At the urging of someone very important to me and after enduring stress-related panic attacks for the first time in my life, I started seeing a therapist in late August. It was something I have wanted to do for a while and finally found the courage to do.
This was not my first time in therapy. In late 2002 I saw a therapist for a few sessions to help me cope with some insecurities I had growing up. To this day, I remember the most valuable thing I learned: you make yourself more vulnerable by trying to be invulnerable. Let me explain.
At that time (I was 21), I was scared to call my closest friends on weekends to see what they were up to because I didn’t want to seem vulnerable. He taught me the opposite was true. By waiting around for others, he said, I was making myself even more vulnerable.
In other words, stop giving a fuck.
This time around, there were a number of deeper things I wanted to explore.
On the personal side, adoption (I was adopted when I was 5 days old), loss (my step father’s death in 2003, for example), immigrant identity (I’m a 1.5G immigrant), and having three sets of parents (biological, adoptive and step) are all issues that one could learn from.
On the professional side, the highs and the lows that come with running a 65-person startup can lead to a lot of stress. If this stress is not dealt with, more panic attacks are on the horizon.
I have been seeing my shrink weekly for four months and I can definitely say that it has been one of the best things I have done. Here is why.
First, we have a very strong connection. He is an older gentleman and a very experienced therapist. He is a father figure of sorts to me. In fact, he reminds me of my late step father, Howard, whom I adored and respected. Quite simply, I enjoy the 45 minutes we spend together.
Second, he has helped me recognize patterns in my behavior. This is important because it’s the first step to coming to terms with who you are and, ultimately, what you need to spot in order to improve.
Third, going to therapy is helping me be a better leader. I study the questions he asks, his body language, and the way he deals with me. This has made me a better listener, more curious, and more empathetic.
Overall, going to therapy is helping me become a better person, which is a an ongoing project with no finite date.
As my shrink says, “you are a work in progress.”
If you have issues you want to talk about (we all do), I recommend giving therapy a shot. Many therapists comp the first session so that you can test your chemistry with them and your insurance probably covers at least a part of it. You have nothing to lose but perhaps a little pride and, based on my experience, it’s well worth it.