What Two Years of Therapy Taught Me
It’s late on a Friday night, but I’m not out on the town with friends. I’m sitting in my room, alone, with a glass of wine in one hand and a handful of goldfish in the other. I’ve been feeling sad lately, and the wine helps for a short while. It helps take the edge off; helps me feel a little less lonely, a little less sad.
But the wine wears off and I feel even worse than before. I told my sister about feeling sand and lonely, and in addition to providing love and empathy, she sends me a big box of goldfish. Yes, that’s right, goldfish, like we used to eat as kids, because they’re my favorite.
So here I am, late on Friday night, drowning my sadness and loneliness with wine and goldfish.
That was a low point for me about four years ago. Right after that night, I made an appointment to see a therapist. And I went for a while — 3 months to be exact — and it helped. But then I stopped — looking back now, I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was because it embarrassed me it had come to this. Maybe it was too expensive. Maybe I didn’t think it was helpful. Whatever the reason, I stopped going.
Two years later, I gave it another go. Two years had given me some time to mature emotionally. Two years had given me time to recognize real men cry and open up about their feelings. And two years had given me time to realize things weren’t getting much better — and it was time to get help.
I did some searching online and came to my therapist’s website. I was greeted with this warm and friendly message.
“I know there’s a lot going on and it can feel heavy, anxiety-filled, stressful or sad at times. I’m here to support and help you lighten the emotional burden. In therapy we’ll address your challenges and find ways to move towards a life you feel great about.”
This was just what I needed to hear. Life felt sad, and I wanted a life I could feel good about. Our 15-minute consultation call went well, and I booked by first appointment. I told myself, no matter what, I would give it six months. I’d been to therapy three other times in the past, the first time for one session, the second time for two sessions, the third time for three months. It was time to jump in headfirst and commit.
I was nervous about committing to something for so long. What if I had nothing to talk about? What if I didn’t work? What if I just didn’t want to go anymore?
Therapy has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In therapy, I’m able to cry and be vulnerable without the fear of being judged. I do most of the talking during sessions, but when my therapist talks, she reminds me I’m heard, that I have value, and she challenges me to reach further. She challenges me to be more vulnerable, to be more courageous, and to make the first move communicating my feelings to others.
I spent the first six months of therapy doing a lot of talking and not doing a lot of acting. There was a lot to get out. My depression. My relationship with my dad. My relationship with my older brother. My time at war and supporting veterans. I found I was doing a lot of talking, but it took a while before I was ready to take action on things. It can get easy discussing things you need to fix with dad — but it’s much harder to take action. Two years of therapy has taught me that even when it’s hard, even when your voice trembles and you feel the tears forming — be courageous and share your feelings.
Two years of therapy has taught me that progress isn’t always linear. Sometimes things are on the up, and other times, it feels like all the progress you’ve made is suddenly lost. But as I reflect on where I am now in my relationships, in my self-love, in my emotional intelligence — I’m so far ahead of where I was two years ago. Yes, there have been dips along the way, but overall, I’m a much better person than I was when I started.
And at the end up the day, as we look at ourselves in the mirror, that’s all we can really ask for.
About the Author:
Andrew lives and works in San Francisco. He’s newly married, a big brother in a family with 8 kids, and an uncle to two amazing nieces. A combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he writes about mental health, relationships, and finances. When he’s not working, you can find him running or biking, doing yoga, cooking with his apron on, or adventuring with his amazing wife.