After being diagnosed with anxiety disorder in elementary school, I saw plenty of psychiatrists but I never saw any therapists as I didn’t think it would be helpful. That changed last year; after a nasty fight with depression, I finally got a therapist and it was more than worth it.
Medication can’t solve everything. Don’t get me wrong, medication is a lifesaver for the mentally ill. For people like me, the right medication helps us separate our actual thoughts from our mental illness. But while it keeps my mental illness under control, it doesn’t make it go away entirely. That’s where a therapist comes in.
Finding one wasn’t difficult. When I started shopping around for a therapist, I thought it would be an impossible endeavor. Sure, it required searching, but I found a good match after asking my current psychiatrist for recommendations. After my first meeting, I knew I found the right person for me. The fact that the whole process was so seamless was extra reassuring.
It’s expensive but worth it. I hate to say it, but therapy is expensive. Without insurance, it’s difficult to find someone affordable and even if you do, plenty of plans don’t offer enough options to suit your needs. I found my insurance didn’t cover much therapy and instead I had to pay out of pocket. It made a dent in my finances but it was worth every penny.
Appointments weren’t what I expected.I’ve seen plenty of TV shows and movies; I worried therapy would involve lying on a couch and talking about my parents and my childhood traumas. Turns out, modern therapy has improved since Freud. There’s no constant questioning about my mother unless it’s important to my personal problems. I worried that a therapist would try to find a cause for my anxiety when it was clearly genetic. Instead, we skipped all of that and paid attention to what mattered.
I love having someone impartial to talk to.Like many in the psychiatric profession, therapists aren’t allowed to tell anyone what their patients tell them in confidence unless they plan to actively hurt themselves or someone else. Having someone to share all the thoughts you worry aren’t acceptable with is a relief. Your therapist won’t judge you for having a dark thought; they’ll help you work through it.
I started to feel things again.Before I had a therapist, I was in a type of depression that was categorized by the persistent feeling of being numb. I had trouble doing or feeling anything, and while medication prevented my mood from being constantly dark, I hadn’t regained the emotional range I once possessed. Therapy helped me discover baby steps I could take to help my medication do its job and what things might help me improve.
I experienced no judgment.I adore my close friends, but there are things I worry they’ll judge me about. Not everyone understands having to battle your own brain. With a therapist, that worry isn’t there; they’re not there to judge you. That opens doors to talking about things you find hard to share with even your closest friends, and it’s a huge weight off.
Saying things out loud is more helpful than I thought.Talking about your feelings helps you process them—that’s why we vent to our friends. A therapist works the same way; they encourage you to speak about things that affected you in the past and help you process them. My therapist was a great help with dealing with my anxieties about dating.
They provide an outside point of view to your fears.With mental illness, one of the biggest challenges is trying to figure out what thoughts are your own and what thoughts are your illness. That’s where a therapist comes in. With their help, I learned what perceptions of mine were truly accurate and which were my illness was clouding actual events. That makes stopping trains of thoughts like thinking no one can love me in their tracks.
I learned new coping mechanisms. Part of coping with mental illness is learning mental tricks to cope with your brain’s various tricks. Therapists learn dozens of these tricks and part of their job is to teach patients how to use them. From preventing anxiety attacks to recognizing situations that put me on edge, therapy has helped learn not only to survive my anxiety but thrive despite it.
Therapy didn’t mean I lost it.One of the things that kept me away from therapy for so long was the concern that I might have “lost it.” I didn’t want to be the mentally ill girl who couldn’t manage her illness and wanted to do everything on my own. Going through therapy taught me that while I had good intentions, I can’t treat my mental illness with just stubbornness. Plenty of people with chronic conditions need regular check-ups along with medication to handle their illnesses. I wouldn’t give someone with chronic pain a hard time for needing physical therapy along with their medication. It was time I afforded myself the same train of thought.