Going to Therapy: Setting and Smashing Your Goals

Therapy is rough work. Some sessions are great, some will leave you in tears.

Everyone goes to therapy for different reasons- for anxiety, depression, substance abuse (in some cases, this court-ordered), grief, and other issues.

I began therapy in 2015 for three out of four of those reasons- the substance abuse part came in later.

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Not As Much Fun To Pick Up The Pieces

That’s part of a Nine Inch Nails lyric from “The Perfect Drug”, one of the best songs from the 1990s. Therapy helped me pick up the pieces of my life- I found Rachel thanks to PsychologyToday. My life had just fallen apart in front of me- Jake died, I quit a job I loved, cut a lot of people off, I had no idea on what to do with my marriage and I was a complete wreck.

Let’s just say my first goal was to manage the grief. I started therapy in October 2015. The tears flowed so much that I wasn’t able to wear any makeup for two months after Jake died. I ate my feelings and started gaining weight, and the alcohol didn’t help.

One of the first things I did was make a list of all the things that I lost when he died. This was heartbreaking, but it helped me come up with ways to make something good out of something so awful. This led to creating this blog, volunteering for the AFSP and other great things.

My other big goal was to figure out what the hell to do with my marriage, or what was left of it. I was supposed to meet with my divorce attorney on September 9, the day before our 10th wedding anniversary (the irony) to sign the papers to file divorce paperwork.

I never made it to this appointment- Jake died September 1 and I didn’t have the emotional strength. I’m almost certain I spent that day crying in bed. This was a tough decision because our marriage was in a terrible spot. Matthew and I were barely speaking, and when we did, all we did was fight. I wanted out. The divorce had nothing to do with Jake, and I made sure he knew that. Our marriage was basically screwed before he ever came into my life.

So where was I supposed to go from there?

Rachel encouraged me to think.

A lot.

I emailed my attorney, who was very understanding about the change in my situation.

Over many sessions, lots of tissues and candy later, I decided to give my marriage a shot. I had changed a lot over the last couple of years, and I figured Matthew deserved a chance at who I had become. As he once said, Jake “fixed what I broke.” I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I emailed my attorney again and told her that I wouldn’t need her anymore.

I began working on myself- the third main goal. This was work on self- esteem and self-worth. I’d already learned what I would and wouldn’t take, thanks to both Matthew and Jake. This time, I was working on watching for patterns of repeat behavior that I knew I didn’t deserve, feeling better about myself, among other things.

I finished therapy in May 2018. I knew it was time- I have processed Jake’s death as well as I can. None of us know what exactly made him decide to take his life, but I have been able to find some peace with it. This was not easy. I still have days where I feel crappy about myself, but I think everyone does. I’m able to lift myself out of it. I’m sober- Rachel was thrilled when I stopped drinking. My marriage isn’t and probably never will be perfect, but it’s okay. I think I still like Matthew, and honestly, I’m lucky he still speaks to me.

I told my story about therapy for a reason- to explain why having goals is so important.

Tell Me What You Don’t Like About Yourself

If you’ve ever seen the show “Nip/Tuck”, this is what the very handsome plastic surgeons asked their patients when they met them.

In a way, therapy is a time in which you can work on the things you may not like so much about yourself and may want to change.

If you don’t have goals when you get to therapy, your therapist will help you set them according to your needs. Be ready to do the work- it may not be fun. You might even be asked to do “homework”, small assignments outside of your sessions. For example, I was asked to open up to people more, to talk to my friends and Matthew more to help me trust others more.

I developed trust issues after Jake’s death- the people who I thought were my friends were the first people to show me they really weren’t. After that, I stopped speaking to a lot of people and now, I just don’t welcome a lot of new people into my life.

I don’t want to risk that again. I have a hard time telling those closest to me when I’m struggling because I figure they have heard enough of my problems over the last three years, so I tend to not say much.

This is still a work in progress.

These goals will help guide you and your therapist in sessions, help track progress, and most of all, help you see that you are moving forward. Your therapist can help you think of ways to get through your issues and develop coping skills- this is where I was given the idea of adult coloring books for anxiety. It does help and I have at least 10 coloring books and two sets of coloring pencils. It’s soothing and helps take my mind off whatever is bothering me.

Some issues take longer than others to get through and this is okay- smash your goals on your own time. It took almost a year for me to get through a session, talk about Jake and not cry my eyes out. It doesn’t matter how many goals you have- everyone’s needs are different. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s.

You’ve Got This

I liked to treat myself when meeting a goal or just after a rough session. Sometimes I would go home, color and listen to a podcast as a way to decompress or reward myself. If I had met a small milestone, like when Matthew and I completed an assignment that Rachel had asked us to, we would go out to dinner. It’s the small things that keep us going. She was very helpful in getting us through some of the worst times in our marriage.

The goals can be big or small- but they are yours.

Have you been to therapy and would like to share your story?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

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