Creating a Meaningful Life: Therapy

I think, over analyze, have daydreams and daymares, worry, get anxious, stress out, and become overwhelmed on almost a daily basis. Bouncing between all of these and happiness in any given moment is exhausting, and sometimes I can’t cope. In those moments when my life feels like too much to handle, I have trouble breathing and I usually end up crying. This has been me since middle school, when life changed from make believe and endless summer days, into more responsibilities and thinking about the future. Over time I have learned how to deal with the moments that become too overwhelming. I make lists, I take deep breaths, I remove myself from the situation by listening to music or watching something funny. But sometimes those moments come more frequently, compound and none of my tricks for coping work. For a long time when my usual tricks wouldn’t work, I would try to ignore it and hope it would go away. My reasoning was that being overwhelmed by school or my home life was nothing compared to what people who have been abused, or don’t have enough to eat go through. And that’s true that it isn’t comparable. I have been very lucky that my life has been mostly great. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that have gotten me down, or people that haven’t been kind to me. Sometime in high school I read this quote by Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” and I realized that while my issues might seem petty to some, they aren’t to me. And I deserve to be happy and not have my problems overrun my life.

Towards the end of high school I began turning towards therapy when life became too overwhelming. I never went regularly. I never delved deeper than the surface issues I was experiencing at the moment. I would find someone and go to them for a one-off session. I found that talking to someone neutral who didn’t know me or anyone I knew, helped ease the pressure. They would be able to put into words what I was feeling and why, better than I could and that helped me tremendously. Having words to describe what I was feeling helped reset my mind, allowed me to cope with being me again, and the session would leave me feeling euphoric. I love that “just been to therapy” feeling.

In 2012, after a series of panic attacks and a few days in a row while I was on vacation where I felt out of control, I realized that the one-off therapy I had been doing was probably not enough to get to the root of what was causing these moments. I decided it was time to research, try out a few therapists, and pick someone that I jived well with to see regularly.

In the two years that I saw my therapist regularly, I felt a dramatic dip in the amount of times that life got too overwhelming for me and an increase in overall happiness. I wasn’t able to talk to her consistently while we were in NYC, and there were a few moments when I wished I could. Moving to NYC came with a lot of change, transition and anxiety about the changes and transitions. There were a few times that it would have been very helpful to have her to talk to and help me work through it. But I am excited to be back in CA and to be getting into a therapy routine with her again.

I share all this because it is a big part of what makes me, me. It allows me to do all the things I do that add meaning to my life. I have never been quiet about or embarrassed by the fact that I go to therapy and I wish that for everyone. I hate the stigma that comes with going to therapy. That idea that only depressed people or those with mental illnesses see a therapist. Every person will get sad or overwhelmed by their own life at some point or another and I wish more people would give therapy a chance in those moments. I know we all have different ways of coping and that not everyone will feel as euphoric as I do after a session, but therapy is something I truly believe in and I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed if they try it.