I am going to try to be as transparent as possible in this post, however, I am not at a place where I can be very explicit. I hope I can be as helpful as possible to those of you contemplating therapy and for those of you who just want to know what it’s like, keep on reading!
Reaching the point where I would book my first therapy session was extremely difficult. Therapy in itself isn’t really a taboo topic, but somehow when the conversation morphs into *you* needing therapy, it feels awkward.
Actually, ending that sentence up with the word “awkward” leaves me a bit unsettled. The word “awkward” is a very light word to use to describe what I felt. It wasn’t just “awkward”, it was embarrassing to me. I felt broken as a human being. I felt that I couldn’t handle my issues on my own and something was very wrong with me because of that.
With this particular issue I was having, I wanted to believe that I could handle it all on my own. I wanted to believe that I was just going through a season. Needless to say, it wasn’t a “going through a season” kinda thing.
I had reached a place with this issue wherein I was so depressed from my failed attempts to overcome it that I stopped trying. I went through the highs and lows determined to simply embrace this vicious cycle. I hated myself for it so much. This battle felt so intimately intertwined with me at this point that I was just going to see where I ended up with it. I didn’t care if it got worse and I just accepted the fact that it would continue to increase its power over my life.
How I Began the Search for a Therapist
I wish I could say I was sane enough to seek out therapy on my own. I wasn’t. My demons just grew too big to hide and inevitably those closest to me began to notice that something wasn’t right. I had a few heavy conversations and from there, I realized some sort of professional help was necessary.
Psychologists have the ability to prescribe medications for certain things if they deem it necessary.
Therapists are more focused on how to identify the root causes of things. It’s more so about understanding yourself and how you perceive the world and how those kinds of foundational beliefs shape your actions.
A counselor finds pragmatic solutions. When you go to a counselor, the conversation is usually centered around the implementation of a cure to the problem.
Therapy seemed to make more sense to me for two reasons:
1. I had been able to erase the external issue with external solutions before. That didn’t stop the same issue from resurfacing in one way or another.
2. While I pass absolutely no judgment on those who do take medication upon the request of a psychologist, I knew that I wanted to leave medication out of the discussion.
My First Session
I decided to complete all of the paperwork on the afternoon of my scheduled session. I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know what to expect and I felt kind of weird opening up to someone about these things that I’ve tried to bury on my own.
There were a few questions asking if I’ve ever had suicidal thoughts, if I’ve ever been emotionally or physically abused, if I’ve ever done drugs, what I wanted therapy for, etc. I felt that I was warming up for the kind of conversation I would be having that afternoon as I answered each one.
When I arrived, I waited in the lobby. A few issues of Psychology Today accompanied by a jar of candy sat on top of this little side table next to my seat. I didn’t touch anything and just waited in anticipation.
When my therapist came out, she greeted me warmly and introduced herself. She showed me where the Keurig machine was and told me that whenever I wanted I could help myself. She said the same thing about the water bottles and candy.
She then showed me around the facility and we ended up in this cozy little room where we would have our sessions every week.
I handed her the paperwork I filled out that morning and she took a look at them in front of me. Then the real conversation started.
She told me that we could take all the time I needed to go over everything and that we could discuss whatever I wanted to in each session. I wanted to start with the reason that I was there and what I felt brought me there. I explained to her the frustration that I was dealing with internally for x years and she listened attentively.
When I was done, she assured me that I was not this abnormal, broken individual as I had told her I felt I was. She told me that she was actually very taken back by my self-awareness and continued to let me (and help me) unravel what I shared with her. She could tell that I was tired of dealing with what I was dealing with and she was excited to continue to unravel this onion that was this issue with me.
Did It Help?
The short answer would be: In the beginning, yes! In the end, no. But it wasn’t her fault… it was mine.
Within the sessions that followed, we ended up covering a lot of ground. I got a lot of answers in regards to why I defaulted to the mentality that I did.
My therapist helped me to see where I sabotaged myself in certain areas of my life and how that ended up feeding this monster I was dealing with. We talked about various experiences that would become sources of shame and be used to fuel false perceptions I had of myself.
She also helped me to identify really cool things about myself that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Things about my personality and how the negative side of that inevitably fueled this issue as well.
Toward the end of our sessions, I was given a book intended to help me be more aware of myself and have a more accurate view of the people around me.
Here’s where I get to be honest to a fault.
I am very thankful for my time in therapy. I strongly believe it was a crucial element of my healing process. Where I went wrong is that I didn’t commit to my own improvement.
My therapist did her job and she did it very well. I think at some point, I knew it was time to start implementing solutions that would help me improve but I foolishly ignored that urge (yep, it was *that* bad…). Because of this, toward the end, the sessions became slightly redundant.
I chose to settle for the first step of my healing process rather than continue to press on. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to the water but you can’t force him to drink.
My lack of financial means and my therapist’s pregnancy put a pause on our sessions but, I would continue them if I had the opportunity to.
I think that’s the awesome thing about therapy. Your progression is essentially on you. So you don’t always just continue to get better with every session, sometimes you do experience setbacks, but ultimately as long as you continue to seek out your own betterment, it truly is an impactful experience.
Would I Recommend Therapy to Others?
I think everyone should try therapy at least once in their life regardless of how happy and fulfilled you think you are. Therapy isn’t strictly for those with issues, but it can very well aid in understanding why you are the way that you are today and how to be the best version of yourself.
Therapy isn’t Jesus or the Bible (where the biggest life changes tend to sprout from) but it surely has the potential to alter your life in a positive way if you take advantage of it.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.