I had my first therapy session ever in April of 2018. The thought of finding a professional to talk to about my unrelenting feelings of fear and dread had been bouncing around in my head long before I actually made the effort to contact one, but better late than never. I always knew there were things crawling beneath my skin - bad habits or negative reactions - that I wanted to change or remove altogether, but wasn't completely convinced that therapy would do anything other than provide me with someone to complain to. The archetypal image of an older man in tiny glasses asking you "and how does that make you feel?" was what I initially thought it would be like, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that a lot of my sessions involve becoming attuned to my body and the way it reacts to certain stresses.
For today's post I wanted to share my story for anyone also struggling with their mental health and considering trying out therapy sessions. I can't recommend it enough, if only for the opportunity to see your life and your perception of things from the perspective of someone else. It's quite eye-opening and allowed me to tap into certain emotions and capabilities that I didn't know were there.
It Only Works If You Want To Change
It's all fine and dandy to say that you want to go to therapy to get help, but it won't be as fruitful of an experience if you're not willing to actively change the habits you dislike about yourself. The first few sessions are great for getting certain issues off your chest and for your therapist to get to know you and your behaviour a bit better, but there's only so much he or she can do to make you feel better overall. A lot of that burden is on you - you have to be willing to dig deep into your psyche, pluck out what it is that's causing you inner turmoil, and tweak it under a magnifying glass to really experience the long-term effects of these sessions. When I went to therapy I was determined to figure out "what was wrong with me" and try my best to eliminate the detrimental habits I had instilled for years that caused my anxiety.
I wanted tangible results, and I can proudly say that I feel them every day in my new, positive patterns of behaviour. Noticing that shift and feeling a bit of relief from your past mental state is an inexplicable feeling that is different for everyone who experiences it. Of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting someone to listen to you express yourself if that's all you want out of therapy - everyone's mental health journey is different and we all have different end goals.
You Have To Recognize Your Flaws, Accept Them, And Move Forward
As someone who is fairly stubborn, one of the hardest things for me to deal with is facing my flaws head on and accepting them for what they are. Similar to the physical effects unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle has on your body, a negative mentality and counterproductive behaviours have a psychological effect on your mind. A lot of my life was spent either hiding these behaviours from myself and others or encouraging them by isolating myself from anyone and anything that forced me out of my comfort zone. These flaws became a safety blanket that kept me protected from the uncertainty of the future that comes along with change and growth. But, soon into therapy I realized that if I didn't recognize these behaviours as detrimental then I would never be able to move forward and become the person I wanted to be. I would be swaddled in this blanket and forever stay the same.
Self-Improvement Is All About Support
One of the first things my therapist told me was that once we change, those around us used to the old, unhealthy dynamic will start to push back. Nothing has been truer and more obvious than that. You start to realize that those with the same bad habits as you are the ones most against you getting help or changing because it shows them their own bad behaviour that they aren't ready to accept just yet. In order for you to change and become the version of yourself most aligned with your aspirations then you need to find a good support system. And if you can't find it in those around you, you need to create it for yourself. Therapy has taught me so many techniques to work around the negativity that others may spew out in my direction and find strength in my own path without compromising my beliefs. Without the right support it can feel like you are stranded on an island in the middle of the ocean, unsure of where to go and what to do to change your current situation.
You Are Not Entirely Who You Think You Are
While therapy has given me the tools to work on myself and who I am, it has also shown me that I don't really know all aspects of myself. I've learned new things about my personality and behaviours that would otherwise have gone unnoticed, but constantly affect the way I handle certain things in my life. My favourite part about my therapy journey is slowly, but surely, solving the mystery of who I really am by uncovering clues in mundane occurrences. No one does things just to do them - there is a reason for our behaviour, whether intentional or not - and I've genuinely enjoyed learning about myself as though I were a character in one of my short stories. I've also come to the realization that I probably won't know entirely who I am even after I feel like therapy has done all it can do for me. We are always changing which means our behaviour is never as easily decipherable as we would like it to be.
Have you gone to therapy? What has your experience been?