I remember the first time I went to therapy. I had just dropped out of a public high school my sophomore year and joined a charter school with only two days a week of face to face classes. I was 15, overwhelmed, depressed and confused – all things that come along with growing up. I told my parents I didn’t know how to handle these feelings, how empty and lost I felt. So my dad connected me with a local therapist.
For a long time, I didn’t tell people I was going to therapy because it felt shameful. Now as a 10-year therapy veteran, I can honestly say it was the best decision I have ever made.
You are not any less valid for wanting to better yourself, and therapy can help you do that. It isn’t something that will happen overnight, but therapy can help you learn and exercise healthy coping mechanisms.
Being able to talk to someone I knew I could trust helped me process the feelings at hand. Being stuck in my own head was detrimental to my well-being because I couldn’t always see both sides of the coin. When you talk to your therapist, they will offer you alternative perspectives that you may not have ever considered.
The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that I am allowed to feel sad, angry and happy. I can give myself permission to experience all of the emotions that come with life. With negative emotions, it’s important to recognize them, accept them, but not let them consume you, challenge them. I have learned, and am still putting into practice, that concept.
The coping mechanisms that I find most useful when I’m not able to see my therapist are reaching out to people I trust, letting myself enjoy moments of happiness, to be vulnerable and receive emotional support. Self-care is another important coping mechanism. Mine is drinking coffee and watching Gilmore Girls. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as letting yourself sleep in one day a week, taking a walk on the beach or writing down how you feel, whatever brings you joy.
The Mental Health America Association has a long list of healthy coping mechanisms to adapt which I learned in therapy as well, including but not limited to, connecting with yourself, doing things you enjoy, and setting realistic goals for yourself.
Life is not one size fits all. Everyone struggles in life, everyone has a story and trauma unique to themselves. You are valid in your feelings, you deserve to be helped, you deserve to flourish. When I understood that reaching out for help can only benefit me, it changed my life.
I’m not cured, but I’ve learned to function with my mental illness, how to adapt in times of distress, and you deserve that too.