It’s been almost two months since I finished going to psychotherapy, and there is still a lot to reflect on.
It has been one of the most insightful experiences I’ve been through so far.
I learnt so much more about myself in those 12 sessions.
In this week’s musings, I want to share some general reflections on my experience. I say ‘general’ because I’m not ready to talk about the more in-depth stuff yet.
Wherever you are with your therapy journey, hopefully, some of this stuff will resonate with you. And if you’ve never been to therapy, I hope my reflections will give you some insight into what to expect if you ever find yourself sitting in a chair opposite a therapist.
Therapy isn’t anything to fear. But it won’t always be easy
I think it helped that I knew I needed therapy, but there wasn’t one bit of me that feared going. The feeling was similar to admitting that I needed some help in the first place.
I knew I had done everything I could to help myself. I had tried all the tools in my toolkit. And nothing was working. Reaching out for help felt liberating and almost exciting. I knew it was what I needed.
I had two concerns when I headed into my first session:
1) Would I like my therapist?
2) What if they uncovered stuff I didn’t even know I had buried?
Thankfully, I clicked with my therapist instantly and felt very comfortable in her presence. I knew I would be able to open up to her.
I was pleased to discover that there wasn’t anything too dodgy that I had buried deep in the dark depths of my mind either, which was a relief!
But none of that’s to say that therapy was easy. It certainly wasn’t a walk in the park.
I thought I had turned up ready to bare my soul for the first 2-3 weeks of the process. I might’ve fooled myself, but there was no fooling my therapist. I had spent so many years looking through rose-tinted spectacles that I had lost sight of reality. That in itself is a difficult pill to swallow.
Therapy will make you see the world differently. It will open your eyes to not just your own behaviours but also those of your nearest and dearest.
It will challenge your relationships. Not just the one you have with yourself, but with others too.
It will hurt your head as you try to process the new information you are gathering. It will hurt your head as you realise the reality of your past. It will hurt your head as you slowly but surely come to accept the person you now are with this new knowledge.
And the chances are, it will make you cry.
I spent weeks determined that my therapist wasn’t going to break me. In reality, she didn’t want to make me cry, but she did want me to be vulnerable. And eventually, she won that battle too.
Not everybody will understand what you are going through
Some people will act funny when you tell them you’re going to see a therapist. Some people will resent your courage. Other people may be fearful about what will come up. Others won’t want to talk about it. And some people will want to tell you that everything your therapist has told you is a load of old codswallop.
It took me a while to realise who I felt ‘safe’ talking to about my experience. And who I didn’t.
You don’t need to open up to anyone other than your therapist if you don’t want to. But it helped me, especially once I figured out who I could talk to about it.
Once I discovered who I could open up to, it helped me to process my thoughts.
One of my closest friends sat back and listened to me talk over regular voice notes without passing judgment or giving me any advice. She was just there, letting me chat away whilst being there for me.
You have to be open to the process
One of the perks of being me is that I’m very aware of my brain activity. I’m fascinated by how my brain works and why it sometimes behaves the way it does.
The first day I walked through the therapist’s door, I wanted to know more.
I wanted to understand why I felt the way I did.
And I was open to discovering new things and taking away new information.
I knew I couldn’t sit there as someone who writes about self-care and well-being and not be open to the process.
Being open to the process didn’t mean that I didn’t have my own internal battles. I was able to turn up each week eager to find out more, despite Mr Resilience regularly turning up (more on him to come!).
I was open to learning, and I was open to change. I believe my adventure into therapy was a good one because of my openness.
If you’re like me and you have a brain that likes to figure out why it does stuff, you’ll find that giving it a break is paramount. After every therapy session, I would wander into town, sit in a cafe, and eat cake. Sometimes I would do some work. Other times I would sit quietly and digest the new information I now possessed. But it became my Thursday ritual, and I’ve maintained the routine ever since, even though it now looks more like Marketing & Cake than Therapy & Cake!
Resilience is a good superpower to have. But it’s not always welcome
Ahh, my good friend, Mr Resilience. I have a love-hate relationship with my resilience. It’s done a fantastic job protecting me from shit over the years. But it’s also done a tremendous job of not letting me be vulnerable.
Throughout my first few therapy sessions, Mr Resilience didn’t leave my side. He was always there, ready to justify why something had happened. Then one day, my therapist seemed to get rather pissed off with Mr Resilience. She bolted out of her chair, shoved the palm of her hand in my face and basically told him to do one.
From that moment on, whenever Mr Resilience shows up uninvited, I remind myself of my therapist doing this and immediately know what to do. I can tell Mr Resilience that it’s ok, that I am safe, and that it’s ok for him to stand down this time.
Therapy has helped me learn to love my resilience again. It’s also helped me to redirect my hatred towards it into something more kind and loving. My therapist helped me to understand that I didn’t want to lose Mr Resilience. He just needed to know that I was safe.
Whilst I’m winning my battle with my resilience, there’s still a long way for me to go to be completely vulnerable. But therapy isn’t going to fix everything overnight. I’m still very much a work in progress.
You will walk away as a different person
Therapy has the ability to change you.
But you have to be open to it.
You have to be prepared to let your barriers down.
You have to be prepared to be challenged.
You have to be prepared to look at your thoughts and behaviours, and those of others, in a new and different light.
You have to be prepared to deal with shit you didn’t think would come up.
You have to be prepared to view your previous and existing relationships differently.
You have to be prepared to take off those rose-tinted glasses.
But if you can do all those things, or at least try, you WILL come out of therapy a different person from the one who first walked through those doors.
I know I’ve changed.
I’m more self-aware.
I’ve added new tools to my mental health tool kit.
I’m also learning:
- To put stronger boundaries in place and re-enforcing others.
- To find ways for people to hear me and not just to listen to me.
- To put my mental health first.
- To be vulnerable.
- To feel safe.
As my therapist wrapped up our final session, we discussed what I would do next. Throughout the 12 weeks, I went from feeling scared of the sessions ending to wanting to pay privately once my free NHS sessions had finished. Yet, by the time my last session ended, I knew I had had enough for now.
My brain was exhausted. I had a ridiculous amount of information to process. I knew I needed to take a breather and catch my breath.
But I have no doubt that I will return to therapy one day.
And if you asked me today whether I would recommend seeing a therapist, I would say go for it!
One Comment Add yours
One problem with any psychological or psychiatric therapy is that it is similar to trying to look at photons (my physics 101 coming through 😉). The “mind” (note: not the brain) has a way of moving that defies accurate analysis. That’s why having someone else present to “look” is so valuable. When you “look” at a photon, you change its action, so one has to look “beside” the photon to “see” what it is like or what it is doing. We all need someone outside ourselves to be able to see what is happening in our minds. So the apostle James said, “Confess to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” And Paul had many “one another” phrases in his writings; use Biblegateway to look them all up, like the one in 2 Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”