It’s an overdue step, but I am finally in therapy. When I announced that I had an appointment to my sister, who coincidentally has been to therapy herself, she asked “What FOR!?” as if I had needed to have a mental breakdown and be committed before I took care of my mental health. The funny thing is, I’ve already been committed. Granted, it was several years ago, before my kids and college and financial distress, but that time became a big part of my life. The thing is, that is how most people view therapy. They believe that seeing a counselor or a psychiatrist is only for those who see the dead or lock themselves up in their tiny apartments for years. The truth is, most people who see a counselor go for very normal reasons or to try to correct a behavior, such as smoking. According to “Psychology Today’s 2004 survey, more than 27% of all adults (an estimated 59 million people) received mental health treatment in the two years prior. Of this group, “47% report a history of medication, but no therapy; more than a third (34%) report a history of both medication and therapy; and 19% report a history of therapy, but no medication.”
For a long time I was worried about seeking out a therapist. I was worried about what I might find out, I was worried it would cost too much and I was worried that my feelings wouldn’t be validated. Really, these were all excuses I told myself because I was scared of facing myself and my past. I’m still scared, but I was only hurting myself by avoiding myself. In fact, my therapist charges on a sliding scale, which means I pay based on my income and she works with me to schedule my appointments when it is financially convenient for me. We also pre-scheduled several appointments for me, which helps my organization and gives me time to mentally prepare for my next session.
Speaking to someone about all the little things that really get on your nerves is actually HEALTHY. It’s a way to clear the piling of every day stress and feel clean. At least, that is how I feel after a session. I see myself as a very dirty window and each time I speak to my therapist she hands me the supplies to wipe away a little circle of the grime. Sometimes I choose not to clean and other days I can see through the window a little better. My therapist doesn’t have all the answers, but she does guide me as we explore the issues I have and helps me look at them in a different light. My therapist isn’t there to tell me that my feelings are wrong, but to figure out why I feel the way I do.
In fact, during my last session she gave me two excellent handouts. One is a flow chart called “Getting a Handle on Worrying” and the other was “50 Ways to Take a Break“, which is something I really need to learn to do. I am constantly on the go and worrying about the next thing to do. Both of the handouts are effective and simple. Click on the links and feel free to print them out for yourselves!
I have a hard time making myself take a break. I worry more about my kids, my mother, my husband that I do about whether I’ve had a shower today or eaten breakfast and I need to remember that I’m worth taking care of too. I’m not here just to constantly allow others to chip away what they need from me. Sometimes, I have to repair myself and that is why I feel that therapy is such an important step in my well-being.
Even though I have only been seeing my therapist for about two months I feel like I am more confident, less prone to anxiety attacks and have an overall better handle on MYSELF. Before, I felt that who I was and what I was doing was open to suggestion by outside forces. Whatever happened, I had to deal with it. Now, I still believe that there are outside forces that guide me, but I am able to choose the paths that I take, instead of letting those forces choose them for me. It is a remarkable feeling.