No, I have never been diagnosed with any sort of mental instability or chemical imbalance; I’m not depressed or manic-depressive, and I didn’t have an overly traumatic childhood. In fact, I’m generally a pretty happy person. So why do I go to therapy, you ask?
Now before you go judging me thinking I’m “sooooo LA” and picturing me in big designer sunglasses, texting on my bedazzeled Ed Hardy iphone in sweatpants two sizes too small with JUICY written on the ass while I drone on about me, me, me to my tuned-out therapist, put your stereotypes on hold for a second.
I started going to therapy at the advice of a close friend who had never thought she’d be in therapy. We both had the attitude of, oh, sure therapy’s great for someone with problems but it’s not for me. But when she started getting ulcers from anxiety and I hit my QLC, neither of us could navigate through all these feelings alone. Friends were great, but, let’s face it, no one wants to sit for hours listening to someone else’s problems, and, even more than that, I wasn’t about to pull out my guts and show everyone all my neuroses and fears. Hell no.
So I started going to therapy. And I judged myself. I thought, geez, Nikki, you are such a freaking whiner. Really, you think she wants to sit here and listen to you talk about how acting sucks and your heart’s broken and your parents are getting a divorce? Oh waah waah, baby, that happens to millions of people, every day. Get a real problem.
Then one day I told her that I felt stupid being upset about these things, and that I thought I should just be able to deal with it all on my own, and what the hell is wrong with me that I can’t deal with it all on my own, and I’m sorry that I’m wasting her time with my petty issues. She looked me straight in the eyes, told me to look at her, to trust her, that these are NOT petty things and I am NOT stupid and that I have every right to be here and every right to feel what I feel. These are difficult things to deal with, and we’re going to deal with them together. Period.
From that moment on, I trusted her and started to trust myself. I am always completely honest in therapy (otherwise, what’s the point?) even when I feel like I’m being silly or melodramatic; there’s always something bigger, deeper, less obvious under those “silly” feelings. Being in a safe environment like that gives me permission to explore my deepest fears and confront my demons, and I almost always find that whenever I am in a tough spot and have a seemingly impossible question, somewhere inside I know the answer. I can’t even tell you how many “AHA!” moments I’ve had, or how many times I’ve broken down in pain.
I think it’s ironic that in our society we tend to see people who need therapy or counseling or any sort of help as weak, because when done honestly, it’s one of the hardest things a person can do. To really face yourself, without pretense or bullshit, to say all the hateful things we tell ourselves in the privacy of our own minds, out loud, to explore the things that keep us awake at night – these take guts. They are effing scary as shit. It takes a strong person to get through it.
Therapy has made me know myself better than I ever could have without it. It has helped me understand how my mind works; instead of repeating bad habits, wondering why does this always happen to me, I catch myself and, even if I can’t yet change the pattern, I’m no longer the victim. It has given me the power to choose my thoughts, the clarity to make big decisions, and the self-love to move forward in a positive direction.
Therapy, for me, is not about changing myself or getting past some roadblock, and it’s certainly not just hollywood-stereotype narcissism. It is about understanding who I am and what I need at my honest core, growing, accepting, and choosing to be conscious of my thoughts and actions.
[photo: the awesome journal my therapist got me when I left for Australia 🙂 ]