Therapy Changed My Perspective; Maybe It Will Change Yours Too
Honestly I write these blogs for myself because I enjoy the process of writing it down, I’m not trying to be a blogger and 2017 me who started this blog didn’t know what I wanted to do with it either. These blogs have become an online peanut trail, so to speak, for myself as I move through life. I heard someone say once, “it’s about the becoming.” So if you’re reading this, I guess you get a peak into life through my eyes and if it helps you in anyway, I’m glad it did and hope you’ll carry it with you to pass on to someone else eventually.
For many many years, even through college, I made the determination that I just wasn’t someone that needed therapy. While I fully supported others in it, I was curious, but I felt like I didn’t really need it. I had a good head on my shoulders, could handle things that came my way, and if I really needed to talk to someone I had my mom; she gave great advice and I trusted her. I also felt like although therapists are certified and have gone through professional training, they’re also just humans. So a percentage of the advice they give, though I’m not sure how big that percentage might be, is still based on their own life experience, their own bias (as much as they try to be unbiased.) Mostly, I didn’t trust that I would be guided in the right direction by essentially a stranger with a certification.
I tried to go to therapy once early on in college, but I gave up, finding it a hassle to find someone affordable since my insurance didn’t cover it back then, and ultimately after not connecting with the therapist I went to (after one session), I was done. I didn’t leave feeling like I got anything from it and the thought of finding someone else was overwhelming. And that was that.
Fast forward a few years later. It’s 2019 and my anxiety is beginning to be unmanageable. It was affecting my day-to-day productivity and overall state of being. I would wake up so many days filled with dread because I didn’t understand how to manage the cloud of anxiety closing in on me every single day. I hid it really well, so only the people closest to me knew about it. I was spiraling down into bouts of anxious thoughts and I hated it. I really didn’t understand how to be happy or help myself. The only things I knew to do were to journal about it and talk to those I love. And while that can be helpful, it’s also not their responsibility.
There’s a journal entry I have from early December 2019. It’s weird to re-read some of these things, because I’m so far from the person I was last year. I don’t even recognize that girl and I think I knew at the time I didn’t really even like myself and who I was amidst all the anxiety and lack of self confidence, but I didn’t know how to pinpoint that.
I woke up and started crying because I feel so stuck and unhappy. I’m struggling with my happiness and I don’t know how to fix it. This feels never ending.
I then went on to write for two pages about all the what-if scenarios of my life. What direction I’ll go in, where my career will go, what will happen with my relationship, etc. just filled with anxiety.
And then in January 2020 the relationship I was in came to a blindsiding ending. Everything that I thought I knew, thought I believed in, thought about myself, about that relationship, about my place in this world was completely shattered. The good that I so deeply believed in was shattered by reality. Life isn’t always fair and people aren’t always good to us. Sometimes people have this one event or moment in their life that wakes them up, and this was it for me. Everything didn’t revolve around the ending of that relationship, but that ending was the catalyst for me to look at all the other parts of me and my life. I always think of a book called “To Shake Thy Sleeping Self,” which I haven’t even read, but that title has always stuck with me. It was as if I was sleeping before. For me, I think of my life in two halves up until this point: who I was before 2020 and who I am now.
The trajectory that I was on, at least internally, completely re-routed. Thank fucking goodness for that. For me, that was the last straw of sitting in my unhappiness and anxiety any longer. I don’t think I really experienced being depressed until that breaking point and I’m not even sure I really knew it at the time. I just knew that every day for months was dark. I know that I was tossed aside and then metaphorically locked up with my thoughts when the world went into a global pandemic. I ached for things and people that did not ache for me back. I told my mom I was quitting acting for sure and possibly everything else I do in the film/TV industry because I didn’t think it was bringing me happiness anymore. I didn’t understand where my worth lies or how to be happy and content from within. Honestly I wasn’t sure what would make me happy and the thought of living life everyday feeling that way felt like torture. I tried hard to convince myself otherwise. I would have bouts of clarity, like when I wrote this blog post in March, and while it made me feel better for a while, I was still trying to convince myself of those things. I knew there was truth in it, to just be grateful for another day of life, but I didn’t understand this massive shift I was experiencing.
But what I did know was I didn’t want to be that person that said they were going to work on themselves and then put a bandaid on it. I did that before years ago and it wasn’t until two years later I realized what I had done really. I went from a long-term relationship and jumped right into another one after that. No time to really sit with or process one ending, no time to wholeheartedly work on myself. In fact I look back and realize I hadn’t had a long period of time where I wasn’t in a relationship with anyone. And while I do believe you always grow in some form, there’s a specific type of transformation within that happens when you work on yourself, by yourself. I promised myself that I wanted to be a better version of myself and that I wanted to work on myself this time. And I was so done feeling this debilitating anxiety and not understanding my own happiness. So I committed to going to therapy.
It’s not easy and when I say it’s a commitment, it’s a fucking commitment. But I was and am so committed to myself and my growth and honoring everything I deserve and if you’re reading this wondering if you do too– you absolutely do. It’s not an easy process and I think anyone who has gone to therapy will tell you that, but eventually the grind work settles and you get to reap the rewards. The reality is I had to do research to find therapists that were in-network with my insurance (what a headache, but I was grateful my insurance covered it) and then I went to 5 different therapists before sticking with the 5th one. FIVE. (2nd headache). Do you know how exhausting it is to tell people about you and where you’re at in life time and time again before you find someone you like? Oh man, so very exhausting. And I wanted to throw in the towel after the second one. But I kept going and if that’s where you’re at in your process, don’t give up.
Now, I’ve been consistently going to therapy this entire year and it has honestly changed my life. What I didn’t understand before, that I hope to help anyone entertaining the idea of therapy to understand, is that therapy isn’t about you sitting on a couch crying to someone about your problems. The right therapist will shine the light on things you didn’t see before, both within yourself and those around you, they will widen your perspective and challenge your way of thinking, and they will give you the tools and the proper thought-patterns you need to manage whatever it is you need to manage. After a while, it feels like you’re talking to an old friend or family member. Like a cool aunt who just gets it, or at least that’s what it felt like for me.
I learned SO many things in therapy this year, but here’s a few important things:
- I learned to re-frame the way I thought about things. Once I trained my brain to do this, it was amazing how much my anxiety was manageable because I wasn’t spiraling out of control with my thoughts. I have never been so steady and calm within myself like I am now.
- I realized how much I put others before myself and that I was always hardest on myself; mad at myself for feeling mad or sad, etc. I learned that it’s okay to feel the feelings. Just feel them and try your best to let it go.
- I recognized my own behavior patterns both good and bad. I recognized the space I held for myself in the presence of others sometimes where I wouldn’t stand up for myself, or make sure my needs were being met, or have self confidence, or was fearful of certain things. And I became aware of times when I didn’t like how I handled my emotion or reaction to things or people. Recognizing habits that were engrained into who I was for so long and changing them, has affected me on a deep deep level because it changes your interactions with people, with your work, with how you move through the world. This realization changes how you present yourself to others, how you talk, how you navigate problems. The list goes on.
- I learned how much childhood affects who we are today and how our parents deeply affect who we are. And this is coming from someone who had a great childhood and I love my family to death. I’m very close with my family and there’s still things to look at from our childhood that have a great impact on who we are today. And for me this came up naturally in therapy. It was never, “So tell me, did you have a difficult childhood?” I would’ve hated that. Recognizing this also made me realize how the way I was treated in certain relationships was a direct affect of how they were treated. Inherently we sometimes subconsciously do the very things we hate, and therapy woke me up to that. Not only to see that within myself, but to recognize it in others.
- I learned to be okay with the unknown. This was the biggest challenge for people like me that like to be in control, like to know what the plan is, etc. it’s so very hard to be in the unknown. But there’s so much freedom in it too. You don’t have to have everything figured out and allowing myself not to know has been a nice change of pace
- I learned what it means to be happy on my own and to be happy within, and this one took a long time to understand. Mostly, because I understand happiness in a completely new light. It’s one thing to be alone and just survive. Before I dated anyone this year I was alone, yeah, but I was just surviving day to day. It’s something completely different to thrive and be genuinely happy when you’re by yourself. I’m so grateful to experience this massive inner growth now at this point in my life. I don’t know if I can explain it, but for me it was an inner feeling of peace that I hadn’t felt in years.
- I learned that not everything is black and white
- I learned to trust my inner knowing
If you’ve read this far, congrats for getting sucked down this rabbit hole. Working on yourself is hard work and I’m sure you know a thing or two about that. Going to therapy isn’t just for when something is going really wrong in your life and if you’re considering it, here’s my take: just like a writer who writes a story, that individual only knows it from their perspective. If they give that same story to someone else, they’ll have a completely different take on it. Give yourself, give your story, to someone who will offer you a whole new way of thinking. Someone who will challenge you to shift your perspective, confront yourself, and love yourself better. Loving yourself better just means understanding yourself better, understanding why you are the way you are, so that you can love others better too. And even so you can recognize when someone doesn’t have the capacity to love you the way you deserve to be loved. Work on yourself so that you can move through this world a truly better version of who you are. So that the mark you leave on people is a good one, not a painful one.