I went to therapy. Actually, I went to a lot of therapy. A year and half of Mondays at noon to be exact. Instinct tells me this makes you squirm, and think, “Poor girl, there must really be something wrong with her.”
Ok, I get it. There is an unfortunate stigma against professional help. Our negative connotation of therapy pulls us into a belief that we should carry shame if we see a therapist, and that it needs to be kept as our deepest darkest secret. The truth is life gets messy. Things can crack, then break. We all have tendencies or coping mechanisms that are prohibiting us from living authentic joyful lives. Our pasts, experiences, families, or daily stressors can be catalysts for patterns that aren’t working for us. Professionals are equipped to navigate our stories and provide guidance that will improve how we approach life.
When life got real, I desperately needed the support of a profession, and I quickly learned therapy was a tool not a crutch. It became a weekly practice that gave me the opportunity to process, heal and grow. Honestly, my therapist was the primary reason I survived the most difficult season of my life. I carry no shame about going to therapy, because I firmly believe everyone can benefit.
Therapy is a tool.
Before going to therapy I believed it was reserved for anyone but me. I saw benefits, and believed whole heartedly that it was a beautiful resource, but I assumed that carrying anxiety, self-doubt, and fear were normal. I have no idea these tendencies could be managed in a life-giving way.
My personal catalyst for starting therapy was a traumatic divorce. I was swimming in confusion, pain, and fear. Truth be told, I should have started years before. Initially, therapy was my space to grieve the loss of my marriage and adjust to a new season. Then, it was the place where I discovered the role anxiety was playing in my life, and it wasn’t pretty. It was one light bulb moment after another. It was like going in for my annual physical only to be told I’d been operating with a low-grade fever for your entire life.
Therapist can tenderly uncover the parts of us that aren’t working and encourage us to make healthy changes. My biggest challenge? Trying to recognize my anxious tendencies, and redirect their influence. It was totally normal for me to be filled with anxiety about an overwhelming to do list at work, a drier filled with laundry, and if I would have enough money in retirement at 65. These things are normal stressors, but having them swirling in my head at 2am was sucking the life out of me. It was making me exhausted, frustrated, and constantly feeling like I wasn’t enough. All this anxiety pointed to my need to control and perfect, because ultimately, I was afraid. Fear was pushing me around, and bullying me into believing that I would always feel this way.
When you realize you have the power to change your thought patterns, unhealthy habits or coping mechanisms. You will discover the ability to live with more freedom and authenticity. Living with this confidence empowers us to take control of our healing and story. It was therapy that empowered me to live beyond my fear and anxiety, and the habits I learned that enable me to cope when they creep back up.
Find the right fit.
I love my therapist. In the, we’re best friends but she just doesn’t know it kind of way. We’ve talked about her daughter, if lululemon is worth the money, and our obsession with Meghan Markle. She made the conscience effort to journey with me. We mourned over things I lost, fought for hope, and celebrated small victories. Our togetherness removed my isolation and confusion.
I strongly recommend you find a therapist that works with you. A person that offers a genuine connection, strong wisdom, and encouragement. You might not find this on the first try, and you may need to visit a few therapists before you find one that makes you feel comfortable. Don’t let this discourage you, it took several sessions before I trusted my therapist. She was warm and safe, but therapy was a new experience and we had to build a relationship.
Have any of your friends or family seen a therapist? The best place to start are with the people you trust. Ask people you love for recommendations or help finding a qualified psychologist. I have shouted my therapist’s praises to anyone who will listen, and have recommended her to several friends. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, your health care provider may have an approved list that can make your selection easier. I know that making that first phone will be terrifying, but you will never regret taking a step to take care of yourself.
Therapy is a process.
Walking into a therapist office can feel overwhelming. My first visit I cried on the way there, cried while completing my initial paperwork, and burst into massive tears when she asked, “So, how’s it going?” After pouring my heart out for forty-five minutes, I continued to cry for most of the afternoon. It was like the damn had be broken, and I was unable to contain all my emotions.
My weekly sessions weren’t always this dramatic, but they were valuable. I quickly learned I needed to be here. I needed to learn about myself under someone’s wisdom and guidance. Truthfully, for me, the process was slow and it made me angry. I assumed that if I was going to therapy then a drastic shift should occur within me, and life should automatically become easier.
Therapy is hard work. It isn’t going to provide you with all the answers or fix all your problems. However, it will equip you. You will become braver and stronger just by choosing to step foot into the office, and through consistency you’ll learn how to handle all that life throws at you. A great therapist wants you to uncover your own courage, and actively participate in your own healing. If you were given a pretty check-list of all the “right” things to do, you would never discover how capable you are to help yourself.
You can make excuses all day long about why you can’t begin therapy. I know them all, because I have used them. I don’t have the time, the money, the emotional capacity, the schedule flexibility, or the support. Guess what? Your mental health is worth it. You’re worth it. You will spend money on an expensive gym membership, healthy meals, and workout gear for your physical health, but overlook the what’s happening on the inside. You’ll make time to bring your friend dinner, help your sister move, or throw another wedding shower, all while ignoring the warning signs of weariness, anxiety, and stress. If our emotional wellbeing isn’t prioritized the other areas of our life will suffer. Our families, relationships, and careers thrive when we’re emotionally healthy. Prioritizing our mental health is one of the most generous things we can do.
My therapist explained that emotional therapy is like physical therapy. With a physical therapist we’re slowly exercising our muscles to gain strength in the areas of our body that are weak, and in emotional therapy we do the same. We gain strength in every movement and feeble attempt to reduce stress, anxiety, confusion, addiction, or fear. If we view emotional therapy as a practice, as tiny movements to promote healing, we will release the pressure to hurry the process and rejoice in our progress.
I encourage you to look at your life. What areas are holding you back or simply aren’t working? Be courageous. If you’re able to answer this question quickly, then you should consider therapy. I can promise that you’ll never regret trying, and any hope or freedom gained will be worth the sacrifice.