I resisted therapy at first for many months and sessionsBrowse all therapists
Tell us about your mental health journey
I started therapy as a graduate student when I faced severe general anxiety and life 'stuckness.' I resisted therapy for a long time for a number of reasons - pride, finances, stubbornness, as well as a general feeling that I ought to solve my issues on my own. I had a belief that it would make me a better person if I overcame the darkness alone, that pain and anguish were somehow noble and even ‘masculine’ virtues. I think there was also a sense that if I were to lose the malaise or anxiety I would lose my drive, my creativity or my passions. You can get a lot of mileage on this belief, and it sustained me for a while until I ran into repeated psychic road blocks - writer’s block, crippling anxiety, unmotivated irritability and anger. I recall in particular several moments where new anger exploded on strangers - a transit employee for not taking my transfer, a fast food worker for not taking a coupon. Things were cracking internally and externally. What inevitably pushed me into therapy was the insistence of two close people in my life: a best friend and a girlfriend (now wife). They had both started therapy and had notable and life changing impacts. Some of my stress and anxiety was 'leaking' into my relationship. My partner rightfully didn't want to be my therapist - a role that I see partners fall into often now that I am a Couples Therapist. Friends were helpful and supportive but not as objective, detached and challenging in the way that a good therapist can be. I knew that I needed more than a supportive ear but a ‘clean,’ neutral, clinical perspective that only an outsider could bring.
What did you learn in therapy and how did it help you?
I resisted therapy at first for many months and sessions. I judged the therapist’s credentials, frameworks, and techniques, yet for some reason I stuck with it. This is something very unique and unusual about the therapeutic process. Sometimes it can feel ‘off’ or uncomfortable but it is not a bad thing. It is our ego that is struggling - our rigid view of the world - that is often being challenged in therapy. Some part of me was able to discern this discomfort as good or necessary. Somehow I knew that I needed to be challenged - in my thinking and view of the world and of myself - because something wasn’t working. Maybe this is what kept me going - a belief in the need for a different way forward. I stayed with this therapist for more than 5 years. I had little money at the time but found a way to afford it without benefits and it is one of the best single investments in my life. There were many breakthrough moments as well as challenging and healing sessions. But the real proof was in the pudding - the life actions that it prompted me to take. It propelled me forward and out of the stuckness - it helped me to persevere and complete grad school (without depleting all my mental reserves); it helped me to work through my relationship ambivalence and take the (good) risk of marriage; it allayed my fears around parenthood and reaffirmed my competence as a father; it steered me through a difficult career change; it allowed me to create stronger interpersonal boundaries and create deeper relationships. It is not an understatement to say that therapy radically altered my life and continues to do so today - an anchor in a stormy sea.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about therapy?
As a practicing therapist and as someone who sees a therapist, I think it's important to know that therapy can be a life-long journey of dialogue with yourself. It can certainly help with immediate and acute issues that life presents us. For me recently it was managing the stress and anxiety of homeschooling my kids during the pandemic while pursuing an independent practice. But therapy can also be an ongoing deepening of your own self-knowledge. The psyche is deep and mysterious and will constantly surprise you if you pay attention to it - new wants and desires, resurgent and recurring memories, strange, terrifying and exciting dreams that warrant some work and thinking. In other words, therapy can serve different purposes at different moments in your life. It can serve to immediately manage and provide skills for sudden panic, depression or trauma. It can also serve you in moments of relative stability and security - to deepen and enrich everyday life.