Freckles in April: Seeking Help Through Therapy

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Seeking Help Through Therapy

Related: here's a guest post I wrote for my friend's blog about how my marriage survived my change of faith

Most people who leave a high-demand religion like Mormonism go through something like the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle. Losing your religion feels a lot like the loss of a loved one and the emotions can be very similar. There's denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. That makes it sound like a nice linear progression through the stages before you finally land at acceptance and move on with your life but the reality is not quite like that.

Instead of a linear progression it's more like a game of chutes and ladders. Sometimes you're climbing forward to bargaining and then you're sliding back into denial and then you find that you're depressed and angry and then you feel a hint of acceptance before you're back to depressed. It's not exactly as advertised.

By the time I left the church in January of 2014 I was pretty well into the acceptance stage. I'd been through all the other stages many times over in the previous 4 years and I was in a really good place. I continued in that really good place for the rest of the year and I kind of thought that was that. Acceptance achieved! Moving on!

I'm sure this has at least something to do with post-partum hormones but 2015 sent me sliding in a big way back into anger. And any time I made any kind of progress something would happen and I'd be right back in my angry place.

Anger is exhausting. I don't like being angry but I couldn't seem to help it. The biggest problem, though, is that kind of anger isn't really sustainable in the long term alongside a happy marriage, especially because the thing that was making me so angry is a thing that makes my husband really happy.

And so I decided I needed help tackling my anger before it became a real problem.

Therapy is surprisingly common for ex-Mormons. As a group we tend to have a lot of issues (understandable). I reached out to a Phoenix-based fringey Mormon Facebook group I'm a part of and asked if anyone had recommendations for a therapist in my area. I got tons of glowing comments about a woman whose practice is about 20 minutes away from me so I made an appointment.

I was surprisingly nervous for my first visit. I hate crying in front of people but I knew it was inevitable. And I did cry! A lot. But I also laughed. And I unburdened myself of things I didn't even know I was holding in the dark recesses of my brain.

I've been to visit my therapist a few times now and each time I walk out feeling lighter. She's given me tools to help me shield myself from the things that hurt me. She's helped me think through issues that are weighing on my mind and offers solutions to practical problems. She also validates my feelings, which is maybe the best part. When you're surrounded by people who think you're wrong and selfish and possibly being misled by the devil, it's really nice to have someone tell you that your feelings are legitimate.

Thinking about going to therapy was a little scary until I had two good friends tell me that they are all about it. Their acknowledgment of their therapy experiences and encouragement of mine made that call a lot less intimidating. If you think you might need help (even preemptive help! That's a wise move!) then this is me telling you that therapy is awesome and useful and you should go for it. I'm really glad I did.


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  1. I am so glad that therapy has been positive for you. I've been teetering on the edge of going to therapy (well, sending my girls who hate eachother to therapy), but haven't bitten the bullet. Your post is giving me the nudge in the right direction that I need. I also feel like I can relate to the whirlwind of emotions you have been going through, though probably not to the extent you've been through them. I think about you a lot and am always glad for the information you share and especially glad to hear you are doing well and thriving.

  2. Every time you post about your experience leaving the Mormon church I am flooded with respect and admiration for you. I get asked a lot by family/friends why I can move *somewhat* calmly through various degrees of crisis in my life and I always say I'VE HAD THERAPY. For me, and you touched on this, it was about learning tools to cope with stress in my life. Therapy hasn't made my family any less dramatic and imposing but I now have the tools to move through the drama without completely falling apart or resenting my family. Good for you for taking advice from trusted friends and giving it a try. My experience was similar to yours in terms of how I got into therapy and I've never regretted it. Thanks, as always, for sharing.

  3. "When you're surrounded by people who think you're wrong and selfish and possibly being misled by the devil, it's really nice to have someone tell you that your feelings are legitimate."

    When I read that, the angels in my head started signing. My situation is so similar to yours and therapy has been so great for me. Go, us!

  4. Therapy is AMAZING! I wish there wasn't such a stigma surrounding it. My best friend (finishing her master's in counseling) and I (8 years of therapy under the belt) semi-joke that everyone should be in therapy. Just like Oprah - "you get a therapist! and you get counseling! and you and you and you!!" It's definitely weird at first, and it can be troubling when your therapist isn't a good fit, but when you find a person that you click with, it's amazing. Having an impartial third party advocating for me is just amazing- I imagine especially so for you.

  5. Therapy is AWESOME. It's saved my life and helped me to become such a better person. I agree with what Lauren said, I feel like anyone can benefit from going to therapy, more people should definitely go and realize that while it is scary, it's soooo worth it. Awesome to hear about your experience, thanks for sharing :)

  6. with both of my parents being therapists i've never really bought into the stigma that goes along with seeing a therapist. although i must say that i do occasionally joke about the "crazy" people that come to the house to visit my mom (she has a home office). anyway, after several years of knowing that i would benefit from finding a good therapist, i finally found one! and i've been going to see her every week for about a month and i love her. and i'm with lauren and kailee. i've often said that everyone would benefit from seeing a good therapist ("good" being the operative word). so glad you found someone who works for you. feeling angry all the time is awful. i've been there too and i hated it. good luck and happy therapizing! (:

  7. I am ALL ABOUT therapy. I think it should have zero stigma, it's like a tooth cleaning, but for your heart/brain. No one thinks you're less than for going to the dentist twice a year, whether you think you need it or not. And when people "brag" about how they don't need the dentist because their teeth are a-okay and they haven't been for years you seriously question their hygiene and self-care, right? We go for teeth cleanings and check ups because it's much easier and less expensive and overall better for our health than having to get a root canal. So, why is there such a stigma about going to a therapist? When really, it's just a professional cleaning up the plaque and gunk in your head and teaching you better mental hygiene techniques to PREVENT having to have a freaking, mental root canal...whatever, you know what I mean.


  8. I really needed to read this today! I over-confidently thought I got through the whole cycle because I felt great for awhile, but this summer.....ugh, can you say "deeply troubled"? #boyscouts I talked to my friend who is a therapist and had her google some therapists in my area who looked good to her (I don't even know what to look for). She encouraged me to set up consultations with some of them to see if it feels like a good fit. Reading this reminded me that I need to do it!

  9. yup. totally went to therapy to mediate my leaving the church. i actually need to make another appointment!


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