I was 7 years old when I realized I should be in therapy. Something was different about me that I couldn’t pinpoint. My brain felt as though it was a separate entity, making me squirm beneath my olive-toned skin.
I spent several days researching about the human mind and, along the way, I came across three words that made my chest fill with air: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I had OCD. I knew the moment I read its brief definition. Those three words tied up my entire existence in a tight, symmetrical, crisp red bow.
I have been going to therapy for several years now. In that time, I’ve said a lot of words, many of which have been life changing
Still, I did not go to therapy. Why? I was afraid. And I stayed silent about my fear, and what I knew about myself, for more than a decade.
It was not until my senior year of high school that I took one step forward instead of several steps back. Upon finding out that I was the salutatorian of my high school class, I instantly had a panic attack.
After school was over, I ran to my car, called my mom and told her the news. We both started crying. My mom’s tears were of joy. Mine were of something else entirely. I was crying because I was — reluctantly — successful, not because I was happy.
“Congratulations!” my mom cried.
“I need to go to therapy,” I deadpanned. With those six words, my life changed.
I have been going to therapy for several years now. In that time, I’ve said a lot of words, many of which have been life changing. I’ve never cried, but I have learned more about myself than during all my years in school. These are the lessons I’ve learned while traversing down what I like to call: Therapy Lane:
You are in charge of your own destiny.
There is something cosmically beautiful about making the decision to help yourself. It is a breathtaking form of self-love and proof that we can change our destiny. We can stop at the fork in the road and pick: left or right. We can go left, or backtrack and go right.
No matter where you are going in life, you are in control. You can make the call. The words yes and no are all yours and you can do with them what you will. Saying yes to therapy taught me that.
There is darkness inside all of us and that is OK.
It is impossible for us to not hold onto things. It’s impossible to not have bad memories and to not let negative people affect us.
Even after years of therapy, I still find stuff to talk about — stuff that surprises me. I will talk about memories I’ve repressed since childhood, learning why these memories stuck with me and how they made me the person I am today.
In therapy, not everything talked about is going to be pleasant. Some of it will be heartbreaking and challenging and it may even make you feel a bit of panic fluttering around your heart. That is OK. Want to know why? Because you are taking your words out of the darkness and into the light.
Worry about what others will think, but don’t let that stop you.
Part of the reason I did not go to therapy when I should have was due to fear about what others would think.
Going to the doctor is not considered abnormal and therapy shouldn’t be either — both help us in profound and entirely human ways. And that’s the point: We are all human beings. We all care, to some extent, about what others think of us.
When I go to therapy, I interact with other people. Letting others see me at my most vulnerable is hard, but I do not let it deter me. I keep going, which, in itself, is a reward.
The Takeaway: Sometimes, life is a battle. Other times, it’s an exploration. Either way, you’re the one with the map.