My greatest fear when I started seeing my therapist would be that I would end up being one of those people that inserts “my therapist told me…” in casual conversations with people I knew. I didn’t want to ever let the world be aware I was seeing someone help me deal with the problems that I could not deal with by myself. I thought that I was weak. I thought was useless. I thought I was overdramatic.
I was very wrong.
I first started seeing my therapist when I was in college. I had struggled with anxiety and depression in my life, and my first year at my university seemed to bring these problems to the surface. There was a lot to deal with on top of my mental disorders including a severed romantic relationship amongst daily school struggles. I rationalized my first meeting with her based on these issues.
When I sat down with her, and she had her clip board in her hand, I was nervous. Would she judge me? Would she think I didn’t have good enough reason to be here? Would she silently be doodling on the pad? Or, the egocentric part of me thought, would she go Google the people I was talking about later?
She didn’t do any of these things. But she did give me some amazing lessons, starting with: she wasn’t judging me, and I shouldn’t judge myself either.
I realized then that whatever problems I had, whatever I wanted to speak about, was important because I had found my way into her office to speak about them. I had the idea, I made the call, and I was brave enough to sit down and speak to a random stranger about sensitive issues I wouldn’t tell people I had known for years.
Having my therapist meant having someone who consistently challenged the way I looked at events and looked at myself.
Before walking into therapy I was a pretty nice person to everyone but myself. I actually treated myself like crap. I put myself down. I put my mental disease down. I put my passions down. I was so hard on myself I didn’t realize that it was slowly killing me from the inside. So it was finally good to have someone tell me “you can love yourself and you should love yourself.”
Therapy taught me that working on yourself is the only control you have. You can’t control anyone else. You can’t make someone change. I always said I knew this, but there was still a small part of me that thought she would give me the magic answers to how I could have better relationships with my family, friends, and faltering romantic partners. She did end up giving me answers, but they were less about them and more about me. I had to know what I could get out of people, really get out of them. Some people were going to be emotionally vulnerable with me. Some were going to understand those mental problems. Some were going to help. And some weren’t. It wasn’t my fault if that was the case, that’s just how some people in my life were programmed. I had to accept it.
But I also learned that when I found people in my life that were truly there for me that I had to open up to them. I learned I had to stop relying on my romantic relationships as the only place where I could truly be me. I had to accept that my friends (the countless great ones that I did have) along with my boyfriends, would be there for me. I realized that I was not a burden to anyone. This, like looking at myself without judgment, was revolutionary.
Therapy taught me the way to be a better person is to also accept that sometimes you make mistakes and yes you have to own these mistakes, but they do not have to define you.
That rolodex of all the terrible things you have done, the shameful things you thought of doing or did do, those aren’t you anymore. Don’t dwell on it if you changed or if you are in the process of changing; move on.
Therapy taught me, reinforced to me more like it, that every emotion is worth having. Not just happiness. Sadness, anger, disgust – these are as important as anything else we feel. Most of the time as a society we forbid ourselves from talking about sadness. We are ashamed of it the way we would say be ashamed to see a therapist. But when we bury sadness through the ups and downs of life, the rupture inevitably will happen. And it will always happen at the most inconvenient time.
The misconception most of us walk around with is that therapists are for unstable people, perhaps that therapists are only for people who have lost a love one or have gone through a divorce. But many of us, and it’s not a bad thing, could benefit from sitting one hour with someone and discussing ourselves – not in the self-indulgent way we might be used to but in a way that can help better us.
The amazing thing I have come to realize is the safeness I feel in therapy.
The relationship I have built with my therapist is one of the most rewarding ones that I have.
She’s not sitting there on a chair with a critical glance at me and I’m not laying there on a couch, like they do in movies, consistently sighing. I talk, I laugh, and yes sometimes I do cry. But I do all these things because she makes me feel comfortable enough to do them.
The beauty also of a therapist is that comforting feeling of never having to worry that someone else has unwavering opinions on your issues. Too often with the closest people in our life we sensor ourselves because we don’t want to be made fun of for still caring about problem others would call trivial. We worry that our friend’s biasness towards certain subjects clouds their ability to give advice. But the thing with paying someone to listen to you is that you can talk about whatever you please! You can sit for a whole hour talking about reality TV shows if you really wanted to. Sure, that might be a waste of your time, but you can.
No matter the reason, congratulate yourself for choosing happiness in this way and don’t let anyone ever make you feel bad for that. Ever.