Asperger's,Autism Spectrum Disorder

Why Therapy Can Be the Right Thing

(… And Why It Sometimes Doesn’t Help)

You have no idea how many times I’ve tried and failed with therapy. I must have met every type of therapist throughout the last half of my life – first time I decided to get therapy was when I was in high school and it was anything but successful. I don’t like lying, but at the time I was desperate to get out of the therapy, so I lied, and she let me go. I tried several others, both different kinds of psychologists and psychiatrists, but it wasn’t until recently that I finally found the right therapist and started getting the help that I truly need.

Back then, I firmly believed that all therapists were horrible, blind and stupid. They never understood me or even tried to understand me, but immediately put me into their own pre-defined boxes. They told me why I behaved and thought and felt the way I did, they never listened to me and I was not about to start arguing with them about what I think and feel. I tried talking to them, but once that failed, I gave up on them and either lied to get away or stopped going.

One therapist actually told me, at the end of a session, that he was “curious to see if I would come back again” and that he “wouldn’t expect me to.” What did I do? I thought: “Fine. Then I won’t come back.” and of course, I didn’t go back. If he had told me to come back, I would have. He didn’t expect me to come back, so why should I?

Now, things are different.

One of the reasons that therapy is working for me is because I don’t have to bother with the other person. It might sound cold to you, but it’s the truth. I don’t have to care or worry about the other person and that is very freeing. You see, it makes me feel safe.

When I meet people out in the real world I have to get to know them and then figure out if I like that person or not, if we work well together, if they are great colleagues or possibly if we could be friends and there are many other things to consider.

The most important thing to me is figuring out how much I care. Not if I care or don’t care about them, but how much I care. I can’t remember meeting someone and not caring about them. I care, but sometimes I have to prioritise myself because if I don’t, I can’t be anything for anyone else. I also care about myself now and I want to protect myself and treat myself well.

Therapy works because I don’t have to think about anything but me. I don’t have to care about the therapist, I don’t have to be scared of caring too much or not enough – in therapy it’s okay to just care about me.

That made me realise just how much I worry about others. I worry about getting too close, being too intimate or friendly, about depending on someone else. At this very moment I can’t imagine anything more frightening than depending on someone else. I was always able to handle things on my own, and if I couldn’t do it on my own, that was fine too. I felt it wasn’t okay to depend on others, that I had to be able to do everything myself.

Sometimes it’s okay to depend on others, as long as we don’t get overly dependent on someone, it’s fine. We can learn and grow through supporting others, but also by being supported by others. We might be able to live life alone and isolated, but that does not mean we benefit from living that way.

I want to be able to live my life with other people, not because I need others in my life, but because others make my life more enjoyable and fun. Yes, they definitely also make it a whole lot more stressful.

What I need from therapy is really that I need to learn how to interact with the world. I know, my whole life that’s not what people have told me. They say I need to work through my trauma to put it behind me, but I don’t believe in that. That’s probably the main reason it never worked for me in the past.

People were always telling me everything would get better, but they don’t understand that everything won’t get better because no one can take back what has happened to me. I don’t need to learn to feel better or get better, I need to learn how to relate and interact with the world as the person I am now.

I don’t think therapy is like drinking a magic potion and suddenly you feel better and you can put your trauma behind you – I think it can teach me how to live with what happened and how to interact with the world now that I have changed. Because I have. What happened to me changed me and I will never be as I once was. This new me has to find a way to relate to the world again, figure out how to live with what has happened and not let it define who I am.

But I needed to be ready. I couldn’t open up and start working on all my issues because I wasn’t ready or open to change.

When you are in pain for a really long time, sometimes you forget what it was like not being in pain and you accept the pain as your reality. I literally forgot that I could be any different. Then, one day I realised that I didn’t have to live my life the way I did. I didn’t know how – changing the little things felt pointless when what I wanted to change was my life.

In time I came to realise, life is the little things.

So, with every little thing I changed, something started to grow within my heart – hope. Do you know the story of Pandora’s box? I quite like it because I think it has such a beautiful message. Sure, maybe you think of all the evils of the world when you think of Pandora’s box, but do you know what was at the bottom of Pandora’s box? It was hope.

Hope is a strange thing. It was finding hope in deepest, darkest corner of my heart that gave me the courage to open up in therapy.

You see, what you may or may not know is that when you don’t have a lot of money and still need therapy, then you can sometimes be given therapy. In my country, you have to go through the doctor’s office, and they can refer you to therapy – but there’s a lot of rules and not everyone can get help. Then, if you get help, you only get a fixed number of sessions. This, I find ridiculous. It’s like saying: “Trauma? Left at the end of the hall. Fix it in ten sessions or just get over it yourself.”

When you open up about trauma no one knows how long you will need therapy; it could be a week, a month, a year – a lifetime. I do know that opening up in therapy and then suddenly being told: “That’s it. No more time for you. Good luck dealing with all that.” can be even more traumatic than the traumatic event in itself.

It’s not easy opening up. Just opening up when you only have an hour can be difficult enough. More than once I’ve been in tears, bawling my eyes out, and then just had to get up, leave and find a public toilet somewhere to pull myself together before going home. I was so embarrassed at first, you wouldn’t believe it.

I felt guilty about all the bad stuff that happened to me and I was very embarrassed both about sharing it and being affected by it. I want to be strong; you see. I needed to be strong. It wasn’t until I understood that holding on to all my pain, that acting like it didn’t affect me or my life wasn’t something I did because I was strong, that I truly saw myself more clearly. It wasn’t until I recognised my own weakness that I was able to see my own strength.

Going to therapy made me realise what a distorted image I had of myself. I realised this because I was ready to not let my past define me as an individual.

I opened up, knowing I only had a few sessions of therapy left and for the first time in my life, I have started to feel strong. Thinking you are strong and feeling strong are two very different things. I feel comfortable opening up now, because I feel like I’ll be okay. I may never see Mr. Flower, my therapist again, but that’s okay. The work we started, I can finish it one way or another, even if it takes a lifetime.

In reality, back when I wasn’t ready, the only thing that could have made a difference was if the bad things hadn’t happened at all. That was impossible and going to therapy thinking it can make all the bad things that happened become like they never happened is going to make the therapy difficult.

I don’t know exactly what it was that made me ready for therapy, if I did, I would tell you right now. I know some of the choices I made, you’ve heard those earlier in this post and in the posts that I’ve written over the last year. What I do know is, that me going to therapy before I was ready truly made it much more difficult to become ready. I thought that therapy would make a difference, because that’s what people said it would do. It didn’t. In the end, I made the difference.

If you go to therapy, be ready to make the difference. I am not saying you do it alone, I didn’t. When you have therapy, you get this whole person sitting with you and you can completely ignore that persons feelings or thought or ideas – you are both there because of you. YOU.

You get to talk about yourself, your thoughts and everything about you and the other person will help you, if you are open to change, to accept and love yourself as you are. They can’t do it alone, but the thing is, even if you are able to do it alone, you don’t have to.

If you are not ready for therapy yet, then perhaps it’s time to figure out why that is. Not being ready to open op or to accept help doesn’t mean we just have to wait and think one day we might be. It means we have to do some work on the inside first. It also doesn’t mean therapy can’t help. The right therapist will help you get ready to open up and support you when you finally do.

Therapy is neither useless or a miracle – it is what we make it.


Life with Autism Spectrum Disorder is not always easy, but it doesn't have to be impossible. Since I was diagnosed myself, I have been trying to raise autism awareness and share my own experiences and thoughts about life as well as my search for a happy and fulfilling life.

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