1. The hardest part is taking the initiative to go to therapy.
For about three years, I was weighing going to therapy and talking myself out of it. I felt that at times, I would be doing myself a solid by going to therapy – which I was – and other times felt that I was not good enough for therapy. The important thing to realize in my journey of whether to go to therapy is that once I was ready, I knew I was ready. You can’t go to therapy unless you’re ready.
At the time, I was comfortable with weighing whether I wanted to go to therapy or not. The real change came when I finally took the leap.
2. Past traumas shaped me but do not define me.
In therapy, you’re going to learn a lot about yourself. Mannerisms, triggers, and habits could all be a product of past traumas. For me, I like structure. I like organization. That happens to be something I feel safe with because of past traumas. And that’s totally okay.
The important thing to remember is that past traumas — especially things completely out of your control — do not define who you are. What defines you is who you choose to become.
3. It just helps to have someone thinking logically when I’m thinking emotionally.
I’m an emotionally-driven person and I’ve always been that way. So when something happens, good or bad, I react more with emotion than I do logic. With therapy, I’ve been able to talk through things with my therapist, who not only offers advice for those situations, but also helps me see the logic side of the situation.
For instance — and I’m being very transparent — I had a worry a few weeks ago about a time where I thought I had a binge-eating episode. I’m not a binge eater, but I’ve always had a bad relationship with food and my body. I reacted emotionally to this issue, which made me feel worse than necessary. When I brought this up to my therapist, she walked me through all the logical explanations of why it wasn’t a binge. I instantly felt better with just the logic alone.
4. Self-awareness is key. The conscious thoughts can overpower the negative thoughts.
This kind of piggy-backs off of my last point about being emotional versus logical, but it’s quite valid in me managing my mental health. Through therapy, I learned how to be more self-aware of my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Because I became self-aware, I was able to notice what was causing my triggers and work from there on how to stop them from happening or diminish the symptoms of my issue. Creating conscious thoughts about your mental health — especially in a time of mental health crisis — is no easy task and requires you to actively learn how to do so so you can better understand what causes triggers for your mental health issues.
5. Being able to talk about “that” freed me.
Until therapy, I didn’t realize how badly I needed to talk about the thing that’s been a weight on my shoulders for years. I feel like there’s one story everyone has that they need to get off of their chest, but they just don’t know how. That was the case with me. I knew there was something that was bugging me for years until I finally had the chance to talk about it and why it made me feel the way it did. I’m gonna tell you now, it felt soooooo good being able to release that weight off of my shoulders. Since I discussed that with my therapist, I’ve literally felt free.
6. I wasn’t totally open at first, but that’s okay.
Confidentiality laws, opening up to a stranger, and other housekeeping rules your therapist will tell you is enough to be overwhelming in concern to what you feel safe talking about. Know that you are safe and your therapist is there to help you in the best way possible. Eventually, you’ll feel more comfortable discussing everything on your mind. It’s okay if you don’t explain everything just yet.
7. Sometimes it just helps to talk about something that may seem insignificant.
If you’re having an off week because you forgot your keys but you were already out the door (I’ve done this) or your two cats work together to wake you up at five in the morning (this has also happened to me), then you know sometimes some things just set you off. If you feel like there’s an issue with why something — even small — might be setting you off, it’s okay and actually great to discuss it with your therapist. Something that you might downplay as not that bad might actually be something worth talking about, and it’s better to talk about something small and insignificant than to keep it bottled in.
8. On the contrary, it feels great to discuss when things are going well in your life.
One thing I didn’t really realize about therapy is that it’s not always about discussing heavy, negative situations. You can talk about when things go well in your life, too. It’s supportive and invigorating to let your therapist know what’s going on in your life, good and bad.
In the middle of my journey with my first therapist, I kept her updated on whether or not I would be getting an internship with a major sports company. She was one of the first people I told after I got the internship. Having that relationship with your therapist also means sharing when things go well in your life so when you’re doing good, they not only know why, but they’re also cheering you on.
I wrote this article not only to share with others what good therapy can do, but also to remind myself how far I’ve come in my mental health journey. I was super nervous to take the leap at first, and I even thought that my therapist would downplay my issues. That was not the case. My therapist listened each and every time and provided the most helpful tips and tools to help me continue to be mentally healthy. If you’re on the fence about going to therapy yourself, I highly suggest you take the leap like I did.