I started seeing a therapist. I’ve been going for a little over two months now. The intake session was 50 minutes of me telling a stranger all about myself and my goals for therapy. If you know me, you know how much I hate talking about myself, so you can imagine how that session went. She asked me why I was there and I sat there, staring into space, because I didn’t even know. I lost the ability to put my feelings into words. I wanted to tell her I felt lost and worthless and anxious and sad and like a huge mess. It ended up taking me a while to finally open up and tell her all of the pain I was feeling, and I still haven’t talked about all of it. 11 sessions in, and I still find it a little uncomfortable to talk to a professional.
I went in feeling terrified. I didn’t know what was going to happen because I’m about as closed off as a person can get. I already have a hard time opening up to my very close friends about my feelings. I thought it would be way worse or way easier to talk to someone who didn’t already know me. Honestly, it’s about the same. I’m still the same Kristen who sucks at communicating and getting her thoughts into words. I still giggle a lot out of nervousness. I still feel like I have to censor my words so I don’t ‘say the wrong thing.’ I still feel like she’s going to judge me for everything I say. I sit there in silence sometimes because I just don’t even know what to say.
I thought my issues were too petty or small or stupid to pay $90 an hour to talk to someone about. I felt stupid because I didn’t cry talking about my feelings. I felt stupid talking about the little everyday things that give me debilitating anxiety. I felt stupid talking about all the mistakes I’ve made that have made me think I’m screwed up and unlovable. I felt stupid admitting that I needed help because I couldn’t help myself anymore. I felt stupid admitting that I despised myself and my life and didn’t think it was worth anything.
I was honestly expecting a quick fix. I was hoping to go in there for a handful of sessions, have her tell me what she thought was ‘wrong with me’, and give me a simple solution on how to ‘fix myself.’ I was so wrong. The point of therapy is for the therapist to guide you to finding your own solutions. It can be a long process. You also can’t quit while you’re ahead. People go to therapy because they find they are having a hard time helping themselves. People go to therapy to improve their quality of living. She listens to me and helps me help myself. I tell her my issues and feelings, and she helps guide me to resolutions. She helps me conquer my anxiety and depression by giving me tools to use on my own and being a safe space to just let every single terrifying thought in my head out.
Anxiety affects everyone differently. Anxiety makes the small things feel so much bigger for me. The small everyday factors of life give me a gut-wrenching amount of anxiety. It’s hard for me to cope and deal with my problems without having a panic attack. I used to just sit there and take it. I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about things. I would think about something so much that I would make myself physically sick. I would feel nauseous, get headaches, start to hyperventilate, and then I would all of a sudden feel like I couldn’t breathe. I would feel like my chest was closing in on me. My mind and heart would race. I thought it was normal to not be able to stop thinking about things, to not be able to get on with your life, to have your irrational thoughts and fears not let you get on with your day. I thought it was so normal to always feel like you couldn’t breathe. I thought I would have to live with it for the rest of my life, but that’s not true. It’s not normal. Feeling anxious and depressed is not normal. You are allowed to ask for help. You should ask for help. You need to ask for help. Please ask for help. You do not have to live like this.
Therapy has boosted my confidence and self-esteem. It’s made me become a more positive person. I’ve realized that there is a reason for me to be on this earth, I’m not a waste of space, time or energy. I’ve realized that I am allowed to have feelings, and that my feelings are always valid. I’ve learned to counter my irrational thoughts. I’ve learned to take every day one step at a time. I finally feel like I can be in charge of my life again. I highly recommend talking to a licensed professional. Anxiety and depression are not normal, and there is help out there. I promise you it is not stupid. No problem is too small or petty. You can go in there and talk about literally anything. If something is making you anxious, then it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Don’t wait, I regret waiting as long as I did. I was miserable for years before starting therapy, and I took it out on everyone around me. There is nothing stupid about taking charge of your mental health. Mental illness is real. Let me say it again for the people in the back who don’t believe me: mental illness is so very real.
Therapy has helped me a ton, but it isn’t enough for some people. At the recommendation of my therapist and doctor, I’ve also started taking anti-anxiety medication. This isn’t for everyone. The kind of anxiety that I feel is so bad that I need even more help. Medication helps me manage it beyond what therapy can do for me. I’ve been on the meds since the beginning of December, and it’s been a complete change. Medication alongside therapy has been a game changer. I can’t believe I lived the way I did before these things for so long. I feel like I can breathe again, and I haven’t felt that way in a very, very long time. I take a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI), which increases the level of serotonin in my brain. Being told I should try medication was mortifying. I cried. This was the session I finally broke down at and cried. I realized I needed even more help, and it was scary. I was scared to death and so upset that I would have to take a pill everyday to be normal. I’ve taken medication for depression before, but that was 7 years ago when I had no idea what depression or anxiety could really do to you. 23 year old me felt like a complete failure. If no one has told you yet, medication does not make you any less of a person. It does not mean you are a failure. You have a chemical imbalance, and you just need a little extra help to get yourself balanced out.
My mental health journey has been a very long one, but I’m on the path to recovery. I have anxiety and depression and I can finally admit it. I am finally getting the help that I need to be okay. It is okay to need help. It is okay to ask for help. If you feel like you are drowning, please reach out. You are not alone. You are so not alone.