Anyone who has been on a long trip with kids (or even as a kid) is familiar with this phrase. As adults we try to rationalize that the 'joy is in the journey' but children are more honest. They want to be at the destination and they want to be there right now. This is how I feel about therapy.
This month marks one year since I realized WHY I am in therapy. I have actually been going to therapy for about 14 months, but it has been a year since I realized what the real issue is. Since then I have been looking, in vain, for some sort of map and/or crystal ball to tell me what to expect and how long this journey will take. In the beginning I read several books...that's what I do. (Just call me Leslie, A.D. for autodidactic) I learned a lot which helps me intellectually process this journey, but didn't seem to speed it up any...which was, of course, my real goal.
I have been reflecting on this past year, pondering the Landmarks, if you will. After all, if I can't have a map and a crystal ball, perhaps I can create them for those who follow me. And perhaps by looking at the past year, I could make some predictions about the coming year? A girl can hope.
In a nutshell, I started therapy because I was having anxiety attacks. These were couched between other serious health issues which made diagnosing them tricky, but I had a great doctor that cared about me as a person, not just a number. I am so grateful to him. About two months into therapy, I had my first "flashback" and then I knew exactly what was the root of my anxiety. With that flashback, one memory that has always been with me, and a few other clues, I could piece together what happened. Shortly after this, I was "triggered" at my therapist's office and we realized that I have a Dissociative Disorder.
Without a map, I really had thought that by now I would have recovered more of my memories about what happened, and yet I haven't. I know this must come as a surprise to you as it does to me. After all, if I can't remember exactly what happened to me then why has the last year been so hard? And why can't I remember? Excellent questions.
The work I did in therapy this last year, and believe me "work" is precisely the correct verb, can be broken down into basically three parts. One, grieving. Much of the pain I have felt was not about what happened to me but what did not. About the love I did not receive as a child. Every child should be cherished and adored by loving parents and caregivers. I did not receive that from one of the key people in my life, and I had to allow myself the time to mourn that, just as one would mourn a death. Two, letting go of the guilt. Though it seems irrational to me still that I would blame myself for abuse that happened to me as a child, so it was. Now matter how much I told myself that was ridiculous, the subconscious mind is not easily converted to new ideas. Then when the weight of the guilt made me feel that I could go no further...it happened. My mind accepted the truth that it wasn't my fault. That was huge. Three, understanding how my Haunted Mind...my Dissociative Disorder affects me. There is tons more I could say about that, but I'll save it for another day.
So are we there yet? I have heard from people who are dealing with the same thing that I am that their memories started returning after about a year in therapy. Oh boy... That is not a journey I want to take. When I had the first flashback it was like reliving the experience, physically and emotionally. Horrible. Looks like unpaved road, full of pot holes and few gas stations ahead. . .
How much longer? Well, this may surprise you more than anything I have written so far, but I know several people who are dealing with Dissociation that have been in therapy for 10-20 yrs and while they assure me that it does get better, I know they still struggle. I have struggled with that. I have to accept that this journey is not a "summer vacation", it is my life. When I lamented about this to my wise doctor friend, he helped me realize that all is not lost. I can still make plans, set goals. Realistically I realize that I can't just "reset" to where I was before, and if I really ponder it, I suppose I wouldn't want to. With some limitations, I can decide where I would like to go, and ask my friends and family to help me get there.
A new destination. I like that. I'm not sure what it will be yet, but for now it is enough to know that I am still in the driver's seat, and while I still don't have a map, I do have terrific support for the journey.
As always, thanks for coming along with me.