I Need a Hug!
“I don’t need therapy, I need a hug.”
I saw this quote posted on Instagram recently and quickly saved it to my phone and thought, Yes, this is good! It’s true! It made me stop and reflect on all of the hours of psychological counseling and therapy I’ve sat through over the years, and I wondered, How much of it was a waste? Am I finally getting what I need? The answers are: 1. A lot of it was indeed a waste of time, energy, and emotions; 2. I’m not sure if I’m totally getting what I need now.
Mental health and treatment
I strongly believe that positive and effective mental health treatment should be an integral part of one’s overall treatment plan when living with RA. This disease is a relentless monster that attempts to destroy all areas of our lives, and if you don’t have an empathetic and skilled person to talk to about it, coping can feel incredibly overwhelming and hopeless. Finding the right person and approach is the hard part, though. Unfortunately, it can take a long time and a lot of trial and error to find someone you really connect with and who’s a good fit. I’ve certainly struggled with this for many years and I still feel like I’m not exactly where I want to be.
But let’s get back to the quote: I don’t need therapy, I need a hug. Yes, I do. I need a hug. Like right now. And every day. I think what struck me about the quote is that it simply and directly expressed my recent frustration with my own therapy sessions. I’m kind of in a weird place right now, in transition from “firing” my first and long-time therapist while trying out someone new. Being in this situation has forced me to think a lot about what I want and don’t want from therapy–which isn’t easy.
My experience with therapists
Complaints and frustrations about my former therapist (of seven years) include him: being critical, being judgmental, shaming, acting disinterested and apathetic, giving guilt trips, acting impatient, bringing his own emotions into my therapy, and being unwilling and unsupportive about me discussing more intimate and personal matters in my life (compared to pragmatic things such as jobs/career/weight loss/etc.).
These things all probably seem like they should’ve been giant red flags slapping me in the face years ago, I know, but I’m kind of a pro at ignoring red flags, even if they’re strangling me. Plus, my relationship with this psychologist had become somewhat of a complicated one. I’ve now known him for a long time and despite my dissatisfactions with him, I did grow to feel a sense of comfort talking with him and even looked forward to my appointments. We often got along really well, many times joking and laughing about ridiculous and absurd things, which was fun. It was very hard for me to cut the therapist apron strings, but I realized that I needed more than a buddy I liked shooting the sh*t with. I needed someone I could be vulnerable and dig deep with, and who could truly help me.
The therapist I’m seeing now has not set off any red flags waving or sirens screaming, thankfully. His temperament and personality is quite a bit different from my previous therapist. He’s kind, compassionate, an engaged listener, and I don’t sense an ounce of personal criticism or judgment from him, unlike you-know-who. I feel like I should be able to open up to him easier, without the fear of feeling embarrassed or ashamed, yet I still can’t totally do this. Maybe and hopefully with time it will get easier? I’m not sure.
During my last appointment with my new therapist, I broke down crying as I tried to tell him how overwhelmed, sad, and hopeless I was feeling about a current rough patch in my life. I felt like nothing was working out right: my RA was running rampant causing my joints to be on fire, my finances were in the toilet, my social life was nearly nonexistent, my career and life plans seemed stagnant and dying, a close family member was facing a serious illness, and someone whom I cared about a lot and thought of as a new “kindred spirit” in my life recently broke my heart. Hence the tears running down my face and a Kleenex box being gingerly slid across his desk. It was embarrassing and mortifying, sitting there blubbering in a small room filled with generic, sterile office furniture and florescent lights harshly spotlighting my red, blotchy face.
In this moment, I really needed a hug.
After listening to my woes with solemn nodding and sad eyes, once I stopped talking my therapist started explaining the difficulty of battling depression and anxiety and tried to brainstorm specific strategies I could use to improve my situation(s). As I sat there blowing my nose, I admit that I kind of tuned out during some of his response. I was still very upset, feeling like a worthless sad-sack loser, which made fresh tears reappear. Thinking about how to stop procrastinating or organize my time better didn’t feel that important right then. Applicable, real-world strategies are a good idea and helpful, and I appreciated what he was trying to do, but at that moment I felt like it wasn’t what I needed.
What I needed right then and there was a plain old hug! Literally or figuratively. I needed to have the sense that someone understood what I was going through and the pain and fear I was feeling. I think that’s true for all of us, honestly. We often just desperately need to feel basic human love and warmth and empathy–and that we’re not alone.