HAWMC Day 6 - Emotional Safety

April 7, 2015

Day six is about your hero and my hero is my therapist.  I have been seeing her for nine and a half years and our relationship has changed my life. Some people criticize having a therapist for so long, saying that it must surely mean that I am not doing better, but that is not true - I started out seeing her twice a week and now I only see her twice a month.  What I really do not think those people realize is how bad my mental illnesses were and how bad my anxiety continues to be.  I need someone that I can unload my anxieties onto and ask for help in figuring out how to overcome them.  I need someone who is emotionally safe.

Because I am so sensitive, a question I often ask myself is does this person seem emotionally safe to me?  Emotional safety, to me, is being able to talk to someone without fear of being judged, made fun of, lectured, condescended to, yelled at, bossed, disregarded, or feel invalidated because of our interactions.  For a long time, she was the only person I felt I could trust to actually treat me the way I want to be treated.  She respects, validates, and listens compassionately to me.  She tells me hard truths, but in a way that prompts me to listen and care about what she is telling me, instead of in a way that shuts me down.  Having a safety person in my life, especially during the years when I was usually paranoid and in crisis has saved my life on more than one occasion.

When I do presentations, I tell people that the relationship between them and their therapists and doctors is incredibly important.  If one does not feel that they can trust their therapist or other mental health professional, then they flat-out do not need to be paid.  Life is hard enough as it is living with mental illness without mental health professionals that only tell you what you want to hear, are not specialized enough to be helpful or are condescending and rude.  I tell people to shop around to find the right fit - someone they feel they can trust, has a sense of humor and simply connects with.

Unfortunately, my friends and I often talk about how hard it to find the right help.  It took me four years to find a therapist that was actually competent, let alone one that actually worked well with me.  Skyland Trail was the first treatment center where I found respectful, competent, knowledgeable staff, so I was delighted when I discovered that one of them had just started her own practice and that she specialized in eating disorders when it was time for me to leave.  We have been together ever since, with some time-outs for school in Milledgeville.

Emotionally safe people are important in this fat-shaming, sexist, ablist, heteronormative, classist, white supremacist, rape culture society.  Often, once we have established one emotionally safe person, then we can start building up our own safe community of supporters, but it all starts with that first relationship.

My therapist is my hero, but I have others.  Other heroes are my family and, funnily enough, myself, for continuing to keep pressing on these many years.

I hope you have some heroes in your life, including someone who is emotionally safe.  Those people are hard to find, but worth their weight in gold once found.

 Link Love:

 in my experience, there is naught that casts aside every last remnant of inhibition like profound trust.

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