6.25.2015

Speak Up for Silence: Why Therapy Worked for Me

speakupforsilence
Welcome to the third week of Speak Up for Silence. If you want to learn more about this series, please read this. Today's post is from Amanda of Amanda Moments. I know you will appreciate her candid take on this topic. PLEASE feel free to leave her comments below- I know she will read them all! Take it away, Amanda.

I had always thought that therapy was a place for broken people. People with serious addictions, those who went through terrible trauma or who had serious mental issues like multiple personalities or schizophrenia. Or, at least for Hollywood starlets needing to vent about their cheating husband. Never anything that “normal” people needed, and certainly never for me.

I was wrong.

My Story

For years, I had been feeling worn down emotionally and mentally. For years, I let it build, thinking that time would fix it or that partaking in simple pleasures like bubble baths or vacations with my husband would fix it. At first, I chalked it up to a super stressful job I had out of college (and was at for four years afterward), and figured it would pass once I moved on to a new job. But then I got engaged, and wedding planning brought out the worst of it again. It would surely pass after the wedding, right?

Nope.

I did become happier in general once I settled into my new digs. Marriage felt wonderful, my job no longer caused me anguish, and I got joy out of hobbies like reading and blogging.

Yet my mind was still a mess. I couldn’t focus on much of anything for too long. I had trouble falling asleep 9 nights out of 10. I overanalyzed every single detail of my life. I fretted over the small things and became consumed by the big things. I couldn’t even go to the store without having some sort of breakdown. My mind constantly was racing, I worried about everything, I had so much anxiety. I tried to put on my happy face for other people, but I was a mess inside. My husband received the brunt of this pent-up anxiety, poor guy.

Finally, one day at work, I realized that I had been blankly staring at my computer screen for who knows how long. I completely spaced out. My body was present, but my mind was in another galaxy. Then it happened again when I was trying to do some reading. I realized I was reading the same sentence over and over without actually taking it in.

I did talk to my husband, best friend and mom about some of the things on my mind, thinking that I just needed to talk it out to feel better. It helped a little but not enough.

I finally realized that I needed real help.

I was terrified about therapy. I was worried it wouldn’t help, I was worried I’d feel stupid, I feared judgement from the therapist, I wondered if I would even like her. And I still had the nagging feeling that I wasn’t “broken” enough for therapy. I’m just a normal person with some anxiety – surely this would be a waste of time because I didn’t have serious enough issues to warrant professional help. I mean, I have no addictions, I’m not a cutter, I’m not suicidal, I wasn’t molested, I wasn’t schizophrenic. What on earth could a normal person with a little anxiety possibly get out of therapy?

Turns out, a lot.

My Experience

I first looked into the therapists in town through doctor’s offices, but they were expensive and my insurance wouldn’t cover it. I tried some privately licensed therapists and counselors too, but they were just as expensive and still no insurance. I almost gave up on the notion until I remembered that I actually was able to get help from a local business that offers community programs and counseling services to the community for free through my employee benefits program. I called right away and was set up with a woman a week out. The day of the appointment, I got a call that she was out sick and I rescheduled with someone else for the following week. That day, the second therapist was also sick, and I was rescheduled with yet another person for later. I was so discouraged by my start that I thought, maybe it wasn’t in the cards, and I almost cancelled that third try…but figured sometimes the third time’s the charm so we’ll let it play out. I waited for a call that day that Lady #3 would be sick too, but the call never came, and so on my not-so-merry way I went to the appointment. Full of anxiety, of course.

I remember that first meeting pretty well. I was so worried that I wouldn’t click with her, or feel comfortable sharing so much personal information about myself and feared judgement, but to my surprise, this woman was wonderful. I felt super comfortable, she made me feel at ease, and I knew this one would work out (I think there’s a reason the first two were cancelled. I was meant to wait for this one—the right fit). I briefly shared what brought me to her, and I remember saying that I felt like a hot mess. I whipped out my list of topics I wanted to cover (because what overplanner and worry-wart) wouldn’t make a list of things that needed to be covered?), and she sort of chortled. Apparently most people she sees aren’t as organized or prepared when it comes to therapy as me. Oops.

I had no clue what to expect out of this hour. I didn’t know if we needed to cover everything and solve it all immediately. But she guided me through a conversation addressing, at a high-level, my biggest concerns, and she explained her process for helping me, adding that she felt very confident that together we could calm my mind. She said that she thought of me as one of those rubber band balls. There were all these layers, wound up together, crossing paths, covering up what was in the center, and that over the next several sessions, we would peel back some of those bands, one by one, until we reached that center and I could function, confidently and calmly, and know how to work through everything without becoming a jumbled mess again. I was hopeful, but still doubtful. Still, I embraced the process and crossed my fingers.

That second session was amazing. Once we started diving in to what was eating me up, I couldn’t believe how great it felt to get it all out to an outside source (that’s the key – for me, my husband, friends and family are great, but I didn’t take their opinions seriously because they were biased). She talked me through all my feelings and experiences, explained how the mind works, how every experience (especially ones as a child) affect us, how to think about all of those, and how to approach similar situations smarter going forward. Each session we’d go deeper into each issue until there was not much more to say about it, and each time I felt lighter and better about everything.

I had several assignments throughout the process. One was a mindful activity, to recall and write down every detail of one particular experience I had that we thought could be one trigger moment for me. Another was to write down every time I got distracted trying to do something to see just how often my wandering mind affected my daily tasks (it was a lot). Another was to list every resentment I could think of, and then we talked through them, helping me see how many of them were actually insignificant and silly, and others that were meaningful ones, she explained how my reaction to those affected who I am today, and that in some, I had no control over the situation, so my resentment was actually valid, but still helped me find ways to move on from them. The most recent one was to read and work through The Assertiveness Workbook, and also one chapter out of The Self Esteem Workbook.

In my fifth session, I was feeling so much better, I thought I was “cured.” But then shortly after, something happened that set me off again and my sixth session was a panicked one. I told her I had regressed and felt out of control again. We went through every emotion I was feeling, charted it out, and evaluated why I was feeling that way, what areas of the situation I had control over and how to essentially talk myself off the ledge. She explained that because I had experienced a trigger, my mind went back to what it knew, which was a fight-or-flight response, in which the brain actually functions off this frantic energy rather than rational thinking, so throughout a long series of questions and analysis, we broke it all down until I was thinking rationally again, which made the experience seem not so bad after all.

That leads me to where I am now. I have a few sessions left as part of my benefit plan, and after that … well, we’ll have to see. But I know that I feel a trillion times better than before already. I still have trouble with a racing mind and falling asleep, but it’s miles better than before because the worst issues are off my chest and I’ve learned ways to cope when I feel frantic again. I have hope that we’re close to discovering what’s in the middle of my rubber band ball.

The biggest thing I’ve learned so far, is that I was stupid for waiting so long to ask for help. I was completely wrong about therapy. I now believe it really is for anyone, and I cannot sing its praises enough.

Seriously, if you’ve ever thought about going for yourself, but have held back because of the stigma of therapy, do it anyway. You don’t even have to tell anyone if you’re worried about what people will think. Just go, because having a professional, unbiased, outside source coaching you through your issues, is priceless. It’s one of the best things I have ever done. No one should ever feel ashamed of asking for help, because in this short life, why not try to live the happiest life possible? 

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21 comments :

  1. So happy you found such a great therapist Amanda.

    http://dogmomchic.blogspot.com/

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  2. Therapy really can help many things!! I'm so happy you found someone that helps you!

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  3. This is so important! A good therapist is SO important!

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  4. Absolutely - SO many things!

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  5. I do not know what I would do without therapy (individual and family) on and off throughout my life. Thank you for sharing this!

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  6. Thanks for sharing, Amanda! I haven't been to a therapist but I've always heard wonderful things. Sometimes just having an "outsider's" point of view is so helpful!

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  7. Gosh I wish I would have started earlier! I can totally see how it benefits various stages of life. Thanks Nina!

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  8. It for sure is! I'm sure it depends on who you talk with, but I definitely got a good pairing and have had great success. Thanks!

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  9. I definitely believe in counseling! I did it back when I was going through some really rough stuff and it helped me come out a better person. And now I go again which helps me to be a better wife and realize stuff about myself that I never would have known. Great post!

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  10. oh how i love this and you for sharing your experience amanda! you are right that there is such a stigma attached to it but honestly the benefits are spectacular. it's so good to have someone help you process things without being biased. therapy has absolutely helped me and i am also a firm believer that if you don't click with a therapist, you don't have to stay with them either but it sounds like you've found a great one!


    thanks for sharing!

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  11. Yes, good point - just talking it out helps us in ALL areas of our lives.

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  12. Yes, for sure! I got lucky in this lady, but can definitely see how things may not have turned out as good with someone else, so that's a great point, to make sure you click with the person before ruling it out. Thank YOU, Chelsea.

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  13. It's so key to find a good therapist and it's really unfortunate that people get turned off from therapy all together sometimes because of a bad one

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  14. You should maybe try one out sometime just to see what it's like! Many "healthy" people come to our clinic and still really benefit! It can be a lot of fun to learn more about yourself through the process too :)

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  15. I can relate to Amanda's story on so many levels! It's great to read stories of those who have had success in treating their disorders. I have said it before but will say it again - I am SO glad y'all are doing this series! <3

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  16. Amanda, this is soooo great. I just wrote about this topic myself, and I have found therapy to be so beneficial. I keep thinking of it like peeling back the layers on an onion. I went to therapy for many of the same reasons you mentioned, and I have been living in one of the most introspective times of my life. It can be difficult at times, but over all I feel better after I have gone and have done the work the therapist has assigned (even when I really really don't want to).



    Thanks Cassie for doing this series!

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  17. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment for Amanda! So glad you are benefiting from therapy

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I would love to hear from you! I try to respond to all comments.