Since the very beginning of my graduate program, professors have suggested the students see a therapist at least once. I remember thinking “I just want to be a therapist, I don’t want to see one”. As I became more knowledgable on the topic of mental health and wellness, I began to realize that the suggestion was not so crazy after all. Then finally came the time when my own mental well-being was in jeopardy.
Think of mental health as a continuum. On the far left you have “mental well-being” and on the far right you have “mental illness”. Well in September of 2018, I was slowly but surely sliding on over to the right. Each day I slid a little bit more until finally, I had an emotional breakdown at work (in private, Thank God). I decided “Ok, it may be time to talk to someone”.
Honestly, I wasn’t too sure if I was depressed. All I knew is that something was wrong. Crying every day, feeling unmotivated, and constant negative thoughts was not healthy.
I started my search by going to my health insurance website. I was given a list of therapists that were in my network and would take my insurance. I went through each listing and went to their website (if they even had one). I researched their education background, what disorders they specialized in, and what methods of treatment they used. It was important to me to find a therapist of color, so I looked for that as well.
I found one that looked promising and contacted her. We spoke briefly about what was going on and scheduled an appointment for the next day. I was so nervous the night before and even thought about cancelling because what if I wasn’t even depressed? What if I was wasting her time and my time? Then my boyfriend assured me that I was making the right decision. He said something along the lines of “Therapy is like prayer, you don’t only have to use it when something is really wrong”. Amen.
I went to my first session at 9:00 AM the next morning, and from that very first session she told me that she didn’t believe me to be depressed. She did however, believe that I was having a hard time mentally and emotionally.
So, I wasn’t clinically depressed but let me tell you the reasons I went on to see her a few more times…
I did not lie on a couch while being asked “So how does that make you feel?” every two minutes
I don’t know why therapy is portrayed that way. That is not how any of this works.
I was able to talk freely about my issues without being judged
Sometimes friends, family, and significant others can end up being judgmental without necessarily trying to. Plus, it’s helpful to get perspective from someone other than them.
I didn’t feel like my issues were being minimized
Example: “Mom, I’m sad” “you ain’t got nothing to be sad about, you got a roof over your head”.
I got to talk about different aspects of my life
I went for a specific problem but I was asked about my friends, family, boyfriend, work, and school. It was helpful to address all those areas of my life as well.
I felt like I was being listened to
We’re talking about active listening here, not everyone has that skill.
I was allowed to cry
It’s nice to cry without feeling dumb or feeling compelled to apologize for it.
I was challenged
Yes, therapists should be empathetic and understanding. They should also give feedback and challenge you to new ways of thinking and behaving.
I felt comfortable
My therapist was a black woman. She was very personable. Our conversation flowed easily. Her office was really cute and felt very welcoming.
I feel very lucky to have had a great first experience seeing a therapist. I feel that I was properly helped and still keep in mind the things that I learned. I would, without a doubt, go back should I feel I need to. In my personal opinion, everyone could benefit from talking to a professional. We are all human beings with either issues, hard times, past traumas, dysfunctional thoughts, bad habits, unhealed wounds, or toxic behaviors. Some of us battle with these things more than others. Some of us deal with these things better than others.
Therapy is not bad. Therapy is not only for certain people. Therapy does not make you weak.