I wrote a story a couple months ago about how I found a woman’s shirt in our laundry and proceeded to absolutely melt down. I assumed the worst and panicked and figured my marriage was over. Lo and behold, the shirt belonged to one of MY friends… It was a low point.
I decided on that day that I could probably use a little professional feedback on my mental health. It was embarrassing and scary that I went straight from unknown shirt to MY HUSBAND IS CHEATING in 3 seconds flat, and I didn’t want to feel that way ever again. Well, not without legitimate warrant.
So I popped on to Psychology Today’s website and searched my area for a therapist. Did you know they have an entire database with detailed filters so you can find a therapist who focuses on specific issues you might be dealing with? It’s the most wonderful resource and how I’ve always found therapists in the past.
I knew I would feel more comfortable with a female therapist, so I found one nearby who helps with anxiety, codependency, self esteem, and HSP (highly sensitive people — because THAT didn’t resonate totally and completely…).
I set up a consult for the next week and proceeded to get more and more anxious as the day got closer. I kept thinking I should cancel. I mean, my parents got divorced and my dad was unfaithful in the relationship, but that was over 15 YEARS AGO. Why am I still affected by this? I shouldn’t be affected by this, I kept reasoning with myself.
But the day came and I drove to the therapist’s office, thinking if nothing else, I’d learn some methods and tools for not assuming the worst when I feel like something is “off” in a relationship. During the consult, I explained with a shaky voice to a perfect stranger the story about the shirt and how it was my catalyst for wanting to find help.
Then I began telling her about how we just moved to California, and we finally achieved all these things we’ve been working toward. How John got a job in the industry he adores and has been pursuing for a long time. How I’m finally in this incredible place in my business. How we feel settled and good knowing we’ll be here for a while.
And how, even with all of that goodness going on, I feel this need to be pursuing some next big thing. How I don’t feel as satisfied or productive just accepting and embracing the wonderful accomplishments we’ve finally attained. It doesn’t feel right to not be planning a next major event or goal for us to go after.
I talked about how I’ve forgiven the people who have hurt me, but okay fine, yes, maybe I’m still a little angry about certain things. I told her about my need to feel in control and to fix. I told her about my impatience and my crippling fears of being blindsided and left.
But I also explained I’m so open to healing and being more present and, in fact, seek it out regularly. I read personal development books and devotionals every single morning! I listen to podcasts about mental health and spiritual wellbeing all the time!
And then I wrapped it all up with explaining my judgment toward myself for not being totally content when I know I should be, when I know I have things pretty damn good. I told her I know I should feel gratitude and confidence, and then I feel guilty that I still find myself repeating insecure or unhealthy behaviors.
So, as it turns out, it wasn’t just about a shirt. Is it ever just one thing?
I didn’t just need help finding ways to trust better. It was more than that, really.
I’ve had four sessions with my therapist, and it’s been amazing what I’ve learned about memory and conditioning that our brains hold on to from childhood and adolescence, not by choice, but as a method of survival.
Our brains hang on to pain and do everything they can to avoid experiencing something similar. And they continue doing this until we address the source of the pain and construct ways to feel safe, rather than always having a lingering sense of danger. Our brains do a LOT without us even knowing it, I’ve learned. They’re pretty crazy (but not, like, literally) and they often work overtime to protect us.
In the past when I’ve felt destructive patterns in my life and considered seeking out therapy, I’ve beat myself up for not having “big enough” problems for therapy. I’ve encountered some trauma in my life, of course — we all have — but I’ve held myself back from getting professional help because I didn’t think my experiences were worthy of getting legitimate help.
I figured that I could sort things out on my own and through educating myself.
But the work I’ve been doing over the past few weeks has been astounding. I find myself judging myself far less. I’m not as hard on myself and not trying as hard to “fix” myself or anyone else. And when I do find myself going into control mode, I recognize it and can begin adjusting my behaviors.
It’s hard to explain how much I’ve learned and how impactful therapy has been for me, even in a few weeks. We haven’t even thoroughly discussed my trust issues yet, and each week goes way differently than I ever expect it will.
But the ability to talk through my fears and insecurities and trouble spots in relationships with someone totally unrelated has been transformational.
I certainly am open about my struggles with loved ones and in my writing (you know that if you’ve read anything from me), but it’s something different to talk through it with a trained professional who simply listens, asks guiding questions, and offers so much compassion that I often don’t even know how to handle it. It’s such a different experience, and I find myself feeling far less ashamed of my “problems,” no matter their size or weight.
I went in hoping for tools to be more trusting, but I’m getting way more than I thought I would. I’m learning grace. I’m understanding my “inner child’s” dialogue when it takes over. I’m accepting myself and those around me more fully. I’m learning to be okay with the right now, to not always need to plan and achieve and go, go, go.
Healing isn’t linear. Happiness isn’t a characteristic that you either have or don’t. Everything is in motion, and I think this round of therapy has allowed me to observe myself more clearly than ever before. I’m looking at my life, my wins, highs, roadblocks, and behaviors, more holistically, because it’s all related.
I know this all sounds a little woo-woo. And maybe it is. But I’ve found more peace over the last month of accepting help and leaning into the learning than I have in a LONG time.
When I talk to friends about this experience with therapy, I’ve had a couple mention they didn’t realize you could get so much out of therapy if you haven’t experienced some kind of recent trauma. And I think so many people believe that therapy is only powerful right after a family member dies, or you go through a breakup, or you get diagnosed with cancer. That’s when it “works” best.
It’s this belief that you actively need to be going through something painful to find relief in therapy. But as someone whose life is pretty good on the outside, I’ve found that’s just NOT true. You can seemingly have it all together but not know how to cope or communicate very well, or not know how to be okay in the present moment, or always feel a quiet and steady sense of anxiety.
Really, whatever it might be that you struggle with, just know that you can find solace and relief through therapy. I know I’m starting to sound like a therapy infomercial, but y’all, it’s been so impactful that I can’t help but shout it from my laptop. It’s simply talking through your experiences in the safest of places. Who couldn’t use a bit of that?
I know my life is pretty wonderful overall. And maybe yours is, too, or maybe not. All I know is: We all face insecurities. We all need help with communication and self-doubt and resilience and the stories we’ve told ourselves for years. While family and friends and self-education can help to a certain extent, therapy (with a GOOD therapist) can take it to another level. A level with more ease and less stress, more confidence and less doubt.
I don’t have everything figured out, but I wanted to share my progress and how I’m feeling about my therapy experience. Because I really do believe in the power of facing our issues with the support of someone who can see clearly what we deserve and how we can approach healing and health realistically. I haven’t found a self-help book or self-care podcast that can do just that quite as well.
So, if you’re struggling with anything, big or small, recent or long past, I hope you feel encouraged and worthy of finding counsel from a caring third party. It might be the thing that finally allows you to just feel good again.
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