The therapist’s redemption

I advocated for myself and to my surprise, it didn’t blow up in my face.

Today was my make-or-break last ditch session with my therapist to see if we could make it work. I found out that apparently my insurance does cover masters-level therapists after all and already had another one picked out if it didn’t go well.

I started it off by saying that I was unhappy with our last session. I didn’t want so much direct advice and instead wanted to be asked probing questions that would help me find my own answers.

She responded really well, thanking me for speaking up and apologizing for giving me too much direct advice because she made incorrect assumptions that was what I was seeking. And the rest of the session was spent getting down to some really important issues that had nothing to do with cancer, and she asked lots of probing questions.

Most importantly, I brought up my shame about having grown up poor in a school full of rich kids, and my shame about having struggled for so long in Michigan. She helped me really challenge some of my own assumptions about myself.

Significantly, something I realized after I left was that I always thought the reason I was so unpopular in school was because I didn’t have more expensive and trendy clothes. But on some level, I knew that wasn’t really it because I haven’t bought my kids expensive clothes, either. I have the money to buy more expensive stuff for myself now and I don’t. I do carry a Kate Spade purse but I got it at a significant discount and will probably use it for 3 or 4 years.

If I thought that having expensive clothes was really the most important thing in life, I certainly could make that a priority for both my kids and myself. The fact that I haven’t means that it’s not that important to me now–which means I can also recast how important it really was when I was a kid.

Long story short, the kids I went to school with were just assholes. It had nothing to do with their clothing or mine. And ultimately, I can finally put down that heavy weight that I’ve been carrying, the one that allowed some shitty spoiled people to define my worth for me.

What matters is what I think of myself. And honestly, I’m starting to like myself and think that I have some good qualities.

We also talked about my freelancing and how I’ve been holding myself back from approaching bigger markets. I don’t love everything about freelancing (and there are some things I really dislike about it.) But I could support myself from it if I consistently put in the effort to approach better-paying markets. If I end up needing more money than disability when my husband dies, I could make it on my writing by going to that next level.

I realized that the reason I don’t approach such markets is not because I fear rejection like I thought, but because I’ve lost my real voice in writing. I’ve spent so long writing uncreative service pieces like “myths and facts about laser eye surgery” that I can do them with very little effort. I’m not proud of what I write because it feels like assembly line work.

At one time, I could write poignant pieces that moved people. I used to write in a state of what is referred to as flow. I wrote easily and I wasn’t blocked. It didn’t take any effort to get into that zone and just write, several times a day.

I lost that state of flow pretty much permanently when I started doing the kind of writing I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. I have always wanted to have that back but I thought it was too incompatible with the other type of writing I have to do.

I can’t completely give up the paid writing I’m doing yet; I’m earning right up to the limit of what I’m allowed to make while on disability and we need that money. So what I need to do now is have the self-discipline to work on getting my real voice back.

I have to allow myself regular opportunities (preferably daily) to just write stuff for myself and learn to get that more genuine and visceral voice back. Once I get it back, then I will submit those things I write for publication. Right now, I think I’m holding myself back because I don’t want to do more of the service journalism I’ve been doing. Making more money from it or doing it for more impressive publications won’t make it feel any better to me.

I want to write stuff in my real voice that feels honest. If it’s more interesting to me to write, it will probably be more interesting to others to read, too.

Essentially, I need to believe in my real voice enough to fight to get it back. I need to unfuck my writing again. I’m worth it. And I know I’m a good writer, even with the crappy material I’m writing now. I can imagine a day when I’m writing things that I feel passionately about again.

Yes, all this as a result of one therapy session. Granted, some of the thoughts have been simmering in my head since I left. But I am cautiously hopeful that I may have done well by telling the therapist what wasn’t working. I want to talk about so much more than cancer.


  1. Joshua Shea says:

    I never made more money in a year than I did writing clickbait like “which Seinfeld character are you?” or “20 secrets Disney world wants to keep from you.” I’d have to watch Jeopardy at night to prevent my brain from shutting down completely. It’s too bad that there is almost a direct correlation between lack of quality writing and compensation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holly says:

      Exactly. Writing that kind of stuff really burns you out and taxes your brain. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that more creative writing pays much better. The writer’s life is always a tricky balance between having enough work to pay the bills and not having too much of the wrong work that kills your creativity.

      Liked by 1 person

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