Look How Far You’ve Come (Notes on Therapy)

futurecalled
I’ve been going to Corner Bakery for their Loaded Baked Potato Soup once or twice a week for the past few months. Sometimes, I upgrade to a bread bowl for an extra $1.89. I don’t do it all of the time because I don’t want luxury to become my standard. Plus, all of the soups come with a focaccia roll anyway, and it’s really not that hard to dig out a little soup moat. I treat myself to these soup lunches on the days I go to therapy.

I’ve avoided therapy for most of my life because the whole concept seemed like a crock of shit. Still, I’ve gone on occasion over the past sixteen years. Many of those visits were part of different drug treatment programs. You have to go every day and act like you’re making breakthroughs, but really, you’re just thinking how many more times do I have to lie to this homegirl wearing all Talbots errything before she recommends my release. It’s never made a difference because I had no interest in sorting through my sordid past. Processing and transcending and letting go takes time and effort. Not only did that seem painful and unnecessary, I also believed that I had earned the right to harbor all of my rage and depression. They were my souvenirs for surviving, and I fucking love souvenirs. (A big shout out to my Disney lapel pin collection. You guys keep my lanyards looking fly.)

The only gift Harv wanted for our anniversary last fall was for me to find a therapist I liked and start going on a regular basis. At some point in 2013, I moved into Rock Bottom, and he could see that I had no interest in leaving. Actually, I was getting settled and quite comfortable in my new little hole, and every time I left and came back, it just felt like home.

The request came at a bad time because I had already ordered a Full Dozen Strawberry Medley from Shari’s Berries as an anniversary gift for Harv. Highly perishable items are extremely tricky to return…if you can return them at all. I said I would “think about it” which is basically a “no” in adult code language. He didn’t pressure me nor did he bring it up again.

A few nights later, I had a hankering for something delicious and ate seven of the nine remaining Berries. I am surprised by my own selfishness from time to time. This was one of those times. Shari, why you gotta make your products so delectable? It didn’t seem right to order another dozen, and I thought about blaming Cal but decided against it. I felt horrible and guilty so I told Harv that I would start going to therapy. I don’t know. It made sense at the time.

My advice to you would be to think carefully before putting someone else’s food into your mouth.

I am trying something new this go-round: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR for short. It sounds kind of creepy. Maybe it is creepy but it can’t possibly be worse than everything that I have ever done to myself because I, on a deep level and in a non-transient way, dislike myself.

EMDR is supposedly effective for people who have experienced severe trauma that remains unprocessed. It goes directly against the coping mechanisms I have become so good at- denial, dissociative amnesia, detachment. In each session, I recall traumatic and distressing experiences, and as I allow the memory to fully unfold, I am taken through a series of sensory exercises.

I can’t describe it more than that. I don’t have the right words and it sort of makes me sick to think about it. Poet Nayyirah Waheed’s words on love now cross my mind each time I walk through my therapist’s doors:

“like everything I’ve ever lost come back to me.”

Except none of my memories involve love.

I still go and I haven’t given up on EMDR yet, although I feel like I am being punished twice for each moment I recall- once by living through it and a second time by inviting it back to invade the small amount of peace I have gathered and stored. Everything that I have ever pushed out and ignored and left by the wayside is coming back to me.

Each time I leave, I call Harv. The conversations are most often about how lonely I feel. I complained about this loneliness for months. Just two weeks ago, it dawned on me that it wasn’t loneliness at all. It was grief. But since I had not allowed myself to grieve about anything for such a long time, the only label my mind could attach to the heavy feeling was loneliness.  I’m not very good at grieving, but I feel like it could become one of my better skills. Like scrapbooking. My scrapping skills are fucking legit.

“Sometimes just the act of sharing a painful secret can relieve some of the pain.” -Anonymous

I hope so.
__
Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook (I post a lot of quotes and thug shit here. Pretty decent way to waste time.) Instagram @flourishinprogress (me in a crop top, my crack house window, shit like that) Twitter @ElizabethJLiu (I complain a lot here.)

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Comments

  1. Natasha B says:

    You are so brave to share this. I’m a stalker on your blog, don’t comment much, but I love reading.

  2. josephine says:

    Thank you for sharing…I have a friend that EMDR worked wonders for…he is a police officer and he shot and killed someone who pulled a fake gun on him ….he suffered so much after the incident and EMDR was miraculous for him. I hope it helps you

  3. I’ve been following you for the past year or so now. I never would’ve guessed that you ever had drug problems or anything. You’re so put-together!
    Thanks for coming out about this. How incredibly brave.
    Anyway, I have PTSD, past drug issues, depression — a lot of the same shit basically. I’ve been in therapy for the past ten years… but I didn’t make a real breakthrough until I did EMDR for many sessions.
    It was painful as shit… and sometimes I thought things were getting worse. I was forced to remember every detail of the traumatizing incidents, and my brain DID NOT like that. But trust me… it’s slowly working. Other people I’ve talked to that have received this treatment vouch for it 100%.
    Hang in there, you strong & beautiful woman! You kick ass.
    #thuglife #inspiration #yougogirl

    • I wish I could tell you how flattered I am that someone thinks that I’m put together. That’s, like, the nicest compliment.

      Totally feel you on the “seems like getting worse” part. I’m so beat after I leave that I try not to schedule anything heavy afterwards. Well, that might also be because I’m kind of lazy. Your experience gives me a lot of hope. Thank you for sharing.

      • It’s completely normal to be “beat” or exhausted after these sessions – mentally, emotionally, physically. You’re basically re-living the trauma & it would be hard on anyone! Be gentle to yourself. I like the idea of not scheduling heavy stuff. After the appointments, maybe indulge yourself in a scented bubble bath or chocolate (as cheesy as that might sound). Let people know you need some alone time that day.

        It will get better. After a while, you’ll start to notice the things that triggered you before barely elicit an emotional response. It’ll feel almost alien to not cry when you remember something. You’ll start to notice the flashbacks decreasing. Nightmares become dreams…

        It really is like a miracle. Good luck on your journey. <3

  4. There are so many people out there that LOVE you, but of course, you totally have to not only like yourself, but LOVE yourself to accept it. I’m so glad you’re rummaging through your feelings and hope it helps you heal. You are an inspiring individual and deserve an immense amount of happiness in life.

  5. Melissa Burton says:

    I’ve never heard of EMDR but from your commenters, it seems like a worthy effort. I hope that someday you find some measure of peace but please never lose your direct connection to your heart and soul because it fuels your writing so very well.

  6. Profound! Thank you for sharing your journey. When I find the courage to face my demons, I can only hope I have a Harv by my side to help me grieve.

  7. I have PTSD and have done EMDR….that shiz is tough….I hate it. I have been going at it for a year after doing the regular therapy routine for five years with little improvement. I, like other have commented, feel sometimes like it is getting worse. I hope it gets better for you.

  8. Because in the middle of the incredible cast of misfit, miscreant, misogynistic characters we call family, I am the one that cried the loudest and hurt the longest, I had to go get help. I had to see a psychologist. I had to get my head shrunk.

    The Caveman asked me to, so I did it. And I didn’t get to eat all the berries, either. Just saying.

    xoxo Darya

  9. Michelle Wheatcraft says:

    I want to respond to this but don’t have the words right now. I do want to say however that the last line/quote really hit home. I’ve heard more light in your blogs this year than I have for the few years I’ve been reading them – keep reaching. And treat yourself to a few Shari’s – you deserve them too.

    • Thank you for this. I was trying to find the word to describe the shift I feel when I sit down to write now. I like “light.” Because it reminds me of my favorite quote:

      “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”

  10. Brittany Olson says:

    So proud of you for making the decision to go to therapy. It isnt easy making that decision but once it is all out life feels so much better.

  11. Thank you for sharing. You are brave and inspirational. I’ve done EMDR. EMDR is like the opposite of drugs and alcohol. You begin to process life RAW like a WARRIOR!! Eventually, the old shit has no power over you. It’s an old storyline. That’s it. You’ve got this.

  12. I’m so proud of you. I know it was very difficult to jump into this. I struggled with the same concept of therapy = bullshit for many years, and no matter how many people suggested it might be a good idea (parents, husband, friends, husband . . . husband), I resisted. Then, I too occupied Rock Bottom and was feeling extremely UNcomfortable there, and realized it was time. It was very hard at first, and then I settled in. And eventually, I came to the realization that I was better. Not 100%, but that I could finally deal with my own shit without someone guiding me along the way. It is still a process, but I’m glad I went. It was there when I needed it most.

    I’ve said it before, but Harv is a good man. You are very lucky to have him in your life. And you must love him a lot to have listened to his request. As hard as it may have been. Good job looking out for you, boo.

    • THAT’S what I want. To know enough someday to be able to make good decisions on my own out.

      I’m so glad you went too. Even when you weren’t doing good, you still somehow found the strength to look out for others and to move forward and keep at it. Just think about how hardcore gangster you can be now that you are free.

  13. I too went to therapy and also have tried EMDR. Its weird, and scary, and hard, and fucking bullshit, and scary…but you got this. Stay strong. You will get through the therapy and you will get through Rock Bottom.

  14. I learned two things from therapy:
    1) It’s ok to grieve and hurt and feel pain.
    2) When you let yourself experience, feel, and acknowledge the crappy emotions, the positive emotions feel so much better.
    I truly believe that I couldn’t love as openly and well as I do if I hadn’t let myself feel sadness and then move on from it. Holding on to garbagy feelings and burying them takes effort and space, and I’m so much happier now that I’m working on letting them go.

  15. Nicole Garner says:

    As many have said you do seem so put-together so hearing that you have been to counseling makes me feel not so alone. I just started counseling for the first time Wednesday and am hopeful that I will work thru my issues and make the relationship with my guy better. Keep your head up girl!

    • I wish that were me- put together. Maybe after I do all the work, I will be. I would even take 45% put together.

      It’s so hard to make that initial appt and actually drag yourself there, but I’m so glad you did it. You deserve happiness because you are immeasurably worthy.

  16. theblahblahblahger says:

    The revelation about loneliness actually being grief is HUGE. Sounds like growth/progress to me…good girl.

  17. It breaks my heart to hear you say you dislike yourself because I consider you one of the most incredible people I have ever had the opportunity to cross paths with. I have two daughters that have been through some traumatic events of their own, which have led to rock bottom at different times for both. They like you had developed some mad coping skills over the years! Trying a new form of therapy is about the bravest thing you can do and at the same time probably the scariest. I have never heard of EDMR, but I’m glad that you are trying a different kind of therapy. My experience is that traditional therapy for people with expert coping skills never does more than scratch below the surface. I can only imagine how hard it is to allow yourself to feel the full weight of your grief and to keep going back for more. I hope that you are able to stick with it and make through to the other side that is probably hard to see at this point. You’ll be amazed at just how much more of you is available to share with the two people you love most in this world – Harv and Cal.

    • It just filled me with so much light when I heard you talk about your daughter who is away at school and what she has realized during the time she has been on her own. I think a capacity for that kind of thinking comes after someone has done a lot of hard work on themselves and moved past some of their trauma. You must be so proud. I hope to make my family proud too.

  18. I am so happy for you. This similar thing happened to me also. My husband refused to propose to me unless I went into therapy. I went into a rage, how dare he think I needed mental health help?? But he was so right and it was the greatest gift he gave me. I did EMDR therapy too and it is sooo fucking hard and I am right there with you on the grief. All the pain, suffering anger was truly grief in the end. Grief for the childhood that I never had and will never have and grief for that little girl inside of me. The sadness was overwhelming and also being able to process it was freeing. I realized denying the grief was imprisoning me in my own sadness but the sadness came out in so many terrible, angry, self hatred ways. I’m soo glad you are doing this for yourself and your family. It’s really worth it. Even when it feels unbearable, you will get through the other side and it will be amazing.

    • After dating men who couldn’t even remember basic facts about me, it is nice to know that you and I both ended up with husbands who sometimes know us better than we know ourselves.

      Everything you said about grief- those are my same grievances. I wish I could go back and have a better childhood, but at least I can have a motherfucking awesome adulthood…with some work.

  19. Brad Lawless says:

    Thank you for your naked honesty, EJL. I’m a pretty big believer in the power of therapy when you go in ready to confront the tough truths. It sounds like you’re there. Regardless, I appreciate the honor you bestow upon us by sharing your story.

  20. kimberly y says:

    this was really beautiful and vulnerable. i’m glad you decided to go, and that you didn’t eat ALL the strawberries. my husband once ate my leftover crepe, saying he was just going to “taste” it. it’s been years, but i still tell him he can’t “taste” my leftover chocolate bar. other people’s food is serious business.

    • LOL. I can’t help laughing because that’s the word Harv uses when he wants to “sample” our food. Cal is so traumatized how that she actually indicates with her finger or draws a line in her dish because he always over”samples.”

  21. You’re doing good here, Flourish in Progress. Someone out there — many out there — will read this and be encouraged. After nearly twenty years of caring for my very disabled daughter, I was awarded a week of respite by myself in Victoria, Canada. After three days or so of “resting,” I felt incredibly sleepy and tired and realized, suddenly, that I wasn’t “tired.” I was “relaxed,” and had evidently forgotten what it felt like. Trauma does that to you, I think, as you adapt to it and live. How beautifully you’ve explained it –

    • I would tell you how many times I’ve talked about you to Harv since we hung out but I don’t want to be creepy.

      I don’t know what to do with myself in the rare moments I feel relaxed. First I feel guilty then I start feeling restless then I make to do lists and then I call home to make sure everything is ok and then I just say fuck it and go back to being a hot mess. Hm. I feel like I need to work on some things.

  22. Your ExMo Friend says:

    I remember my Rock Bottom vividly when I read this. It was along a different path of sorts, and it’s in my rear view mirror now, but I hope and believe your Rock Bottom will be in your rear view mirror some day not too far off.

    • I don’t believe that amazing people just happen, I think they are molded and shaped by heat and pressure. I’m so glad you made it out of Rock Bottom and now you have a shitload of amazingness to show for it.

      I’m not even striving for amazing. Semi normal will be just fine.

  23. Christina says:

    You have got to be one of the best writers, in the history of ever! Somehow, every time I read your blogs it feels like a little piece of me is coming back out of the shell I’ve slumped myself into. It seems as if my whole life has been centered around going to therapy and it wasn’t until 3-4 years ago I started EDMR. That. Shit. Sucks. My breakthrough hit me like a freight train and you totally nailed it. After YEARS of pushing away and ignoring feelings, it’s borderline impossible to react to all these NEW feelings. I had no idea that my loneliness was grief. Worse than that, my loneliness is guilt and I haven’t been able to get past that part yet! When will the flashbacks stop?! Luckily my husband has been very supportive, and as you know having a supportive husband during all of this is extremely helpful. Appreciate him (that’s something i need to do more of myself) Thank you for sharing this with us. You are a total inspiration and I really hope that this works. Best of luck to you!

    PS
    Would love to see your legit scrap booking skills! Since I have been spending so much time by myself since the move, I’ve been wanting to do something with the hundreds of thousand WDW pictures I’ve taken. Disney has turned into my happy place, we’ll just drive up there if I’m having a bad mental day. Shit really helps. If you have a PO box I’ll pick up another pin for your lanyard :)

    • I am so happy that you have a good man by your side. As tough as it is for the person working through their personal Hell, a part of me thinks that it’s even tougher for the ones who love us. They want to do something..anything…to make us whole and happy, but in the end, they know that it’s limited. So they just have to be patient and wait.

      And I’m glad/relieved to know that EMDR is working for you too. I thought it was such a weird thing when I first started and felt too weird to even bring it up, but knowing that other people have traveled the same road makes me feel less lonely.

      Which park is your fave? There’s something about going and eating overpriced food and waiting in life for 45 min at a time for a 30 sec ride that is totally therapeutic. I love it. Are you currently scrapping now? I started when I moved to Miami and I didn’t know a single person other than my husband. GREAT way to pass the time- and not even the actual scrapping part. I mainly enjoy buying supplies. lol Holler at me and we’ll scrap talk. flourishinprogress at gmail

  24. My entire family suffers from depression and all of the delightful gifts that come with it. We have tried it all, cognitive and behavioral therapy, EMDR, happy pills, tapping and of course our old go-to’s, several forms of addiction. It all works, and none of it works, depending on what time it is, the day of the week, the season, the moon, the collective mood of the group, how many cans of spam are in the cupboard. The best therapy of all is when someone like you sacks-up and talks about it. That helps everyone. Nobody has to be ashamed about a broken arm but there is still so much stigma about mental illnesses.

    • Oh man, this is the TRUTH. So many factors determine whether or not the thing I try that day is going to be a good thing or a waste of time thing because the next day, it may be the opposite. No one in my family (extended or immediate) goes to therapy so it’s not even something I’ll bring up when I am with extended family because I just don’t think they would understand. Now, more than ever, I am so happy to be blogging because I connect with amazing people who know what this is like. Thank you for the boost.

  25. EMDR is often recommended in the adoption community for children who have lived through incredible trauma. Two of my kids had very very hard starts in life prior to being my kids and we have considered it for them but right now, they’re doing okay. It’s not something I’m opposed to doing if traditional therapy methods aren’t as helpful as they need.

    All that to say – thank you for talking about this. As a mom, it gives me hope that no matter what kind of shitty history my kids have we are doing the right thing by getting them help early and often.

    • I don’t know much about adoption except for what we went through (my husband adopted my daughter after we got married which involved tracking down her birth father to sign away his rights) and from the experience of a few close friends, but what I do know is that parents who are conscientious about the child’s need for therapy aren’t as common as I originally believed. Good looking out, mama.

  26. Oh my friend . . . I have almost no words except great appreciation for you and what you’re doing – the sheer effort it takes.

    I just read your commenting guidelines, and I’m wondering if you will overlook me leaving a link to my experience of doing EMDR (it’s funny and sad). I just want to share it with you, and you can erase my comment to get rid of the link. Hugs! Maybe I’ll get to see you again at BlogHer. I do plan to go. :-) http://aladyinfrance.com/bravery/

  27. Rommy Delgado Coleman says:

    I hope you get to the point where you want to be; going as often as YOU’D like. I’ve been going to a therapist now for three years, and I gotta say, sometimes it’s my favorite part of the week. It’s definitely the busiest day, but each week I know that come Wednesday, I’m getting a shower and putting on clothes that aren’t sweats or yoga pants…and for me, that is a big deal. It took a few therapists before I found the one I clicked with. Mental health is something I want to bring into the spotlight so bad and shout from roof tops that it’s NOT A BAD THING!!!! It’s a wonderful thing. People are so caught up in this stereotype of negativity towards it (some shit that started in the 60s) and it’s never gotten away from that. It’s sad. And for whatever reason, people also think that they need to talk to a therapist when bad shit is going on in their lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a good mood walking in and walking out, and during my session, the surge of creativity I get out of nowhere simply because I’m in a good mood. I’m having ME time. One hour. Once a week. To focus on me and whatever I want to talk about. Anyways sorry for the long rant, just wanted to show you that you are doing something awesome, exceptionally awesome for your brain, and to keep it up.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. There is so much mystery and negativity against seeking help for mental health. I think some people are afraid to go because it signals failure to them, but I think it’s the bravest and maybe most effective thing people can do. Different therapies work for different people, but the most important part is carving out time to take care of you, on your own terms….and also the changing out of yoga pants once a week is a total bonus. I will make that my rule too. Hmm….if only I could remember where I keep my normal pants.

  28. Jasmine Robertson says:

    I am a big fan of yours been around since you started your no shopping challenege. I consider myself a full fledged stalker since I follow you on FB and Instagram. (I promise I am not a creepy stalker) But you are very brave and I love to read your posts. Keep on truckin!

  29. I admire how brave you are with what you share with us. My therapist has just recommended EMDR. I am terrified. I understand so much about the battle you fight… brave on, thug warrior.

  30. I needed this.

    Are you finding EMDR helpful? Would you recommend it, say, to someone with chronic depression and stifled anger who has repressed most of her memories up until age 16 or so? Or is remembering vital to the process? Because I’ve heard that eye movement can help recovery lost memories, but, you know, I’ve heard a lot of things.

    • Right after I wrote this post, I chickened out of my next EMDR session and cancelled my appointment. Then I got a wonderful email from a friend who told me that she has been doing EMDR for the past few years and how much it has profoundly shifted her life. It encouraged me to go once again.

      Yes, I am finding it very helpful, but it has also been a painful ride. Remembering is vital to the process…it actually IS the process, made possible by eye movement. I don’t want to remember because it is frightening, but I feel like I’m becoming less angry and afraid each day.

      If you decide to give it a shot, please let me know what you think.

  31. lauire fre says:

    Beautifully written my phone keeps messing up so this could be a dupe my.mom went crazy when I was born or before kidnapped us, foster care , bsck with dad, hemade her bbasically leave the picture haven’t seen her since I was a child. Im ,,forty ish. Anyhow I get the whole dadddy mommy issue thing. My stepmom was um interesting. I was transported back to my childhood thru a piece of yours lots of stumbling blocks in my memoirs lately hopefully this will help me get moving forward sorry so jumbled typos phone not loving commenting procrss ..I apologize for grammatically defunct spellMageddeon sentence loves loved this blog

    • Oh gosh, I don’t know how I missed this! I’m so glad I found it. It sounds like you’ve been through a major journey, but I think people who have experienced so much darkness are often the people who can give so much to others. It sounds like you’ve grown into a strong and resilient adult. I hope that is me one day.

  32. SuzLotus says:

    I am so scared on my journey. So many changes. So many times I feel like I’m crumbling. A friend told me – “Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. It is what it is, until it isn’t anymore.” So I say hello to every crumbly feeling I have and introduce it to all the others and then sometimes, without explanation, I feel better. I just put one foot in front of another. I just found your blog. I’m so glad I did. It makes me feel so not alone in my depression. That it will get better. I’ve saved it at work so I can read it uninterrupted…peace, health and happiness to you.

Commenting Guidelines:Leave your thoughts below and I'll holler back at you with a response. PLEASE DO NOT POST LINKS TO PRODUCTS OR SITES within the body of your comments. I edit/delete them. If you'd like to link your comment back to your site, just sign up for a Disqus account. It's quick and easy. I promise.

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  1. […] (Lots of good stuff to read out there this week, we can’t help it) Mom2.014 speaker Elizabeth Jayne Liu wrote Look How Far You’ve Come (Notes on Therapy) and one of us stopped still in the parking lot outside the frozen custard store to read it, and was […]

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