In high school, my mom was told by my pediatrician that I may benefit from therapy.
“I am NOT going,” I yelled back at my mom. “Therapy is the LAST thing I need.”
Little did I realize how much I really needed it.
In high school I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, otherwise known as IBS. Doctors and researchers alike are unsure as to the exact cause of IBS, but many experts agree that stress and anxiety play a significant role.
For years I suffered excruciating stomach pain, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, food avoidance, and eventually developed anorexia. It was only then (4 years after it was recommended that I initiate therapy) that I sought help from a licensed professional counselor (LPC).
By the time I had developed my eating disorder, I was begging my mom to go to therapy. I was beyond the point of feeling embarrassed or ashamed. The torture that was going on in my head was too much to bear. I needed professional help to sort through some of the trauma that my body and mind had been through. I had hit rock bottom.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in my first therapy session. For some reason, I pictured myself confessing all of my eating disorder behaviors and being scolded for all of the bad things I had done.
Instead, I felt completely understood and known, yet still so loved. It caught me by surprise that my therapist showed so much compassion and empathy towards my situation.
For the first time, I didn’t feel like the anxiety, depression, or eating disorder was my fault. I no longer felt broken and ashamed. Even after just one session, I started to feel free again.
It’s not fun sorting through childhood trauma, family dynamics, exposure hierarchies, and facing your demons. But it’s worth it. I have grown more as a person in these past two years than I have in my entire life, and I attribute much of that to therapy. Because of therapy…
I have more compassion for myself and other people.
I have a toolbox full of things to help me on difficult days.
I no longer turn to self-destructive coping mechanisms.
My critical thinking has improved.
I am more mindful and intuitive.
I communicate my needs rather than turning to my eating disorder.
I know how to establish and keep boundaries.
I view my emotions as good, and no longer try to numb or hide them.
I can take my own advice.
I am cultivating a peace of mind.
I have hope.
One of the strongest, most brave things a person can do is ask for help. Don’t let shame, you illness, or the stigma surrounding mental health convince you that you are worthy of anything less than living your best life.
*I recognize that their is privilege in being able to afford mental health services. The financial burden associated with mental health services is heavy, and unfortunately, insurance companies rarely cover therapy sessions. Try seeking out a non-profit organization or private practice counselor that charges based on a sliding scale if you are unable to pay the cost of a standard session in the area you’re living in.