Like many, I grew up in an environment where mental and emotional health were never on the table for discussion. I sought out therapy after my first devastating heartbreak. Now, as a mental health professional myself, I feel it is absolutely imperative to normalize mental health treatment. If you have been considering therapy, or are already in the process, here’s a list of 10 awesome things that I’ve learned about myself. Trust me, give therapy a chance and you can learn these, too.
1. There Is Nothing Wrong With You
It is unfortunate that the stigma of going to therapy tends to lend itself towards society assuming there is something “wrong” with the person seeking therapy. That could not be further from the truth. Everyone could use a little therapy now and again. No matter what you’re going through in life, it is important to have a safe space to sort through your thoughts and feelings. Choosing therapy is choosing to help yourself become the best version of you, and that is always the right choice.
2. Emotional Check-Ups Feel Good
We are more than just physical beings. Our thoughts and emotions greatly impact us every single day. We are required to see our physician for an annual physical, so why not schedule some time to work on your mental health? We all have anxieties, difficult relationships, frustrations at work, etc., and one way to alleviate the stress that comes secondary to those experiences is to talk through it with an objective person who is there solely to listen and support you. Let me tell you, I walk out of my therapist’s office feeling good AF.
3. Your Parents Fucked You Up
They didn’t mean to. They were simply doing the best that they could at any given time. Even if you are one of the lucky few who is not a child of divorce, a child of an addict, a child of abuse, etc., your parents instilled various conditions in you on how you experience your world. When I was 15, my parents separated, my dad moved out, and here’s the kicker, my parents did not talk to my brothers and I about it until they finally decided to divorce 7 years later. As a result, it is crazy difficult for me to openly discuss intimacy in my own romantic relationships. Working with a therapist helps you to tease out whether those inherited conditions align with who you authentically are and want to be in the present.
4. You Have Patterns
We all have patterns in our lives that we subconsciously repeat again and again. Patterns can be identified in a variety of behaviors, and they are frequently manifested in our relationships with friends and romantic partners. While our relationships with our parents certainly cannot be blamed for everything, there are core aspects of these most primal relationships that can predict the types of relationships we form in our present lives. I have always been drawn to the classic emotionally unavailable man. Freud would be the first to tell you that my attraction to this type mirrors my relationship with my father as a child. However, know that if you have found yourself in a similar cycle, you are not doomed! When it comes to stopping these destructive patterns, you must look inward. Therapy has helped me immensely in giving myself the love and affection the little girl in me always needed.
5. You Are Allowed To Feel All the Feelings
We are taught as a society, especially men, to swallow our tears and push away negative feelings. This is why one of the most common responses to seeing someone upset is, “It will be okay!” But are you “okay” at that moment when the feelings are overwhelming? No! Instead of pushing it away, we need to own that not-okay-ness. If we let ourselves sit with uncomfortable emotions, observe them and acknowledge their presence without suppressing them, we are doing ourselves a great service and moving towards a more enlightened state of being.
6. Your Relationship With Your Therapist Is A Microcosm of All Your Relationships
This is perhaps one of the most wonderful things you will learn in therapy. Early on in my own therapy, I was significantly unaware of my issues surrounding emotional vulnerability and intimacy. It took me a long while to finally open up with my therapist and share my deepest fears, anxieties, and shame that I had never shared with anyone before. After I finally opened up with my therapist, I increasingly felt the courage to talk through these feelings with my mother, father, siblings, friends, etc. until I no longer felt like I was hiding anything from anyone. My therapist has given me the tools to live authentically. Working through the most scary, difficult issues within the therapeutic relationship can ultimately give you the power and strength transform your world outside of the therapist’s office.
7. You Have Needs
7. You Have Needs
I am a midwestern girl bred from a family of firefighters and nurses. In so many ways, I grew up learning that taking care of others is a priority, a job to be done. A lot of us spend our entire lives worried about what others want, what others need, what others think of us. Let me be clear, being thoughtful towards the important people in your life is not a bad thing, in fact, it is a wonderful measure of good character; however, it becomes a problem when you start compromising your own needs for the sake of others.
Relationship issues arise when one or both parties feel like certain individual needs aren’t being met; therefore, it is extremely important for each person to make his or her needs known. Once your needs are on the table, they will either be fulfilled by the other, or they won’t. It is a risk to take, but if your needs are continuously not being met, that is your cue to pack up and move on because you know you are worthy of more.
8. There Is No Shame
If there is anything you learn in therapy, this is by far one of the most important lessons. However, this lesson is SO INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. Shame weaves in and out of our consciousness without the slightest warning. In a world dominated by right and wrong, success and failure, shame is a cancer that spreads swiftly through the mind and body, paralyzing you in the toxic distortion that you are not good enough. But know this, shame is only a construct of your mind. The cure for shame is self-love and acceptance when you feel like you’ve failed. If you treat yourself with the most unconditional love and respect, shame does not stand a chance against you.
9. You Are Always Shifting
When I first started making notable progress in therapy, I felt like I had reached the top of a steep mountain. Then, I would feel startled and frustrated when I all of the sudden found myself back on the ground staring up at another mountain to climb. This happens because you are constantly growing and shifting towards a new version of yourself. Loving yourself, just like loving a partner, is an active choice you make every single day, and some days, the choice is easier than others. Listen to your body. If you are open and aware to its messages, you will stay on the path towards self-growth and development.
10. YOU Are The Most Important Person In Your Life
This is by far the most powerful lesson I’ve learned in therapy thus far. You are the constant element wherever life takes you. In every situation, with every kind of person, know that you and your needs come first. Always. You are worthy. You are beautiful. You are good enough.