Monday, September 12, 2016

Therapy takes time.

Lately, I've felt like I've been at war with my social anxiety. I thought I was past most of my issues with it since I was functional enough to get most of what I needed to get done without the overwhelming dread and obsessive thoughts that I used to have. But something my counselor said at our last session made me realize that maybe I do have a lot more work to do in conquering this beast that has lodged itself in my brain and come to rule my life. I can't do anything without running it past my social anxiety to see whether or not it's okay for me to do. And my counselor pointed out that because I have that deep-seated fear of talking to people at my core, I may project to other people an energy of fearfulness that deters them from talking to me because they sense that I am afraid or uninterested.

That realization shook me up, which was good in that it will, in the long run, push me to improve on this area of my life, but in the short-term, it was made me more stressed out. I've been hyper-aware of my social anxiety and how I might come off to people, which thus contributes to my social anxiety. This weekend I had to spend time at two large get-togethers for the anniversary celebration of the church I grew up in. I mostly just clung to my sister and my best friend and chatted away the night with them, but whenever I was waiting in line for food or happened to be alone and vulnerable to someone coming up and talking to me, I was reminded of how anxious I was to be in a situation with so many people and how afraid I was of someone I wasn't used to talking to coming up and starting a conversation. Then I would remember what my counselor said and tell myself, "This is why people don't talk to you! This is why you don't have friends!" Then I would feel guilty for not talking to more people and I would feel the pressure of "I need to get better NOW and become a better person and fix all my issues TODAY."

I've been putting this pressure on myself a lot lately - I guess that's the downside of counseling, especially when you tend towards being a perfectionist. As I've been starting with a new counselor and shifting to hearing a new person's perspective, I've been scrutinizing my life more, looking for the areas I need to work on in this new season of therapy. I'm thankful for the shake-up because I think I was starting to fall into complacency earlier this year when it came to therapy, but I'm also weary of the unhealthiness of all the pressure I'm placing on myself as I pick apart my weak areas. The reality is this: therapy is a process and I will be making baby steps towards being a stronger person, but I will have plenty of stumbles, steps backwards, and ultimately I will never be perfect. But what matters is that I'm putting the work in. And what matters even more is that I've already grown and accomplished a lot that I need to give myself credit for. Isn't that, after all, one of the lessons I'm trying to learn in counseling?!

Starting therapy is like opening the gate to enter into a new era in your life. This is just the beginning of a journey The good news is that there's plenty of beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way. (Photo belongs to These Dark Cafe Days)

So here I am, learning to be patient with myself, learning to let the process work it's magic rather than forcing matters with my own brute force. It's kind of like how I'm gradually learning that you can't force a man to fall in love with you; it just happens or it doesn't and you need to move on. Things take time, patience, and grace. And part of the process is learning to be content with where you are and who you are right now, accepting that the future may hold better, but your life and yourself right now has a lot of good things too.

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