I made myself vulnerable last week as I believe it is important. It is what each and every client does when they walk into my office for coaching and I have been in the exact position myself. Over the last 10 years I have dipped my toe in and out of the therapy pool whenever I have needed help. I did this for one main reason. At 11 years old, I decided I wanted to be a psychologist and I believed that to be the best in the field, I needed to 'practice what I preach'. In doing so, I did in fact learn a few things. These lessons were not ones I could have learnt from any textbook, and so in this post, I hope to impart what little wisdom I have on this matter.
1) Admitting you need help is hard.
I have enormous respect for anyone that goes to therapy and extending that, anyone who walks into my office. To walk into a therapist's office (or in my case, a coach's office) admitting you need help and wanting to change is, in my eyes, admirable. In addition to that, to keep going to therapy is hard. Getting to each appointment was for me, a struggle. For the large part, therapy is about reliving some of the most painful parts of your life, often at great length and in minute detail and whilst some people find this cathartic to cry their eyes out, for me I found it excruciating. The fact that an individual has had a traumatic experience is unfortunate, making them relive it and replay it and talk about it endlessly was to me, unnecessary and tortuous. Some people believe that it has to get worse to get better. I don't. I am a firm believer in the fact that therapy need not be painful and you need to find the one which works for you.
2) You learn who your friends are.
Telling your friends that you are going to therapy and openly discussing it, was for me one of the hardest parts. As a person, I am quite a happy, bubbly person and I thought that this dramatic change in me would scare my friends away. I avoided telling them for as long as I could. I understand the stigma that surrounds therapy, but I also have a belief that this prejudice is diminishing at an incredible rate and I have experienced this first hand. The most recent time I went to therapy was for PTSD that had resulted from my operations. Upon telling my friends, I was met with such warmth and support making the process that much easier as they reassured me that this problem was temporary. The struggle arose when this problem no longer seemed temporary, and four months down the line I was still suffering from the PTSD symptoms. This is when a number of my closest friends grew tired of me and frustrated that I hadn't 'fixed' myself yet. I few accused me of seeking attention and others making a big deal out of nothing. Either way, needless to say, those people are now out of my life. I did eventually return to my normal, happy, bubbly self, but that should not be a condition of our friendship.
3) The diagnosis didn't relieve my symptoms
I understand that this is not the purpose of a diagnosis, but I do question its practice. Diagnoses are meant to be validation making the client feel less isolated in your problem and to an extent justify your feelings and emotions. But why are my feelings and emotions not enough? Does someone with depression have more of a right to be sad than anyone else? I believe we all have a right to be angry, sad, guilt, hurt or scared and we have a right to be listened to when we feel these emotions, with or without the label so in my eyes, if we treated the symptoms and removed the label, we can only benefit both as practitioners and clients. For example, if two people had dyslexia, one may suffer with spelling difficulties and one might struggle with reading. If they were treated the same, either one would not be helped, or eventually they both would be helped but half the treatment would have been useless and a waste of time. If you only treat the symptoms and not the condition, you would have saved half the time.
4) Find the therapist and type or therapy that works best for you, and do not settle for anything less!
Everyone told me this before, but I didn't quite realise its importance until I found the best therapist for me. I have a belief that the best therapists are people you see once and you never see them ever again because they have taught you how to manage the problem yourself and this man did just that for me! Most therapists are mocked in the media for saying this cliché line - '...and how do you feel about that?' and using this technique, therapy can go on for months and even years. The difference with this guy was he offered practical solutions to my problems in one session and even more so, it was pain-free and didn't involve me associating into the memories that had caused the PTSD symptoms in the first place. One session and I was done, and to say it was a life-changing session is apt. As a result my career path changed and the way I work with clients is entirely different and I eventually ended up getting trained in the same powerful techniques myself!
In conclusion, it turns out my 11 year old self was wise beyond her years and was right in saying that you have to practise what you preach. Now, as a Body Confidence Coach, I use the techniques I use on others, in my own life each and every day, it has given me back control over every aspect of my life and it has been an amazing journey exploring this entirely new field! To be passionate and excited about your career is a true gift and one that I can guarantee is not taken for granted.
Share this with a friend who has been to therapy. Let them know that they are not alone! Have you been to therapy? I would love to know your thoughts, comment below!