One of the main reasons I started my blog was to encourage women, because in talking to so many of you in both professional and personal settings, it became crystal clear that so many of us struggle with the same darn issues. We struggle with boundaries in relationships, anxiety, grieving, stress, and negative self-talk. We struggle to overcome our innate people-pleasing mentality, and to understand that we have permission to show up to our own lives authentically, even if that means it will offend people or turn them off. We struggle with a whole host of things because…well, because we are human.
So often, as I would write a blog post, I would find myself writing about the exact thing I needed to hear about in that very moment. I would write about MY struggle, and give the therapist response for said struggle, in hopes that it would encourage others. And in doing so, it would encourage me as well.
After two and a half years of taking up space in this little corner of the internet, I realized something: the advice I most often give to others is, unequivocally this: go to therapy.
And yet, after 11 years as a clinical social worker, I had never done so myself.
Oh, I had thought about going before, sure. The first time was six months after I had my first child, when my husband and I found ourselves in a major marital rut, to say the least. Having a baby rocked our world, and our relationship in every way possible. At a total loss, I decided we should go to therapy. But then we never did. I knew my husband didn’t want to go (in a hilarious twist of irony, he is averse to therapists because of a not great experience he had when he was younger – I’m thankful he still saw fit to marry one all those years later). I convinced myself that if he didn’t want to go, then it probably wouldn’t help us much anyway.
By the grace of God, we got through that time and, happily, I can now report we are better than ever, healthier and happier than ever in our relationship. Thank you, Jesus.
About a year ago, as we were just finishing up our foster care classes, I thought I would definitely start going to therapy. Just to check in with someone, just to have someone on the backburner if it turned out we would be dealing with the loss of a child back to a bio family member. I knew myself, I knew my heart, and I knew I would need that extra layer of support when and if that should happen.
But then I found myself making excuses. It’s time-consuming. It’s expensive. I don’t have a babysitter. What if my husband thinks it’s a waste of money? What if it IS a waste of money? And on and on.
Last month, however, I bit the bullet. I scheduled my first therapy appointment, after nervously sharing with my husband and a few other loved ones that I had done so, I was relieved to find out that my husband was extremely supportive and so was everyone else. I was also relieved to discover that I didn’t actually care if they were supportive – this was something I felt called to do, and that was that. I guess people can change a lot in 8 years, huh?
The day of the appointment, I found myself more nervous than I thought I would be. I had met the therapist before, in a social setting, and I had heard so many good things about him from people I trusted. I knew he was qualified and kind. I just didn’t know…what to expect.
Weird, right? I mean for someone who technically “goes to” 4 -8 therapy appointments per day, twice a week, you would think I would walk right in, confidently introduce myself and get down to business.
But no; like everyone else who enters a therapist’s office for the first time, my mind was brimming with uncertainty.
Thankfully, the therapist made me feel at ease right away (I think it helped that we had met before), and he actually made me feel better about life when his phone went off during the session (it has happened to me only once before, and I was mortified!).
See? We’re all human, I thought. It doesn’t matter which chair we’re sitting in.
He gathered some background information about me and eventually asked me the question I knew was coming:
“So, why are you here?”
“Well, as a therapist, I just know that therapy is a good idea for everyone, and…and with this whole foster care situation, I know I’m going to need some extra support,” I replied. “I always tell people they shouldn’t wait to go to therapy until they’re in a crisis, but that it’s better to check in from time to time so that when and if a crisis should occur, they have already established a rapport with their therapist and feel like they can trust them.”
He smiled knowingly and nodded. “You’ve done a great thing today; you’ve set yourself up as best as you can for whatever may happen with your foster care situation going forward. You’re preparing as much as anyone can for however things will play out.”
At the end of the session, he prayed for me, and that was a gift. I’ve decided on monthly sessions for now.
So what did I learn from this experience? Was my world changed by the great wisdom and guidance of an all-knowing therapist? Nope. Not at all. Instead, I merely felt a sense of peace and accomplishment that I had taken my own advice.
If you’ve never been to therapy, I encourage you to give it a try. You don’t have to need therapy to give yourself the gift of therapy. You just have to decide that it’s something you will do to give yourself an extra layer of emotional support. Sometimes, you’ll probably end up just shooting the breeze with your therapist. Other times, you may find yourself a tearful mess in their office, counting on them for validation and guidance during a very trying time. I would consider both of these to be productive ways to spend an hour.
A therapist can help you navigate them either way.
Tell me, friend – have you ever been to therapy? What was your experience like?
Much love to you today and always!