A while after I came back from UC Davis, I thought that I had weathered one of the worst storms of my life and that I successfully came out the other side unscathed.
I was wrong.
I have a tendency to pretend my emotions don’t exist in order to move forward. The problem is, I had not really talked about or addressed much about my experience up north with anyone, with the exception of a few family members. Even then, I kept a lot of feelings sealed off because I thought that maybe sharing too much wasn’t necessary. I would get over it, I thought.
One day, however, I woke up with an urge to talk to someone about how I was feeling, so I made an appointment with a therapist. It’s been a year or so since the first session, but being that I still keep in contact with my therapist, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned:
- Therapists aren’t just there to “talk you off the ledge”.
Prior to my first session, I always thought that therapists just prescribed you a cocktail of medications and checked in weekly to make sure you follow certain steps or protocol. However, when introduced to the right therapist, you can tackle many internal struggles and address them comfortably. And if you’re lucky, they become a confidante to you.
- Be open to listening.
I am a person who gets very defensive when my feelings are questioned or challenged. I don’t like to feel invalidated, even if that’s not the intention or goal.
Your therapist isn’t there to be your “yes (wo)man”. They are there to ask questions in an effort to help you understand what you may be feeling and why you might be feeling that way. Be open and try to be as receptive as possible (of course, there are some exceptions and different people have different preferences).
- Talking to a stranger about your feelings isn’t an easy thing to do.
I am not a super open person. With anyone. Ever. As stated above, I keep feelings under lock and key until finally they all spill over. It is extremely unhealthy, obviously, but I had gotten used to this. So, you can imagine what it was like for me to begin to unearth all these super vulnerable feelings. Feelings I rarely shared with anyone else.
So it’s okay if, when you go into therapy, you are apprehensive. It’s difficult to find your sense of vulnerability, but it’s extremely freeing when you finally do.
- If It Makes You Feel Better, Come To Therapy With A List
That’s right. If you’re anything like me, you have trouble accessing certain emotions and recalling certain events. Maybe you think of something during the week and then think of another thing, and another and another. Perhaps it’s a recurring feeling or memory. Whatever it is, write it down on a piece of paper or in a notebook, and attempt to address it at your appointment. This helps me get the most out of my time with my therapist.
- It’s Okay To Cry/Show Emotion
I’m a crier. Before the events of the last three years, I was very good at remaining stoic in high stakes, emotional situations. I rarely got angry or lashed out. I was pretty easy-going, to be honest.
However, in the last three years (especially in the last year) I’ve learned to show emotion and allow myself to show sadness/anger/frustration, not just in therapy but in life as well. In therapy, though, I have learned that it’s a safe and appropriate place to “let go”, and a lot of times when you gain the strength in therapy to show emotion, it transcends, at least for me, into my life outside of my therapist’s office.