Thirty Minute Therapy

I’ve been in and out of therapy since high school and with the extensive internal work I’ve done, I recognize pretty quickly when it’s time to go back. I feel my irritability rising and my joy plummeting. I hear my self-talk turning against me. I see my days through a shadowed lense and I know it’s time. I identified these patterns a few months back, but had to put off making an appointment due to extensive work travel and financial shifts in our household.

I finally made an appointment two weeks ago with a brand new therapist and yesterday was the day. I woke up expectant. I felt energized knowing that I was about to pursue something that would lead to personal growth, self-reflection, forward progress, and overall evolvement. I love therapy!

The day had come and I was prepared for my appointment. As I ran out the door, I shoved a little yellow sticky note into my purse with a list of things I wanted to address while in therapy:

  • Grief and anxiety triggers
  • Career path and purpose for my life
  • Relationship with my son
  • Self-esteem and confidence
  • People pleasing

As a full-time working mom, I give myself enthusiastic mental hi-fives when I arrive anywhere on time. I was 2 minutes early! Yay me! I walked into the office at 10:28am feeling confident that I was about to begin a journey of self-discovery and healing. Just moments after I reached the front desk, the therapist came around the corner. I eagerly introduced myself, but immediately felt hesitation from her. She shook my hand, while studying me quizzically and said, “weeelllll, it’s going to be a veeerrry short session because your appointment was at 10am.” And that, ladies and gentleman, is when everything shifted.

The air was sucked out of the room, I instantly felt heat travel from the tips of my toes to the top of my head, color flooded my cheeks, and I began to sweat. I was frantically searching for words that would explain this mishap and convince her that I’m not irresponsible and undependable. I immediately convinced myself that I was being deservedly judged and that this woman disliked me before we even met. As we walked back to her office I was still stuttering through apologies and promises that it would never happen again. I even declared obvious untruths such as, “this never happens!” and “I never do this!” Obviously, it does happen! Obviously, I do this! My hope and excitement for transformation just minutes earlier were completely replaced with self-loathing and shame.

For the first 15 minutes of our session she explained Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and what I could expect as we move through the process. I did not hear one word! As she was explaining how we would address my grief triggers, my inner dialogue was shouting loud and fast. The monologue inside my head was saying with disgust, “she already doesn’t respect you, you’re going to have to find another therapist, there’s no way this is going to work, she’s judging you and thinks you’re irresponsible, obviously you ARE irresponsible, how could you get this wrong?, what is wrong with you?, if you can’t even get a time right on your calendar she must think you’re an idiot, it’s your fault this isn’t going to work, now you’re going to have to find another therapist and start this entire process over, you are such a disappointment, you let others down, you let yourself down!!!!” and on and on and on. I could see her lips moving, and catch a few words here and there, but for the life of me I could not focus on what she was saying. Her voice had no chance of drowning out the self-shaming roar inside my head.

And then (thank the Good Lord), I had a moment of clarity!

From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of my little yellow sticky note sitting in my purse, and I remembered that 2 of the items listed were to address my self-esteem/confidence and people pleasing.

That brief visual prompted me to consider: What if this is the beginning of my therapy? What if this is my opportunity to grow? What if I choose the hard thing and stay with this therapist instead of running away because my pride is injured and I’ve decided she hates me? What if I silence that lying voice set on repeat by breaking the script and deciding that I am allowed to make mistakes without beating myself up? That I am allowed to be human. Allowed to disappoint someone and still be respected. Allowed to confidently pursue friendships and professional relationships even with all my flaws fully in tact. Allowed to move forward after a failure without shame digging it’s nails in. Allowed to be imperfect. Allowed to be me even if it means I can’t please all people all the time. What if this veerrry short session ended in a verrry valuable lesson? What if I decided to lean into the idea that I am likable, I am loveable, I am worthy, and simultaneously, I am a flawed human!

I decided right then and there that I was not going to look for another therapist. I decided right then and there that this was simply an eye-opening example of how often I’m controlled by the intense desire to please other people. I decided right then and there that moving forward with this therapist would mean I would have to forgive myself and begin embracing the idea that relationships can and do move forward even after I’ve disappointed someone. 

After I made this decision I was instantly able to tune into what she was saying. I became present and engaged. Soon, I left the office feeling like I had quietly conquered something inside me that had attempted to sabotage my efforts to move towards health and healing, growth and transformation, hope and joy. I left feeling proud that I didn’t allow shame to chase me away from something I knew my heart and soul needed.

I want to encourage everyone reading this to join me in paying attention to what that critical voice is saying and how it may be holding you back. Let us acknowledge that this voice developed somewhere in our past as a way to protect us, therefore there is no need to criticize or judge ourselves for its existence. Next, let us make bold new choices based on the present moment to move forward with self-love, confidence, and freedom.

We are wonderfully and beautifully made. We are flawed, we are human, we are loved. 

Mama Bear

This week’s writing challenge (Hindsight is 20/20) helped me realize how much thicker my skin is now, than it was even 5 years ago. The idea of going back in time to apply the perfect comeback to a situation that had previously stunned me into silence (that’s a lie…I was stunned into sniveling in the last stall of the women’s bathroom) isn’t as enticing as it might have been before my 30’s. However, what hasn’t changed is my intrinsic “mama bear” response when those I love are treated poorly, so I decided to use the challenge to reply to the email below as if it had been originally sent to a dear friend or family member. The email below was written by a co-worker, and sent to me at 9:42pm for no other reason (that I can think of) than he could NOT stop thinking about me. Ha!

From:  (Jim) 


Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2009 9:42 PM


To:  Renee


Subject: Perception is reality?

Renee,

I hate to be the one…but I really like you and I want you to know my perspective. I think your laughing is seen as distracting to others around us. I want you to realize that sometimes I think “perception is reality” to a certain extent…sometimes it’s not warranted…we must be mindful of those around us. Has anyone ever been honest enough with you to tell you what I’m telling you?

Jim

Below is the email I would’ve sent had I found my friend crying in the last stall of the bathroom due to this late night self-esteem crusher.

Jim,

I hate to be one of many…but I really feel sorry for you, and you need to hear my perspective. I think your curmudgeon-ness is rubbing off on others around us. You need to realize that my friends laugh and general happiness present a unique leadership opportunity for you. As Stephen R. Covey, writes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change: “To change ourselves effectively, we first (have) to change our perceptions.” You COULD choose to lead other trolls out from under the bridge, and begin perceiving laughter as a sound that brings joy and tolerance to the workplace. Sometimes we have to “face the facts” even when they are difficult to live with. You must be mindful of how your glum face and ogre-like presence tends to make others miserable. Has anyone ever been honest enough to tell you that you’re a sad little man?

Renee’

I also could’ve been less wordy, but still got my message across with a little hard-core Christian sarcasm:

Jim,

Everyone hates you but God. He loves you unconditionally! Isn’t that great news?!

Renee’

And of course there’s the response that could only have been sent with sincerity if I had spent a week praying for wisdom:

Jim,

God loves you!

Renee’

In 2015, I pray that the Lord gives me the grace to be a vessel of love and forgiveness even when my flesh has every reason to be angry and hold a grudge. I pray that I will be an example of His love regardless of the personalities I may bump up against. Until then, I have 10 days to behave however I want! 🙂

The Biggest Lady

I’ve been awkwardly tall my whole life. The kind of tall where people immediately assume I played basketball, first base, and was never asked to prom. When I was a little girl I dreamed of competing in gymnastics, riding horses, and being on the top of a human pyramid. I might as well have wanted to be a little person. My favorite book in grade-school was BFG (Big Friendly Giant) because I could relate. My dad was always telling me to stand up tall and I was always looking for ways to appear shorter so I could avoid startling the 4ft soccer player I sat next to in 7th grade. It was my curse to always have a crush on the late bloomers or the stalky short-stop who would certainly french kiss my belly button if he ever leaned in for a smooch. Needless to say, being tall was terrible for my love life and I developed what I fondly refer to as a Goliath complex (thankfully sling-shots are no longer the weapon of choice!) As a result of my Goliath (AKA: T-rex, Frankenstein, or Godzilla) complex, I spent grade-school, Jr. High, High School, and college making flat-shoed shoe-makers extremely wealthy.

Years after I graduated from college I met a beautiful, tall, heel-toting, confident woman in my church choir. We naturally became fast friends (because we saw eye to eye) and eventually she persuaded me to own my colossal-ness and buy my first pair of heels. It was a big day…I was finally taking that step…I was growing up…I was ready to kick up my heels and if the shoe fit, wear it! I found a beautiful pair of patchwork leather boots (2 inches high) that came to my knees and fortunately Kohls carries behemoth size, so I tried them on. They were hot, they were sexy, and as I walked toward the mirror to take in this newly confident and proud woman, a little girl pointed at me and shouted across the shoe department, “Mommy, look at that giant lady!” Needless to say, the only thing I left the store with that day was a bruised ego.

Fortunately, with years comes maturity and I did eventually let go of my insecurity and embrace my giganticness with pride (heels and all!) It was about this time that my husband and I went to Boston to celebrate our dear friend’s marriage. We had a wonderful time dancing and toasting and drinking. At the end of the night we were winding down at the bride’s favorite Boston bar when the groom’s father stumbled over to me and put his arm around my shoulder. Clearly having had enough to drink, he leaned into me and slurred, “shhhyou’re a big shlady.” Knowing how embarrassed he would be if he knew how insulting he had just been, I attempted to dig him out of the hole by responding, “well, I wouldn’t say I’m big, but I am quite tall.” I quickly realized that he was determined to bury himself alive when he replied with “no, no, no, shhhyou’re the biggesht shlady in the room!”

Just once, I would like to feel like China in a Bull shop.

With that being said, what I love about getting older is that I no longer feel uncomfortable in my own skin, even if I AM the biggest lady in the room. Height is my family’s calling card and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m proud that I can help get a toy off the roof, find who I’m looking for in any sized crowd, turn the ceiling fan on and off with the fan chain, and step over child-gates, hurdles, and tennis court nets without ending up on America’s Funniest Videos. I am exactly the height I was meant to be and so is that powerful cheerleader at the top of the pyramid!