When one thinks about therapy for stroke survivors,
physical, occupational, and speech therapies are the obvious choices. All the rehabs provide the same, old thing. But what’s the missing piece? Psychotherapy, of course! None offer that as routine.
My partner suggested mental therapy almost six years ago. But I didn’t do it, not because I didn’t think that I needed it after the stroke that caused maximum heartache to both of us and almost ultimate death to one of us; I didn’t do it because I wasn’t ready. That’s the way it was then, and nobody, not even my partner, could change it.
Even if you think you’re perfectly all right (which actually no one is) and especially if you think you’re not, everyone should experience mental therapy sessions at least once in a lifetime. Most, if not all, insurance plans cover it. You can choose a licensed social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, the latter being able to write prescriptions. But all of them give support with something, maybe a chain of somethings, you just can’t figure out.
I’ve gone to a licensed social worker who is also a psychotherapist for about a year now, twice a week (after the year, once a week), 50 minutes per session, for disappointments and depression from failed relationships among family and friends, some having to do with the stroke, some not. The therapist will read this post and know that I am talking about her. To afford her anonymity, I will call her Sue.
Sue and I talk about a variety of things, like self-esteem, self-worth, and dignity, about life choices, responsibility, and values, about betrayal, rejection, and revenge. I am not nearly done, but looking back, I have made progress. When I first came to her, I was an open, walking wound, but she taught me how to give myself more value, to be a good person. But it turns out, according to Sue and me in collaboration, I was questioning my behavior before the stroke, like choosing the wrong men–angry like my father, narcissistic like my mother, bullying like my brother, or feeling revengeful thoughts against people I once cared about.
Though her office is upstairs, she meets me downstairs to accommodate me. The downstairs space has no comfy couch, no budding plants, no inspiring pictures. Just talk. It’s enough for me. With a notebook on her lap, she writes occasionally and listens intently, speaking at random intervals.
Sue is my rudder for making most of my nonsensical thoughts sensical. But she’s not a magician. Some of my thoughts get short shrift, dismissed, like the rubbish they are. “Seriously?” she often inquires. And every situation prompts more thoughts. She challenges me and I embrace the challenges. We are a good team–the tough psychotherapist who doesn’t let me get away with bullshit comments and the willing patient, eventually choosing what I will become. But not tomorrow. I am a patient patient. I am willing to wait.