It takes a lot to say "I'm in therapy/counseling." While I'm not ashamed to share this information or hide it - hey it was even in my last blog post - there is something so vulnerable about saying it out loud. Thankfully, our culture is slowly shifting its mindset toward therapy and mental health, but there is still this fear that people will look at you and think "wow, what is wrong with them to have to go to therapy?"
I've thought about therapy for a long time. Throughout my anxiety struggles, I've thought, maybe I should learn the root of why I'm anxious from a psychological perspective, so I can learn better coping skills in my most anxious moments.
But, I never really pursued it. On my hardest days, I was able to push through and just rationalize that my faith, scripture, time, friends, or family would be the best medicine. And don't get me wrong - these things are essential, but there's always been a missing piece for me to take a true step forward. I've seen a biblical counselor through different churches I've attended over the years, but it's not quite the same as sitting down with a licensed therapist I pay money to.
And on the topic of medicine, I may have used it as a crutch to not actually pursue therapy, because hey, the medicine did and still does wonders. When I went back on anxiety medicine a year or two ago, my doctor encouraged me to pursue therapy for the exact reasons I mentioned above: to learn healthy coping skills so I may be able to fully (or at least in way better) tackle anxiety. And maybe one day, I wouldn't need medicine.
I seriously thought about it, and even got the name of someone locally. Several people I've worked with have shared their therapy journeys and encouraged me to take the plunge. Friends are months or years ahead of me in their therapy journeys and I can see how their lives have changed for the better.
It wasn't until depression hit during pregnancy and I was at an all time low, listening to a sermon that I finally said, "okay. I'll give it a go." You see, the sermon I was listening to was from a series on mental health - this sermon specifically highlighting anxiety and depression. After the sermon was a "mid week check in" with a staff member of the church and two therapists. I remember crying listening to this conversation, nodding my head and saying, "this is me." What ultimately pushed me to reach out to my now therapist is when the two therapists on screen discussed how our actions and behaviors are things our children see and learn. And while someone may have a natural inner struggle of anxiety, our children often learn anxious/depressive behaviors and reactions when they see their parents react to situations/life this way.
And that hit hard. It was convicting. While our kid(s) may have this struggle regardless, I surely want to do my part to help them learn how to process these feelings or at least learn healthy ways to do so.
Honestly, the only thing that held me back from really pursuing therapy was the cost. I didn't really want insurance to pay for it because of the additional hoops you have to jump through, but I couldn't afford hundreds of dollars a month either. After talking with Taylor extensively, he heavily encouraged me to go for it despite the cost and we'd figure it out.
Six weeks in and I can honestly say therapy has been one of the best decisions for me. While I'm still new to this and have a lot to learn, here's some things I've been processing lately. And maybe, just maybe, if you've toyed with the idea of therapy, this can be the final piece of encouragement you need to take this step.
First, I've spent time (almost) each day identifying my feelings. Asking myself how I feel, what it feels like in my body, and what do I need today to take care of myself? My therapist showed me the Feeling Wheel which really helps me process my feelings. I realized I often pushed my feelings down because I would feel guilty, heavy, anxious for having negative feelings. Here's the thing: feelings, whether positive or negative, aren't bad or wrong.
Second, I'm learning that feelings are valid. We say this a lot nowadays - mostly to others - but do we say it to ourselves and do we believe it to be true? We don't have to talk ourselves down for feeling because it's uncomfortable. What we do with those feelings and how we process does matter, but feeling in general is okay, it's good even. What I'm currently thinking, praying and discerning is when I do have big feelings, what is the healthiest and most biblical way to handle them? When does expressing our feelings become gossip? When do we allow feelings to uproot insecurities and cause us to have distorted thinking? Now, some of these issues may be more issues of the heart than our minds, but in all, if we can decipher our feelings and process them in a healthier way, we'll be more powerful to love, serve and be with others.
Which brings me to my next point: insecurities. We all have them. Don't deny it. As a strong enneagram 2, my biggest insecurity is feeling like people don't care in the way I do, or that I don't deserve the same love and affection that I love to give others. This is a work in progress for sure, but I'm working on valuing myself more and trusting those in my life and listening to + remembering positive affirmations when they come. Most often, the negative thoughts are things that aren't even real.
Finally, and this one may take the rest of my life, is coping, processing and working through mental + physical anxiety. Something we are just scratching the surface of, but something I'm excited and nervous to work through.
Here's the thing about therapy: some sessions leave you on the mountain top. Some, leave you feeling a little heavy - but that's okay. It's HARD to go in the depths of your mind and spirit and unearth years of things you've wrestled with. It takes time to unlearn habits we've had most of our lives. But without doing so, we won't be able to learn the root of our struggles to then learn how to work through them.
My journey has just begun. It's hard. I'm still working to feel like me, but it's so worth it. To be able to give my kid(s), my family, my work, my friends, my all, the full me (within healthy boundaries of course!) along with knowing who I am fully, and to use this journey to help others, it's all worth it.