The end, the beginning

So, I have kind of a big announcement. Next week is my last therapy session.

It is crazy to me that this is where I am. For so long, especially when I first started, I didn’t see myself ever stopping. Therapy is just so awesome; I’ve never experienced anything like it and it was helpful in ways I probably haven’t even begun to realize yet.

When I started therapy, I felt so completely bewildered and disconnected from myself. I had the firm, ingrained belief that anxiety was a thing that I should be able to control, and if I couldn’t control it, something was wrong with me. I walked around carrying that pressure, that tension, that feeling of not knowing myself anymore. And it was really hard. Asking for help was hard, too, because in my family you do everything yourself and you’re never not capable and you always keep it together. In the last few years, we’ve all – my parents, my sister, me – been working really hard to give each other the safe space to not be ok, and I’m so proud of us for that. I’m proud of us for encouraging each other, for being open about our struggles, and for really digging into our separate issues. It’s made this process a lot easier for me.

Therapy did so much for me that it’s hard to put it all into words, but I want to try. I feel so grateful that I’ve been able to go through this process with someone who has such a wonderful balance of empathy and questioning. My therapist was so wonderful about encouraging me in my efforts to manage anxiety, and she was really good about asking me questions and giving me challenges in order to help me really get to the roots of why this was happening.

Therapy is, by and large, one of the best things I have ever done. There are multiple reasons for this, and I could write about it forever, but instead of boring you guys I’ll just make a list of all the pros. Therapy:

  • Gave me a place to be lost. It was always unequivocally ok to be lost and overwhelmed and hopeless. Those feelings subsided over time, but that was a lot of what I felt the first six months, and it was always ok. More than ok, it was welcome.
  • Let me go at my own pace. My therapist never rushed me or made me feel like she had an agenda to accomplish. She let me talk about whatever I wanted to talk about in my own time, and for however long I wanted. This doesn’t mean that she let me be all over the place; sometimes I was, but she would also gently nudge me back to center with a question or an observation.
  • Held me accountable. I’m me, so I would have felt super ashamed of walking into therapy and not doing anything to fix my own problems. My therapist knows this about me (as she should) and she was really great about checking in with me about what strategies I was trying and how they were going. She never made me feel like a failure, and she always encouraged me to keep trying. Just by asking, she helped me stay accountable and get to know my particular brand of anxiety inside and out.
  • Challenged me. If you’re really working at it, therapy is hard. There were so many times when our conversation necessitated me talking about something from my past that I didn’t really want to talk about, or realizing some things about myself that were tough to admit. Some things – like how stubborn I am – I will be the first person to tell you about. But some things – like the fact that I cry every time I feel basically any strong emotion or am in conflict with someone – made me feel ashamed and were really hard to talk about. But therapy let me work through that. Now I know that I not crying because I’m weak or too sensitive. I’m neither of those things. I cry because that’s how my body reacts to stress. And that’s ok.
  • Helped me accept my “flaws”. First of all, one man’s flaw is another man’s ideal. But that aside, therapy helped me realize that anxiety is not a flaw, it’s biology (I know, I say this all the time). It’s not something that’s wrong with me. When I realized this and started really trying to manage it, I learned how to really make room for anxiety and accept it as part of my life. I assumed – and still assume – that it will always be something that happens to me, and so I’ve made space for it. It has a little corner of my heart where it lives, and it’s always going to have a home there. And that’s a good thing.
  • Made me give zero fucks. Seriously. Once I got through all of the crazy WTF is happening to me times and realized that anxiety isn’t a flaw, it’s just a thing, I really stopped caring about what people think about it. I just do not care. Because, again, anxiety is not a personality trait and it is not a flaw. It is biology. It’s genetic. It is not something you can chose to have. And so fuck anybody who thinks about it like it’s a choice and who looks down on those who are dealing with it. Screw those people who choose to judge you/us on something you/we can’t control. Anxiety doesn’t negate that I’m a capable, hard-working, conscientious human being. Anybody who thinks poorly of me simply because I struggle with this in the same way that someone struggles with cancer or heart disease can get out of my life.
  • Allowed me to find myself again. Ok, so that sounds kind of corny, but it’s true. Anxiety is so isolating that sometimes you start to wonder if you were always this “crazy” person and you just didn’t know it. It can be so disorienting and it can make you feel a big disconnect with who you thought you were and this “anxious person” you seem to be now. In particular, I had a lot of trouble maintaining my sense of self in different environments. In work I was really outspoken and confident, with my friends I was funny and entertaining, and with my family I was quiet and barely talked at all. Therapy has helped me rediscover the cornerstone of who I am so that I don’t feel like I’m five different people and scattered in a million directions. It has helped to ground me and to feel like I’m myself even when I’m anxious.

If you’ve started therapy, good for you. I hope it’s going well and that you’ve found a therapist who helps you meet your goals and who you have a good connection with. If you haven’t started therapy yet but want to, that’s awesome. Go you. You can look on Psychology Today as a starting point, and if you’re in NYC, you can message me privately as I know a few awesome therapists and would be glad to put you in touch with them. If you feel like something is wrong but you’re not really sure what it is and you’re not really sure you want to go to therapy, that’s ok, too. I want to encourage you to go. I know without a doubt that my relationship would not be as joyful and fulfilling and resilient as it is without the work I’ve done in therapy(and also the dude’s magical presence). I wouldn’t be as close with my family. And, honestly, I wouldn’t be happy. I’ve learned to manage and accept ALL of my emotions, not just the good ones, and I’ve learned not to think poorly of myself when I’m not happy. Please consider therapy if you are at all feeling like something is off. It make take some time and you may have to meet with more than one person to find the right fit, but it can change your life.

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5 thoughts on “The end, the beginning”

  1. Well written and so true. I greatly appreciate your thoughts Alexis. Counseling has got me through some very difficult anxiety driven times in my life.

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  2. Dearest Alexis, I live quite far away from you, in Vienna, Austria. I read your articles with much interest. First of all: be proud! The overall work you´re doing to achieve better circumstances is amazing. Me, I´am an art therapist, and I´ve seen art therapy help and support many people in so many way, so I was wondering, if you ever tried it? Heartfelt greetings from me to you, over the big sea. ❤ Katharina

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