Things I Learned While Sitting on the Couch During Therapy

Oh my lord. Therapy. That’s scary! But, sometimes you just need someone to talk to when things in your life aren’t working out. Or if you just feel down. Hell, we all need someone to talk to! Humans need other people and as much as we hate it sometimes, it’s scientifically proven. So we might as well learn to embrace it and not try to change science.

We can learn a lot about ourselves in a time period of 50 minutes if they know to ask the right questions. I, personally, have been in therapy for about 5 weeks. That’s a total of 250 minutes with someone. And if you’re not careful, that time can feel like it can just drag on and on. And I won’t lie, some sessions, I just want to curl up in a ball and cry my heart out and then die. Those are the sessions that result in me not wanting to leave my bed for a week because they leave me so mentally and emotionally drained.

But those 50 minutes can be so helpful! Finding the right therapist that works for YOU can help you so very much on your journey to self-discovery. Like I’ve said, I’ve been in therapy for about 5 weeks.

1st Session:

My first session with my therapist was rocky to say the least. She saw my parents for couples but was seeing me separately. So a large majority of the 50 minutes was spent talking about the last fight they had and their upcoming divorce. Of course without any hesitation from my therapist, she asked me how that made me feel and when I didn’t have an answer for her, we dug a little deeper into my past and realized that I put walls up around my feelings and emotions. We ended up tracing it back to the death of my best friend, my grandpa. And we STILL talk about him in sessions. We concluded that because I did not tell him “I love you” before he died, I cut myself off from feeling anything other than pain and sadness. I learned that losing my best friend has caused me to be different for the past 4 years of my life.

2nd Session:

This session was a spur of the moment session. I remember my parents fighting the previous night and then again that morning while I was getting ready for school. So I text her and asked her for a session and I got one at 11 which meant that I had to leave school. I walked into my 3rd period and approached my teacher and told her that I was checking out shortly after class would begin, and being the teacher that she is, she asked why and I responded with my parents’ divorce and that was that. I remember sitting on the couch and all I could hear was my dad’s voice screaming at everything: the pets, my brother, my mom and me. I was shaking. I remember wanting to cry, to scream, to show some kind of emotion. But nothing happened. I told her something that took place for hours in a matter of minutes. The rest of my session consisted of me sitting on the couch as far back as I could be and her asking questions. “How did that make you feel”? “Do you feel hurt”? “Did anyone get physically hurt”? “Was anything broken during either fight?” “Were the police called to your house”? But I couldn’t verbally answer her questions. My heart was about to jump out of my chest. I really thought that I was going to puke right there in her office. Towards the end of our session, she told me that she wanted to help me but couldn’t if I didn’t communicate with her. So we came up with a solution. I took up journaling. I learned that when I am in “shut down mode” I am unable to speak, BUT I can take control over my body so having a journal handy at all times is very helpful to write down what I feel. So I started to do that.

3rd Session:

I don’t really remember what all this session was about. But I do know that I took my journal and let her read what I wrote. I wrote many pages, most of what she read. I wrote the first few pages like a story almost, something that she said she really enjoyed. We talked about my view and opinion of love and sex. Abuse and being hurt (mentally and emotionally). I wrote “Love is NOT REAL because of the childhood you endured. Love is crying. Love is fighting, Love is cheating, Love is slamming doors and breaking things. Love results in divorce.” She, of course, had a field day with all of that. Analyzing it, much like I was analyzing memories of my childhood. Getting me to go more in depth about that and the emotion behind that. And then the emotion itself. We talked why I felt like the divorce was my fault, even though it was in no way my fault. I told her that I act okay all the time. Because if I act okay long enough, then maybe I’ll actually be okay. She addressed the fact that I do not always have to be okay. That sometimes, being broken is a good thing. It’s a perfect place to rebuild yourself, I of course already knew that too well. I remember my heart beating faster and faster as she turned the page and kept reading. She was reading my inner thoughts and it scared me. I read and re-read my journal so many times that I practically have it memorized. She flipped another page. She put the journal down and looked at me. I wrote “I shut down when I’m stressed, mad, scared, and sad. I can’t talk or yell. I can’t do anything useful. So does that make me worthless? Maybe.” And she looked at me. I made eye contact with her, something I never used to do but I now do all the time with her. I could see the hurt in her eyes. She looked into me and saw the pain I was in and said “We are all a little broken. But that does not mean that we are worthless and unworthy of love.” And it was right then and there, that I knew I found the right therapist. I learned that when you allow yourself to be raw and vulnerable, magical things can happen and you can find someone who is actually interested in your thoughts and wants to help me deal with them. I learned that it is okay to be broken because people will still love you, and if they don’t then they never really loved you in the first place.

4th Session:

Once again, I don’t remember what we talked about before we turned to the journal so I’ll just go to that. I told her that I wanted to feel something other than pain and numbness and she said “I understand that.” When you watch your parents’ marriage of 21 years’ crumble, you start to look at the man you love differently. I was seriously talking with a boy, a year older than me, while all of this started. This boy was very nice and respectful. He respected me and my wishes. I wrote “He makes me feel safe. And when I talk to him, I can breathe. But I’m also scared. He doesn’t know about my past. He doesn’t know about the previous boy who ruined me, my eating disorder or my self-harm.” But even through the raw and honest truth about the boy who put a smile on my face countless times throughout the day, she did not like him. She told me that he was no good for me and my god, I wish I listened to her. We talked about my eating disorder and my preparation for my upcoming pageant that I was competing in. She expressed her concerns about me taking on a diet and strict exercise program right now with my current mindset and I told her that I would think about not taking the stage and just sitting this one out. I learned that whenever your therapist has a concern about you doing something or getting involved with someone, you should take that into consideration. You can talk the talk but your body language and voice tone will always reveal the truth and they pick up on that. You might not always like that they have to say, but they say it just to help you.

5th Session:

Things got really intense between my dad and I before I had therapy so we had something to talk about before we took out the journal and dealt with that. Before therapy that day, my dad called me a “selfish bitch” so a very large majority of the session was focused around that and talking about the anger that came with that, something I can identify very easily. But then she wanted me to talk about the sadness that I have and that was very difficult and frustrating for me to do. It’s easy for me to identify my anger but looking for my sadness takes a lot. The other painful topic that was talked a lot about was my binging and purging and how it really doesn’t help me and how it’s not logical (but then again, what eating disorder is?). We talked about my relapse back into self-harm after being clean for 5 months. We talked about how that made me feel. I was very frustrated with myself after I did it and then the guilt overwhelmed me. I learned that you really do need to open up to someone and let them help you because if you take that leap and open up, you will feel like crap in the moment and you will pray for it to be over. But once it is all said and done, knowing that you have someone to tell your thoughts and secrets to will really help you.

 

But I’ve learned more than I’ve told. I’ve been in therapy for about 7 weeks now but I don’t think I’m going to keep a running log of everything I’ve learned. But I will tell you other things that I learned on top of what you already know.

I learned:

  • that losing my best friend has caused me to be different for the past 4 years of my life.
  • that when I am in “shut down mode” I am unable to speak, BUT I can take control over my body so having a journal handy at all times is very helpful to write down what I feel.
  • that when you allow yourself to be raw and vulnerable, magical things can happen and you can find someone who is actually interested in your thoughts and wants to help me deal with them. I learned that it is okay to be broken because people will still love you, and if they don’t then they never really loved you in the first place.
  • that whenever your therapist has a concern about you doing something or getting involved with someone, you should take that into consideration. You can talk the talk but your body language and voice tone will always reveal the truth and they pick up on that. You might not always like that they have to say, but they say it just to help you.
  • that you really do need to open up to someone and let them help you because if you take that leap and open up, you will feel like crap in the moment and you will pray for it to be over. But once it is all said and done, knowing that you have someone to tell your thoughts and secrets to will really help you.

 

But I also learned:

  • I come before anyone else in my life.
  • Putting myself first, is in, no way selfish.
  • Self-love goes SO far during all of this.
  • Emotions are here forever so we might as well just embrace them and learn how to deal with them when we’re young.
  • My self-worth IS NOT determined by someone. YOU determine it.
  • My feelings are valid simply because I feel them that’s it.
  • It’s okay to break down and cry in front of your therapist. You do not have to be strong for those 50 minutes. In fact, they would actually prefer you to not be strong.
  • Therapy isn’t just TALKING about your problems, it’s TAKING ACTION against them.
  • You do not always have to care and provide for other people. Especially if you are a child.
  • I feel what I feel and I do not need to justify that to you or ask you to validate them.

 

 

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How to Survive Divorce

Divorce can be a tricky landmine to navigate without getting blown up, or ruining relationships. It’s even harder when you’re 18. At that age, you’re legally an adult so child custody is out of the question. But when you have a younger sibling involved, you’re just as involved as she/he is. And let me tell ya. Divorce sucks. Especially when the adults in your life act like they’re 2.

But I have rules. And for the most part, they are simple to follow.

Rule #1: Do not keep this to yourself

I’m serious about this!! If you can, see a therapist. I know that my therapist has been my rock in this divorce. I know that I can always go to her when I need someone to listen to me. But if you can’t see a therapist, then have a friend you can turn too. If you can’t talk to your best friend about it, then maybe talk to his/her parent(s) about it. I don’t keep anything from my best friend! Let alone her parents. After all, Elena and I have been friends for almost 10 years so she is like my sister. Which makes her parents, my parents.

You might think that you’re strong enough to deal with this on your own, trust me, I know that I thought I was strong enough. But sweet girl/boy, let me tell you something, you DO NOT have to be strong when your entire world is falling apart. I know that you feel like you do, and I know you feel that way because that’s the way I felt and sometimes still do. But your parents’ divorce is not your fault. They have their own issues and no matter what you think or feel (even though what you feel is valid), THEIR DIVORCE IS NOT YOUR FAULT AND IT NEVER WILL BE YOUR FAULT.

Rule #2: When the fighting starts, leave

If you have your license, you can leave and just get out of here. And I highly recommend you doing that. Parents fight and they can get loud. I’ve learned firsthand that during a divorce, things can get even louder. And once you hear something, you cannot unhear it, no matter how hard you try. So leave. It’s better for you. You don’t have to go far. Maybe a to a neighbors, a park or even a gas station. You just need to get away from all of the yelling and screaming.

If you don’t have your license, alert a friend who can drive. Or maybe their parent. Have a “safe word” to use with them. Shoot them a text when the fighting starts so they know they need to come get you. They’ll help you more than you think they will. But my god. You must be open and honest with them. If you’re close with them, they will think of you as their own child and will do just about anything to help you right now.

Being open and honest with someone who can get you out of a bad situation if it’s needed is extremely helpful. Sometimes it’s good to have more than one person to go to. For me, I have Elena and her family. But I have my neighbor directly across the street from me as well as my neighbor down the street. So, just tell them “Hey, if I show up at your door one night, or ask you to come get me, it’s because my parent are divorcing and they keep fighting and I need to get away.” That’s it. You don’t owe them an explanation as to why they are divorcing. You just need to let them know that sometimes you need a safe place to escape to.

Rule #3: Set rules and boundaries with both of your parents

It can, and will, get very old when both of your parents come to you to complain about the other parent. So, don’t let them. I know, I know. Easier said than done I realize that. Setting boundaries with your parents can be rather difficult, especially if they never set any with you.

Let’s face it. You have a favorite parent, just like they have a favorite child. But when they only talk to you to complain about the other parent, you need to set rules. And tell them “Enough is enough”. Understand that they need someone to talk to, just like you do. But tell them that you still want a relationship with the other parent despite the reason for the divorce. I had to set rules recently with both of my parents, and while it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it was also very rewarding for me. You’re probably asking how it was rewarding. Well. When your dad comes into your room and asks you to help him get your mom back with him, it puts unnecessary stress on the child. I was worrying myself into a migraine, a panic/anxiety attack and into physical sickness. But I told them that they can talk to me about their concerns (such as paying for rent or groceries) as long as it did not cross the boundaries.

Rule #4: Stick to your rules and boundaries

                When things get heated, do not cave! Stand your ground, trust me, parents say things in the heat of the moment. And while it might hurt you (my dad once called me “that girl” in the middle of a fight with my mom and it tore my heart to pieces) or scary (my dad threatened to turn my phone off if I didn’t give it to him and let him read my messages). But I told myself and my mom, that I would not let him snoop through my phone to find things out about either me or my mom.

Setting rules is good for your relationship with your parents, but having rules for yourself can be extremely beneficial. Rules are meant to protect you.

Rules I have for myself:

  • Have an outlet (run, dance, journal, watch DIY videos etc.)
  • Calm down and breathe before you make any decisions
  • Have a sounding board (just have someone to talk to about decisions or choices you want to make. Someone who will not ask you a ton of questions and make you change your mind. Talk to your best friend or therapist for this. Just make sure that the person you talk to understands where you’re coming from.)
  • Allow yourself to be broken. I know that it can be quite difficult to let your walls down and cry. But my god, there is nothing more therapeutic than crying.
  • Allow “me time” (go to the salon and get your hair done, take a bubble bath. Self-love will go a long way when you’re at your lowest point.

Rule #5: Be honest with YOUR parent(s)

This is without a doubt the hardest thing you will ever go through as a child and/or an adult, so communicate your feelings with either of your parents. They know exactly what you’re feeling more than anyone else because they are going through it too.

Parents are parents but there is something about a divorce that brings you together. But!!!! You still need to have clear and definite boundaries for your sake as much as theirs.

 

 

What is your 18th birthday like when your parents are divorcing?

?

Short answer: hell Long answer: it’s like your world I stopping. It’s taking a razor and slitting your wrist open. It’s long nights in bed crying for hours at the thought of your brother not having a father. It’s sitting at the Cheesecake Factory with a fake smile plastered on your face because you have to sit across from the man who cheated on your mother and listen to him lecture you about growing up. It’s coming home and going to your neighbors house and getting shit-face drunk on fireball and vodka. It’s throwing up the alcohol at midnight in their backyard while Susan holds your hair back, rubbing your back and Danielle is forcing water and crackers down you. It’s sitting in the cold crying while you tell the horror stories of their divorce. 
But no one wants the long story. So I smile and laugh. 

Short story is that it’s okay. It’s for the better. That’s what I tell everyone. It is for the better. But my heart is breaking. I’m breaking. So I take a shot of fireball. And another. And another. The next thing I know I making out with Susan’s husband. It’s a hard life. But it’s my life. 
Short answer: it’s all good. No worries 

How I survived my assault 

  I was 16. I was alone. And I was intoxicated. 

My mom surprised me with concert tickets for my upcoming 17th birthday. At the time, my birthday was a little over a month away. I came home from school and immediately started to prepare for the concert. Showed, did hair and makeup. The whole 9 years. My outfit was more on the rocker side of things, which was alright since the concert was A7X. I chose to wear ripped skinny jeans, a white see through tank top with a tan bra, black vans and a jean jacket for once the sun set and temperature dropped. 

We get to the venue and they upgraded all of the lawn seats to actual seats. We find out seats and then go get concessions. Popcorn, water and lots of beer. About 3 beers in and more than half of the set list to go, I decided to break away from my group to walk down the bathroom. 

I make my way down the pathway. It’s dark and not lit at all. It smells of weed and I can see the stage lights out of the corner of my eye. But that’s it. Every thing else is background. I tripped over a hole in the sidewalk. A man catches me and helps me back up to my feet. I thank him and try to get on my way. He has other plans for me. 

He tightened the grip on my wrist and spun me around, pinning me on the concrete wall. I can not move. I can not scream. I can not do anything but let him vandalize me. And that’s what he did. He kissed all over my neck and arms. He felt up and down my body. He forced his tounge inside of my mouth. His hand made its way into my pants. He enjoyed himself. He whispered in my ear that if I screamed, if I fought back or resisted him in any way, he would rape me. So I stood there. I changed my life forever. Once he was finish, I sprinted for the bathrooms. I cut people in line. I locked myself in a stall. Once inside of the stall, I called the police and told them what happened. They came and took me and my mom down to the police station. They integrated us. They asked me how much I had to drink. What I was wearing. Why I was away from my group. Why I didn’t scream or fight back.  They blamed me for what happened.

I was attacked because I was drunk. Because I was dressed like a slut. Because I was alone. I left there in tears. My own mom didn’t know how to comfort me. I spent days on end laying in my bed. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. All I did was cry. I missed school for an entire week. When I got back I told my teachers that there was a death in the family. I thought to myself, the bags under your eyes make that truthful. And in a way, it was. I died that night. 

I called this “how I survived my assault” because I want to help others. Some days are tough. School is still tough. Trusting people is still tough. But I’m getting better. I’m getting stronger. Yes a piece of me died that night. And yes it changed me forever. But I refuse to sit here and let that change me for the worse. I wish I could tell you how I turned my life around. But I can not because there are still weekends where I can not drag my body out of bed because every time I close my eyes, I see his. I smell the weed and I smell the beer on his breath. I am human; I have my bad days, but I also have my good days. 

We need to unite, come together and fight this. If all of us stood together, we could break the stigma surrounding sexual assault and rape.