Column: Starting Therapy

(Photo Illustration by Korin Chao)

There’s nothing like pandemic-induced isolation to help a person realize that something doesn’t feel right. You run out of shows to binge-watch, you don’t feel like baking anymore and even napping loses its appeal. 

All that is left is time — time to take a look at one’s mental health. 

Starting therapy is a daunting task because not only does it mean accepting the idea that you need help, but it involves making the hard decision to be vulnerable in front of a stranger. 

I know it can feel devastating when you realize that you’re not as OK as you think you are, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. 

Your problems and struggles are always valid, no matter how big or small they might feel. There’s no such thing as mental health struggles being too insignificant. 

Mental health isn’t a contest; no one has it worse or better than anyone else. This is something that I realized about my own mental health, and I remind myself that it’s not okay to compare my struggles to anyone else’s because that would deter me from getting help. 

Even after I finally decided to ask for help, it took some time before I got in touch with a therapist. 

Going to therapy isn’t a new experience for me. I first began attending therapy in 2016 for my depression and anxiety as a high school junio, but things are different this time around.  

Back then, I only went for a couple of months, and it honestly wasn’t a worthwhile experience because I was holding so much back.

I remember how much my feeling of privacy affected me when I first sought therapy, despite knowing about the legal confidentiality behind sessions

As a result, I was never as honest as I ought to have been with my therapist. I didn’t understand that my therapist was there to help me, not judge me.

It’s important for people to know that a therapist can’t legally tell your parents or anyone else what you talk about during your sessions unless they believe that you will harm yourself or others. Remember that your therapist can’t help you to the best of their ability if you’re not 100% honest with them. 

As a teenager, I had trouble with my first round of therapy because I didn’t know where to start. I was always at a loss for words when it came to talking and voicing my concerns. 

It can feel overwhelming when you’re trying to find the right place to start, but it’s important to remember that therapy is a process that follows your own pace, and your therapist is there to guide you.

I have resolved this issue by making a list of things that I want to talk about before each session. It’s difficult to recall things off the top of my head, especially when there’s so much that I feel like I need to get off my chest.

One thing that was eye-opening for me when I started therapy during lockdown was the amount of forms that my therapist had me fill out before our first session. A series of questions took inventory of any concerns that I had, especially when it came to my goals and what I wanted to achieve from therapy. 

Writing it all down and reflecting about my concerns felt freeing, like it lifted the weight off of my shoulders. 

If listing my problems and trauma down like a diary entry was that helpful, I could only imagine what talking about them with a professional would do for my mental health. 

I was scared and anxious about my decision to begin therapy again, even after I made my decision, but filling out the forms made me look forward to my very first session. 

Even with my newfound excitement, I still felt anxious before that first session. However, the amount of stress relief I felt when it was over made it all worth it.

I’ve attended for just over a month now, but it has already been unbelievably helpful. I still get nervous sometimes, but I think that knowing that I have an outlet for all my stress and worries has done wonders for my day-to-day anxiety. 

Due to COVID-19, I can only have sessions over the phone, but I hope I can attend in person one day. Staying home and quarantining has made me realize how important it is to take care of myself physically and mentally.

Mustering up the courage to decide to go to therapy was probably the best thing to come out of 2020. Self-care means investing in yourself and your mental health, and I can confidently say that it is 100% worth it. 

 

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