Your first question, if you have one at all, is probably Why?
Oh lots of reasons… I went to a therapist for the first time when I was 14 years old. My older brother passed away and my parents set me up with a therapist as a way to help me cope. I hated it at the time. It made me nervous and self-conscious and I’d either be giggling uncomfortably or crying, neither of which felt like it helped. But regardless of my complaints, my parents made me stay in and I am so thankful to them for that. Seeing a therapist in the year after Ryan died taught me so many things: how to analyze my emotions, how to cope with grief and loss and anger, how to talk myself through tough times… it was one of the best things they could have done for me. Now, 16 years later I find myself seeing someone again, and sort of relearning that stuff again.
The past six months have been intense and stressful and I started to have anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. These attacks were never really brought on by anything specific and if you ask me at the time why it’s happening, my reasons wont really make sense to anyone but me. The first couple times it happened I just sort of talked myself down, but they kept popping up (first every couple months, then once a month, then every other week) and no amount of jogging, or wine drinking was making them go away. When I mentioned something at my last physical my doctor mentioned that anxiety is often the result of a bunch of emotional stuff that’s weighing us down that we don’t even really acknowledge. So she gave me a card and I started to meet once a week with my therapist, who’s kind and thoughtful and an exemplary listener and the greatest part of all… she doesn’t know anyone I’m talking about.
There is a freedom in speaking with someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in anyone you’re telling stories about. She doesn’t get offended about you disliking your boyfriend’s friends, or your boss’s new policies, or your frustrations with planning your best friend’s shower. Because she only sees it through your perspective she can help you work through the reason you feel that way. And once you identify the reasons you respond the way you do, you give yourself the tools to work through it the next time you’re confronted with a problem. I will tell you one capital T truth I’ve learned in this round of therapy… the root of the problem is never what I think it is. It ends up being something else entirely, but I’m too deep in the forest to see the trees. It’s taken an outside perspective to make me look at the real issues.
Your next question might be, why are you telling us this? The answer is, because there are still so many people for whom therapy or psychology is a taboo subject. They’re hesitant to admit that something is bothering them or to ask for help because it makes them feel weak. Well I’m here to tell you that I’m one of the strongest women you’re ever likely to meet, and part of that strength is forged in the ability to admit when I’m struggling. By allowing yourself to seek out help, you become a more empowered version of you. A better woman, friend, daughter, employee, employer, wife, mother, fill-in-the-blank.
If something is bothering you I encourage you to work through it. Most therapists accept insurance, but if that’s not an option there are a ton of support groups, women’s groups, or even message boards where other people are battling the same issues. Maybe it’s just the stress of mothering your toddler, maybe it’s an issue in your marriage or the pain of growing up without a father. Whatever you’re feeling, you’re entitled to it. But once you acknowledge the emotion, you also need to arm yourself with the weapons to get it in check so you can lead the happiest life possible.