By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image
I receive hundreds of emails asking for help and one of the main questions I am asked is why I went to therapy and how I made it through. It is my hope that God will use the following to inspire those who need professional help to seek it out. Five years ago I was very sick and didn’t know what was wrong. I went to IPS (Institute for the Psychological Sciences) in Arlington, Virginia. While there, I participated in two full days of intensive psychological testing. It was one of the most emotionally and physically draining things I have ever encountered. Several weeks later I went back to hear my results. I was diagnosed with chronic post traumatic stress disorder due to various life experiences. Three doctors recommended for me to engage in intensive trauma therapy for two years.
The thought of getting help consumed me with trepidation. Why should I go and reveal my heart and soul to a psychologist? In my naivety, I convinced myself that:
1. They will never understand.
2. I don’t even know how to form words to describe how much it hurts to a friend, let alone a stranger.
3. I can’t afford it.
4. I’m scared and the thought of talking to someone makes me shake with nervousness.
5. What if the people who hurt me find out that I told?
6. If I get help I’m displaying a sign of weakness.
Well, after completing a year and half of intense trauma therapy I can tell you from my heart that:
1. There are doctors that genuinely care and understand. They might not have experienced the same difficulties you have, but are trained extensively to help you. It takes tremendous faith and trust on your part to trust them.
2. There are countless ways to express your pain and struggles. It will take time, but you can start slowly and build up to revealing more. You can also draw as well to express your feelings, trauma and emotions. Art therapy is very common and helped me tremendously.
3. I worked 7 days a week in the beginning to pay for the care I needed. In addition, I was awe-struck at the generosity of my doctors who made my care affordable for me. Two doctors never even sent me a bill for thousands of dollars of care they administered. They wrote off the entire bill. One receptionist told me “In his twenty-five years of practice I have never seen him not bill a patient.” People genuinely want to help and it’s good for wounded hearts to receive love through others generosity.
4. It’s okay to be scared. I would actually be concerned if you weren’t. When I first met my doctor I was terrified. I had only spoken with him once on the phone and the sound of his voice frightened me. I knew God wanted me to see him; I knew in my heart He wanted me to take this leap of faith. So I packed everything I owned into my Honda Accord and moved to Tennessee. If it didn’t fit in my car I left it behind. The first time I met my doctor in person, I knew everything was going to be okay. He was one of the most gentle, patient, faithful and educated doctors I had ever encountered. Was I still scared despite those characteristics I listed about him? Of course, as that is only natural, but sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. We need to learn to trust those who are deserving of our trust.
After God, I credit him for my healing. Made in His Image would never have been possible without him. He now sits on the Board of Directors for Made in His Image.
5. Contrary to what I thought, you are exhibiting tremendous courage and strength in seeking out professional help. It might not feel as if you are, but you are. Your vulnerability, bravery, determination and perseverance will shine through the darkness, it simply takes time.
I sat in Arlington, Virginia at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS) when Dr. Kathryn Benes compared me to a solider returning from war. Dr. Benes is the Director of the Catholic-based Psychology Ministry at Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Prior to moving to Colorado, she served as an Associate Professor and the Director of the training Clinic at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. Dr. Benes also developed a nationally recognized, diocesan-wide mental health program that ultimately became a doctoral-level psychology internship site in the Nebraska Internship Consortium in Psychology, an institution accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). This program is currently the only APA-accredited internship site in the nation that is specifically designed to train psychologists from a Catholic perspective.
Seeing Dr. Benes’ credentials and hearing what she said about me helped reshape my thought process. Also my brother is a Captain in the Marine Corps and has served two missions overseas, if I knew he needed help I would encourage him to get it. And would most certainly not think him weak for receiving that care. I would think him tremendously courageous for embracing what needs to be dealt with, instead of simply ignoring it. Why didn’t I see myself as worthy of the same care? Why wasn’t I good enough to receive help?
I wrestled with those thoughts and came to discover my dignity as His daughter worthy of care. Our Father desired nothing more than to provide, protect and take care of me in my illness and beyond and His generosity is boundless. He simply asks us to trust Him.
Will you not let Him provide for you the same way?
Question: I can’t seem to get inside the doctor’s office for therapy, can you help me? I’m asked this a lot.
Question: Where you anxious/nervous about going to therapy? And how did you actually get inside his/her office for therapy? I can’t seem to get inside for my sessions.
First of all, good for you for being brave and courageous and going to therapy. That’s awesome and really demonstrates that you want to get better. You should be proud of yourself, as this is a huge step in the right direction. WAY TO GO!
Just to put it in perspective for you – after several months had passed and I slowly became more comfortable with my doctor, he told me that the first time I came to see him, he thought I was going to faint from nervousness. Looking back now, I can laugh at that, which is a good thing because it’s good to laugh at yourself.
So, to answer your question, you bet I was nervous! For several weeks my hand use to shake as I opened his office door going into a session. While my nervousness and anxiety definitely lessened over time, I think it’s completely normal for you to be nervous going to counseling during the first few weeks, or even months.
Something that helped me greatly, that you might try is the following: I decided to offer my therapy sessions up for a special intention, which helped tremendously. My third session was exceedingly challenging and when I left that afternoon I couldn’t stop crying. This is so hard, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through. I’m just not that strong, how am I going to do this? Later that day I went to adoration and decided that I was going to offer up each session and homework activity for my future children. I desperately yearn for my future children to not have to suffer from the ramifications of abuse. So, when the anxiety seemed unbearable, or I had to draw or describe events and bodies that I thought I would never be able to do, I would close my eyes and picture what my future children might look like. I imagined their tiny hands and toes and how I would desire to surround them with love and tenderness. I thought about all that I would want to teach them about God the Father, Jesus, Mary and the Saints. Then I thought about how strong I would need to be for them and how much I needed to grow and heal before I could get married and have children. Then I closed my eyes gently, as I opened my doctor’s office door and proceed to another therapy session.
Perhaps you could try something similar? Think of something or someone who you would like to offer your therapy sessions up for and proceed courageously from there. You can do it and Made in His Image is here to support you along your journey of healing.
Be at peace, it is completely normal to be tired after therapy. Therapy is hard work, it was harder for me to complete therapy, than to be a Division 1 athlete. Due to the nature of what you are talking about it is completely normal for you to feel physically and emotionally drained. You are engaging your mind, memory and senses in events that were/are exceedingly traumatic or painful for you. And this requires energy, which is the reason you are tired.
Something that I did, that you might consider trying, is to take it easy after your therapy sessions. I would always go pray afterwards, then do something relaxing, for example: take a nap, go for a walk, write, draw, go for coffee with a friend, or something fun. Perhaps you could try to do something painless and easy after your therapy sessions too.
Also, it’s okay to cry too when it hurts. Trust me, I did plenty of crying before, during and after my sessions. And remember, crying doesn’t mean you’re weak.
Imagine if you ran a marathon, what would you do afterwards? You would relax, refuel and take it easy, right? Picture therapy as your marathon. Therefore, you need to relax afterwards and realize that it’s okay to be tired. Would you get upset at yourself if you were tired after a marathon? Of course not! Now apply the same mindset to your therapy sessions.
As a runner, it’s easy for me to compare life situations to running. But if you aren’t a runner, you can easily compare it to something else that you do on a regular basis.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross