There are lots of memes about running being as good or better for you than seeing a therapist. For me, running and exercise are very much a part of my own “therapy” and I see so many parallels between the two. Running, in fact, is a metaphor that I often use with my clients and can really illustrate how seeing a therapist can be such a positive and beneficial way of taking care of yourself!
After a month of not exercising much, I dragged my butt out of bed this morning and pulled my sneakers on and headed out for a run. I love running, but sometimes it is hard to get this simple act of self-care in the schedule. Seeing a therapist can be similar. Sometimes you are committed and going regularly, other times you just might need a little tune-up now and again.
So today I decided it was time to get back to it. I planned to meet a good friend, another mother that runs, which helped with the early morning motivation. What I did not do, however, was check the weather forecast! Needless to say, about halfway through our run it began pouring buckets!
Now this isn’t the first time I have been caught in the rain while running. Sometimes I have an inkling and make sure to wear a hat and protect my phone, which I carry with me. Other times, like this morning, the heavens just open up and there is nothing I can do but be stuck in the storm.
Life is like this. We can prepare for things, like having a baby or getting married or changing jobs. We carefully put things in order, logically anticipating what is in front of us. But there are other times when the heavens open up and you are three miles out from the safety and security of home and you are stuck in the damn storm. You lose someone, a relationship ends, being a mom wasn’t what you expected, your loved one gets sick. Life rains on us all the time.
Seeing a therapist is like someone coming out to get you in the middle of the storm.
There you are, stranded, in the middle of a rainstorm. You feel alone, and maybe scared or angry, or frustrated. You dread the path home because it only means more rain. A therapist can be a welcome companion in the journey back.
Maybe she pulls up in a nice warm car, lets you in, and drives you back to a safe and secure place where you can change out of your wet, soaking clothes, and feel like YOU again.
Many of my clients view my office and their sessions with me as their safe place. When life is chaotic or you feel hurt or vulnerable, seeing a therapist is like creating this warm and secure place where you can unpack the things that are weighing you down. Your past, your pain, your fears and insecurities, all of it. It may not happen all at once and you may cling to those metaphoric wet clothes despite the way they hang on you and drag you down. Seeing a therapist can help you shift. It can help you let go. It can help you get back to yourself, not your anxious or insecure self, but a self that feels calmer, more grounded.
Maybe she brings you a hat and flashlight so you can see clearly and finish your run.
Seeing a therapist is an opportunity to shift your perspective on yourself and your life. When we are in the middle of stressful and difficult situations, our emotions can easily get in the way of us seeing clearly. You end up running blind, zig zagging like Serpico and clumsily sloshing in and out of the puddles of your thoughts and feelings. Seeing a therapist can help you learn new tools and coping strategies so that you can manage your emotions better and respond to stress differently. Now instead of running blind, you are running prepared with your hat and phone cover, focused on your goal, and clear about what you need to do to get there in an effective and healthy way.
Maybe she just comes and runs alongside of you.
I remember when I first started running many years ago during a time filled with infertility treatments and anxiety about having a baby. I joined a running group with my best friend that was training for a half marathon. On a long training run in the middle of the summer, I was slow and sluggish from infertility meds and I think the only thing that got me through that run was my friend running beside me. She didn’t judge my pace, or my whining, or even my tears, which eventually came as I got more and more frustrated with myself. I am so lucky to have her because in many ways she and I are always running beside each other. The thing is though, sometimes we hold back from sharing our pain even with those closest to us. You might need someone to be more objective, or to not judge you, or to even push you and coach you. Therapy is not the same exact thing as friendship or coaching, but it can feel so good to have someone beside you as you navigate tough events, transitions, and emotions.
As a therapist, I have seen many storms. If you were a fly on the wall of my office, you would see tears, soul-searching, learning, exploring, and with all of it comes laughter, definitely laughter. The ability to run alongside someone as they navigate the raindrops and puddles, to see the strength and courage of my clients, there isn’t a better job out there. If seeing a therapist is something you have been thinking about but scared to do, be brave and take the leap.
“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person you walked in.”
- Haruki Murakami