Saturday, May 18, 2019

My Mental Heath Journey with Therapy

I thought Mental Health Awareness Month was the perfect time to share my own personal journey with therapy, so here we are.

I'd like to start off by saying that this is all just my own experience and if you are in a place where you think you need help with your mental health, you absolutely should seek professional advice.

I went to a therapist for the first time when I was around the age of 8. My dad got married to my step-mom and in the midst of blending families, we all went together. The main thing I remember about therapy was that I felt safe enough to be there but not safe enough to share a lifetime of information. Although I was in a room full of people who loved me, on some level I really didn't know them. I kept most of my thoughts and feelings to myself.
If I'm honest, which is the entire point of therapy, I ate my feelings. So my 8-year-old self was definitely overweight, insecure, and desperately just wanting to feel right in the world. I just didn't know how to get there.

I also went to independent therapy around the same time. Nothing really changed. I felt safe there but I wasn't ready to really share "old" things. I stuck to the present most of the time. I do remember I tried some herbal supplement for weight loss, which made me feel like something was wrong with me that could be fixed with something external. The pills did nothing, which isn't too surprising since I was eating way more than I needed. I had a lot of feelings. 

Fast-forward about 10 years. I was in my first ever all-girls college bible study where so many of the ladies were working through hard things while leaning on their faith and things were going well for them. I was encouraged to share the secret that I'd kept my entire life: I had been sexually abused as a young child. To my surprise, no one stopped talking to me or tossed me out of the group, which were real fears of mine. Thankfully, my family had built a healthy idea around therapy, so it was easy for me to go again.

In my first session, I think I led off with something like, "I'm here because I was sexually abused when I was around 4 and I've never really talked about it." My therapist was really impressed, but honestly, that's just part of who I am. I don't do things until I'm sure it's the right time. It was the right time.

I went weekly for a few months and gathered the strength to tell my parents. It doesn't make sense now, but I was really worried about what they'd think of me, too. I thought I was broken. Legit broken. They didn't toss me aside but instead were proud of me for doing the hard work I was doing. They were supportive. 

With my secret out, I had enough confidence to move away to college. I was convinced that all I had to do now was lose weight and everything would be right in the world. Much to my surprise, I kept gaining weight. I had to have food when studying, when going out with friends, when driving from one place to another. All. the. time.

At 22, I started therapy again. I worked through a bit more of my abuse and learned about who I am and what I value, which has evolved over the years. I didn't know the last session would be my last session, but I asked the therapist to help me with my food issue and she basically told me she didn't know how. So there I was, broken. My worst fear. I couldn't be fixed. But not from my abuse, from food. I felt completely exposed and hopeless. 

I then found 12-step groups, which became my therapy for quite a few years. That story is for another post, but I'm more than happy to share that experience!

Fast-forward about 8 years. I was married and gave birth to a beautiful little girl and could not handle all my fears around motherhood and keeping her safe. I had dreams about her being abused. I was a legit mess. I went to therapy a few times but stopped going the moment I felt like I could breathe again. Also, I got pregnant with our second and was beyond tired. #excuses

Fast-forward another year. With two little humans to raise, I was so anxious I called out of work. I reached out to my pastor and his wife and went to the therapist they suggested. I've been seeing him at least once-a-month for almost 2 years now and I plan on continuing as long as my therapist will see me. And for good measure, my husband and I do couple sessions when childcare works out. Since then, my anxiety has yet to reach calling-out-of-work bad. I also give my therapist's number to anyone who will take it. #nojoke

I sometimes get down on myself for having so many gaps in this journey, but I truly believe I needed the space between therapists to explore and learn and struggle some more. God does his work in the gaps. I'm forever grateful for my parents who made it easy for me to say I needed therapy when it was finally time. I'm a thinker, an introvert. Therapy works well for me. It gives me space to be me and have fun in my actual life. I have peace knowing there's always a session right around the corner.

At this point in my life, therapy is non-negotiable. Every time I think I should just postpone my session because I don't know what I'm going to talk about, my husband says "you've never regretted going." He is a wise, wise man. I have never left therapy wishing I hadn't gone. Ever. However, I always get anxious before therapy. I'm confident it has something to do with dealing with my feelings in a different way than I have or most of my life. Yes, I've gone to therapy many times throughout my life, but the days I spent/spend eating my feelings far outweigh the days I spent/spend in therapy.

I hope that whatever season you're in, you consider therapy. Also, I have to tell you that there is nothing that means you're broken. Nothing. Seeking change and healing is brave. It takes strength to walk into a therapy session, but you won't regret it. You just might like it. 

My fellow therapy goers, what advice do you have for someone who is considering going to therapy for the first time? Or maybe going back after a long time?


  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! Everyone should read this! I went to see my first therapist at age 5, went again in high school, and definitely should have gone back a couple of times since. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and it is only going to help. Even if people think they don't have anything to talk about, they definitely do!

    1. Perri, I totally agree!!! It's just healthy.

  2. I think people need to realize it's totally normal!! When I was 9 my older sister left for college and I had such a hard time with it that I saw the school psychologist for close to a year. Then, in the midst of a breakup in my 20s I saw a therapist. In both cases, this helped me get out of the echo chamber of my thoughts and into a healing place. Such a good topic to post on!

    1. We should all be sharing more of these experiences so those that are hesitant might be willing to go. Thanks for sharing you story!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing, Lindsey. "God does his work in the gaps." - that really hit home for me personally right now. I have never been to therapy before but it's something I'd like to do just to have someone to word vomit to lol. In all seriousness though, I think it'd be helpful for me considering everything I've gone through and have overcome in my life.

    1. Summer, word vomiting is so worth it! I hope you really consider going and if you do, that you're able to find someone you really trust. Thanks for sharing!

      PS God keeps working in the gaps ;)

  4. This post speaks to me more than you know. I finally got the courage to see a therapist for the first time in my life in February. It was horrible. I have it another go about a month ago and I clicked with the new therapist. It’s been life changing and the only thing I wish is that I had gone sooner. I’ve always been the “happy” kid in the family and felt like I wasn’t allowed to go to therapy because that meant something was wrong with me. Wow. I, too, give my therapists number out to anyone. I get anxious every time but I always feel better afterward. It’s been a game-changer and I’m shouting in from the rooftop. :) I am so proud of you for sharing your story and experiences.

    1. I am thrilled you found someone you clicked with!!! That in itself can be such a battle. Way to go for being brave enough to go even though you felt like you couldn't. You're amazing!