“The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.” ~Maya Angelou
My newest friend ended our three-month-long friendship on a July day when I’d just returned from a dreadful summer vacation. Her Dear Jane email read, “It’s not you, it’s me.” The lever had been pulled, I was dumped, and I thought, “Ha!” I’d spent the last three months trying to help her fix her problems. I knew she had more problems than me.
But then an anxious, obsessive thought loop began. What did it really mean? How could it not be about me?
This wasn’t the first time I’d lost a friend, so of course, I needed to diagnose, dissect, and determine the origin of this unhappy pattern. My anxieties were ramping up, and I needed to fix something before this reoccurred. So I made an appointment with a therapist named Dr. Mary.
After an hour’s drive through big city traffic, I arrived late and shaken to that first therapy session.
Within fifteen minutes, Dr. Mary helped me recognize the parallel between my friendships and my relationship with my mother and and pointed out I didn’t have to parent my mom, a lifelong project due to her unsteady mental health. I was disappointed but relieved to find I wasn’t there to fix my mom’s narcissistic behavior. I was there just to fix myself. I paid her the ninety-five out-of-pocket dollars I owed and left feeling slightly better.
Two weeks later, I drove that same hour for my second therapy session. I was not prepared for what I would take away this time.
When I brought up my mother again, Dr. Mary asked me why I needed to change my mother. Couldn’t I allow her to just be?
I was confused. Weren’t my mother issues the cause of everything? “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother,” my friends and I always
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