This post was originally written for subscribers of the daily taryn, a writing project started in Dec 2017. Now's the perfect time to join, so I'll hold while you do so. Love u.
I’ve seen a therapist consistently for the last 6 years. The cadence changes depending on my season — if I’m especially lost, anxious, heartbroken, or even too good, I’ll go a few times a month. I’ve loved each therapist in different ways, but Josh, my current, is where the money’s at. He’s covered in tattoos, teaches yoga and sanskrit (I know that’s a real thing, but he could’ve made it up and I’d still believe him), and always has a warm cup of tea ready for me. Although I’ve only been seeing him for 2 years, he’s watched what has felt like a lifetime of my personal discovery. I’ve cried more tears and defeated more demons in that little high-rise than any other room on this earth. He helped me through the highs and lows of my previous relationship, through my hilariously messy dating app phase, and through the beginnings and challenges of this running chapter with Kristina. He’s given me frameworks and exercises to get me through the days I don’t know how to go at alone. He knows the worst of me, which I find liberating. Some tattooed man is walking around San Francisco with the deepest of my darkest. Honestly, cute. Kinda rom-comy.
Here are 3 of my favorite things Josh has said/taught me in our time together:
1. NOT CONVINCED
I hate starting over with a new therapist. That first meeting is enough to keep people in their own head for decades. Answering “what brought you in today?” is one of the most vulnerable moments a person can experience, but I hope you do it. That first meeting, I spent an hour breaking down in front of a complete stranger about why I feel broken, crazy, and too anxious to function. I talked and cried and talked and cried and talked and cried until I needed to catch my breath. In one of those quick moments while I sniffled away, Josh squeezed in a few words that changed my life:
Music to my ears. Words I’ll never forget.
2. MY INTERN, VERNE
If you have chronic anxiety, you’ll understand that it’s more than just worrying. It actually feels like there’s someone constantly worrying for you. Just sitting on your shoulder trembling, scanning for any possible threat every hour of the day.
When I first started getting chronic anxiety, I was in 6th grade. It was quickly debilitating and has been my worried little sidekick throughout life… kinda like an intern. Josh pointed this out in one of our first meetings. My anxiety is like a dorky, smurfy intern that I hired when I was in 6th grade to watch for threats and make sure I’m safe. We named him Verne. Verne works really hard to ensure my safety. He’s the most thorough and shitty intern that has ever lived. He runs around with papers flying everywhere, giving me the shittiest advice and warning me of things that are not even close to a real threat, just incase I miss it and it results in my death. I shouldn’t fire Verne because he really is just trying to do his best work, saving me from a few things along the way. But like many interns, you can’t let them roam the halls doing whatever they want, and you certainly can’t let them call the big shots. You need to train them. You need to help them understand the best ways to work with and for you.
This metaphor has been super helpful in looking at anxiety. Verne is my little fumbly intern, scared shitless of missing something, so he alerts the media (aka me) whenever he senses any possible issue. He’s trying his best, but I know I can’t fully trust him. Try naming your intern, and understanding that he’s not all that trustworthy, but he’s trying.
3. THE ONLY THING YOU DID WRONG...
A few years ago, I played with fire. I’m going to spare us (me, really) the details, but in short, I felt really guilty about something I objectively shouldn’t have felt guilty about. I was worried about what my ex would think. That guilt was all I could think about, talk about, feel about, and the worst part was that this ex wasn’t thinking about me… at all. Couldn’t have been thinking about me less, really. So I’m walking around carrying this thousand-ton weight through what should have been some really fun months.
When I, through buckets of tears, told Josh about the “horrible” things I’ve been up to, this is what he said:
Gosh, that stuck. I look back on that time of my life and feel that so deeply. I should’ve had more fun. I should’ve enjoyed it more. I was so worried about what this one person would think that I missed out on what could’ve been something really special with someone who was totally present and there and paying attention. A good, kind, lovely person who I made into a mistake. I let anxiety and worry win a battle it shouldn’t have even entered. I learned my lesson. Next time, I’ll enjoy it more.
Anyway. Just some thoughts to think about.
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