My First Therapy Session
I waited 8 years for my first therapy session, and I can’t tell you how relieved and proud of myself I feel now that it’s done. It went really well, and I’ve been looking forward to sharing about it!
My counselor’s name is Jody, and she is exactly what I’ve always wanted my counselor to be like. We have a lot in common, and that made it super easy to talk to her. She is a mother of a blended family, and I grew up in a blended family. She used to be a teacher- and I graduated from college with my teaching degree. I know that it’s common for people to “shop around” for counselors, but I don’t feel like I need to look more. I feel really lucky for that reason!
We started the session off with her asking me to describe my current life. I explained that I’m married with two kids, and she was shocked at how young I was to be at this stage in life (which I get a lot, but it’s okay). Then she asked me why I thought I need therapy, and I told her I felt like I struggled with depression and anxiety. She asked why I felt like that, and I explained to her that I had kind of a hard childhood.
We then spent the next 15 or so minutes talking about my upbringing. After I was done telling my story, she wanted to come back to the present and my current issues. She asked me how often I felt depressed, and I told her I’m not even sure I am depressed- I just have days where I wake up and feel no energy, motivation, and feel hopeless. After more explanation, she said she thinks I have adjustment disorder, which is a stress response syndrome. It can also be called situational depression. Basically, it just means that I have difficulty managing stress.
This caught me off guard, because I’ve been telling myself for years now that I had chronic depression. I’ve been putting this label over me for so long, and it started to hang over me like a shadow. When she told me she doesn’t think it’s chronic depression, and rather just a stress management disorder, I felt a big weight lifted. I realized there’s not this huge thing wrong with me... it was a freeing feeling.
After talking about that disorder for a bit, I told Jody that I felt like my main issue was anxiety. She asked me how long I’ve been dealing with anxiety, and I told her it has been around since I was young. When I was a kid, I thought everyone worried about every little thing the way I did. My sisters called me “worry wart” all the time, because I was constantly scared that something bad was going to happen. But as I’ve gotten older, this worry got so big and was so prevalent in my life that I realized it was anxiety. I realized that most people didn’t stay up at night with cold sweats because they’re scared that the house would burn down if they went to sleep. Most people don’t have moments of sheer panic, where the room is spinning and you leave marks in your hand from clenching a fist so tight.
I had my first panic attack after my first boyfriend dumped me- I had just moved to Texas and had no one but him, and my worst fear was coming true. My worst fear my whole life (because of my issue with abandonment) was being alone. And after I got dumped, I was so alone, and boom- I had a huge panic attack. What made it worse was that I didn’t know what was going on with me and I had never even heard of panic attacks, so that made it scarier.
I explained all of this to her, and she asked me if I still have panic attacks. I told her: not really, maybe a couple of times a year now. She asked me what I do to cope so well, and I told her that I didn’t think I coped well. What I do to cope is I make everything in my head go silent and I make myself numb and start busying myself with something.
The next thing she said surprised me. “Do you think this is a bad coping mechanism?” I replied with, “probably”, and she said “maybe it’s not bad to cope in that way”. She went on to say that maybe it’s a good thing that I shove bad memories that trigger me out of my mind as soon as they show up. Maybe it’s good that I try to continue on in my day. “But isn’t it bad to not let yourself feel your true feelings? I don’t want to be a robot” I say, and she said something that clicked everything into place for me. She said, “When those feelings come up, we need to remove ourselves from them. That is our brain protecting us. It’s okay that you’re not allowing yourself to feel those anxious thoughts or relive those memories. Especially the memories that trigger you. You don’t need to let yourself go back to that place because you’re not there anymore.”
You’re not there anymore.
This simple statement was exactly what I needed to hear.
All this time, I felt like I needed to dive back into these buried thoughts and memories of mine to be healed, to be released. But Jody told me that I actually have done a good job at healing on my own, probably without even realizing it.
We’re never going to be able to go back to that time that hurt us, yet we feel like we should try in order to find peace. But peace is AHEAD of you, not behind. My counselor promised me this, and I believe her.
I’m looking forward to our future sessions. Right now she has me filling out a daily mood tracker so that when I meet with her again in a week, she’ll be able to tell where my mind has been. She’s looking for patterns to try to give me more answers. She tells me that she has a lot planned for me to help me move forward from my stress disorder and anxiety issue. I’m really looking forward to seeing how I grow, because I already feel like I reached a new level of peace. I’m glad to know that it can only get better from here.