Almost 2 months ago, I wrote about taking my eldest daughter to counseling. It’s a hard thing to start, counseling – at least it was for me 5 years ago when I began treatment for my postpartum depression. All I knew of therapy was what I had seen on television and in pop culture, and neither was particularly flattering.
I believed that seeking therapy showed weakness. Deficiency. Now I know it shows strength. It takes courage to admit that things are not
as they should be as you want them to be. What surprised me was the amount of bravery required to see the process through.
For me, it was kind of like cleaning out a long-neglected closet. First, you take everything out. You dig to the bottom of boxes and bins. You spread the clutter throughout the room and it feels like you’re going backward – making more of a mess instead of cleaning up. It’s at that precise moment you consider just scooping up armfuls of momentos, lost buttons, and dirty socks and closing them back in the boxes they emerged from. Maybe you can pretend you never saw them. But instead, you take a deep breath and make a conscious choice to move forward. As each item crosses you hands, you make a decision. You process what it means to you and you decide how to let it further affect your life. This goes in the garbage. That gets put away on a shelf. And maybe this other thing was something you had been desperately searching for.
It’s laborious. Tedious. Emotional. And some days, I left therapy feeling worse than when I went in. And then? One day things started to feel less overwhelming. It was like that moment when you place the last organized bin in the neglected closet and the doors shut for the first time in years, and you think maybe, just maybe, you can tackle another room.
So. I was prepared for a process when my daughter began working with her counselor. I was prepared for things to get worse before they got better, and I was ready for it to take a while. As it turns out, she’s made incredible progress in the last 8 weeks. Her outbursts are fewer and less intense. She can identify her emotions and use her words to share about them. And most importantly, she’s learned to ask for help.
It’s honestly been an amazing transformation, and I can’t rationally give all the credit to 6 therapy appointments, no matter how much I like and respect her therapist. At the recommendation of several friends and family, despite my intense skepticism, we substituted almond milk for cow’s milk in our house. Some of you suggested that a food allergy or intolerance could manifest as behavioral problems. Doodlebug suffered from MSPI as a baby, and I assumed she outgrew it as the physical symptoms disappeared after about 18 months. Because of her history with milk intolerance and her sister’s current inability to drink milk, I thought it was worth a try. She’s well-nourished, so what could it hurt?
Now, maybe the counseling gave her a sense of connectedness and belonging that she was missing. Or maybe, like many things, her behavioral changes were just part of a phase. Perhaps she matured neurologically in the last 8 weeks and everything I’ve done to help her only appears to have worked because of coincidence. This is not hard science, and I’m not prepared to test my theories by handing her a giant glass of milk and waiting for the fireworks to begin. I’m happy to just be glad things are better and to be mindful of what may have helped.
We’re taking a break from therapy for a while – she and I both know it’s there if we need it. And my daughter knows it’s nothing to be ashamed of or to fear.
What a gift I’ve given her, normalizing something that was so traumatic and stigmatizing for me.
I’m kind of proud of myself.
Now if I could only find time to work on those closets.