I have never been a fan of therapy. After every session I tried to make up a reason as to why I couldn’t go the next week. The days prior to an appointment were spent faking a cough here and there, sniffling just enough so when the day came I could blame a sickness and say I didn’t want it to spread. I had a web of lies all to get out of therapy, that was how much I hated it.
That being said, therapy is not a bad thing. It is supposed to help you get through your problems and find constructive ways of dealing with everything, especially when it comes to mental illness. Part of the reason I didn’t like it was because I didn’t want anything to be wrong with me, and having to go and talk to someone about my life for an hour every week made it unmistakingly obvious that something wasn’t right. Like they say, ignorance is bliss, and having a conversation that centered around myself and everything that seemed impossible for me was not ignorance, it was facing my problems head on. Another reason I didn’t like it was because don’t like talking about myself. I have never been one of those people to share my thoughts or experiences with others, especially very personal ones, but here I was sitting on a couch and expected to talk about my deepest secrets. Therapy was daunting, and it was the worst part of my week every week.
I’m one of those people who just gets through the pain without working it out. It’s like when you get cut and it’s just a huge gash and it’s bleeding and you know you need to get stitches, but you don’t. Instead of going to the hospital, I just put on bandaids. The bandaids were music, drawing, writing, reading, sometimes even sleeping. If I was feeling especially caring, I would put on some neosporin in the form of journaling or telling someone about what was going on. For a cut so deep, a bandaid just won’t do, and it will fall off, and my way of dealing with it was just putting on another one, and another one, and another one. I kept thinking that I could fix myself and when one thing didn’t work then there must’ve been something else that would. I never gave that up. Therapy would have been my stitches, but I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own. It was something that I couldn’t do because of myself. I held myself back.
If you want to know how to go to therapy, you may have been more motivated than I was. I didn’t have a choice on whether or not I wanted to go to therapy. It wasn’t like I could lock myself in my room and yell at my parents and somehow get out of it. My school required me to go to therapy as I was unable to attend classes anymore. I was just 15, a sophomore in high school, and just a single day at school was too horrible for me that I’d spend the morning dry heaving and crying before going back to bed. The school put me on something called homebound, where I essentially taught myself all the material and met with a tutor for each subject once a week for two hours, where I would go over everything and take tests. To get this program, I needed a doctor’s note that diagnosed me, and I needed a note from a therapist claiming I was reaching out for ongoing treatment. My choices were to go to therapy or to drop out of high school.
My first therapy appointment went even worse than expected. I had chosen a lady that I had met a few years previously, briefly, and thought she might be a good fit. I tried my best to explain how I felt, though I was unable to say a lot of words. This whole thing was new to me and I was truly scared. She knew beforehand that I had been having trouble more in the past few months, but that my mom knows that it’s been longer. She knew that I wasn’t in school and that every morning I would try to get ready but could never drag myself out of the door. She knew that I had spent mornings crying and pleading with my mom asking her to not make me go back to school, please. After everything she knew she told me that in just another session, maybe two, I would be completely cured and could get back out there and live again. I sat there for a second, hoping I’d heard wrong. Something that affected my entire life in every single way was now being deduced to something that would take a session, maybe two to fix? As soon as I got out of her office and met my mom in the waiting room, I begged for her to cancel my next appointment and to find someone else. She told me I should see her a few more times at least, give her a chance, but I could not. I felt disrespected and so ashamed that if she thought it was that simple to fix then maybe I’m just being overdramatic. Maybe there is something really wrong with me, something way bigger.
My second therapist I stuck with just because I felt like I couldn’t change again. I would sit there and tell pointless stories about my childhood in a way that sounded like we were making progress, but I knew to keep myself at a distance. She didn’t make me any worse, but I wasn’t getting any better. I thought that maybe there was something so wrong with me that I couldn’t even get help! It felt horrible and I was too ashamed to tell anyone that it wasn’t working, so I went back to a fake smile and pretending life was okay, all the while unable to leave my house. When my junior year came around and I wasn’t able to go back to school, we knew something was wrong and I needed to find someone else.
I started with my third therapist and things from there went pretty well. I found out that I wasn’t good at talking, so we tried something different. This therapist was trained in hypnotherapy. Instead of trying to talk through everything going on, we took different approaches, ones that seemed to settle within me better. While I saw her for over two years, we still hadn’t talked a lot about what happened, but we handled my emotions and I was able to get back up and going. It was different, but exactly what I needed.
In the past few months I switched to another therapist, needing someone new who I could start fresh with. I felt like I wasn’t able go back and talk about some things. I went through, calling a bunch of different therapists before deciding on her. I thought we might be a good fit. My mom wanted me to start therapy again, but I knew I needed to choose who I saw.
A therapist is someone very personal. You need to be comfortable with them, you need to be able to tell them everything and feel safe. It takes time. Sometimes you need to go through several therapists before you find the right one. In the past 4 years I have been through a bunch of different therapists, to the point where I thought therapy was pointless and I’d never get to a point where I could openly talk about what’s wrong. One of my friends, who has been through therapy, told me that finding the right therapist is like finding the right pair of jeans. There are a ton that are in your size and that fit you, but there is only one pair that feel like they were made just for you. A therapist is just like that, there are a thousand in your area, hundreds that specialize in your problem, but only one that is going to right for you. Don’t give up if you don’t find the right person at first, just keep trying and try not to be discouraged.
The other thing I will say is that choosing your own therapist is helpful. If you have to go, you might as well choose someone that you feel like you’d have a fit with. Have some ideas on what you’d want in a therapist, if you want a male or female one, if you want someone who specializes in anxiety or depression or anything else, etc. Choose someone who you think is going to be good for you, because you are the one who knows you best. The first step to healing is realizing that there is a way to get better, and then you just need to continue on that path.
By: Jennilee Bradley, Anxiety In Teens Contributor