. And it is in this process of ruthless honesty and vulnerability that I have not only affirmed who I am and what I want, but I have actually called myself into existence. And now I realize that every day I must continue to call myself into existence. I would say that humility is important, though the concept of humility changes here in this new framework. Humility is not self-denial or suppression; rather it is the appreciation, rooted in gratitude, of the wondrous reality of self-discovery in the midst of a vast universe filled with infinite possibilities. Humility is the realization that the mind expands infinitely inward as the universe expands infinitely outward. Humility is why you shouldn’t be taking everything so god damned seriously.

I haven’t written in a while because I was afraid about being wrong. I was afraid I’d make a fool of myself; that I’d write something I’d regret later. But it’s not about being Right or Correct. Right and Correct are imagined, meaningless, ethereal words floating in our collective psyche that each of us distills into something different at an individual level. It’s like grammar rules. They’re not real. Helpful only to a certain extent. Sentence fragment. Fuck you, Oxford. Writing is so much more than that to me. It is my voice. It is my expression. It is my craft. It’s something I do beautifully and to my own satisfaction and in a way that is uniquely my own. Writing isn’t about being right, it’s about speaking the truth. My truth. Writing, for me, is self-love. Writing is how I call myself into existence.

There are plenty of things I unearthed in therapy, but this is all that I wanted to share for now. If you have the resources or have access to community resources that connect you with a therapist, I would strongly admonish you to pursue it. Talking about your feelings, your struggles, your desires, but more broadly, talking about you…that’s something most people don’t get to do a lot. We are more connected to each other in more ways that ever before in the history of humankind, yet the person in the room looking right at you is the one you find yourself impulsively and awkwardly avoiding, blurring your vision by whatever means necessary to avoid returning the gaze.

That person is you. You are the truth. Speak the truth in love.

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