View this post on Instagram
After years of therapy I came up with the title “post therapy realness” as a phrase to describe the feeling I have after leaving therapy.
It’s the knowing that I am awake to my inner self. The feeling of being raw, real, and exposed—like everyone who looks at me can see that I just got out of a therapy session. Even if at times I’m hiding my tearstained eyes behind sunglasses.
It can be intimidating coming out of a therapy session, especially in a society that often hides behind masks and expects instant gratification of happiness. It’s difficult to embark on a journey of self-healing through therapy, because it is just that—a journey. Therapy is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes dedication, courage, and hard f*cking work to take off those mask(s) that took a lifetime to build. So they are not going to come off in a few sessions.
Much like life, therapy is an ongoing process. It’s not a one and done type situation. It changes and expands with you. This flies in the face of what most of us have been taught to believe about therapy. You go until your problem is “fixed,” and then you’re done. Hands washed clean, a sigh of relief, and a wave goodbye.
Sorry to be the bearer of truth (or maybe bad news), but the problem is a reflection of you. Until you get real about yourself and your life, the stigma and thoughts you have on how therapy works will continue. At some point in your life I can almost guarantee that you will be sitting back on that couch, spouting the same sh*t, just in the form of a different problem.
I was no different. I went to therapy in graduate school and thought, “Great. That was helpful. Next.” It took another seven years before I was back on that couch. This time I knew it was different. I was ready to do the work. I was all the way the f*ck in, and in it for the long haul.
In the beginning, as I unearthed new layers of my being, I expected to feel happier, when in fact, I usually felt worse—so much worse. Sometimes afterward, I simply didn’t have it in me to talk, see, or interact with anyone for the rest of the day. Often curling up in the fetal position. And sometimes crying, screaming, or just staring at nothing for awhile. Other times I’d charge through the day, feeling empowered and ready for whatever got thrown at me. Either way, I learned there is no right or wrong way to come out of a therapy session.
Therapy is not something to be ashamed of, but rather to be celebrated. I proudly own the fact that I go to therapy and have for years. I needed help processing my traumas. I needed someone to call me back when I was on the brink of suicidal thoughts. I needed someone with a kind heart when I bawled my eyes out recalling flashbacks and night terrors. I needed someone to get in my face and say, “What the f*ck are you doing?! You are not a lay down type of woman that takes sh*t like that from a man, let alone anyone!” That was the therapist I needed, and thankfully, that was the therapist I found.
Most of all, I needed a therapist to help teach me how to empower myself. To help teach me a new language, how to communicate effectively without anger and resentment. To learn how to cognitively reframe things, set boundaries, and manage my triggers. I had to learn my past in order to change my current reality and help curate my future.
Ultimately, I chose cognitive behavioral therapy, and I could not be more grateful for my therapist and myself. The work we did together was next level. “You have one of the most traumatic histories I’ve ever heard, yet you are one of the most self-aware, accomplished woman I have ever met. You are a rarity. You are the miracle.” Those were her parting words to me as she left to pursue her dream and I left to pursue mine as well, while starting with a new therapist.
Here I am four months later with that new therapist. She may not be as feisty, but she is equally as kind. I am grateful I am afforded access to mental healthcare and that she was willing to take me on as a patient. My history is not for the weak and she was one of the few that could handle it.
My journey through therapy has brought me to these simple truths:
1. Find a form of therapy that works for you. Do your research. Ask people you feel comfortable with for recommendations. I did both of these things. When I started talking about wanting to go to therapy I was surprised by how many people I knew who were actively in therapy.
2. Find a therapist you connect with and trust while in a safe space. You know who you vibe with and who you don’t—trust your gut. It may take seeing a couple of different therapists before you eventually find the right one for you.
3. It’s going to take time feeling comfortable going to therapy. The first few sessions can feel like dating. It’s awkward and you’re not sure what to say.
4. You can have the best therapist in the world but it won’t matter if you don’t show up and do the work. Therapy is a team effort, however, you have to do your part. Don’t give up when it starts to get messy and difficult—because it will. Keep going. That’s when changes start to occur. The outcome being a healthier, more compassionate, empowered version of yourself.
5. Believe in your healing. See yourself as healthy and whole, even when your feelings, emotions, and old beliefs are screaming otherwise. Don’t bypass these things, but also don’t let them consume you, because they will if you let them. Instead watch yourself learn, grow, and transform before your very eyes.
6. Be honest with your therapist. Your therapist isn’t judging you, you’re judging you. I speak from experience. I lied out of shame, guilt, and fear. I owned it, and I never did it again.
7. Own that you’re in therapy. Be proud of yourself for seeking help. It takes courage and strength to be vulnerable and seen.
8. Usually when you don’t feel like going to therapy is often when you need to go the most. I have found this to be true time and time again. On those days I find myself utterly grateful that I went.
9. Be nice to yourself. Therapy is hard, especially when you get into your childhood woundings and/or traumas. Most of all, be patient with your healing.
10. Let go of your expectations. You will set goals in therapy but leave your expectations at the door. Therapy has no room for them, and neither does your life.
Throughout therapy, I have learned that some sessions feel less effective than others, and some times that happens. We aren’t hit with monumental epiphanies in each session. It’s the cumulative effect. The building of session on session, and even after years of my own work I still have to remind myself of that on occasion.
So after a day of crying in session, followed by intermittent tears as I ran errands all afternoon while consoling myself with very loud music, I have finally taken my puffy eyes home.
And yes, when needed, I proudly took off my sunglasses. However, now that I’m sitting on my own couch, in a silent house, I wonder what the hell we even accomplished in therapy today while feeling into my heavy heart, and wishing I had a pair of those gel eye masks in the fridge. This is post therapy realness.