For about a year now I’ve been going to therapy once a week. What got me there in the first place was a seeming inability to stay away from fuck boys. What has kept me there, is the realisation that fuck boys are the least of my problems.
This was my second time attempting counselling. The first time I sought help, was when anxiety got the better of me during the final stages of my PhD. I only went to a couple of sessions back then but it did help me a lot to talk things through and get perspective on my feelings. Also, when I spoke to others in the same situation, they admitted to going through similar struggles.
I don’t think there’s ever a right or wrong time to start therapy. It just happens at the time you need it to happen, if that makes any sense. I got to a point where I didn’t deliberate much about it and just went ‘right, I need to do this now.’ Mainly I felt that I couldn’t get a handle on things myself anymore and thought some help was needed to put me on the right track again.
Luckily I got on with the first therapist I went to and didn’t have to try out different people. Although I didn’t feel completely comfortable and at ease from the start, I felt encouraged to stick with that person because of their huge amount of empathy and understanding. Before going into my first session, part of me thought they’re probably just going to tell me to get on with my first world problems and that therapy is for people with serious problems only.
Of course, what constitutes a ‘serious problem’ is very relative. There’s always going to be somebody worse off than me but that doesn’t mean my issues aren’t important. Especially when those issues begin to negatively affect parts of my life.
My initial ideas of therapy were, I go in with a specific problem, they give me the tools to fix that problem, I work on it, solve the problem and everything is grand. She lived happily ever after. Wrong. I quickly realised that my specific issue at hand (getting into unhealthy relationship patterns) was only the tip of the iceberg and certain behaviours and coping mechanism I had developed over the years stem from experiences way back in my childhood. It’s always the parents that are to blame!
So I realised therapy is much more about getting to know myself than solving a particular problem at hand. And it’s about unlearning some of those behavioural patterns ingrained in me from an early age. That is a constant work in progress. At times I felt absolutely elated by the realisation of how certain things connect in my life and by gaining a better understanding of why I behaved a particular way in a situation. Other times I was just disheartened by what seemed to be an insurmountable pile of issues I had to deal with and got rather down on myself for being such a head case.
Now therapy has become something I do for myself as part of an active effort of self-care. I would liken it to going to the gym just for your head and heart. I’ve never been to the gym in my life so this analogy might not hold up. You wouldn’t really attempt physical exercise to improve your overall health by thinking you’re only going to do this for one year and then you’re done and healthy for the rest of your life. (Well, I do but that’s another issue.) You have to stick with it all the time and make it part of your daily routine. Sometimes that will be easy and enjoyable, other times you resent it and have to make yourself do it.
It’s very helpful for me to have to check in with somebody once a week and have a completely non-judgemental conversation where I can get everything off my chest. It’s also always a great reminder not to be too hard on myself. Often I forget to check in with myself and listen to how I feel, what I want and all of those things. Therapy ensures that I remember to take better care of myself.
The only problem with attending regular counselling sessions is it’s bloody expensive. It’s currently a real luxury for me to splash out on but thankfully I can still somehow scrape the money for it together. It would be great if there was better support for mental healthcare that would allow more people to seek treatment.
Okay my dears, I have to go now and meditate and chant to open my chakras because that’s the kind of person I have become! Have a lovely day and look after yourself.