Why Therapy is a MUST
I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a young teen. My parents thought it was a phase. My ex told me I was crazy and used my struggles against me like a weapon. For years I would suffer, break down, stifle my mental issues, move on. Rinse and repeat.
I did, on occasion, think of therapy or medication. But I always pushed the thought aside, almost as quickly as it would come. “Only crazy people take medication,” I told myself. Or, “I don’t have it that bad. Others suffer so much more than me and even they don’t go to therapy.” I forced myself to believe that I wasn’t suffering as badly as I was, and that I could just power through.
But still I would go through episodes, periods of time, where my depression was really bad, or my anxiety was really high, or both. It seemed to come out of nowhere, would hit hard, and then leave.
This summer, I was with my family and friends for a wedding in Colorado. I was exhausted and feeling pretty anxious and overwhelmed so I decided to go to our room where our daughter was sleeping and took a nap. I woke up in the middle of one of the most intense panic attacks I had ever had. I felt paralyzed, trapped in my immobile body while my mind raced and my heart was pounding a mile a minute. During this time, my daughter woke up from her nap and started crying. She was only feet away from me, and yet my panic attack was so intense, I couldn’t even move those feet from my bed to comfort her. It was terrifying. My husband eventually came into the room after the worst had passed, and I told him what happened. That is when I decided that I couldn’t ignore my anxiety and depression anymore. When we arrived home, I found a therapist and made an appointment, and it is the best decision I have ever made.
Getting to the point of being able to admit you need help and seek therapy can be hard. It can feel scary or defeating. But so, so often, it can be the best thing you do for yourself and can literally save your sanity, even your life. This might mean any combination of therapy, medication, in-patient care, or something else entirely. For me, therapy was the game-changer, and I’m going to tell you why.
Reasons Why Therapy is a Must
1. Validation. Especially as a parent, it’s easy to believe you are doing worse at life than you actually are. You dismiss your needs as inconsequential and trivial. You tell yourself you need to do more, do better and put your own well being on the shelf.
A therapist can validate you. Genuinely and sincerely. They are the ones who, after hearing your struggles, your pains, where you think you keep falling short, tell you, “You’re doing a really great job!”
“You’re a good mom!”
“You’re doing the best you can!”
“Give yourself some credit!”
2. Listening. No matter how many friends you have or how close they are, it’s hard to find someone who will really listen. I mean, 110% of their attention on you: really, truly listening. A therapist is there to listen and listen well. No fighting for attention over a video game or phone or talking over the kids’ interruptions or censoring yourself because you’re afraid of what someone will think about what you’re sharing. No matter what it is about – a painful memory, a hard day at work, relationship problems – they are right there to listen to you.
3. Challenges. Choosing to go to therapy is one challenge, but it doesn’t end there. While just having someone to listen to you and validate you helps immensely, there’s usually other things that need to happen to create a positive change in your life and those are things only you can do. Your therapist will often give you achievable challenges to help you on your journey to a healthier mental, emotional and relational life. For me, my depression and anxiety made it really difficult for me to have any sort of motivation or complete any tasks. My therapist challenged me to just start standing up immediately after breakfast and to stay standing for 10 minutes. I could walk around, do some dishes, or just stand, but the challenge was to get my body used to completing one simple task at the beginning of the day. And it worked! The challenge of simply standing for 10 minutes continued into being able to accomplish what I needed to do in the very beginning of the day instead of becoming overwhelmed and defeated by my lack of productivity, and doing nothing at all.
4. Safe and sound. Sometimes we have a hard time even telling our partners our darkest fears, our deepest secrets and our truest feelings. We may do this because of shame, fear of rejection or not being taken seriously. Your therapist is a safe space. You can unload without fear of judgment or gossip. You can share knowing what you say won’t leave that room. You can unburden yourself knowing that you’ll be met with compassion and care. It’s amazing the weight that is lifted off of your shoulders when you’re able to speak freely and know the person listening to you isn’t there to judge or reprimand you.
Things to Consider When Looking For a Therapist
1. Insurance. Will your insurance cover therapy sessions? What therapists are within your network? Calling your insurance company directly can help answer these questions.
2. Provider Identity. Do you have a preference for a male or female therapist? What about a religious or non-religious practice? Go with what makes you most comfortable.
3. Therapeutic Approaches and Specialties. What kind of therapy approaches does the therapist offer? What are their specialities? A quick Google search can help outline the different psychotherapy approaches there are, and a therapist’s website will often have all the information about their specialities and if that matches what will best benefit you. If a website is not available or not clear, a call to their office should provide you with the information you need.
It is okay if you have to try a few therapists before you find one you really mesh well with, and who can give you the help you need. This is a professional you will be sharing a lot of vulnerability and trust with, and you should not settle for one you aren’t entirely comfortable with, or one with whom you feel that you can’t be open. It may take a few different appointments with a few different therapists, and that is totally fine. They expect that. What’s important is that you find someone who works for you, even if it’s not the very first one.
Making the decision to see a therapist can be a hard one, but I know you can do it! And I hope this helps you in taking that first step!