My therapist, Erika, has used more than her fair share of analogies in the nearly two years I've been in recovery. (Maybe it's metaphors. I'm never sure which word is appropriate. . . )
In one of our first appointments, she drew a huge oval on the legal pad she uses to write down notes during our sessions together. Truthfully, I'm not sure what she writes -- maybe her grocery list for all I know. I actually have a recurrent dream where Jeff finds all of her notes about me and gives them to our kids. Maybe that's why I'm hoping for a grocery list. Anyway, back to the oval. She used to shade in 99% of it, telling me that was how much of me was controlled by Ed. Over time, a very long time, the shaded part receded significantly and Erika quit drawing ovals.
Next she started talking about new rooms. During the "room period" she helped me to discard some old furniture, some of the more obvious were scales, razors, restricting, and she helped me to pick out some new things, like walking, therapy, food, sleep and prozac that would certainly support the move. I also followed her lead and brought my kids, my parents, my friends, my job, my self-esteem along as well. That's when I knew I could trust her.
Mixed up in there, Erika has drawn continuums featuring levels of assertiveness and sketched out the different stages of the loaded gun called Ed. When my sarcastic self shows up for therapy, I secretly roll my eyes (maybe not secretly) and think we should just read The Little Engine that Could. I'll chant "I think I can. I think I can." click my heels together and find myself in Kansas completely cured.
Overtime though, I find that Erika's ridiculous analogies are ridiculously effective and contagious. I'm telling you, if I drew a self-portrait I have no doubt that it would be a beautiful oval, without a bit of shading, and I sometimes find myself thinking about hanging curtains in my new room but then I realize that would make it my mother's room. All I'm saying is whatever she's selling, I'm buying because it's all proven to be good stuff.
This past week Erika brought out a new one. One that is near and dear to my heart -- laundry. Trying to convince me that therapy is not a sign of weakness, she said that it allows me to iron out the wrinkles of my laundry. Reminding me that the longer I leave the wrinkled laundry to pile up, the more difficult and overwhelming it becomes. (The moral of the story: take care of the anxiety in your life as it comes, while it is manageable.) I think this might be my favorite to date.
Since that session, I've started thinking of my time in residential treatment as when I just threw the whole pile of laundry back in the washer and let it soak for awhile. Trying to iron it all out on my own had proven impossible. After the soak, what hadn't fallen apart, I packed and brought home. For awhile lots of folks helped out with my laundry. . . my mom, Cathy, Erika, even Nancy the Evil Keeper of the Scale. Now, for the most part, I guess I do my own laundry.
All in all, it stays caught up and clean. I don't look for the magic material that doesn't wrinkle or the detergent that promises to get out every stain. I'm beginning to think that wrinkles and stains are what happens to regular people, authentic people, present people. It's our response to them that makes us crazy or not. For so long I've tried to keep my hidden, and I'm beginning to realize that's what makes me crazy not the actual wrinkles.
The phrase "hiding my dirty laundry" has taken on a whole new meaning for me. From now on, mine's on the clothes line or in a basket that I take to Erika's office, where she can iron with me every now and then.