Thoughts on Therapy After One Year

Dr. Akopian of  Crazy Ex Girlfriend  in a session with Rebecca Bunch / image from the CW

Dr. Akopian of Crazy Ex Girlfriend in a session with Rebecca Bunch / image from the CW

If you had asked me two years ago, or even 18 months ago, if I thought I’d ever go to therapy, my answer probably would have been, “Ew. No. Why would I go to therapy?”

For years, I believed you only went to therapy if there was something “wrong” with you. But at some point in 2018, my perspective started to shift. I noticed positive depictions of therapy on TV shows I love, like Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Bojack Horseman. Friends were talking about going to therapy. All of Twitter was abuzz with therapy chatter. If all these people were going, maybe it was...normal?

By the fall of 2018, I was feeling overwhelmed. Stress about work, family, and life in general was getting to me. I was feeling more anxious than I was used to. Finally, I texted a friend (for the second time) to ask for her therapist’s contact info. It was the second time, because the first time, I got the contact info and never made an appointment. I was all, “Never mind, I don’t need therapy!” My texts automatically delete after 30 days, and then the contact info was gone. So I had to ask for help getting help again.

When I finally walked into that first appointment about a year ago, I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect. But I showed up, and as I learned by working out at Compass, showing up counts.

What I found at my first appointment was a very kind woman who listened well and smiled and laughed a lot. I didn’t know that laughter was part of therapy. I thought therapy was a quiet thing, where a silent person in big glasses would take notes on a legal pad while I talked. I didn’t know that a therapist could feel like a friend, one who calls you out on your bullshit and has enough objectivity to see things in your life that you might be missing. 

I was lucky in finding an awesome therapist on my first try. Some of my friends have tried therapists out and found them to be a bad fit, and needed to shop around to find the right one. That’s totally okay! Keep looking until you find someone who fits you and your needs.

My therapist made it easy for me to get over my fears and just babble to her every time I walk in the door. What sometimes starts as babbling, or venting about something annoying, or telling funny stories (because that’s what I do) quickly becomes a two-sided conversation that helps me learn and grow.

So, in the spirit of reflection, here’s what I’ve learned after one year of therapy:

You can’t go into debt to yourself paying others with time and energy you don’t have.

I often feel guilty about how I prioritize my time and energy. One of my goals when I started therapy was to say the phrase, “I feel bad” less. “I feel bad that I couldn’t make it to X” or “I feel bad that I wasn’t able to see Y.” Why all the bad feelings and guilt?

My therapist wisely said, “You can’t go into debt to yourself paying others with time and energy you don’t have.” She’s right. 2019 seems to be the year of self care, and though it’s starting to sound cliche, it’s important to take time for yourself to rest and recharge. It’s okay to say no. 

This is true in both life and in business. I’ve said no to some business opportunities recently and haven’t had any regrets. In the moment, it can be scary. How can you turn down work and money? But ultimately, those decisions have been for the best. I’m allowing myself to invest my time in myself, my business, and other opportunities that are a better fit. 

It’s easier to check out than to check in.

I’m an optimist. I tend to see things through rose-colored glasses. When life isn’t rosy, I check out. I listen to a podcast or pick up a book. I don’t do a ton of self-reflection, and that can be detrimental.

My therapist has tried to get me to journal, and it’s been a struggle. I don’t enjoy it. But things like walking the dogs and not bringing my cell phone are a good way to unplug and be alone with my thoughts. I can reflect and process in ways that I can’t when I’m looking at Twitter or deep in a book.

Again, this is good advice for life or professional endeavors. You can plug away at your work day in and day out, but it’s important to check in with yourself and see how your business is doing. If you don’t reflect on where your career or business is going, you won’t be able to shape that path. You’ll just trod along relentlessly. I’m trying to get better at checking in with myself, in my relationships, and in my business as it grows.

It’s always going to be scary.

This piece of advice pertained specifically to the murky possibility of self-employment. When I started going to therapy, I was still working at my previous job at a nonprofit. I’d been freelancing on the side for awhile, and would often talk to my therapist about how that was going, and daydream aloud about a potential future where I worked for myself full-time. We talked a lot about what was holding me back and why I hadn’t taken the leap yet.

There were a lot of fears. What if I didn’t get enough clients? What if I didn’t make enough money? What if I failed?

My therapist’s words still ring in my ears today and often: “It’s always going to be scary.”

I had done everything I could to minimize risk and make the jump less daunting. But no matter what, it was going to be scary! Recognizing that reality made me feel more ready to just take the damn leap. Walking into my boss’s office and saying, “Hey, I’m leaving to work for myself” was terrifying. At that moment, I knew there was no going back. It was scary, but I did it. And I’m so glad I did. 

Whenever I’m faced with something that scares me now, I remember that scary doesn’t mean bad. I’m uncomfortable because I’m learning, changing, and growing. And that’s a good thing.

Have you tried therapy? What have you learned? I’d love to hear! Tweet me at @servemthesky.