Looking for some motivation to start or continue your therapy journey? Or just curious to hear one girl’s experience? You’ve come to the right place! Here are my 5 biggest therapy takeaways.
TW: Mental health struggles, disordered eating, body dysmorphic issues.
Consistency is key
When it comes to my mental health, I have realized just how easy it is to slip back into negative patterns of thought. And these patterns are super hard to get out of! Therapy has provided me with a consistent way of getting out of my own head and I have found that it keeps me accountable. No one else in my life is as direct and as honest as my therapist. She will tell me to do the thing I’ve been dreading: make that phone call, set that goal, stop talking with that person who’s draining me. Also, I am someone who thrives on routine. I need some activities that I can consistently complete and which actively force me to focus on the positives in my life. Whether it is journaling, exercising, using consistent morning routines or thought records, I am learning just how much of a process healing truly is. The thought patterns that lead me to dark places are deeply ingrained; I have to be extremely vigilant about staying consistent. Thankfully, therapy provides me not only with practical solutions for strengthening my mental health, but also provides me with a strong system of support for applying those solutions. Through continuous sessions, I am becoming more accountable to myself. This is not to say that I do not slip up, or that my problems are all magically solved, far from it! But consistent therapy has provided me with the tools to get back on track each time I fall off. My first few sessions were hard, awkward, and I wasn’t sure whether or not this therapy thing was the right fit for me. But I am so grateful that I kept going.
Speaking my struggles aloud can be so liberating
Before I started therapy, when I was struggling with severe body dysmorphic issues which resulted in patterns of disordered eating, I felt such extreme shame and embarrassment that I would rather have my issues eat me alive than share them with the people in my life. Shame has a way of doing that: it makes you feel like speaking out will only result in judgement and more pain, and it leads you to a false understanding that your mental health struggles are the result of personal failures. Resultingly, I spent years of my life expending excessive energy trying to hide my disorders. I would plan my binges for times when no one was home and had a secret stash of candy wrappers hidden in a drawer that I prayed no one would ever find. This intense sense of secrecy and shame only fueled my destructive behaviour, both intermingling violently in a vicious cycle which kept me in its grips for years.
Like many others, the COVID-19 pandemic brought up intense feelings of mental distress, and it brought back some of the destructive behaviours that I had hoped I had finally suppressed. It was then that I reached my breaking point. Inspired and saddened by the stories of others, I mustered up the courage to reach out to a family member. I was so pleasantly surprised to hear how supportive they were, how concerned they were, and how non-judgmental they were. It was only through this conversation that I started my journey to finding professional help. Speaking into the world exactly what I had been struggling with was one of the most liberating feelings, because with the need for secrecy completely obliterated, so left the shame along with it. I no longer felt the immediate weight of my issues. My therapy journey has allowed me to come to a point where I can openly talk about my mental health, and I’m starting to love doing it! Even though the anxiety about sharing my struggles remains, I keep getting better at sharing them. My first few sessions were difficult, but because I kept going, I have experienced firsthand the validation and freedom that it can provide. I have gotten a sense of perspective and distance which allows me to see myself in the bigger picture. I no longer treat my struggles like personal battles, or failures, or weaknesses. Instead, therapy forces me to be truly honest with myself and others, and to see my struggles as a way to connect rather than to isolate.
Individual healing is communal healing
As I mentioned, therapy does not just bring out the best in me during my sessions; it allows me to form deeper, more authentic connections with the people in my life. Going to therapy has allowed me to realize that I need to take care of myself in order to show up for the people in my life. We are not at our best when we hold onto our pain. We are at our best when we work through our pain together. We have the capacity to use our struggles to deepen our connections with the people in our lives, our support systems, the people we share this earth with. As socially-conscious people and as people who live online, we have a tendency to burn ourselves out. I have often sacrificed my well-being because I feel obligated to know each of the world’s issues. I get sucked into news spirals that leave me feeling hopeless. I am starting to realize that feeling helpless and paralyzed is not healthy, it is not helpful, and I am not obligated to continue consuming media that drags me down rather than lifts me up. That is not to say that I cut myself off from the world. Rather, I am cultivating a balance and learning to take the weight of world off my shoulders. Can you imagine the joy and progress that could be brought to the world were we all to have the resources to show up as our best selves? That’s how I see my therapy, it is a way to produce the best version of myself so that I can be that person for the relationships and communities that mean the most to me.
Mental health resources should be more accessible
Unfortunately, the access to therapy that I have is not something that I can take for granted. Common barriers to therapy include economic costs, time commitment, and concerns about finding someone with the knowledge and expertise to address the struggles of those from specific backgrounds (race, class, gender identity, etc.). Even with the privilege that I have because of my access to higher education and other resources, accessing a therapist was time-consuming and, at times, draining. It required multiple people, multiple phone calls, and a few shed tears before I was finally matched with the person I currently speak to today. I say all this not to discourage anyone from seeking help, but to recognize that mental health supports can be difficult to obtain, especially for those dealing with financial concerns, those living in remote areas, and those looking for therapists with specific experiences/backgrounds. Luckily, more resources are popping up to match people with therapy and mental health support regardless of identity, background, or income. Former WEW Blogger Aaima Azhar has written extensively about mental health and has also provided a list of resources for people seeking mental health support. I would highly recommend checking these articles out! It is so easy to come up with reasons why now isn’t the best time to get help or why we don’t deserve getting help in the first place. I know, because I’ve come up with every excuse. Though it takes a great deal of courage, please know that you and your mental health are worth it.
I’m a lot stronger than I give myself credit for (and so are you!)
My final takeaway, and perhaps one of the most important, is I’m realizing just how strong and resilient I truly am. My therapy forces me to take inventory of my life in a way that I wouldn’t otherwise. I am actively encouraged to identify points of growth, to set and achieve small goals, and to find the positives. Gratitude is one of most powerful forces in my life. I’m training my brain to reframe everything in my life through this lens. We have all been living through incredibly draining times, and many of us have interacted with immense tragedy in the past few years. I am deeply grateful for the joy that I am able to experience in spite of it all, and I know that therapy is playing a big part in that. We all deserve the help that we need. If you feel like you are in need of support, please reach out. Your future self will be so grateful you did.
Image Credits: biggorilla298 on Vecteezy
Hi! I’m Brynn, and I’m super excited to be writing on the blogs committee this year. I am a third-year Women’s and Gender Studies student with interests in film, feminism, theatre and social justice. Blog writing provides me with the perfect opportunity to combine all of these passions. I hope you will join me on my blog journey!