In September of 2018, I felt a switch flip in my brain. Something wasn’t right. I had always been a huge social butterfly, generating conversation with every person I’d meet and thriving off of social interaction. For some reason, all of this changed during orientation week at school. I’d been thrown into a new city (an overwhelming environment in itself) with total strangers. To put it simply- it was horrifying. This is my experience in therapy.
Finding my anxiety to be increasing
I started off strong with socialization, sharing my interests with people I’d met and nodding and smiling a lot. It felt like with every passing day, this became more and more of a struggle for me. I got to a point where I’d hide away in my dorm and completely avoid interaction and when I did have to interact with the people around me, my heart raced violently and I froze under pressure.
At times, I was too nervous to eat by myself at the dining hall, study in the library on my own, or even make small talk with classmates sitting beside me. I’d worry so constantly that I was unable to focus on tasks that had once been easy and enjoyable for myself, like reading and writing. I felt so intensely lonely and I couldn’t pull myself out of this strange state I’d been existing in.
Recognizing the need to do something
After about four months, a couple of 3-day long mental breakdowns (which I can now recognize as panic attacks), limited socialization, extreme loneliness and many phone calls crying to my mother, I decided that enough was enough. I needed to do something about this.
After a lot of consideration and contemplation, I arrived on the decision of starting therapy. And believe me– this was very far from easy.
Every time someone would ask me if I was alright, I’d respond with a smile and a nod. If the subject of therapy came up, I would often try to convince myself that I didn’t need it and I could do it by myself. In reality, I couldn’t fix something of this capacity on my own.
Reaching out to ECAPS
In December of 2018, I decided to take a trip to ECAPS, the psychological services at Emerson College. They suggested I find a therapist in the Boston area (but also offered a few one-on-one sessions with a psychologist and group sessions.) ECAPS was kind enough to refer me to a couple of professionals in the area. I was still a bit hesitant, but after experiencing anxiety on winter break after my ECAPS meeting, I decided to call a professional.
My new therapist
I set up a consultation with my current therapist, where I gave her some basic information about what I’d been experiencing. She was extremely empathetic and accepting. This was the start of my experience in therapy.
I was lucky enough to find the right therapist for my needs right off the bat, but often, it takes a lot of consultations and switching to see which person is the best fit for you. Opening up to my therapist, however, took a while. It’s sorta like an onion, as silly as it seems– you have to allow your therapist to peel back your layers.
I’ve been in therapy for almost six months now. To be honest, my mental health wouldn’t be where it is without her. She helped me to change my perspective on a lot of things I’d been experiencing and gave me a number of tools to help calm the intense anxiety, like meditations and certain methods of thinking. Being able to have this experience in therapy has changed me.
And of course, nothing is linear. Not every single thing got better immediately. I’d have really good days and really, really awful days where I felt like I was back to the beginning again. But my therapist pushed me to keep going. To not let myself get caught up in my head. She taught me that it’s completely okay to not be okay.
I still experience anxiety on a regular basis. But, like I said… that’s okay. Life can really be difficult and get us down! We have to admit that to ourselves and be honest about it. If you haven’t been feeling right mentally, don’t be afraid to speak up– because so many people are feeling the same way.
Don’t be ashamed of seeking help
If you’ve been contemplating seeking help for awhile now, allow this to be your sign. Be kind to yourself and remember that taking steps like this to improve yourself does not signify weakness– it signifies great strength. Your therapist can help you find what works best for your well-being. It’s all very personalized.
As I mentioned before, do not be afraid to speak up. I know this is sort of a cliche, but really. Tell a trusted adult or friend how you’ve been feeling, because people want to know and to listen to you without judgement. And most importantly, people want to help you be the best version of yourself.
If you’ve has experience in therapy, I am so proud of you. The people around you are so proud of you. You’ve been fighting your battles with grace and dignity and actively working towards bettering your mental health. That’s not easy by any means. That’s worth a standing ovation and more.
So, if you’ve been struggling, know that healing and recovery is not only possible, but completely attainable. Know that there are people and resources out there to help you 24/7. You’re doing the best you can. Remember that.