I wrote back in March about starting therapy and I’ve had a couple of people ask if it’s been helpful. Yes, yes it has. I happened to start right after I found out I was pregnant, so not only was I able to bring in my anxiety about work and about family issues, which were the main reasons I started therapy, but I was able to address a lot of my fears about pregnancy.
We were extremely lucky to be able to conceive easily and I have been very lucky to have had an exceptionally healthy pregnancy so far, except for the crummy morning sickness. However, it is completely unacceptable on the internet to talk about the downside of conceiving easily, and it might just be that normal people do not have a downside. For me, I experienced a lot of guilt and anxiety over it, and I was in a headspace for awhile that I did not deserve to have a healthy pregnancy or baby because it wasn’t hard enough for me. When you’ve been privileged for most of your life and are keenly aware of that, it’s hard to just accept your luck and not feel guilty about it. When you have been fed a lot of rhetoric about how nothing in life worth having isn’t hard, it can be hard to accept that some things happen more easily or faster for you than for others. My point is simply, I’m glad I started therapy when I did because I had nobody else to talk through these issues with.
One big thing that we are working on is that it is okay to want things, and to own that I want things. This is something that is, I think, really hard for young women in non-profits. I want to make a reasonable salary that reflects how hard I work and how good I am at my job. I want administrative support. I do not need to feel guilty for wanting these things just because my job can’t provide them. I want to be able to take a reasonable maternity leave (one of the best byproducts of therapy has been that I stopped feeling guilty about taking 12 weeks of maternity leave.)
The work piece of this has been the hardest to work on, but I’m taking steps and for the most part have not been waking up in the middle of the night worrying about my clients. I’m getting more done at work so I’m better able to leave work at work. I’m recognizing the things that help me function better at work – for example, I’m a people person. I do best when I have somebody else that I’m working with. So I brought a friend in to train as a volunteer attorney and it made a huge difference in both how much I got done and how much better I felt about work, just having somebody else to bounce things off of and run things by. I now have a summer intern and again, it’s hugely helpful.
I’m not going to talk about the family aspects here, but I’m working on tracking my emotional response to events and to behaviors, and that has been helpful for recognizing patterns and things that work and do not work. I’m working hard on practicing setting boundaries – one of the most helpful lessons from therapy has been, for me, the idea that setting boundaries is not something you are good at right away, but it’s a skill you have to practice – and if you don’t practice it, you will never be good at it. So it’s not okay to just say, “I’m not good at setting boundaries and it makes me uncomfortable so I won’t try.” I never thought of it as something I have to practice, but I’ve been practicing on little things and I do feel like I’m improving, slowly. I’m at least less uncomfortable with the idea of trying it.