Have you ever thought to yourself... maybe I should see a therapist? Perhaps the thought of this makes you uncomfortable. After all, we're constantly being told to "solve our own problems." We grew up learning life skills to help us be independent.
But does independence really mean coping by ourselves?
I understand how easy it can be to dismiss the idea of therapy. I spent at least half of my teenage years wanting to do everything "my way, or no way." But during my battle with anxiety and depression, I realized I couldn't manage it on my own. I needed someone to help me find good outlets to relax and enjoy life. So, I started seeing a therapist.
Now, I would like to share five ways therapy has helped me:
1. I got to talk about issues I couldn't talk about with anyone else.
Some people start therapy and have a "terrible" first experience. They think, "uh...I don't even know this person. How do I know that he/she will actually keep all of this confidential?"
Yes, I've been there. I've questioned therapists, looked at their expressions, and thought, "this person thinks I'm crazy. She might tell her family about me."
But after searching for a compatible therapist, I found that there ARE a few who can make you feel comfortable. Have you ever started talking to someone you first met and thought, "you're awesome! I feel like I known you forever?" That's sort of how it can be with a therapist.
When I met my most recent therapist, I found a level of comfort that was actually rather surprising. As a result, I found that I opened up more than I ever thought I would.
One of the reasons I felt so comfortable was that she didn't know my friends or my family. So I didn't have to worry about rumors.
2. It's OK to cry or swear. They've dealt with worse.
Yes, I'm serious. Therapy can be really emotional and bring about "unwanted feelings and memories." So yes, I have said things I couldn't say in public without making a scene.
You know how in the movies a character has a total meltdown in public and the people around just stare at him or her and think, who is this crazy person? At times I felt like that crazy person. But I met a good therapist who had an understanding of why I felt the way I did.
That's why therapists are there: to help their patients channel their emotions. She taught me to react in a calm and "socially acceptable" manner.
3. I gained greater insight about myself, how I handled situations and how to handle them more effectively.
It took months for me to learn this one. My biggest weakness has always been "living in the moment." But after seeing my therapist for over a year, I found it much easier to enjoy life.
I used to think, "It's summer, sure. But before I know it, it'll be winter. So what's the point of enjoying this weather when it won't last?" Now, I have a totally different mindset.
I love taking advantage of the weather. Instead of acknowledging the truth that summer is almost over and mentally preparing for winter, I tune out comments about the future season and enjoy today. This change of mindset gives me a feeling of renewed youth, a brighter mood. Not only am I happier, but I find it easier to enjoy the company of others.
4. It was MY chance to find the truth about myself and how I viewed other people and events.
This is another emotional one -- something that took years for me to learn.
After my father passed away my junior year of high school, I saw several therapists. Every single time I saw the loss of my father came up in conversations. One therapist really made me look into the truth about how my loss affected my friendships and relationships. I couldn't help but think, "Everyone dies, or leaves you. Why would I risk love if I'm just going to get hurt? I'd rather be the one to leave first."
It took years for me to realize that while I did have fear of abandonment before my dad passed away, it only got worse after he did. The concept of death became a reality, something I didn't expect to even think about at such a young age. It really hardened my heart.
Only after my therapist helped me discover this did I realize that it wasn't rational. Yes, death happens. But so does life. And life can be beautiful, especially when people are physically there to share it with you.
5. I always left feeling less lonely and more motivated to work on myself.
This was the best benefit of therapy! As stated a few times in this article, therapy is extremely emotional. But emotions are there for good reason. They help you grow. The negative emotions make you WANT to change. The struggle is actually making those changes. But it IS possible!
Having dealt with anxiety and depression for quite some time I understand how hard it can be to actually get out of bed some days. In fact, there have been days that I didn't even want to go to therapy because sleep seemed more appealing. But my therapist was my rock, my mentor. She was the one person who reminded me that "every little bit of progress counts."
Even if the feeling of hope was only temporary, it was there. My therapist helped me see that ray of light. She encouraged me to write about my thoughts, and feelings and to keep track of them. She encouraged me to look for strength and progress. By continuing to see her, I eventually found hope that I hadn't seen in a long time.