I woke in the middle of the night and I had some kind of mantra I was telling myself—something like Be Here, Be Now. You’re not “recovering,” you’re not “in process,” you simply ARE. You are a writer writing your story. You are trying to find your next move in life, a combination most likely of writing, clay and earning money in new ways. Your business has grown smaller over the years and you grieve the loss of it which feels at times imminent. Your parents too, you are scared of this loss as well.
All human, all natural things.
What is happening now is life, good and hard too. It’s real stuff, normal stuff, not things steeped or related to a blind disconnected past. Don’t, I think, try and shove what are today’s life challenges into this model of self that keeps you kind of held hostage or victim or dependent upon a “specialist.” There are challenges to face, life on life’s terms but just as much as that is true other things are true as well. It’s truth that I’ve been changing and growing a huge amount over the past years, working hard to do so. Where six years ago there was no clay, my life is now filled with it along with connections made—good connections. The work I do for the studio while part-time has become concentrated and meaningful. My ceramics are sold in several places and consistently moving.
I’m also learning each day how to become a better writer by writing and by joining a writing group. I have more fluidity and capacity to expand and grow then I ever thought possible. I am open, alive, listening, feeling, reacting. Stop, I say to myself, saying you are “healing” because what you’re doing is living a full life, one where you’re awake to challenges that you meet.
I am done thinking of myself as “in process” or “in recovery” or “in treatment.”At it’s most basic level I feel that it’s a form of being subconsciously parented and held. Regardless of the specific relationship you have with your therapist—from painfully enmeshed and confusing to what I’ve had recently which has been much more reasonable, it still is parental and at some point you need to just get on with something else and other.
By doing so there’s some real positives in it—some clarity you get that you don’t get otherwise. I put in my draft manuscript at the beginning these words which I like a lot:
NARRATOR IS AWAKE BUT NOT TOO FAR AHEAD GIVING IT ALL AWAY. THE NARRATOR THOUGH KNOWS ALL—EVERY WORD, EVERY NUANCE, EVERY SENTENCE, THE ORDER OF EVERYTHING ON THE PAGE.
DON’T FORGET: THE NARRATOR IS AWAKE!
As I decide to leave therapy I feel another layer of waking. I gain consciousness now of all the weight I’ve put into it, the religion it’s been for me for so long—from Eileen to Teresa—how I seem to make it the holy grail, my church where I worship, the sword I live by, die by. But as I pack my bags to leave this church I begin to see it more clearly.
I am fascinated by what happened the last appointment with Teresa, where she says she’s too busy to have thought of a New Years Resolution. It’s like being at church or temple and you're waiting with baited breath for the sermon, for direction and answers and you get the sense that the priest or rabbi is distracted by other things, that you don’t exist in this audience, that the relationship they want you to think you have with them is mostly a facade. The minister says the same things, recycles the same sermon almost every week and you begin to feel that you’re being duped, that you’re not learning anything new. And that there’s something you’ve been avoiding looking at which is that collection plate, how it never fails to get passed around.
You leave the church in tears that night. Tears that seem to wash things away and allow you to see more clearly this building for what it is; a place with some good intentions but a money making concern as well. It’s a place where you kept coming because the seats felt comfortable and the lighting was right. Sometimes it gave you hope or a tip that made sense. Or like you had a real ally. But on this day when you exit you see the building a little differently, less as a place of guaranteed wisdom and chock full of answers and more like a business. You’re not a special child or prized individual. You’re a customer—a paying customer.
You remember earlier on getting a lot more out of it, feeling cozy, feeling connected, feeling helped. But you’ve been coming to the church for years and years now and you’ve told the minister over and over and over again how sad you are but he’s not listening anymore, too busy helping other people. And you feel, like a gut punch, the irony as you sit sad in a pew feeling so un-helped.
How can this person be so busy helping people when they never are able to help me?
You finally see that it’s an allusion. This church of psychotherapy is an allusion really. But not for the person receiving and cashing the checks. There is a reality, a transaction that you’ve been looking away from that jumps out at you. Get better or don’t. This church is open to anyone who puts money into the collection plate.
I think about the $145 a session which is nearly $600 a month. I think about how Teresa says EMDR is a great way to make some quick cash. I think about my car which needs fixing this week and will cost me $1700. I think about the stock market, on a wild downward spiral. I think about life swirling around me, the zillions of truths and allusions too. And I feel this power, an uplifting feeling in deciding to stop the reflex of writing the checks, of giving so much literal value to fifty minutes a week that has been giving me back so little. I feel my power coming back, my clarity too. I start to almost feel sorry for the people who can’t ever leave the church—whether they work in it or they belong to it or both.
Eileen for thirty years has worshipped at this church, started her own church that is now under investigation and accusation by the authorities. She can’t get out. She will likely continue worshipping—seeing a therapist somewhere for her woes—to console her. To say you are healing or in process or in treatment keeps you inside an allusion. The allusion that some “healing” type of “process” or “venue” is the answer—can hold you, can parent you. When, in truth, while it might be a worthwhile stop along the way, it’s just not the solution long run.
It is profound. It’s been a long time. And honestly I’ve been pretty unconscious about how much credit I’ve given to therapy where truly the credit belongs to me.
So I’m leaving this religion behind just like many people do with religion. I empathize with the disillusionment, the sweetness and the sorrow of the time spent too. But you leave this religion behind because it doesn’t work for you anymore. In my case I was deeply harmed for years but without a second thought went from one church to another where I felt better for a while—or at least I told myself this. But maybe the thing I needed most was not the church or the minister but the belief in something, the hope that I could get the mess inside me figured out. This along with someone who stood by me, listened mostly and agreed that, week after week, there was reason for this hope.
Life is full of religions, churches. Church of Psychotherapy. Church of Clay. Church of Crayola Crayons in a Box. Church of Writing. Church of Sandbox. I leave the Psychotherapy Church, having spent perhaps too long inside of it. But I give myself a break for this possible mistake, pack my bags and try and take what I can as I make my final exit.