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One Year Ago Today . . .

Today marks the anniversary of a significant milestone in my life.
One year ago today, marked the commencement of a new journey.
One year ago today, I started one of the most difficult yet rewarding processes that I have come to experience in my life.
One year ago today, I met a woman who has helped me to better my life.
One year ago today, was the day I started therapy.

Those of you who know me well can attest to how significant this process and therapeutic relationship has been in my life over this past year.
You have seen my ups and downs as I have worked to navigate through the dark corners of my mind, my being, and my experiences.
You have seen the sheer joy and excitement after I’ve experienced some new revelation.
And you’ve seen the fearful helplessness that has come after others.
You have witnessed both my love and hate for this process.

“The Process”
It has come to be its own entity.
One that has been much easier to accept during the good times.
But is relentlessly there during the bad.
“Trust the process,” she would tell me.
As I sat in complete despair.
Often times, her words were met with skeptic disbelief.
But there was also a small hopefulness there.
And this small hopefulness made all of the difference.
“Trust the process” I would tell myself.
So, I have.
And it has been completely terrifying at times.
And liberating at others.

There is something very freeing about dumping your problems, leaving them there, and coming back to them the next week.
Because that’s what she’s taught me to do.
I’ve learned to unload and walk away from the things that are weighing me down.

There was one specific occasion during which this imagery and practice had particular significance for me.
We occasionally discuss how “lame” and “corny” our methods might seem.
But we also discuss how that’s okay, because being “lame” and “corny” is awesome, and, besides, part of this whole “process“ thing is learning to leave your judgement and your ego at the door.
So, one day while I was really struggling with an issue, we wrapped up our discussion with a compartmentalization technique.
I built a crate in my mind, and I stuffed all of my struggles inside.
As I pulled down the lid and turned the key in the lock, I thought to myself, “I’m going to leave the key with her.”
Only a moment later, she said to me, “Lock it up, and leave the key with me.”
It brought an immediate smile to my face.
And it warmed me from the inside out.
I don’t have an explanation as to why this was such a significant moment for me, because I never needed one.
But this moment held great weight for me.
Maybe it was just evidence for myself that I was truly invested and was starting to really buy into this whole “process” thing.
Maybe it was just a realization of non-judgement and vulnerability.
Whatever it was, it didn’t matter.
All that mattered to me was that it made me feel good and it helped to feel better in that moment.

I believe that a large part of my healing has come as a result of the strong connection that I have with her.
It is because of this connection that I always feel safe and comfortable when I’m in her presence.
And it is a connection that I felt right from that very first day.
I can’t explain it.
But I don’t need to.

Because our relationship has meant so much to me, the therapeutic relationship is something that I’ve spent a significant amount of time contemplating over this past year.
It’s a complex, intimate, multi-faceted, and dynamic relationship.
It wouldn’t be so effective if it weren’t.
It is supportive, challenging, raw, unfiltered, and free of judgement.
For me, it has allowed me to explore areas within myself that I never could have imagined.
And it has pressed me to challenge myself, my beliefs, and my boundaries.
It has pushed me to seek out more discomfort than I ever would have consider consciously signing up for.
It has provided me with an ally.
It has given me a safety net in which to fall.

I’ve recently spent some time reflecting on the changes that have come over this past year.
It’s painful for me to recall how distressed I felt.
How broken I felt.
I can feel the emotions swell inside of me and the tears well in my eyes as I write these words.
But it also makes me feel incredibly grateful.
Because I am in a much better place today.
And I have that distress and desperation to thank for it.
Because it was my desperation that pushed me to do something.

Unfortunately, and to my distress, it wasn’t all that easy and straight forward for me to begin my healing journey.
A year ago, I met the woman who made a difference.
But that was after months of struggling to find relief.
It came after months of fighting and advocating for myself while I was struggling just to exist.
It came after months of:

“Take this pill, and you’ll feel better.”
“Come back in a few weeks.”
“You’re just feeling overwhelmed.”
“This is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, you’ll be okay.”

I can recall a number of times when I began the process of accessing resources via the local crisis center and walk-in services, only to get frustrated or overwhelmed and turn myself away.
On the few occasions when I actually followed through and met with a practitioner, I left feeling just as, if not more, distraught than when I arrived.
It was discouraging, to say the least.
It left me feeling more confused and broken than I’d been before.
This seems to be an unfortunate reality for many who are struggling.
Trying to navigate and advocate for resources while experiencing these types of struggles can seem next to impossible.
The trial and error process can be excruciating to endure.
Sadly, I don’t have a solution for you.
The best that I can offer is encouragement to not give up.
Don’t stop fighting for yourself.
I know that it’s discouraging.
I know how painful and isolating it can be.
But your betterment is worth the struggle.
And sometimes the only thing that we have to hold onto is the hope that one of these times it’s going to make a difference.
And I promise you it will.
Just hold on.
It will get better.

I am fortunate enough to have experienced this as my reality.
And I feel extremely blessed for that.
It is my hope and prayer that it becomes the reality for all who are struggling.
In the meantime, I offer my love and support to all of the hurting and healing hearts out there.

One of the strategies that I have found to be particularly helpful to me, as I navigate and negotiate my experiences through this process, has been writing. So, 5 journals and some 100 word processor pages later, I’m looking to celebrate my milestone by sharing pieces of my journey with you. Through sharing my story, my hope is to shed light on some of the ups and downs of the therapeutic process; provide a glimpse inside the mind of an obsessively compulsive, highly sensitive, and anxiously curious introvert; all while providing some positivity and comedic relief through my real life story.

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