Firsthand account of a person who has and continues to undergo psychotherapy sessionsRashi Bhargava
My first encounter with my therapist was hilarious and embarrassing, an encounter worth forgetting. It took me 40 minutes into my first therapy session to realize I was talking to a clinical psychologist. I am not mentally unstable but probably absent-minded. 😉
When my trainer asked me to meet Dr. D I thought he was recommending me to meet a physiotherapist for my back pain which was hampering my runners training and was derailing my training schedule.
When it dawned on me that she was a psychologist I was like okay maybe my life needed this. I was struggling with processing my mom’s death. Increasingly issues with my Dad were not easy to navigate. Work challenges were making me misreable. With so much weighing on my mind I decided to try this new way of getting some way out of my messed up life. Her pleasing nature, positive vibes gave me confidence to seek help.
Subsequent two sessions were okay, with me sharing my life journey in bits and pieces, my pain areas and what I like to achieve out of my therapy sessions. Dr. D shared a lot of forms, questionnaires to get to know me better. Initially I was overwhelmed but she was very understanding and approachable who knew that her questionnaires may deter anyone and wanted me to fill in as and when I felt like and not feel pressurized. She was methodical and her follow up emails post sessions were helpful fort me also to track my therapy progress.
The first three sessions fooled me into thinking that therapist has some magic wand and my current issues of back pain, anxiety and insomnia will be cured magically. After all this was my first experience and I had nothing to refer and fall upon. Mental wellbeing is still a taboo subject and a lot of stigma is attached.
How hard Do you think therapy can Be? Ask me 😉
During the subsequent sessions post lockdown when my interactions increased and my tele sessions with Dr.D I got the real taste of Good Therapy.
My emotional baggage of years started tumbling out of the door I had closed ages ago. When therapy is TOUGH, it’s real. It’s tough because you are rewiring your brain to tolerate uncertainty, anxiety, yucky feelings, and intrusive disturbing thoughts. I read somewhere If therapy was fun, everyone would get therapized. Unfortunately, good therapy sometimes requires digging deep into your subconscious and psyche — and revealing what may be some painful memories and feelings stored there.
- Sessions brought back painful memories. My mom had similar issues. She did not have the luxury of the support of a psychologist/counselor. I still feel bad that she did not die due to some grave illness, but she died slowly because of her mental health. Yes, in the end swine flu took her away and she died of multi-organ failure. But I knew her mental health took us away 3 years back. The more I interacted with Dr.D the more the pain I felt, that stemmed from my Mom’s own challenges and as her family we could not support her. Not that I got any support. I landed up with Dr.D with some divine intervention
- Often, we land up for therapies thinking the therapist will perform some magic and things will get alright akin to taking pain pills. It’s a myth that therapy is magic. Therapy is a process, a relationship and conversation. Or shall I say conversation with paid friend 🙂 (Will take up this paid friend part in a separate blog).
Let me walk through a session of mine….
So, it starts a few hours before the actual session begins. The level of my productivity goes down exponentially with every hour that therapy time comes closer. I get nervous. By the time I am sitting and waiting for my therapist to call I’m already a mess. I’m nervous because I know myself. I’m motivated to continue with the session yet the anticipation of pain and turmoil will make me more nervous.
Session begins. Okay, so now the phone rings with my escape route fully blocked. I say hello and my therapist greets me and her first question inevitably is: “How’s it going so far today?”. What made therapy harder for me is that I grew to trust her, her presence calmed me and assured me that everything is in control and can be worked upon. So, we work. We talk. I cry. I panic. She holds safe space for me and gives me a sense of security.
After an hour, I am mostly with a tear-streaked face, put my phone down completely exhausted. Exhausted and feeling rather emotionally ‘bruised’. Therapy is hard because you practice what you would normally avoid. You tell things you wouldn’t share with someone else. You not only show how you feel but you feel how you feel. You work through things that have been troubling you for years. You are gently pushed and shoved and encouraged to change your mind about some of your core beliefs. You are working to change your inner self and polish it.
- For years we have an image for ourselves and when somebody comes and shows the mirror, acceptance is painful. My therapist has been nudging me to become my best version, make changes in my life, behavior, and how I interact with the world around me.
- Therapy is helping me shift through emotional baggage I had been carrying for years and stressing out each day of my life under its weight. It involves being vulnerable diving into painful feelings and thoughts. We humans most of the time are quick in making excuses and slow in recognizing patterns in behavior. I was no different.
- Transitions are painful for everyone and I am no different. The transformation from a Caterpillar to a butterfly…Is it easy? No 🙂 It’s rather gruesome. Therapy leads us to this journey from a caterpillar to Butterfly..
Till date I have undergone Nine therapy sessions and have made my therapist life miserable for the 10th session. Based on my sessions I like to share my learnings:
- No matter how eager you are to change your ways, there will come a point in therapy when you think, “This sucks and I can’t take it anymore. Somebody rightly described Therapy as the tenth layer of hell. Remind yourself why you want to do this hard work. In my case the motivation of continuing with my painful therapy sessions was that these sessions were making me a better version of self.
- Don’t quit. Yes, it’s tempting. If you quit, you don’t have to spend another second thinking about your issues. There’s rhyme and reason to therapy: helping you understand yourself, and finding ways to cope (or even overcome!) your anxiety or other mental health issues, or just keeping you on track with your goals.
- Therapy can be boring. You’ve been talking about the same topics for weeks now. In my case, the last few sessions have been focused on my work challenges. It’s tough. It can even be a little dull. But although your chats may feel repetitive, you’re circling around something important. If I am talking about the same thing, that indicates something unresolved that needs resolving. More time will help sort this out.
- To overcome painful emotions, one has to feel them. In therapy, you experience painful emotions. But experiencing these painful emotions alongside a trained professional will make your life better in the long run. For example, I had issues processing my Mom’s death. I had not allowed myself to cry. Over time, my brain started processing it differently which led to problems like sleep issues, nightmares. The only way to rewire my brain and address the problem was to process that with the assistance of mental health professional. My fourth session was all about my Mom’s death. And for the entire 60 minutes of my session, I was crying.
- Therapy process is painful. It’s no fun reliving your worst, most painful memories — sometimes more than once. But the benefits are enormous. So, sticking with therapy, even when it hurts is the key. It gets better, trust me.
- Some of many benefits of attending therapy sessions regularly. I have a built-in place to unload my worries every week. I have learned how to handle new challenges with grace and grit. And the mental health concerns I wanted to be addressed like sleep, anxiety will improve over time too.How do I know it’s working?There is no better feeling than a sense of accomplishment.
- My first 8-hour sleep after ages.
- Unpacking all the junk built inside my brain over the years.
- A lightened mental burden, better tools for handling new challenges, and an increased sense of self-worth.
- My friends noticed the changes and some of them remarked that I sound happy, look sharp and focused.
- I am mindful
- I make efforts to take out time for self-care
- My conversations with clients are more engaging and deeper
Therapy is the most fantastic, amazing path. Therapy is a fantastic path when you tread with a promise to yourself. I’m so glad I’m walking it. All Thanks to my therapist who is a wonderful person, a brilliant professional, and a caring human being. I’m grateful to her, for walking with me and making my journey easy and confident.