It’s Been Four Months Since I Started Therapy - Here’s How it’s Been Going
Back in May, I wrote a blog post, filling y’all in on a major journey I was about to embark on…therapy. In that post, I kind of gave you guys the story behind what led me to seeking counseling and just how I went about finding the right place for me. So, if this is your first time reading about my therapy journey, definitely make sure you go back and read the May blog post. Anyhow, it’s been about 12-15 weeks since then, and boy what a journey it has been!
I’ve unpacked a lot, cried A LOT (remember, I said I was a cry baby) and progressed a lot. Overall I’m really proud of the head space I’m in, as of last week’s session, and I’m just super excited to continue this mental health journey. With the update, though, I think I’ll start by revisiting the initial therapy goals I had for myself. I think that’d be the best way to help me articulate to you guys how I feel I’ve progressed, and where I feel like I need just a tad more work in. Then, I’ll wrap up with any Q&A inquiries I received from you guys via Insta DM’s.
Ready? Let’s get started!
My whole reason for going to therapy in the first place, was because I was noticing some unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors that were preventing me from living and experiencing life the way God intended me to. I was always living in fear and thinking of worst case scenarios, thinking I wasn’t worthy of the good things happening to me and allowing past experiences to control my present. So, my goal with therapy was to gain practical tools to overcome my anxiety, hash out some past hurts and regain my self-confidence.
Majority of our earlier sessions really honed in on this area. I realized that I was letting my mind win, A LOT. I wasn’t really challenging the irrational thoughts…just letting the worst case scenarios run wild. And because of that, my emotional state was a hot mess. I could never fully enjoy anything. I was skeptical, suspicious, fearful and angry. Like, I would find myself getting worked up about something that would more than likely never happen. But I was also frustrated, because I didn’t want to think those things, I didn’t want to feel those feelings. They just came so naturally, that I didn’t know what else to do or how to get rid of them.
Luckily though, through various homework assignments and discussions, we were able to get to the root of those irrational thoughts, my emotions and behaviors associated with those thoughts and come up with rational thoughts to counteract them. This really forced me to do the work and not be lazy. It’s so easy to just let our thoughts run wild, but as someone who battles with anxiety, it’s important to take those thoughts captive and bring them under submission of God’s truth.
I also learned some grounding techniques that have really helped me woosah, when I start to feel overwhelmed. I take some deep breaths, do some tension releasing exercises (so clenching and releasing my fists and other muscles in my body), and focus on different elements of my surroundings (sounds or the way something smells, etc.). I’ve used all of these at some point and they’ve helped tremendously.
l think one of my biggest strengths is the ability to connect with people and be empathetic, show compassion. This can be a blessing and a curse, because though I’m able to be of support to someone else, I also have the tendency to take on the weight of their situations and emotions, as my own. And I feel like I did that when it came to my mother. It was she and I for a really long time, and so all of her struggles, I saw and felt the emotional weight of them, behind closed doors. And it was almost like we were both going through it. And as I grew older, I didn’t realize it, but I held on to that stuff and essentially lived in fear that the same stuff that happened to her, would happen to me. That led to unpacking some more family trauma I’d never really given much thought to.
We did this thing called a genogram one day, which is essentially a more in-depth family tree. With the genogram, you’re mapping out family relationships, but also the behaviors and patterns within those relationships. Now, I knew that there were some strained relationships in my family…but to see it visually, and how far back those patterns of brokenness went, was mind-blowing. To be honest, it was really sad. But it was also empowering, in a sense, because I got this feeling of I can be the one to break this cycle. And I plan on doing so!
We also did this thing called the empty chair technique, where I was able to have a much needed conversation with a loved one. Not gonna lie, it’s a little awkward because the person isn’t actually there, but I was able to push past that and get through it. I actually felt way lighter once I got all of that stuff off of my chest. It kind of reminded me of that thing, where people suggest drafting an email or going into your phone’s notes app and kind of typing out all your frustrations, but you never actually send it to the person. So, you’re really more so just doing it as an emotional release, and to just kind of clear your head.
I honestly never really thought of myself as someone who lacked self-confidence, until recently. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I was unhappy with my job, and I was comparing my life to everyone else’s highlight reels on social media. I was feeling like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, and behind in some way. I also believe it’s because I allowed other people’s perception of me, or what I assumed people’s perceptions were of me, to define my reality. So much so, to the point where it distorted what I thought about me.
In this area, we just focused a lot on identifying the negative core beliefs I was operating from and then replacing those with things that were good and true. We also did some work dealing with self-discovery….so identifying my strengths, things I enjoy doing, characteristics and features I like about myself, etc. We also did some gratitude journal entries, which forced me to focus on the good in each day. And then, we did some worksheets where I had to pick three instances from each day where I had fun doing something, was proud of myself and did something for someone else.
All those exercises helped me to begin the process of changing the inner dialogue and believing the best about myself. I also began to be more proactive in reminding myself that my identity is found in Christ and who His Word says that I am in Him.
Trust the Process
I definitely feel like I’m in a much better place, when it comes to my anxiety. I have better days than I do bad ones. I mostly just try not to let outside influences get me all out of whack…I’m doing a much better job at taking back my power and controlling my responses. I’m not perfect, but I see the progress. I also feel pretty good with where I am in regards to past hurts. I think it was just a matter of just leaving that stuff where it was at and not allowing it to define my reality, now. And also reminding myself that someone else’s story doesn’t have to be and is not mine. I still want to do a little more work in the self-confidence department. I just want to feel a little more secure in the fact that what I offer is enough and who I am is enough.
One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn throughout this journey with therapy, is that it’s a process. I’ve definitely had to be patient with myself and ask for a little grace. Some days I can apply all the things I’m learning in therapy; doing the breathing and challenging the negative thoughts. And then other days…all of that goes out the window and it shows. I’m constantly reminding myself that I’m not where I used to be. Maybe today wasn’t so great, but tomorrow’s a new day. Instead of beating myself up, I try to focus on what I can do differently the next time around.
Questions That Need Answers
In preparation for this post, I went on my insta stories and asked if you all had any questions or concerns in relation to therapy. A lot of you wanted to know, how to find the right one, especially with all the options that are out there. That’s kind of a tough question to answer, just because that’s something only you would know. It’s kind of like dating, in the sense that you have what your different requirements are, and you weed out the people that don’t match up…until you land on the one that seems to be a pretty good match! Maybe they don’t meet ALL the requirements, but they meet the most important ones, and that’s what matters.
With that being said, here’s some things to think about as you consider whether a therapist/practice would be the right fit for you:
Is therapy a medical expense that your insurance will cover partially or fully? Once you know the answer to that, then, you can determine what you’re willing to pay on a weekly basis.
Do you prefer one on one care, or are you open to group therapy? Group therapy can be cost effective and help you build a sense of community. You’ll be able to meet other people who “get it.”
How far are you willing to travel? I normally schedule my appointments after work, so I wanted my therapist to be pretty close to my job. But, maybe you’d like yours to be closer to home.
Is it important to you, that your therapist is of the same faith or religious beliefs as you?
Is it important to you, that you and your therapist have shared demographics (i.e., race, gender, etc.)?
Once you’ve determined the answer to all of those questions, get to googling and sending emails or making phone calls. That’s what I did, and the place I’m going to now, was recommended by a therapist that I was considering but didn’t fit within my budget. One thing to remember, is that it’s okay to switch therapists/practices, until you find the one that works best for you. I was blessed to get my ideal therapist the first go around, but that’s not everyone’s story, and that’s okay. Don’t get discouraged, you’ll find the right one for you. Just pray about it and be clear on what you’re looking for.
I can never fit everything into one post, but I want to make sure I’m giving you guys as much helpful information as possible. Therapy has taught me so much and I’d love to share that with you, especially if you’re still trying to consider whether therapy is the right decision for you. So if you’re interested in some bonus content be sure to click here for all the deets! If you have any other questions about any and all things therapy, leave a comment below or shoot me a quick message on Insta, and I’ll get right back to ya!