Lesson #1: It takes a while to lie down on the couch
It took me just over five years to lie down on the couch. My therps has had a few offices in the time I've seen her and each one of them has had a couch. And they are great, comfortable couches - but I'll be damned if I was ever going to be "that patient" that lay down on the couch, staring into the ceiling, crying about my father. What is this, psychiatry?
It didn't happen all of a sudden either. I didn't go from sitting upright on the couch to one day just lying across it. I started to tilt over time. For about six months I went from sitting up straight to leaning back to slowly angling my body, tipping over a bit each time, leaning on cushions that would hold me up at a 45 degree angle.
I wanted to lie down years before I actually did it. My best friend died in 2009. She died in a chemical lab fire. Do you know how much I wanted to lie down? In fact, I was lying down pretty much all the time, except for when I was in therps. I wouldn't call the years between 2009 and 2012 living. I'd call them existing. I was existing horizontally. Except in therps. 45 degree angle sitting for me, thanks very much. My neck? Oh yeah my neck and back are fine, I sit like this all the time. Really, it's ok. Another cushion? Sure, why not.
Why was it so hard to lie down?
It turns out, a couple of reasons. I had a lot of internalized judgment about what therapy means. The movies and the TV shows about people who can't get their lives together and just talk and talk while lying on the couch. I didn't want that to be me! And it WAS me. And it took me time to LOVE that it was me. And all of that somehow got wrapped up in how I was positioned on the couch. Lying down meant defeat. Lying down meant admitting that I needed therapy in my life.
It was also about trust. Baring yourself emotionally to someone is so intimate and so vulnerable. I had enough trouble with that. And then on top of that, to lie down - it was too much! I felt so exposed as it was. I didn't want to let myself be comfortable. My heart wanted to burrow into the couch and let my tears get absorbed by a set of very lovely red pillows. But my brain and my body refused.
And then one day I said, "I feel like lying down" out loud and therps said, "alright" and I did. I didn't look up at the ceiling. I turned on my side, the way I do when I watch TV, and I looked just above my therps' head and I talked and I cried. I couldn't tell you what we talked about. But I can tell you that I finally admitted that I'd built a strong and powerful relationship with my therps and I was ready to just....be. Just be in the space - comfortable, vulnerable, sprawling. I was taking up the space I needed to take.
I sprawl and sit and lie down now. Sometimes I slip off my shoes. Whatever feels right. But it took a while to lie down on the couch.