I’m often asked how I have got from there to here. Unhealthy to relatively healthy. A life unraveled and hopeless to a life very much worth living. How did I gain confidence in myself, a love of myself, an ownership of my past, and a letting go of all that fucking shame and guilt?
There were a multitude of reasons including proper diagnosis & meds, passage of time, support where I could find it, a changing of my environment & a reset of my life and how I lived it. But perhaps the most important ingredients came from the many, many hours of therapy. Assistance in identifying what in my life literally drove me insane. Discussing the issues I was too afraid to discuss. Putting my feelings and actions into proper perspective. Putting the puzzle pieces together.
What I’ve learned is this. Your choice of therapist matters. A lot! I believe your outcome can be very much dependent upon your choice and quality of therapist. Since my original therapist I spent a very brief time with upon being outed, I’ve had two psychologists. One in Wisconsin. Now one in California. Both of them happen to be sex positive (Having or promoting an open, tolerant, or progressive attitude towards sex and sexuality). My psychiatrist realized this would be an essential criteria. What if I had never been referred to one who was sex positive? What if my therapists demonized my behavior? What if they focused more on the behavior (the sex) and less on what was truly important……the many sources of pain that contributed to cause the in my case reckless behavior. What if they didn’t encourage me to embrace my sexuality, own my past and not run from it? What if they didn’t recognize that shame was literally killing me, triggering me into a constant depressive state, and often leaving me suicidal. What if they didn’t realize how crucial it was to not tell me how to live my life? People had done that to me for a lifetime, and look where it got me. What if my therapists actually made me feel greater shame? Told me as my original one did. No sex, no masturbation, no porn, nothing. Don’t worry about focusing on the sources of pain in my life, just STOP!!!! I witnessed ignorance right there and saw where it would get me.
Where would my mental health be today if my original therapist was my only therapist? That kinda scares me. The power a therapist has in one’s recovery. One has to ask what moral judgments do they bring to the table? What kind of ignorance do they bring to the table? And do their judgments get in the way of proper discussion and therapy? Should a quality therapist bring any judgment to the table? The issue is very much real, especially as it may relate to something like sex based issues.
I’m not going to go through my entire story of recovery here. Maybe at a later date, but I can tell you I spent the first 18 months after being outed as a Vegas escort pretending to be ok, but living in shame, and was very much “stuck”. Getting nowhere. Depression was a constant and I felt very little hope in life. Nothing had really changed. Rock bottom has a way of making you do things you were resistant to before. So I became more willing to try talk therapy again after those 18 long months.
Shame can be so engrained when it comes to sex. As you may know, I life coach these days. I’m often helping others manage mental illness and / or be their best selves, but many times my clients and I tackle issues somehow relating to sex. It’s become my sweet spot, and I enjoy talking about it.
To provide a little context, here are the type of clients I deal with….
A couple who has embraced an open relationship, but is having trouble with guilt and society’s judgment.
A rape victim who blames herself and her family is expecting her to just get over it.
A woman trying to embrace her sexuality who desires to feel more powerful around men.
A former porn performer who lives around loved ones and a society who makes her feel shame over her past.
A man who feels extreme guilt and shame having paid for sex, though he’s in a loveless, sexless marriage.
A couple who has lost the spark, the intimacy. Where priorities have changed and their marriage is suffering as a result.
A dancer who uses sex and alcohol to numb pain but wants to get to a point where she can find healthy, enjoyable sex in her life for all the right reasons.
A woman feeling immense shame and guilt for sexual behavior she regrets. Has lost a job because of it.
How many times do I hear, “I felt I could not discuss this with anyone.” Why is that? Psychology has a long way to go when it comes to the topic of sex. You might call it the final frontier. There is a stigma attached, and competence regarding the topic can be hard to come by. With a topic so very sensitive, how important is it that we create an environment where clients can feel comfortable to discuss things openly? Where a patient can say, “My therapist gets me?” How important is it that clients feel they can discuss with someone that can RELATE with? Hell, how many times have I been contacted by doctors and therapists who felt the need to reach out to little old me? The one person they could feel safe with? The one person who would not judge? Therapists need therapists too. They’re not immune.
So my personal opinion, if an individual seeks therapy for anything sexual in nature, maybe, just maybe it’s essential that the therapist have a sex positive approach, be well versed in the topic, and be open minded and realistic solution driven. Where they are able to relate. And if they can’t, perhaps they should have the courage and confidence to indicate as much and refer out to someone who may. I had and have the luxury of having a therapist who gets me. Who emphasizes what’s important in making sure I’m healthy and my illness managed. Too many don’t and it saddens me. I hear it all the time. To me, it means that there are too many people out there living in shame, not knowing where to go, or who they can talk to.
This doesn’t just apply to sex either. Relatability, competence and proper match / fit are crucial, regardless of the individual situation. Do your research, ask the proper questions, don’t be afraid to interview various therapists until you find the right one for you. Just my two cents, but I hope it may generate some thought.
Love you all, Suzy xo