Wearing Workout Clothes To Therapy Has Helped Me Prioritize Giving Myself Grace
A couple of months into therapy I started noticing two things that happened every time — I was physically tired after any session and I constantly pushed myself further than I should have after each session.
Therapy is a kind of marathon and while I'm not a runner, I have friends who have told me there's an immense level of respect and grace that comes with running a marathon. You respect each mile you push through because you can physically feel the toll it's taking on you, and your body is demanding it be noticed. You also learn to give yourself grace.
You don't expect to be able to run a 10k your first time lacing up your running sneakers, so then why is there this expectation that we're all going to be great at therapy (and at the self-care that follows) on the first try?
I come from a Latinx family that never spoke of mental health (and still doesn't). My going to therapy was quietly whispered at the very beginning when someone asked where I was slipping away to while my grandmother was in the hospital. To this day, more than three years after I started therapy, my family still doesn't really inch anywhere near the topic of therapy or my mental health.
They know I have panic attacks when my anxiety is especially triggered, but they are much more comfortable calling that "nervios" or attributing it to my asthma than to what it really is.
So to some degree I shouldn't be surprised that it took me months in therapy to start showing myself grace. At the time, I didn't know how to cut myself slack for the mental marathon I was running, weekly, so I spoke to myself in a language I would understand - a physical cue.
Every time I go to therapy, save any time I have a work event prior to it, I wear workout clothes. My sneakers, leggings and comfy shirt are my physical reminder that I may not be hitting the ground running at 5am every morning, but that the work I'm putting in in therapy is still emotionally (and for me, physically) taxing.
My body reacts to therapy the way it does to a yoga session - I'm zenned out, but also my muscles hurt and I can totally take a nap.
For too long I deprived myself of the rest my body and mind needed after therapy in an effort to make it seem like I was trudging through unaffected.
Therapy is hard work and that's not just a sentence that's written out on paper to justify the trend of self-care or to excuse my not being able to hang out on Thursdays after therapy. Therapy being hard work is a reality.
It demands that we run backwards into the past while trying to not miss an important obstacle, then it demands that we take careful steps forward on a tightrope towards the present moment, carefully pointing out where the past may be weighing it all down.
A million times. For an hour. That's how much back and forth you feel like you're doing.
So now, I chill after therapy. I wrap up my work day at the end of the day like I normally do. I don't make plans with friends. I hang out with myself and I trade my comfy pair of leggings for an even comfier pair of pajama pants.