Today I take a further step in opening up and letting the world see inside me. It is a move that makes me nervous, yet I know it is the right and healing thing to do. About 10 years ago I made my first visit to a therapist to help me deal with unresolved childhood issues that were surfacing more and more. Such previously buried conflicts within were coming up with greater frequency. This was due in part to my efforts then to close some emotional fissures and “find” my whole self but also because dysfunction often increases over time.
The first counselor I went to I liked a lot even though she was tough on me at times. She gained my trust and I saw her intermittently for about six years. I was able to make slow stop and go progress wrestling my demons with her counsel. Then in 2007 my life changed.
It was four years ago about this time that my life seemed to melt down due to the trauma of the failure of a marriage, a union that I did not want to end. The emotional chaos was not due just because of the pending divorce. It was exacerbated by the knowing that I was in majority responsible for the cause of the divorce. More correctly the main reason was dysfunction due to my “box of monsters”.
Keeping a mental image of a wooden box holding my horrors of growing up had helped me over the years to cope. When one of the fiendish critters of my youth would start to “crawl” out of the box and manifest itself in my life, I usually could mentally get it back in the box and lock it away again. The emotional harm I did to myself and others was kept to a minimum with this practice most often, but not always. Once in a while one of the monsters such as insecurity or trauma would break out of the box, grow in size in its freedom and create tremendous havoc.
The emotional crescendo about by my failed marriage (my 2nd) brought tremendous blame I placed on me. The resulting shame I felt caused me to begin seeing my trusted counselor once per week for about two years. In order to see her regularly I had to fight myself quite a bit. At the top I felt I was the controller of my destiny and whatever I needed to do I should be able to do myself. Then there were the thoughts of the American macho male stereotype and tough guy image that I wrestled. Also stirring around was thinking that other people would think I was crazy because I went to a therapist. I struggled with these misplaced beliefs a lot at first, but less and less as time passed.
In time I came to realize that going to a therapist for emotional pain is no different than seeing a dentist when a tooth hurts. My stigmatized thinking about going to counseling was due purely to ignorance and lack of knowledge. The more I got past such erroneous thinking the more rapidly I got better. I fully came to comprehend that “secrets were posion”.
Today I can proudly say I am genuinely happy for the first time in my life. I had never been able to honestly say that until about a year ago. Nothing changed outside of me. What did changed is what is inside me and my understanding of myself. Are the monsters completely gone? No, and they never will be. What has happened is they no longer have to be locked up in a box they can escape from. The little devils reside freely inside me now kept in check 99% of the time by the knowledge and emotional tools I have learned.
I liken the process to an old cartoon where there is a street vantage point of an alley at night. Standing there one sees the shadow of a big monster rat headed from the ally to the street. As the monster gets closer to stepping from the back lighting of the alley the size of the scary beast grows larger and larger. Then suddenly it emerges into the direct light of the street to be seen as only a small mouse who was casting a huge shadow because of the angle it was being viewed from.
The cartoon analogy explains my internal monsters well. Once I brought them into the light of day, became more accustomed to them and learned about them they shrank dramatically in size and strength. Once I could clearly see this way, my life began to accelerate its improvement. Today I can truthfully say my life is better overall than it ever has been. Learning that the quality of my life has mostly to do with what was inside me and not what was outside was a grand revelation. Once I put that knowledge into practice coping with whatever life threw at me became much easier. I learned that the good times were to savor and the difficult times were teachers sent to teach and make me better.
I have written all that to say to a reader I did not do this alone. First, I need to express my gratitude to my ex-wife who after the initial months of her own emotional chaos, found room to aid my efforts. In turn I believe I was able to aid her as well. I have not seen her or talked to her in a long time now which is for the best for both of us. I will always be grateful to her.
That brings me to express my gratitude to the person who had by far the largest role in my growth. I can’t name her or lend any more than generalities about who she is. I will say only that she is a licensed counselor who for me was a bit of a miracle worker. She has said now for almost two years I don’t need to come back. However, I do still make an appointment every few months as a way of checking in, confirming to myself that my recovery from my childhood junk continues and to again express my gratitude to her.
In the last decade of searching for healing, I had experience with a few other therapists. For my issues most went through the proper motions but I could not connect with them. Maybe it was just an issue of compatibility and they were a better fit for others. What I do know is that outside of myself, there is one person who did most to help me become the well adjusted, contented and happy person I am today: My therapist. Thank you R.!
Nothing is life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. Marie Curie