After three+ years of hard work, I feel like I just "graduated" from therapy. I have always struggled with anxiety, but for a really long time I thought it was just "who I was" and nothing could be done. I had gone to a therapist in Wilmington back in college, but it was very superficial and nothing really came of it. You really have to be willing to strip off all of the layers and be completely vulnerable and honest, which is incredibly hard. I finally found someone here in Virginia that I felt comfortable with and could be honest enough with.
Some things about therapy:
1. Your anxiety/depression/etc is not WHO you are, it's something you deal with. I didn't understand that before. My therapist helped me to separate my anxiety from me as a person and hold it out at a distance, helping me look at it, be curious about it and figure out where it was coming from.
2. Don't feel bad if you don't feel comfortable with your therapist right away. If in a few sessions it really doesn't feel right, find another one! It's not worth your time or money, and they won't take it personally (if they do, they aren't a good therapist).
3. It may take a year, but be honest with your therapist. They have heard it ALL - believe me. Even if it's the worst thing you could EVER THINK OF, they will not judge you or put you in jail for your thoughts. They are just thoughts. They are not who you are. Thoughts can come from all sorts of defense mechanisms that we build from childhood on, and they may just no longer serve/protect you in the way they used to. Now they might just be bullying you.
4. When anxious feelings come up, it is completely natural to want to block them out and push them away, but that will just make them worse. It sounds "nuts", but my therapist has taught me to treat those "parts" (think about the movie Inside Out, and if you haven't seen it - stop reading and go right now!) as the small child I was when I learned those defense mechanisms. I have to look at the part of me that puts bad thoughts in my head as a scared little girl who's just trying to protect me from the "bad guys" and keep me on high alert every second of every day. When I'm really deep in the anxiety, it feels like a MEAN EVIL thing doing this to me, but it's not. It's a scared part, and I need to soothe it, welcome it, and remind it that everything is ok!
After being in therapy for a short while, a few events happened (including the Navy Yard shooting) and Mark, the therapist and I finally realized I needed more help than talk therapy alone. Even though I was SO AGAINST medicine ("I can do this myself, if I just pray more/meditate more/do more yoga/sleep more/trust God more/insert-your-reason-here-more"), I trusted my therapist enough when she said that a low dose of anxiety medicine would get me to a place that I could actually DO the work that therapy needs done. I was so high on the anxiety scale (they call it out of the window of tolerance), that I couldn't calm down enough to do the actual therapy. I went on a low dose of Zoloft. Ever since then, I've been on a low dose (now the generic for Cymbalta), and I can't imagine feeling how I used to. I might be on this medicine forever, and I might eventually ween off of it, but I'm so glad I trusted my therapist enough to try. I'm also so thankful that Mark has taken the time to really understand my anxiety and ask the questions I couldn't about the medicine.
The medicine didn't fix me, but it got me to a place where I could do the hard work, and I'm so proud of myself for sticking with it even when it was so hard to sit there WITH my scariest thoughts. I was always in a safe space and I thank my therapist for that.
One of the reasons I started therapy in the first place was this baby that is coming in less than 2 months. We hadn't even planned for her yet, but I didn't want any of my anxiety transferring to her while she was safely growing in my body. Did you know you can transfer negative feelings, anxiety and depression to your fetus? I didn't want that. I wanted to do everything I possibly could to protect her from that, because it was something I COULD protect her from. I know there will be tons in this world that I cannot protect her from (Lord Help Me), but this I could try.
If you ever want to talk to someone about therapy or anxiety medicine, I'm here. I think everyone in the whole world should go to therapy, no matter how wonderful their childhood was, no matter how happy they are, no matter how "put together" they feel or seem to others. Some things you just can't say to your friends and family, and even if you can, do they really want to hear about it over and over again or know how to help you?? I have the most amazing friends and family, and I had a loving childhood! I even have people who I can go to to listen to me whenever I need to. I knew that this was bigger than that and that I needed a professional, someone who was trained in exactly this, to listen to me and help me sort everything out.
Adding to the list from above....
5. Before going to therapy, I imagine I was like a box of puzzle pieces. Some pieces were bent, some were upside down, some were right side up, and some were even missing! Therapy helped me to dump all the pieces on the floor and start to turn them over, examine them, straighten them out and start to fit them together. I will never be a full perfect picture, but I can at least tell you what the picture looks like from what I've put together so far! And I like it :)
I know I will probably go back to therapy eventually (I stopped because of the time I'm taking going to baby doctor appointments and getting ready for her to come), but my therapist and I felt like now was a good pausing point as I enter into being a mother!
In conclusion, if you are at all curious about therapy, try it! There are tons of specialties and you will eventually find what you need. Just do the hard work and it will pay off!
If you made it all the way here, thanks for listening.