I grew up in a culture where therapy was insanely frowned upon. It was as if my parents had done a horrible job raising me, and there really could not be that much wrong. I mean, the signs were clearly there for years: anxiety driven to where I would bite my nails down to the nub, panic attacks once a month, suicidal depression. For years I had begged my parents to let me go to therapy, but in their minds it felt as though they had failed me. They felt as if it was their fault I needed someone else to talk to; they were the ones who felt the need to fix me, because they brought me on this Earth. However, culture aside, it is evident that many of us have some reason that won’t allow us to get to a therapist’s couch. Have it be your family, friends, or yourself.
When I moved out of my mom’s house at twenty-one, I felt lost. Most people in my generation moved out when they were eighteen… my boyfriend for example moved out of the house when he was sixteen. I was a late bloomer, yet I knew I was ready for this next phase in my life. Moving into my first, real apartment alone was a thrill for me. I got to design it the way I wanted to, and I finally had my own space to grow. As exciting as it was, I could not help but feel an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. Soon, that loneliness turned into depression and I had never felt so down in my life. It took a toll on my overall life, and I knew I could not go on feeling this way. I had called my mom one day and broke down to her, telling her I needed therapy, because I had never been on my own before, and I needed to get my power back and learn ways to enjoy being truly alone.
After doing research, I found a therapist who sparked my interest. She was Middle Eastern (like me), and from her picture she looked extremely friendly. The best part was she was only a fifteen minute drive from my apartment… so I knew it was meant to be. Once I emailed her inquiring about an appointment, she let me know of her availability. We had set it up for the same week.
Once I walked into the elevators going up to her floor, I felt extremely overwhelmed. What would we talk about first? Is one hour enough for her to get to know me? How would I feel after? How can I open up completely and vulnerably to someone I have never met before? The questions went on and on in my head… my anxiety was having anxiety. Yet, I knew somewhere in me that this was possibly the best decision I had ever made for myself, and I knew that it would take significant time to get to a good place. To me, there really is no such thing as feeling “normal.” Perhaps there is a kind of normalcy for each individual person, but there is no way everyone has the same type of normal.
Stepping out of the elevator doors, I checked in at the front of the office. The receptionist was super kind, and let my therapist know that I had arrived. Once she came out to greet me, I felt an overwhelming feeling of peace. I have always been one to have a great empathic way of reading people’s energies and I felt comforted even by her hello. We walked over to her private room, and I took a seat on her big comfy couch.
The session started off as expected, we talked about confidentiality, I signed some papers, and once that was out of the way she asked me to talk about absolutely anything. There obviously was a reason why I was there, and she made me feel open to pouring my heart out… which I did.
Once my session was over, we set up appointments for once a week sessions. At the time, it felt as if time didn’t pass, as my week would always be spiraling out of control. However, there was one thing that I took away from my first session that I carried with me for the few months after that. I for once felt as if everything was going to be okay. The calmness and peace I felt within myself was as if I was on a euphoric high, and the advice and techniques my therapist taught me throughout the months are things I carry with me now. This to me, felt like the ultimate form of self care.
After a solid six months, I took control of my life and centered myself into focusing on what is important to me. I can never forget my last session together, where she looked at me at the end and told me she didn’t think I had to come in once a week anymore. If I wanted, I could come in once a month. She felt confident that I had the skills I needed to control my anxiety, and take charge of my future. Again, I felt that euphoric high but it was on another level. I felt free, and in control.
Having said that, here are some things I learned in therapy that I take with me throughout my daily life.
- As scary as it is, confrontation is your best friend. Have the courage to speak your mind about what you want, and who you want it with. Speak the truth, ask for the truth, and vocalize your importance. I used to always be scared of this, and I found that the more I found my voice in my own relationships, the stronger they got. I also felt so in control of my own life!
- Easier said than done – but the future is unpredictable. As scary as it is, not knowing what is going to happen tomorrow, a week from now, or five years from now is a reality. Try and focus on today and realize each day is a blessing.
- Know how to control personal guilt. You are living for yourself, not for others. If you are facing guilt within your family, friendships or with your partner take a step back from that relationship. Is this toxic for you? Why are you feeling guilty? Are they relaying that feeling onto you? What have you done to feel this way? At the end of your life, you want to be surrounded with those who supported you through every step, and never let you feel as if you weren’t enough.
- There is no shame in getting help.
Have you gone to therapy? What was one thing you took away from your experience?