Ah, yet another vulnerable, not-so-easy-to-talk-about topic: therapy. It’s crazy to actually type this out, but it’s 2018 and there’s still a stigma around going to therapy (ugh *eye roll*).
I wish I could say that “therapy isn’t for everyone” but honestly, I don’t believe that – I’m a firm believer that every single person can benefit from therapy. While therapy is a proven method for changing harmful thinking, relational and behavioral patterns, it can also help to make good lives great.
Therapy can mean something different for everyone: seeking professional guidance, writing your thoughts out, going for a hike/walk (preferably in a place like Colorado, in the image seen above), meditating, or simply talking to a friend. And while all of those things are beneficial for mental health, the most valuable form of therapy for me (and what I’m going to expand on) is regularly talking to a professional.
It was in my first therapy session that I finally figured out what anxiety was, and that experiencing a panic attack didn’t mean I was dying. It was in my first therapy session that I started to find answers to all the questions I had about myself growing up. It was in my first therapy session, at 19 years old, that I felt hopeful and more confident about my future. And to this day, regular therapy sessions positively impact my life.
Therapy is a journey – a journey that takes hard work, patience and time – so, here’s a little bit about mine.
my first therapy session
Ha, this one was a doozy. I had recently suffered my first panic attack and visited the UF Counseling & Wellness Center to make an appointment with a therapist (college-student perk: it was FREE!). I sat down at my appointment the following day, and the therapist started with, “so, tell me why you’re here.”
My mind raced to a million different places to try and begin my story – I didn’t know where to start. I was overwhelmed, and I eventually started to cry and blubbered something like, “I don’t know what’s happening to me, or what’s going to happen to me.” Just getting that much out made me feel better. I don’t remember much else about my first session, but I do remember feeling exhausted, yet relieved, afterward. A weight had been lifted from my tight chest.
making therapy part of my routine, with the right therapist
I thought one or two sessions, along with taking a newly prescribed medication, would do the trick. So, I didn’t make a follow-up appointment after my first couple. A few weeks went by and I realized I needed to continue to express myself to a professional. I needed to continue to heal. I needed and wanted to continue to learn.
In order to do so, though, I wanted to make sure I was consistently seeing a professional that understood me and challenged me. So, I started to do some research online and visited two other therapists before finding THE ONE (it’s really just like dating, I swear!). Her name was Jocelyn, and she had a calming effect on me. She made me feel safe, but also challenged me to get better with every appointment. I would say it took about 3 months of going consistently to see and to feel noticeable results. After seeing Jocelyn for over a year, I had made immense progress.
Since then, I’ve moved and had to endure the process of finding the right therapist for me again, and again. It takes patience each time – you have to put in some work! – but it’s always worth it.
that time when I thought I didn’t need therapy anymore
After years of regularly attending therapy, I felt like I was in my prime mental state – I had made serious progress with my anxiety and panic, and thought I could figure out everything from there on my own. So, along with the reason of saving a little money every month, I decided to stop going to therapy.
Three months or so went by, and the regular stressors of life (work, family, finances, etc.) had taken their toll. I had been bottling all of my anxiety inside and suffered my first panic attack in years. Unfortunately, this panic attack was at work in front of my colleagues. Needless to say, I was traumatized. It was then that I realized the positive difference therapy made for me, and that I needed to continue to invest in it.
recognizing the positive impact therapy has on me
Currently, I do my best to attend therapy biweekly for 60 minutes. If I miss an appointment, I make sure to take the initiative to schedule another one. I have a wonderful relationship with my current therapist, and I truly believe that is key to seeing success!
To me, therapy is a never-ending learning experience about myself. It’s an hour every other week (or once a month, depending on my schedule) to help me understand and make sense of why I feel what I feel, why I react the way I react, and simply, why I am the woman I have become.
And trust me, that’s not always easy.
I’m a work in progress, but therapy has taught me and continues to teach me to love and accept myself. I feel strongly that with a little dedication and time, it can do the same for anyone who is willing to give it a try.