Photo by Meghan Bustard
Why I finally went to see a counsellor and you should too!
A few years ago, I was sitting at a long table with a group of my girlfriends at our monthly Fake Book Club hangout. These girls are, to put it simply, the best. The 5 of us became friends as adults and were all on similar enough career paths in terms of skill set (well, except for one, because her level of intelligence is unreachable for the rest of us LOL) without being in a position of competition in the Vancouver job market. Since we didn’t feel as though we had to censor much, we began our hangouts by talking about EVERYTHING. We let it all out. I used to call it “girl church” because I’d leave feeling like I used to after a powerful church sermon. It was beyond therapeutic. We deemed ourselves the Fake Book Club/Real Wine Club because we’d meet monthly like a book club would, except that we’d only drink wine and rarely discuss literature. Anyway, there we were a few years ago, and therapy came up in conversation. Everyone at the table told a story referencing their therapist and I was in SHOCK. “You ALL go to therapy?” I asked in astonishment. It was a unified yes. “It’s really great, Alicia, you should try it.” They told me. I got the names of a few of their counsellors and saved them on my phone.
Regular, everyday people went to therapy? When did this happen? Why did no one tell me?! I was taught that therapy was just those who’d had something big and justifiable happen in life that required professional help. I was struggling, sure, but I’d never thought of therapy as an option for me. The narrative was that you were considered “weak” if you couldn’t just muscle through a rough patch, and/or compartmentalize things and move on. Considering that this happened in the height of an episode of depression (that I was semi in denial about/felt shame for), I sure wish I’d listened to them at the time.
The secret’s out. I’ve been. Therapy isn’t this big outrageous deal that everyone makes it out to be. In fact, I bet it’s something that a lot of people you admire the success of practice regularly. No matter your age, your financial situation or your struggles, I can assure you that help is available and that sitting on a couch across from a counsellor could potentially change your life for the better. You deserve that kind of happiness, you really do.
Don’t Expect A Miracle After Your First Appointment
You guys, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The first session is a bit awkward. I fumbled around my story, making choppy jumps to different thoughts and I’m sure my therapist still doesn’t quite get the full picture. It’s an introductory period, though. My first session was surprisingly emotional and I fought back tears the whole time and did end up crying at the end. I think it was the weight of everything I’d been carrying finally feeling a bit lighter, just by knowing I was sharing some of the burden with someone completely unbiased and non judgemental. I also didn’t have the courage in my very first meeting to REALLY share the whole picture, but that brings me to the next point.
You Have To Be Open and Honest With Yourself
This might not be something that comes naturally to you, but it’s time to be vulnerable and ready to change. Getting used to the idea of bettering yourself and digging deep down into what makes you tick. I think that counselling works best for those who are open to these ideas. A common misconception is that a therapist will give you all the answers to your problems. That is not what they do. They ask you questions, make you aware and curious about thoughts and patterns. They point things out about you that you hadn’t realized were there and sometimes, how much trouble they were causing you. It’s YOU that’s doing the work, they just guide you through it. They will provide you with exercises and tools to support you, but they cannot “fix” you.
It Is Uncomfortable
What I’ve recently realized about adulthood, is that you have to learn to be okay with discomfort. It happens a LOT and you simply have to face it. Sitting across from a stranger and talking about your thoughts and deepest shame isn’t natural. Also, talking only about myself is something I would never do as a people pleaser. It’s a completely foreign concept. But, this is how you get to the good stuff. The things that are buried deep down that you’ve kept filed away. Peel those layers away and begin your spiritual revolution, you are worth it!
There Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of
What’s the worst that could happen if you go to therapy? What are you actually afraid of? I was scared to ask for help, because it’s something I’ve never been good at. I was worried that I wouldn’t jive with the therapist. I also think that deep down, I was probably terrified about what might be uncovered. Turns out, I was letting fear rule a lot of things in my life. It’s about being brave and facing stuff you might find out about yourself that you don’t like, or that are tough to admit. The feedback is so valuable and my experience with counselling actually hasn’t been scary at all. Additionally, remember that your first session is an assessment of the counsellor as well. Experiencing therapy with someone you feel comfortable and safe with is essential to the process.
You Are Not Alone
I’ve been trying to shed this keeping up appearances mindset that’s so ingrained in me and share more with others about mental wellness. Every instance of vulnerability I’ve expressed has been met by positivity. People are either supportive and encouraging or they feel connection with my sentiment and relate somehow. And if you are to share with someone who judges you, that’s completely on them. That’s their own insecurities shining through. I would love if we could break down the stigma of admitting to our mental wellness struggles and normalize seeking help. Our world would be a much better place because of it.
One hour chats every few weeks have already led me to improve areas such as my confidence, career/work, dedication to fitness, and my relationships with friends and family. I’m now only 3 sessions in and can tell you that I will go for life. How great that when something big and overwhelming happens in the future (because you know it will, life is messy like that), I will already have the support and therapy experience in place to get help.
I hope that we can talk about this more. If this is something that speaks to you, then speak up. Share this post, share your experience in the comments, share your struggles with someone kind in your life that you can trust, and if you aren’t already, consider sharing your thoughts with a counsellor. You are deserving of happiness and clarity, and your journey doesn’t have to be so isolating. Love and light, my friends.