The first time I went to therapy, I was 10. I remember not wanting to be there, thinking it was stupid, and being angry with my mom for believing this was a good idea. Week after week, the therapist, whose face I cannot remember, tried to engage me in conversation. Week after week, I would simply refuse to speak to her, my lips tightly pressed together in defiance.
Now I was 13, and, once again, it was time for me to try therapy. I was determined to make as much of a mockery of that experience as possible. I would arrive late for my session, sometimes lazily eating an ice cream cone or with a friend tagging along for the appointment, during which we would goof off for the 45 minutes. I was as deeply self-conscious as anyone in that terrible middle school/high school transition phase could be, and I continued to equate therapy with a bad thing that would cause embarrassment. I kept the act up for a handful of months and eventually the efforts were abandoned.
Then came my junior year of high school. I noticed that something was wrong, at first creeping but rapidly becoming overwhelming. On a daily basis, I felt physically ill with what felt like acute anxiety taking over my body and festering in my core. My days became gray and long, a half-asleep haze where I longed to be in bed. I came to realize, after failing to find a medical reason for why I was feeling the way I did, that I needed to get into therapy. I had to fight back the gloom that was slowly swallowing me. With the aid of my mother, my savior, I began therapy sessions with a new therapist within a week of a particularly affecting breakdown. That first day, I remember being asked my reasons for coming in and immediately bursting into tears when I tried to speak. I was clinically depressed, but the good news was that there was something that could be done to try and alleviate my burden, and I was ready for it.
From that point forward, talk therapy has been a constant in my life. I learned to appreciate the process, slowly opening up to therapy's benefits. There were some bumps in the road, in part due to a college career that spanned three different continents, but since returning back to my hometown, therapy has played an important role in my life. When I graduated college, I wasn't feeling so great. I hadn't tended to the care and keeping of my mental health as well as I wish I had for the past few years, and I had to make up for lost time. After a long search to find the right person, I found my current therapist, whom I see up to two times a week.
As a result, the past year was one of extreme highs and lows. It took me many months of hard work in therapy to begin to feel the results. But when I began to feel myself changing, I had the feeling that I was truly growing from within. I am so proud of the person I am becoming. I have gained priceless perspective. I now have the maturity and self-awareness to make proper use of therapy, and it truly has brought me to a point in my life in which I feel more engaged and content than I have in a long time.
If therapy is already a part of your life, or if it's something you are thinking about adding, here are some things to consider.
- If you aren't sure where or how to start, do not be afraid to seek help. Some places to start: asking any other doctors you may be in contact with if they have anyone they can refer you too or seeing if you can locate a list of providers that accept your particular type of health care.
- Be as open-minded and honest with yourself as possible. Prepare for this task. You must open yourself to change, and change begins with honesty. As hard as it may feel, you will need to confront things that make you uncomfortable. You can do this.
- Not every therapist will be a good fit, and it is worth the effort to find the right one. Personalities don't always mesh, and at the end of the day, you and your therapist are only human. It's a possibility that after one or a few sessions with someone, you just aren't connecting. Try, try, and try again until you find the right therapist.
- You need to fully commit yourself to the process. You can't be passive; make the time and energy commitment. You won't magically get "better."