I Need a Doctor
Aside from always needing a dose of Dr. Dre in my life, I'm here to talk about actual medical professionals and my recent successes in therapy. That's right. I'm in therapy. It's something that I am very open about in my personal life, but haven't addressed in the digital space.
I think a lot of people have had their experiences with anxious and depressive tendencies, and will acknowledge those facets of their personalities. However, I don't often see the conversation about the journey from accepting the need for help and the, sometimes endless, search for the right doctor that fits your needs. I'm happy to say that I don't have any childhood traumas, in fact, I have lived a very privileged life of which I am very grateful for. For me, the source of my anxiety and depression is very much in the way that I am wired. As I mentioned in my very first blog post, my need to be perfect has had a negative effect on my mental health. I have a nagging sense of what I should be doing in all aspects of my life, how successful I should be, and what I need to do to in order to be happy. However, in just three sessions with my current doctor, I'm starting to get past those thoughts and feelings that have plagued me for all of my adult life. Since my last appointment on Wednesday, I can't stop raving about what I've learned and am excited to be able to share that with you, but first, I want to describe the journey it took to get here.
I saw my first therapist my junior year of high school after my mom lovingly threatened me to talk to someone after witnessing me lie on the floor in the dark sobbing for no apparent reason. High school, especially that year in particular, was a nightmare for me. I couldn't tell you why it was so bad; I had friends, I was doing well in my classes, and I was very active. However, that's a huge misconception with mental health. Just because everything in your life is going swimmingly, doesn't mean that you can't be unhappy. My mom had been urging me to get professional help for months and as much as I refused, I knew I needed to. It wasn't even a deep down feeling, in my head I was accepting defeat, but I couldn't let myself admit it. The insistent refusal came from my need to be perfect.
I had no reason to be unhappy, I wasn't "crazy," a doctor won't understand what I'm feeling.
These were the thoughts that held me back, but the crying-in-the-dark incident was a breaking point and my mom wouldn't let me move away to college without knowing how to cope, and I can't thank her enough for that push. If I remember correctly, I only had two sessions, each with a different doctor, where I discussed my feelings of inadequacy and lack of belonging I felt among my peers. Considering the severity of my melt downs, those two sessions were surprisingly enough to get me back on the emotionally stable track for a few years with only periodical slips into sadness along the way.
I didn't see a therapist again until about a year and a half ago. The driving force behind that visit was an onslaught of undesired responsibilities in my job and the sense of dissatisfaction with my future at the company. When you're unfulfilled by something that takes up most of your time, those feelings of discontent can plague your entire being. Ultimately, that's what happened to me and I found myself becoming a miserable person and didn't recognize myself anymore, so I sought out some guidance. That doctor recommended a course in understanding anxiety, which although it provided me with valuable information about the nature of anxiety, it wasn't a good fit for my needs as I was suffering from more than just anxiety. However, it did teach me to reflect on why I was feeling the way that I was and led me to make the decision to quit the job that was causing me so much unhappiness.
The joy that came from having some time off and starting a new, more rewarding job eventually wore off and my need to talk things out came back in December. Unfortunately, I attempted reaching out to private provider and that resulted in the most uncomfortable experience with an incredibly rude doctor who had the audacity to take a phone call in the middle of our session. After that incident, I was kind of turned off from the whole thing, but eventually sought out help again (this time from my usual health care provider) after having a rough week during a school break. After multlple games of phone tag and the nightmare that is arranging an appointment with my very inflexible work schedule, I finally was able to snag a visit with my current doctor in April. Dr. L either aligns perfectly with my beliefs or knows exactly what I need to hear; Regardless, I value my time with her and appreciate her magical way of leaving me with a sense of calm and excitement to implement her advice into my life. Now, I'm not going to pretend that I always want to go to therapy. In fact, there is always some reason for which I try to bail on my appointments, whether it's that I hadn't worked on the things I said I would or that I am feeling happy and don't need to talk anything out. However, there is some part of me that knows I will leave her office with new tools to help me cope with the intricacies of life and my emotions.
Now that you've read this far (which I greatly appreciate), I will share with you the most valuable thing I've learned in therapy thus far. I was inspired to write about this topic after my most recent session with Dr. L because I couldn't stop raving about what I had learned. Wednesday I paid Dr. L a visit, 5 weeks after our last meeting, and I hadn't worked on a single thing she had suggested to me. I almost cancelled my appointment on several occasions leading up to that day. I hadn't practiced mindfulness, neglected to meditate for the entirety of those five weeks, and had used my busy schedule as an excuse for lack of self-care. But then it hit me; The sense of failure I was feeling was unwarranted. I'm not the first person that hasn't followed through with what I had aimed to do. I am not a failure, I'm human. I slipped up and let life get in the way of taking care of myself and my mind, which I realized was even more of a reason to pay Dr. L a visit. When I retold this inner monologue to her, she was impressed by my self-awareness, which is something I pride myself on. I might be an emotional mess, but I have developed an awareness and deep knowledge of my feelings and how they operate. To take that self-awareness one step further, she told me that "thoughts and feelings are only thoughts and feelings," and as simple as that may seem, it freakin blew my mind. If we are able to acknowledge our feelings without dwelling on them, we will be more capable of embracing the present and enjoy life at any given moment. Feelings are not fact and are very much temporary and that is something I will continue to remind myself of so that even in the darkest of times, I am able to see the light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dim it may seem.
My hope is that with this post, I can chip away at the stigma of therapy. I live a very "normal" and fortunate life, but I still experience unhappiness just like anyone else. I want you to (metaphorically) walk away knowing that therapy is for anyone and everyone. Needing someone to talk to does not make you weak or a failure; it makes you human. I know how hard it is to accept help, but I also know the sense of relief that comes from putting my thoughts into words and stripping them of the power they hold over me. I'm also aware that you can't seek help until you're ready, and until you're ready, I want you to know that no matter how much you may think otherwise, you are not alone.