Why Giving Therapy Another Chance Made All the Difference
I had my first therapy session last night. OK, it wasn’t the first time I had gone to see a “professional,” but there’s a reason why I consider this my first actual session.
Let me explain.
For the past four years, I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression and through a lot of Googling and talking with people in the industry, I’m pretty sure I also have borderline personality disorder. And in the process of trying to find myself and ways to cope with my personal life, family, work, passion projects and finding time to keep up with friends, I’d lost myself and my way. The anxiety was getting worse. It was spiraling out of control and all-encompassing.
It took a lot of courage for me to ask for help. Despite the stigma and lack of support available to me, I was actually proud of myself for being able to reach out for help.
I understand there is a learning curve between therapist and patient. That everybody works a little differently and their styles of communication are different. But let me tell you, this was horrendous. My therapists (I had gone to multiple because I was desperate for help) didn’t help at all. Actually, they made things worse.
I’ve had a therapist pick up another phone call during my session and actually carry on conversations while I was there. He would talk to nurses and flirt with them, with me sitting in my room trying not to fall apart. I’ve had a therapist do nothing but prescribe drugs to me, at higher and higher doses even though I said the side effects were so strong I couldn’t function. I know medication — just like finding a therapist — takes time to find the right one and for them to work, but the side effects were so bad I couldn’t work or go to school. I was shaking, throwing up. Nauseous to the point I couldn’t eat anything but soup. Some had me awake and wired all night, others had me so drowsy I couldn’t even keep my eyes open at work. The side effects were endless and when I mentioned it, I was just prescribed “better” drugs to help “cure me.”
Not once had these therapists tried to actually talk to me. Help me find the root of my problems. The best advice I’d received was to just “think about what was making you feel anxious and depressed” and then just “don’t let it affect you.” Oh wow. Great. I wouldn’t have thought of that all on my own.
I was looking for someone to listen to me, to help me find coping mechanisms. But instead all got were condescending, patronizing adults who said “I didn’t even know what life was about” because “I was too young and privileged to experience real pain and struggles.”
These terrible experiences turned me off from therapy for years. And in the meantime, I had resorted to self-medication through alcohol. My behavior was getting more and more extreme, erratic, manipulative and difficult to control. Soon it was out of my control.
After a lot of urging, support and unconditional love from my best friend, (I love you Libby) I decided to give it another go. And it was everything I had hoped it would be.
I had lost faith in therapy because of my terrible experiences. I had dismissed the entire field because of my bad experiences, attributing it to the field itself, rather than a few bad therapists. I believed a few bad apples meant all of them would be bad, that I was better off on my own, that I could find a way to cope – until I couldn’t.
My therapist, Natalie, was understanding, open, gentle and everything I needed. She was a good listener and did not once insinuate I was the one to blame for my own internal turmoil. She validated my thoughts and feelings and not once did I feel patronized or looked down upon.
Therapy was a big step for me. Looking beyond those whom I knew to trust a complete stranger with the deepest, darkest parts of myself. To open myself up and expose the most vulnerable places of myself to a complete stranger, the parts that had been ridiculed and prodded by others. What I learned yesterday was not just about the therapy or asking for help. I learned the person who offers you the help is just as important. Finding a professional, someone with the appropriate experience, someone who understands without judgment, makes all the difference.
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