Nelke Roose

What I Learned from Being in Therapy for an Entire Year

Every day should be World Mental Health Day as we still need to destigmatize and raise awareness of mental health issues all year around. In that spirit, here are five lessons I learned from being in therapy for almost a year.

1. Go before you hit rock-bottom

Although I had played with the thought of going to a therapist many times over the years, I let my problems get very big and messy before actually seeking help. That’s because my issues seemed manageable, and even if they truly are, wouldn’t it be great to tackle them before they get out of control?

Despite wishing I had looked for help sooner, I can’t beat myself up over it because maybe I just needed that huge break-down as a final push to change, and that’s okay too. Just know that if you feel like you could use some help, you deserve to get it now, no matter how bad or good things are.

2. Look for a match

After I did hit rock-bottom a year ago, I looked for a psychotherapist who would help me develop some healthy coping mechanisms. My first therapist was a young woman, still studying actually, and during our therapy session, it felt like we were gossiping schoolgirls on the bus. With her eyes wide open, a judgy undertone, and seemingly just out of personal interest, she asked me questions like: “So, did he take your virginity?!”

Although my gut told me that we didn’t connect, I thought it was a shame to go look for another therapist, especially because of the money and the waitlists you’re often put on. So, I was ready to settle for her, when luck was on my side: I was forced to find someone else if I wanted to get my sessions covered by health insurance.

Only when sitting on a new sofa with another therapist, I noticed how uncomfortable I had previously been and how much better I felt with this new counselor. That’s why I’d say that you should look for someone you feel safe with. Take your time to find your match, even if that means having to go through multiple get-to-know sessions!

3. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable

I don’t know about you, but I always had this fairy tale in my head that after each session, I’d be feeling lighter, brighter, and better. And I hate to break it to you, but that’s not always how it goes: some sessions were confronting, hard, and even frustrating.

Sometimes, I felt worse than before, and I had to realize that therapy was no quick fix. That’s because you’re working through things and only after a while, you’ll see how you’ve changed for the better. And man, have I changed for the better over the course of just one year.

4. The stigma is still around

Despite it being 2020, the stigma around mental health is still very present. Luckily, people around me reacted fine, but there were some hiccups along the way. For instance, when some family members kept referring to my therapy as “going to the doctor” or when a friend advised others to not ask how I was doing or what was going on because he assumed, I was ashamed about it.

Still, I just kept bringing the topic up, not always to be a social warrior but to ask for advice, to clear my head, or to get help with assignments. (yes, you can get homework in therapy!) Not keeping my mental health issues as a dirty, little secret made it more bearable for me.

5. We should all be in therapy

The most important thing I learned is that everyone could use some therapy to become aware of how they think, act and feel, and who they truly are. Why would you not want to become a better you? It’s such an investment in yourself, like the highest form of self-care.

Of course, my wallet and I realize that therapy could be very expensive. Having to pay a lot of money makes it not accessible to everyone, which is such a shame. But luckily, therapy is more than just sessions with a therapist, for instance, you could find it in going for a walk, having a good chat with a friend, writing in a journal, having a late-night cry, or just doing what you love.

Photos from Unsplash

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