I have been going to therapy for about 6/7 months now and it has literally changed my life.
I knew for the longest time that I needed therapy, but I couldn’t quite imagine the changes it would have on me as a person, my mindset, lifestyle, and journey. It’s been incredible so far, and I still think I have a way to go.
For as long as I can remember I have struggled with my mental illness. I first noticed depressive symptoms when I was in my early teens and after a few years, I finally got some medical intervention at the age of 18.
Unfortunately, this intervention was simply some strong antidepressants which didn’t really work for me. Over a period of 10 years or so I went on and off anti-depressants but I never felt like they made enough of a difference to me. I never felt like they got to the core of my issue.
Over this period I did have two short courses of therapy. One was with a local counsellor at my GPs, and the other was a CBT therapist at my university. Both stints were only 6 weeks long and I distinctly remember feeling deflated when that therapy period was over. I felt like I had just started to find my flow with the therapist, had just started to open up, and just started to dig into what was needed.
Life stuff happened, and my mental illness got progressively worse. It was so bad that I was not able to function. At all.
As I had lived with mental illness since I was a child, I was pretty adept at hiding it. I could meet people in real life and create a facade so they wouldn’t know what was really happening to me. But eventually I lost the strength to keep up the facade and I withdrew into my own head, and even started to feel unable to leave the house.
Unfortunately, I was let down over and over again by my doctors. I got referred from doctor to doctor, department to department, all the while having to go through constant assessments (which are pretty traumatic each time) and never actually getting any treatment.
Eventually, we gave up on the public health system and thankfully we had enough money to pay for therapy privately. And it’s been the best thing we could’ve done. I say we, it was Raj who found my therapist, made the appointment, and got me out of the house to see her.
We’ve struck gold. My therapist is excellent, she is smart, astute, and intuitive. She takes a multi-disciplinary approach to therapy as there are many different forms of psychotherapy out there. She left the public health system as she was disenfranchised with the way mental health care was managed. She agreed that the short term therapy was not useful for someone with such long-term mental health issues such as me. Likewise, she was appalled with the way I was passed around from doctor to doctor without any treatment. Having a private therapist having given me the freedom to have long-term therapy in a way that suits me as an individual with a specific set of needs.
A process, not a short-term fix
Therapy needs to be a commitment. It needs to be undertaken with the understanding that at times it might feel like it’s getting worse, but in the long run, it’s going to get better.
For the first few months of therapy, I was wiped out. I would come home after my 50-minute session and immediately climb into bed. My brain would feel frazzled. It was like a brain workout. I needed at least two to four hours of just lying still to allow my brain to come back to ‘normal’ or at least functioning.
I wouldn’t be able to plan to do anything after therapy on those days because I knew I wasn’t able to think straight. Sometimes I’d be overwhelmed with sadness, other times I was just feeling numb, sometimes I just felt quiet.
And what was happening was that my entire brain was processing. So even though the conscious part of my brain was only at work for those 50 minutes of the therapy session, the rest of the brain was still working on stuff for hours afterwards.
In fact, I’d argue my brain has been constantly processing every day since I started therapy.
Those first few months were tough. I felt unable to function fully. It was all rather discombobulating.
It’s kind of like when you have a detox, or a massage, all the toxins in your body rise to the surface before you can process and rid them out of your system.
With therapy, it brings all the mind/brain toxicity to the fore before you can allow it to pass through, out of the system.
Nowadays, in the past month or two, I’d say I’m able to go to therapy and still function later in the day. I bounce back quicker, I suppose.
This is progress.
At around the 6 months mark, I believe I felt the shift happen. I began to be more open to myself and my wellbeing needs. I didn’t have to force the process of looking after myself. Instead, I was able to be open to learning more about my mindset at an increasing pace. I think my therapy process has hit a tipping point and the breakthroughs and epiphanies are coming thick and fast.
Sure, I have weeks where the anxiety symptoms creep in. For about a week or 10 days, I had a weird tightness at the top of my lungs and I was a little despondent that I wasn’t getting better.
But as my therapist has pointed out, these things come in waves and maybe the strength of those waves will subside over time, but I don’t need to beat myself about it if symptoms do come back.
Therapy is a process.
So how has therapy changed my life?
Therapy has helped me work on my mindset. It has allowed me to find answers to things that were holding me back. It’s given me tools to cope with depression and anxiety symptoms. It has kickstarted my brain to work on the therapy process. I have learned that the therapy process is a long term undertaking that involves work beyond the weekly sessions. And therapy has given me the space to sit with somebody kind, open, and willing to help me get better in a professional, experienced, and guided manner.
No friend or family member could do what my therapist does. She is an expert professional in her field and she is exactly what I needed in my life to get better.
Therapy has changed my life for the better, I’m on an upward trajectory and feel stronger every day that passes. I feel brain functioning better, I feel more connected to my body, and I know that I am in an increasingly more positive place than I ever was.
I am so proud of myself for being open to this process, even when it was painful. I know that I can be, will be, and am a strong woman with so much to offer. Now, with the therapy process at my side, I can live the life I know I am meant to lead.
I’m not ashamed of my mental illness. It was and is a part of who I am. I am proud to be who I am right here and now.
I share this journey with you on my blog because I believe that speaking honestly and authentically about our experiences, particularly those that still have some stigma attached to them, so that others may understand or not feel alone.
If you are struggling with a mental illness, or even if you just feel a bit ‘not right’, I highly recommend therapy. It has been a transformative process for me, and I know my life is all the better for it.