At the beginning of September, I started going to therapy.
It was something that I knew I needed for a long time. (Like…I’ve known for years.) When I finally started going to university this semester, I made the long, scary trek to the edges of the fourth floor, where my school’s counselling center was kept. I was sleep deprived, had large bags under my eyes, and kept my hood up to cover how greasy my hair was. I was a mess. I had spent the last week crying and lowkey wanting to die.
Why? I should have been fine. This semester all my dreams started to come true. I moved into the middle of the city, I’m at my dream school, I got to be at the Cubs NLCS games again, I’ve seen my favorite band live twice this year, I’ve made new friends, I’m getting ready to look into grad school…I’m finally living my life.
Unfortunately, I found out, that even though I left home, my depression followed me. I think The Flash said it best; “turns out, you can’t outrun pain.”
So here I was. I thought I would be happy by now since life is going great. I thought I would feel better now, considering it’s been a year since my depression came back. But that wasn’t the case. I still needed help, and I was finally able to get it. Truthfully, I was skeptical. I didn’t get how it was supposed to help and I didn’t get the point. Even as a psych major, someone who literally wants to be a mental health counselor, I kinda thought I was above it. I’m glad I swallowed my pride enough to go. Because I found that I actually love therapy. I love getting to talk and be listened to. Honestly, my counselor is so wise and I love getting advice and insight from her.
So in honor of that, here are some of the coolest things I have learned in therapy thus far. They sound so cheesy, but since having heard them, I’ve been bringing them to mind more often, and I have found that reminding myself of these things help change my perspective on life.
1. No one can be happy 100% of the time
My therapist has to tell me this all the time. Because I tend to swing between extremes very quickly. For me, if it rains, it pours. When I get happy, I feel like its the best day of my life, but if I’m sad…well I never want to get up again. And I think being sad means I’m “getting bad again.” And that’s not true. People get sad. People have bad days. People have bad weeks. That’s life. If your goal is to be happy all the time, you will fail. Because that’s not realistic. I’m trying to learn to be okay with bad days.
2. You can start over. Every day.
One problem I realized I had was that I’m obsessed with “happiness streaks.” Like, I feel the need to be happy today just because I was happy yesterday. Again, I’m afraid that one bad day will mean I’m going to be stuck in a spiral. But my therapist began talking to me about not carrying yesterday’s baggage into today. Because life has variation, I should plan for variation to occur. Each time you wake up, it’s a new start. A new chance to be better. Sometimes though, a new day brings new pains. And that’s okay. Because if you’re angry or depressed or overwhelmed today, remember that you can start fresh tomorrow. There’s always that hope. And it also allows for grace. Sometimes you have to let yourself have terrible days. That’s okay.
Tyler Joseph once said, “Just remember, you can start over, every morning.” I try and keep that mindset now.
3. Enjoy the little things
This used to be my motto. I would swear by it. But overtime, I sort of lost that mentality. Depression does that to you; it distracts you from seeing the beautiful things in everyday life. There was one week in therapy where I talked about how amazing my week was. I named all these incredible things I got to do; like go to a gala with one of my best friends. She told me that realistically, I won’t get those grand experiences every week. So she had me list all these things I love that were a part of my everyday routine, and to think about how happy they made me. Some of the things on my list were talking to friends, writing, putting on my pajamas, and listening to music. She told me to focus on those little things throughout every day life; and take note of when things make you happy. Appreciate them.
4. You’re allowed to be angry
This one was hard. Because I thought I was done being angry. But something she said to me stuck in my head for weeks. She told me, “you’ve taken all your anger, and you put it in this little box inside of yourself. And you keep it locked away because it’s easier for other people for you to just swallow your anger.” She told me to get angry. For weeks I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. I could remember times where I was really angry, but I didn’t feel that way anymore. I thought I had let it go. But one day it came out. I found myself on my bathroom floor, sobbing, and hugging my knees. All I could think of was “God, I’m so angry.” I let that happen for over an hour. I just let all the pain hit me. I let myself lament and scream about how angry I was. And then once I stopped crying, I felt relieved. After properly feeling those emotions I had kept locked up, then I was able to let them go. Then I was truly able to forgive.
I think oftentimes people think anger is a negative emotion. It’s scary. But we’re allowed to be angry and upset. Pushing those feelings away will only result in them leaking out in other, more subtle ways.
5. They didn’t change you. You changed you.
I always seem to attribute my own successes to other people. I think that I got my strength from my mother, my boldness from my sister, my intellect from my brother, my kindness from my best friend; the list goes on and on. I think meeting these people impacted me and shaped me. Don’t get me wrong; they did. But it leaves me in a weird place of thinking that without them, I’m worth nothing. That I wouldn’t have figured it out without them. But when my therapist said “They didn’t change you. You changed you.” I started to cry. I knew she was right. I was the one who made the decision to become the person that I am. Those people in my life greatly influenced me, but at the end of the day, I made me.
You made yourself.
You were the one who decided to get better. You were the one who put yourself back together. You were the one who changed. It was all you. That’s comforting to know because it also means that you have a say on what happens next. You can still choose who you want to be.
And those are the five things I learned in therapy. As cheesy as this post was, I wanted to really be open about my issues and share how being in therapy is helping me in a very practical sense. I wanted you guys to know that it’s okay to get counseling. People say that its okay to not be okay and I want you to know I really mean it when I say that.
For a long time I was in a bad place. My writing has been pretty reflective of that. A lot of days are still hard. I still freak out over finances and I have no idea how I’m going to pay for school next semester and I worry I don’t have it in me to finish grad school. I worry about my siblings and my family and I worry about my friends and the world. I worry because I know any day my health could give out. Any day my mental health could give out. I worry about theology still. I get lonely being at a school where no one knows me, and being far from my friends who miss me. Those are all real fears and feelings, but slowly I’m learning how to not live in extremes. I’m learning how to be sad without thinking my sadness will kill me.
Seriously, if you’re going through a hard time, reach out. I know it’s so much easier to isolate yourself, but I promise, you’re feel better this way.
I remember a while ago I questioned whether or not it gets better. And I’m not sure still, but I’m starting to think it just might.