Rambling My Way Through Therapy

I went right past by the door of the therapists’ office. I walked a few paces back, and peeked in the blinds of the door. I guess this place is it?

I opened the door, slowly. Quietly. I peered in. There were two chairs, surrounded by white walls in this tiny room. Name placards of the therapists stood out against the white background, with the little light switches by their names. Oh, I’m supposed to switch the light on to signal to her I’m here, I realized. Weird.

This was both exactly and yet not at all how I pictured a therapist’s office lobby to be. I sat, nervous, in the chair of the waiting area, not knowing what to expect.

Therapy. I’d thought for more than a year about coming to try this “therapy” business out, and yet I was never ready.

Even though I had known people who had sought therapy in the past, those who went (that I knew of) usually went for a specific issue, or to address past trauma.

Frankly, a small part of my reluctance stemmed from how the media portrayed therapy. And society’s stigma around therapy. People I know who go to therapy generally don’t talk about going to therapy. I get why. After all, doesn’t our media make it seem as therapy is for “crazy people” or people who really needed it?

How do I tell others — even some of my family members, who come from a culture where mental health issues are rarely acknowledged and discussed — that I’m going to therapy, without having it seem like I am that kind of person?

But if all the “non-crazy” people who seek therapy never talk about their experiences, how will it ever be de-stigmatized?

I didn’t feel like I quite had identifiable, “specific issues” or trauma to go to therapy for. But as I started noticing certain relationship patterns emerge within my life, I began to pinpoint aspects of myself that I wanted to improve. While I felt like I could work on some of this on my own, I ultimately realized that therapy would help accelerate my progress.

So, finally…I took the leap**.

After what seemed like hours, the door opened. My therapist greeted me warmly. She led me into a room with two chairs, with a desk at the back of the room. I sat down, shifting uncomfortably.

“So, what brings you to therapy?” she asked.

I took a deep breath, and began to speak.

The next 50 minutes flew by. As frightening as it felt to tell a stranger very personal bits of my life, I knew I had to. How could she help me if I didn’t tell the truth?

“You’re introspective, and self-aware. You’re ripe for therapy,” she assured me.

I hoped she was right.

I went to therapy starting on a weekly basis, to eventually a twice-a-month frequency.

Over the period of the nine months, I rambled on about topics from small annoyances, to fights, to little triumphs. I gave low-downs of my younger years, recounting all the ways my childhood insecurities manifested themselves in adulthood. I talked about past and present relationships.

Therapy provided me the support I needed to leave toxic relationships behind. It was one of the main ways I stayed sane in an unstable — and at times, scary — codependent relationship. I didn’t know it then, but a part of me recognized I was in a situation that was not good for me. Subconsciously, it pushed me into trying therapy out.

My therapist helped me come up with a plan of how to responsibly leave my depressed, suicidal partner. When I hit my breaking point, she helped me devise a list of people close to him who needed to know what was going on. To know just how bad it had gotten for him. After the session, I braced myself and made contact with these individuals, one by one. Therapy gave me the reassurance that what I was doing was right, even if so many parts of me were screaming out in doubt.

I hadn’t really cried in therapy at all, not like the way pop culture depicts the teary-eyed sessions to be. But then again, I wasn’t the crying type. I hate crying, especially around other people. I cried then, though, sitting on that couch in her office, after I left him and it was all over. The self-doubt, fear, and relief of my decision hit me, wave after wave.

It was almost an unsettling feeling — crying in such a vulnerable state, in front of this therapist-stranger who played such a significant role in “helping to help me shape myself” in this period of my life. I let my sadness tumble out of me, in the presence of someone who knew nothing but everything about me.

What I took away from the sessions and from “doing the work” (it is true what they say…you can’t coast in therapy and expect results) was how to listen to my inner voice and emotions. It was so easy for me to suppress and bury my non-logical emotions, where I didn’t have to deal with them. But when the emotions did come up, it was more familiar to let anger mask the other feelings I was actually having.

When I learned to let these other emotions surface, I found a stronger connection to my intuition that I had never been able to tap into before. Slowly, I became capable of figuring out why I felt or reacted in certain situations. Instead of lashing out at someone without knowing the underlying emotions or insecurities, I started to grasp where these feelings were coming from — and why. And, if I was ready, I learned to communicate these emotions to other people.

The skills I learned in therapy are ones I continue to practice. They arm me with the confidence to face challenges in my life, however insurmountable they may seem. But even after you “do the work” and gain these skills, you can’t just coast on by. “Doing the work” is a constant process and requires continual self-evaluation and self-awareness. It can be exhausting, but…it’s worth it.

**A note on therapy and its affordability: I was concerned that therapy could be an expensive investment. But from talking to others and doing my own research, therapy could be affordable if you went about it strategically. I cross-referenced therapists on Psychology Today with those shown in my health insurance network’s directory to find an in-network therapist, which made the difference of paying nothing (or your co-pay) each session vs. upwards of $120 per session.

Seeing a therapist within my health insurance network, and taking advantage of the health insurance plan’s “employee assistance program (EAP)” (meant for mental health issues) covered me — in full — to see my therapist over nine months, paying nothing more than my monthly health insurance premium.

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