Therapy is for losers. For rich kids whose parents send them to therapy for their rich people problems. For the weak who don’t have the emotional or mental strength to deal with life on their own. I’m way too strong to ever see a therapist.
… which is what I thought, until I decided to see one. Three years ago I graduated college, moved to a beautiful city (Seattle), and had landed my dream job (at Excel). I knew a lot of people my age and I partied every weekend.
It seemed like I had all the pieces of the puzzle to be happy – but I wasn’t. This went on for about a year, and I wasn’t getting any happier. So I decided to swallow what seemed like a huge amount of pride and book an appointment with a therapist.
I remember what I said when I sat down during my first appointment with Melissa, my therapist.
“I don’t know why I’m here.”
“I don’t believe in therapy.”
“Let’s not get too emotional or touchy-feely here. That’s not my style”
I didn’t think I would be doing therapy for long, but week after week, I kept showing up. For the first year, I was really ashamed about it. I kept Melissa under a pseudonym in my phone contacts. I had our appointments under a code name in my calendar. No one knew – it was my dirty secret.
You know what’s amazing about therapy? You have someone you can talk to with no filter.
Even with your closest friends, or the love of your life, no matter how open and honest you are – there is always some filter that your thoughts and actions go through. It may be a very thin layer. Maybe you’re just rephrasing the way you say something, or choosing not to talk about it because it’s not right for the moment. But no matter how thin, the filter is still there.
It’s different with a therapist. If you so choose, there’s no filter. You don’t need to worry about hurting your therapist’s feelings, because he or she is not interwoven into your life. Your therapist doesn’t know anyone else you know. You get this black hole that you can pour your heart into, and never worry about anything getting out. There are zero consequences to expressing yourself completely.
It’s emotional freedom.
I figured out why I wasn’t happy. Mainly, I was lonely. I had a hundred “friends” but zero real friends. Also, I was really hard on myself. I felt like every waking moment of my life needed to be put to productive use. I didn’t give myself a second to relax. I was ultra competitive, constantly feeling the need to compare myself to others. That’s just a formula for unhappiness. Melissa taught me to go easier on myself. One unexpected side effect of being kinder to myself was that it made it a lot more natural to be kinder to others. I open up more now, weaknesses and all. Which means I do things that I previously thought unthinkable, like crying in public. Because I’ve opened up, I’ve made some real friends. I’m less lonely and definitely happier.
After a year of keeping the therapy a secret, I told someone. I hadn’t really planned on it – I was catching up with an old friend, and he didn’t seem very happy. And here I was doing this thing that made me happier – so I told him my secret.
After I told one friend, it didn’t seem so bad. So one by one, when I talked to friends who were unhappy or carrying around some burden, I would tell them that I see a therapist, and suggest that it might help them too.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. So here I am, telling the whole internet. I guess what I’m trying to say is – if someone as emotionally stunted and arrogantly proud as me could get over myself and go see a therapist, anyone can. And as for the whole “therapists are for rich people” thing – a lot of health insurance covers most of therapy, making it pretty affordable. Therapists help you understand yourself, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
Understanding and feeling your emotions – that is living life in color. Suppressing and hiding from them is a world lived in black and white.