Friends, if there is nothing more you get out of reading my blog than this, than I will consider myself a success … Four simple words:
Therapy. Is. For. Everyone.
I know that may seem like a tough pill to swallow if you’re the kind of person who insists you would ‘never’ go to ‘a shrink,’ but I beg of you a moment of humility in taking this idea in. Because if there is one life lesson that has changed my world, it’s that no body is above the need for help. And seeking out that help might just be the very best thing you ever do for yourself.
My first experience with therapy occurred about one year following the death of my mom. Even though I’d been handling my grief as well as could be expected, there were still so many ways in which I was struggling. I’d been told gently for quite awhile by friends and family that seeking out the help of a mental health professional might be a good idea. For a long time, I politely thanked them for their love and concern, but brushed their suggestions to the side.
It wasn’t that I was opposed to therapy exactly. I’d had lots of loved ones who’d gone in the past, and I’d definitely never judged them for it. My reluctance came from this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that therapy just wasn’t for me. I had somehow concocted this terribly misguided idea that my therapist would hate me, I’d spend the whole time in tears, I’d regress completely on the healing I’d done personally with my grief, and I’d ultimately come to regret it.
But after spending two weeks with paralyzing migraines that a doctor kindly told me were likely brought on by unmanaged stress and anxiety, I realized that if I could find the time to take care of my physical health by seeing a medical doctor, I could definitely take time to take care of my emotional and mental health as well. I checked myself into my very first session (though accessing mental health services was incredibly difficult – I’ll write another post on that later), and sunk myself into the comfy armchair of the therapists office.
I was incredibly anxious and reluctant to attend my first session. In fact, I’m pretty sure I cancelled and rescheduled it several times. Now, after several years of various therapy styles and countless hours in session, I’m a bit of a ‘therapy pro.’ I look back on the days leading up to my very first appointment and so badly wish I could share with myself then the lessons I learned within the very first appointment. These lessons put me at ease every time following that I passed through those doors. Since I don’t have a time machine, and that is not possible, I thought I’d do the next best thing and share those lessons here.
It’s okay to admit to being nervous.
When I walked into the office and saw how young my therapist was, I realized that I’d been expecting someone incredibly old and wrinkled, simply because age was what I equated wisdom with, and I figured it was going to require someone with a heck of a lot of wisdom to help me. But it didn’t take long for the proximity of her age to mine to become something that actually helped me to relax and feel at ease. Nonetheless, I was still nervous as heck.
I think she was able to pick up on this pretty quickly, and with a few gentle questions she pulled it out of me that I was intensely nervous and uncomfortable. Even though I had absolutely zero chill, she was totally cool with this! She assured me that a lot of people feel that way, and it gave her the opportunity to address some of my unvoiced concerns like whether or not she would be judging me, diagnosing me, or worst of all – if she would think I was beyond the point of no return and couldn’t be helped.
Vulnerability is Imperative.
In admitting to my nerves, I let myself be vulnerable in a small but significant way. By acknowledging my discomfort, I acknowledged that I was human. And for some reason, admitting we are mortal is something us mortals really don’t seem to like to do! This was the first step into a long process of peeling back my shield of armor layer by layer to release that vulnerability. We definitely didn’t go too deep during that first session, but my therapist created an environment in which I knew I’d feel safe to do so when the time came.
It is both Self-Care and Self-Work.
I’ve been to several different therapists since that first one and one thing they have all had in common is that they offer me a variety of tea and coffee to choose from, and they all seem to have the comfiest pillows and chairs of all time. If I could go back in time and tell myself one thing to ease my nerves, I honestly think that would be it! Therapists seem to all put an incredible effort into making their offices serene and cozy, which I totally appreciate. This self-care focused environment becomes the absolute best place to do the hard self-work that follows. It isn’t always easy, but if you’re as lucky as me, you’ll have a comfy place to plop your butt while doing it.
Therapists Really Don’t Judge.
Imagine the weirdest, craziest, most disgusting or radical or insane thought you’ve ever had … I’m talking about a thought that you would never in a million years vocalize because it’s so utterly bizarre … Got it? Now, guess what? I can guarantee your therapist has probably heard a million things that are ten times worse.
I was really worried about what my first therapist would think about me. I was anxious that as I shared stories of my past she might get the wrong impression of certain events or it could cloud her judgement on who I am. That worry could not possibly have been more unfounded.
Within the first few minutes of our session, she very clearly outlined to me that it truly was a no-judgement zone. Anything goes. Therapists are totally unbiased and there for you in a completely incredible way (I mean … That’s why you’re paying them, right?!). Seriously, if any of your reluctance about attending therapy comes from a place of not wanting to be judged, I urge to you drop that concern right away. I can’t believe I ever let it hold me back.
Support Comes In Many Forms.
I was so scared before my first appointment that I made my then-boyfriend (now-fiance) drive me and wait in the parking lot for my whole 60 minute session. He did this for the first three weeks or so, before I could finally handle going it alone! When I admitted this to my therapist I expected her to think it was weird, but she surprised me by saying that wasn’t uncommon at all!
Whatever support you may need to get to a place where you feel like you can get to therapy, I’d encourage you to seek it out. Whether that’s a friend to drive you, someone to call after every session, or even just a confidante to share your experiences with. Life is so much easier when we do it together, and I learned very early on that this applies in therapy too!
It will be better than you expect.
My friends, let me leave you with one last lesson: It will be better than you expect. No matter how reluctant, nervous, anxious, or angry you may be about going to therapy, it’s 100% one of those experiences that you get out of it what you put in. If you go in with an open heart and mind, I can guarantee you, it will be completely and totally worth every minute.