First Time Experience: Seeing a Therapist

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. 

Log Off and Level Up

One thing about social media is that you really only see the best parts of people’s lives. Of course it’s hard to remember that when you feel your life isn’t exactly going the way you would like. Everyone else’s accomplishments can be a reminder of what you have yet to achieve. The things that other people have can be a reminder of what you lack. 

The end of 2018 was a difficult time for me. Nothing major happened to me per say, but I was struggling and dealing with some set-backs. I was overwhelmed. I was unhappy. I was very unmotivated. Due to being unmotivated, I spent a great deal of time scrolling through social media and ultimately ended up making myself feel worse. I was trapped in this cycle of distracting myself with insta and twitter, seeing how great everyone else’s life appeared to be, and then feeling even worse about my life. I was so consumed by what was wrong, what I didn’t have, and what I hadn’t yet achieved. 

After about three weeks of feeling absolutely horrible, I decided to take a break from my various social media sites. I took time to find solutions to my problems, instead of just feeling sorry for myself. I began working out, reading, and singing again. I even got the inspiration to start this blog. I began to feel love for myself again. I was reminded of all the great things I was doing and have done. I decided that I had control over my life. I was not a victim of anything or anyone.

Here are some things that worked for me during that difficult time, try them out should you find yourself going through something similar…

Take a break from social media from time to time 

Even when you aren’t taking a break, balance social media and offline life

Connect with real people in your life in meaningful ways 

Pray and/or meditate 

Engage in hobbies or activities that you enjoy

Take time to focus on and evaluate your life moves/goals

If you think you may need to see a therapist, just try it

Be grateful for who and what you have in your life in this very moment

Remember that you’re exactly where you need to be