How Therapy Has Changed My Life

A woman sits in a therapists office taking notes

Today’s post is going to be a more personal one, but it is one that I’ve wanted to write for a long time now. So if you aren’t into personal stories and opinions, then this is not the post for you. And that is okay, I have plenty of other content on this blog that you will find interesting and more useful to you!

But this one is going to be about my own personal journey with therapy.

Growing up, I never really had much of an opinion about therapy. I guess back then it was sort of a taboo subject still. No one that went to it talked openly about going to it. Even in the media at the time people talked about needing “couples therapy” when they were on the brink of divorce, but that was about it.

The only person who I really knew that I figured might go to therapy was my uncle who has struggled my whole life with bipolar disorder.

It is strange, because mental illness runs in my family, as I’m sure it runs in most people’s families. However, it wasn’t something my parents ever spoke of or prepared my sister and me for.

It wasn’t until my sister and I were young adults and my sister began having her own struggles, that it was sort of brought up in passing.

An offhand comment here or there, like “Oh yeah, Aunt Cindy has struggled with depression her entire life.” And then suddenly a change in subject.

Still, even then, the pre-therapy version of myself didn’t consider what that kind of communication really meant about my childhood or how we were raised.

Now that I have embarked on a huge journey learning to love myself and take better care of myself, I know myself now more than ever. I don’t have a problem reflecting on my past and realizing how different the person I used to be then, is different from who I am now, because I have changed and grown so much.

And I now understand that denial used to be one of my most significant coping strategies.

I think many of us are blind to what we go through as we grow up. As children, we don’t know any better. We think what we are going through is normal because we have no frame of reference to compare it to.

But even as we get older, and we realize certain things are not normal, some of us still continue to stay in a deep place of denial.

I was one of those people.

Even after I found myself in full burnout mode, and was put on stress leave from my career, I remember my therapist asking me about my childhood and me saying that I had the best childhood. That it was full of magic, and fun and imagination and creativity. Which is all true.

I grew up in such a fun, close-knit, creative, artsy community. We had arts festivals and grew up getting to paint squares on sidewalks and watching them paint murals on the outside of our school. Everyone in our neighborhood trusted each other so my friends and I would go on adventures, and bike rides and explore and have fun until the streetlights came on and we knew it was time to go home.

But when my therapist asked me if there were any big things that happened in my childhood that maybe weren’t so good, and I shrugged and started listing a few things off, and her eyes kind of got wide and she started writing notes that I realized I might be in denial.

I have childhood trauma.

I think most of us have childhood trauma. I think it is pretty impossible to get to adulthood without any emotional or mental trauma, just like it would be impossible to get to adulthood without any broken bones or physical scars. Unfortunately, it just happens.

But the problem with being in denial is that I never dealt with any of this… because I didn’t think there was anything to deal with.

And that is a huge problem and I know I’m not alone in that.

But if we never learn to deal with that trauma it can come back to haunt us. It can get bottled up inside of us and become like this blockage that can either stop of us from becoming the best version of ourselves or/and can manifest into all sorts of other negative things like chronic illness, mental illness, overwhelm, and so much more.

The first time anyone was ever really open with me about their experiences with therapy was when I first met my now husband. He had been through an awful separation and was dealing with a lot, and I thought it was great that he was so open about sharing that with me.

It took another six years or so for me to finally decide I needed to go speak to someone. I say all the time I could write a book about what my husband and I were dealing with in our personal lives, but basically, to summarize for the sake of this post, my stepsons who I love so much, were being abused and neglected in their other household, and the effects of that were bleeding over into our household and no one would help us or listen to us really.

So I started going to therapy to deal with all of that. And I was shocked. I remember how good it felt just to have someone who was there to just listen to you. They know the right questions to ask. They know the right things to say, and I just found that so productive and helpful.

But eventually, I stopped going because the person I was seeing couldn’t really help me anymore, and didn’t have any solutions for me, and didn’t seem to want to dig any deeper into anything.

Eventually, we were able to get my stepsons in to see someone, and we found a psychologist who specializes in trauma and PTSD, and because of what they had been through we knew she would be a good fit for them.

And she was.

She really helped to save us, all of us… not just my stepsons, and she got us through some really tough times.

But once that situation was finally over and dealt with, my stepsons didn’t feel they had a lot to say to her anymore, and stopped seeing her.

But about a year after that I started to really struggle myself, and when I started having full-on panic attacks I decided to go see her myself.

And she basically told me she had been waiting for me to be ready to come see her. She could physically see how much I was struggling all those times we brought the boys, even when I didn’t yet see it myself. But she didn’t feel it was her place to approach it or bring it up because I needed to be the one to want her help.

And help me she did.

She was the catalyst for my healing journey. She has helped me to bounce back from a place that I really thought there was no coming back from.

She has been such a positive and supportive sounding board in my life. She sparked my entire self-love and self-care journey. So, she sparked this blog really.

And I still go see her every month. Even though there are times now where she seems to tell me she doesn’t think I “need” to see her as much anymore, and that we have worked through so much and now many times when she tries to give me advice I already know the answer, or I have good solutions for myself already, I still find do get value out of going to see her.

But even if I didn’t, I still think that I would go to therapy once a year for a mental health check-up, just like people go to see their family doctor for a physical.

I would love to see therapy normalized in this way. That even if you don’t feel you are struggling with anything or have anything to work on, or improve, you would still go to a therapist for a mental health check-up just to be sure.

I think most people can benefit from therapy. If you are trying to be a better person, trying to solve some sort of problem, or handle stress better, I think therapy can help with that.

I know some people have had problems with therapy in the past. I think the issue is doing your research and really finding the right person for you. If you see someone and you don’t get a good feeling, or you feel like something is off, it is okay to find another one.

If you feel like you aren’t getting anything out of it, there will be someone else who is better equipped to help you.

But either way I just want you to remember that no matter what, there are people out there that truly want the best for you, even strangers. There are people out there that want to see you happy, and healthy, and living the life you have always dreamed of. I know because I’m one of them.!

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