While some people feel like they have to hide the fact that they see a therapist, I always encourage people to be as open with it as they feel comfortable. It seems daft to be ashamed of wanting to take care of yourself, its not like that with other areas of medicine. If you have a skin issue, you go to a dermatologist; if you have a problem with your joints or if you have an injury, you see a physiotherapist. You see them because they are medical experts in that field and because they can help. The same principle should apply for mental health. As helpful as medicine and self-care can be when trying to strengthen your mental well being, seeing a medical expert about how you feel can provide you with advice, feedback, conversation and a measurable sense of growth or achievement.
I waited 5 years to see a therapist. I was diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety at 18 and I had my first session at 23. If I had used private healthcare I might have seen a therapist sooner, but my family and I couldn’t realistically afford that. I know some people who met with someone sooner than that, and others who are still waiting. I also know that there are many people who don’t go to therapy because they don’t want to carry the stigma of ‘seeing a therapist’, even though it would really help them if they did go. To those people I want to say this: It is always okay to talk to a medical professional, it is always okay to ask for help if you need it and you should always be proud of how resilient and strong you are.
I found my sessions immensely helpful. I liked having the space and freedom to say what I needed, and express how I really felt. I discovered a lot about myself and often left feeling like a great weight had been taken off me. It was cathartic, or at least it was at first. By my last few sessions it was almost like catching up with a friend. Some of the conclusions I came to , and some of the observations my therapist made, were so useful I wanted to share some of them with you. Obviously its not going to be anything personal, and I know I said before I encourage people to be open about having therapy but you should never feel like you need to tell people what was said in those sessions (unless you want to with a person you’re close with). Those sessions are YOUR time. For you and you only. You decide what you want to do with them. I want to share some of what I learned with you guys, because I think it might help some people. but yeah, anyway, lets get on with the list of things that my my therapy sessions taught me.
1) Vulnerability is not the same as Weakness – 연약해 지는 것은 나약해 지는 것과 같지 않다.
Personally I can find being really honest about my own feelings really difficult, even with people I trust because I feel like I could be hurt or let down. I also don’t want to seem like I’m easy to take advantage of, or that I’m weak, so I could be very shut off. However, therapy helped me realise that being honest about how I feel isn’t the same as being weak. Being open, and being vulnerable with someone you trust can strengthen relationships and lets you express yourself freely. Keeping all your feelings inside all the time doesn’t make you stronger, and could in fact make you feel worse.
2) Everyone is different and everyone changes – 모든 사람은 다르고 모든 사람은 변한다.
This one seems pretty self explanatory but actually is quite complex to think about. If you have a bad experience with one person, that doesn’t then mean that all experiences with people or in situations like that will be bad. And, if a person was one way before, or had one response before, it doesn’t mean they will always be the same. Think about it this way, are you the same person that you were 10 years ago? Or even 1 year ago? I know I’m not. People grow and change and adapt, tastes change and develop. And just like how there is more going on in your life than people may think, the same goes with those around you. You can’t expect everyone to know whats going on in your head, nor can you know whats going on with someone else. Take each day as it comes and if someone has changed, or they aren’t how you remember, know that that is natural. Change isn’t always a bad thing, it can be positive. Just take the time you need to re-adjust.
3) There are healthy and unhealthy types of self-preservation – 건강하고 건강하지 못한 자기 보호 유형이 있다.
Wanting to protect yourself is normal, it a natural survival instinct. However, sometimes, for one reason or another, these types of self-preservation can do you more harm than good. Its an extreme analogy, but if someone lived in a plastic bubble their whole lives because their parents worried about them coming in contact with germs, they would also be afraid of leaving the bubble because of germs. And having spent their whole life in this plastic bubble, their immune system wouldn’t be strong enough to protect them if they did leave, even if they would have been perfectly fine were they brought up without the bubble. Sometimes you do need to look after yourself, and you 100% should. But not pushing yourself a little, or not learning how to overcome new challenges will actually hinder you more than anything else. Don’t put yourself in a bubble when it isn’t necessarily needed.
4) I have coping strategies for most scenarios – 나는 대부분의 시나리오에 대처하기 위한 전략을 가지고 있다.
This is actually a hilariously true statement. In fact, I actually have hypothetical plans for almost every disaster/apocalypse scenario. Seriously. I dare you. Ask me how I’d survive in a flood or a nuclear war or a zombie attack over twitter or in the comments, I will happily share my survival plans with you. I don’t know whether this stems from my anxiety, or just my total-Herminone like need to plan everything, or even my overly active imagination, but I try to think of a strategy or plan for anything that could possibly happen. It’s why I like to work ahead on projects, and have a timetable. It’s why when I travel I like to know exactly where I need to be, and when, and what to do if those plans fall through. Yes, this can be very useful, but it also means I overthink things, I find it difficult to improvise or spontaneously change my plans (unless I had planned to be spontaneous) and if things go completely wrong or my plans fail it can make me panic or shut down.
5) Are these strategies helpful? or are they a safety net? – 이 전략들이 도움이 되나요? 아니면 안전망인가?
I briefly mentioned this before, but not all coping strategies are helpful. If they are keeping you from doing something that is potentially damaging for you or someone else, then yes they are helpful and good job for identifying a trigger and an unhealthy response and doing something about it. But if it’s keeping you stuck, or isn’t helping you grow and develop positively, maybe you need to review it. If something works for a bit, that’s wonderful, but just how people grow, change and develop, so too should your techniques for coping. Don’t limit yourself, you might be capable of so much more than you are allowing yourself to be.
6) If you set rules for yourself, don’t make them rigid – 만약 당신이 스스로 규칙을 정한다면, 그것을 엄격하게 만들지 마세요.
In other words, learn that sometimes there are things that are simply out of your control. You can’t micro-manage every element of your life. It’s not only exhausting but it would also be super boring. Something I try and do is relinquish control, in a safe environment, in a way that means if in the future something changes that I can’t control I can be okay with it. For example, I will ask my brother to take me out somewhere and for him to just decide what he wants to do as we’re doing it – he’s great at just deciding to do fun stuff – without telling me the options. A few years ago that would have crippled me. Not knowing where I’m going, what I’m doing, who we’d see or how much it’d cost would make me want to curl up into a ball and stress cry. I still do find it frustrating now knowing what is going on, but now I can adapt and go with the flow a bit better. Try and find little ways of letting go of your coping strategies, and who knows? Maybe one day you won’t need them anymore.
7) Allow yourself to feel things. Be self aware. – 여러분 스스로 무언가를 느낄 수 있도록 하세요. 자각하다.
I hate feeling sad. I know that seems obvious to say, no-one actively likes being upset, that’d make being sad not sad… wait, what? You know what I mean. Sadness makes people sad. But for me, sadness actively scares me. As does anxiety, self doubt, body consciousness… they scare me. And that’s because there was a time where I felt so sad/anxious/depressed/doubtful/body conscious that I felt like I’d never stop feeling that way… which made me even more sad/anxious/depressed/doubtful/body conscious. That’s an awful lot of words to type to explain a horrible mish-mash of feelings so I will just call it what I call those feelings when talking about it with my family. It makes my head feel “fizzy”. It’s “fizzy” because there’s a whole lot of stuff bubbling beneath the surface and it builds up and up and up until, sometimes, it just bursts out of me and makes a mess. Therapy helped me to be less afraid of feeling “fizzy”, or from feeling sad, angry, jealous etc. These negative feelings are normal, they are a reaction to something and they are a valid part of your life experience. You don’t need to shut them down or try to ignore them. Acknowledge them, do something to release that feeling, try doing something to make you feel better and remember that these negative feelings do end. For every negative emotion, there are happy ones. Life is full of pairings of opposites, and its important to embrace both. Sadness happens, but so too does happiness. When you feel your worst it’s hard to remember that. But I want to reassure you, that the bad stuff stops, and there is lots of good to look forward to.
8) Don’t punish yourself if you relapse – 분투하면 자신을 벌하지 마라.
You don’t need to feel bad for feeling bad. It’s a lot easier to say than do, cause I’m still falling into the trap of feeling bad for bad days, but it’s important to remind yourself. And don’t punish others for bad days too. I know it can be frustrating, disappointing or even annoying at points, but when your friends or loved ones feel crap, please ask them what you can do to help and just try talking to them and reassuring them. I’m having a few “fizzy” days at the moment and it’s why I’ve not been writing so much (sorry), and I really have to work hard at not punishing myself for it. I’ve been really busy with my Masters submissions, I’m starting work on my dissertation, I’m trying to earn enough money for my next visit to Seoul and I’m trying to improve my Korean learning. I’m doing a LOT of other stuff, and I have done a lot that I should be proud of. You don’t need to punish yourself for how you feel. Take the time you need, continue at the pace you need and remind yourself of how awesome and strong you are.
9) You have already come so far, and overcome so much. Be proud of yourself! – 당신은 이미 많은 것을 했고, 많은 것을 극복했다. 자신을 자랑스러워 하세요!
Again, I say this a lot, but people who suffer with mental illnesses are absolute warriors, but no-one ever sees how bad-ass they are. They’re ninjas. They’re life ninjas. I have a diary that I list all my achievements in, and I tick off my to-do lists through out the day or when I’m working and that reminds me of how much I do and how good I am at what I do. And if I get “fizzy” I can look at these achievements and say ‘yeah, actually I am pretty awesome’. Only you know your whole journey, but there are other people who know parts of your journey too. If you struggle to remind yourself of your life-ninja awesomeness, tell someone you know and trust, and they will tell you. In fact, your therapist should be pretty decent at telling you how awesome you are, cause it’s their job to talk to you and know you and help you grow. They will have a pretty good outside view of your journey, and should always remind you of how far you have come.
Not everyone feels like they need therapy, and many people don’t see the point in it. However, I think it is an invaluable way to strengthen your resilience, it provides you with an impartial observer to listen to you and advise you, and gives you a safe space to meet regularly to keep you grounded and healthy. You can find more information about therapy from your GP or online. And if you are currently having therapy, if you are considering it or if you have had therapy, I hope you know how much of an awesome, bad ass, life ninja you are!
Do you have any experience with therapy? Do you have anything to say about this topic? Please leave a comment below or send me an email.
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