What I Learned from My Year in Therapy

 

 

3-psychologicaltherapybox.jpgI started seeing Constance in April 2017. I was apprehensive to go at first. My early experiences with therapy had been less than ideal, and baring my soul to a stranger with a clipboard wasn’t on top of my to- do list.

But I needed to talk to someone. My recent sexual assault was eroding me. I was angry, anxious, and sad all the time. I drank most nights, avoided being left alone under any circumstance, and alternated between over-exercising and crying in my work bathroom because I couldn’t handle how crazy and overwhelmed I fit.

And I knew things would only get worse if I didn’t talk to someone. Someone who was equipped to listen to my problems, and provide me with solutions and tools for dealing with them. Someone who I could show my scary side to without fear of judgment or rejection. So I quickly researched options in my insurance network, and scheduled a session with the first therapist available.

Constance and I started off meeting once a week. The first month was mostly an introduction to my psyche (read: childhood). We talked about my upbringing and the feelings of fear and resentment I had but refused to acknowledge. She probed me on my dating past, and helped me better understand how my fears of sex and intimacy closely tied to my deeply internalized feelings of abandonment and lack of self-love. We identified my behavior patterns, triggers, and started to piece together why I do things I do, and why I see the world the way I see it.

Slowly but surely, we started to devise ways to address and override my maladjusted coping mechanisms. We came up with a list of actionable things I could do to improve my everyday health. I learned how to reframe my toxic thoughts, and identified ways I could show love to myself and the people I cared about.

Most importantly, I learned how to show up for myself and make self-care a top priority.

At our one year anniversary, I noticed a change in our relationship. Our therapy sessions became quieter. The session agenda turned from identifying and addressing issues to simply catching up and checking in. I was in a good place. Such a good place that Constance suggested we only meet on a bi-weekly basis.

Two months later,  we switched to once a month. The thought of only coming in once a month terrified me at first. I was petrified I’d fall off the wagon or unravel without her constant supervision. But Constance reassured me of the progress I made, of all the tactics I had mastered in taking caring of myself. She reminded me of the point of therapy: to teach people how to better care for themselves, not to create a dependent relationship where someone cannot function without the guidance of another.

Last week, the day before my next session, I learned my insurance company switched mental health providers. Constance is no longer covered. I’ve been forced to cancel all my upcoming appointments with her, and for the first time in over a year,  I have no upcoming therapy appointment on my calendar.

Constance emailed me to express her regrets over the termination of our therapy sessions. She let me know she was proud of all the progress I had made in the past year, and that she’d be happy to welcome me back should anything change. It’s been scary and unsettling to know I can’t rely on her, but I feel confident that I have the tools in place to care for myself in the meantime.

Therapy is great. It’s not some miracle solution to all your problems though. I’ve grown and improved from going in a lot of ways, but I still have a long way to go. I’m still anxious and experience depressive episodes more than I care to admit. I struggle to stand my ground, and I’m still afraid to engage in sexual intimacy. But I have learned how to be present, and more empathetic and affectionate. I’ve learned how to reframe things, and recognize everything good in my life rather than focus on all the bad.

I’m still very much a work in progress, but the fact there is progress at all is a good thing.

Are you looking for a therapist? Not sure where to start? If you’re Boston-based,  check out this tool to find therapists near you!

 

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