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It’s been 366 days since my first time. The first time I walked into that little blue house, the first time I sat on that soft, green couch, and the first time I truly realized that I was much more fucked up than originally anticipated.
A year and one day ago, I walked into my first-ever appointment with a therapist. Actually, “walked” isn’t even the right word. I’m not sure how, exactly, I got there. By car, obviously. But I mean emotionally — I was a mixture of fear and angst, depression and paralyzation. Still, after months of avoiding friends, gaining weight, and spiraling down into dark places that I couldn’t crawl my way out of, I knew it was time I do something about it.
So, I guess I just walked in. Simple as that.
But at the time, it was anything but simple. 366 days ago, the sheer thought of sitting across from a stranger and telling her what was wrong even though I had no idea what was wrong seemed like a mountain impossible to climb. I figured my sadness was from the strife in my family, the relationship with my parents, or the insecurity and fear of abandonment that I had wrapped around myself like a heavy cloak for as long as I could remember. That if things just worked out with my family, if my parents just realized that I was an adult, dammit, and if I just managed to feel good about myself, everything would be fine, thank you very much.
I spent most of my first session crying in front of a stranger while hunched over on that soft, green couch. Hell, I spent most of the first few months of therapy in the same position, crumpled on the velvet, praying to anyone listening that I’d just feel normal once again. That I would remember what “normal” even felt like.
If I’m being honest (and why wouldn’t I be? I’m only baring my soul here), this whole new-age, “self-work” bullshit has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But on the flip side, it’s absolutely been the most worthwhile time, money, and energy I’ve ever spent.
It’s been 366 days since my first therapy session and a lot has changed since then. The blue house has been replaced with a brick one, and the green couch has been switched out for a brown one. My sessions have dwindled from twice a week to biweekly. The panic attacks are fewer and further between and that dark, oppressive cloak of depression and anxiety is much lighter and more translucent. I take 200mg of generic Prozac every night before bed, and I get 9 hours of sleep a night (not the 15 I got when I was at my lowest point). I don’t avoid plans like the plague anymore. Better yet, I actually make plans with people now. Plans I intend to keep. I got another dog, I got engaged, and I rehabbed my broken ankle to the point that I can now walk without a limp. I’m still not running, but let’s be real — I was *never* running. Despite that, I’ve lost 35 of the 50 pounds I put on since I fell down this hole, and I laugh more than I have in a long time.
Which feels great. I always used to love to laugh.
The thing is, and this should be obvious but I feel like I need to say it anyway, none of it was easy. I don’t mean the losing weight or the re-learning to walk. That stuff sucked ass, but it was far easier than the emotional work I had to do. Because the thing is, I was clinically depressed, but it was so much more than that. Underneath everything, there were lots of wounds that needed healing and work that needed to be done.
And it wasn’t hard in the sense that I’d spend days in bed hoping that something in my life would change but not having the energy to do anything about it. No, what was hard was actually seeing the faults, the cracks, and the mistakes in my foundation. I’ve had to peel back layers of my life to get to the core of some of the pain. Like a burn victim, I needed to scape off the charred flesh to truly heal what was underneath. And honestly? What hurt more than anything was realizing that life isn’t as perfect as I once thought, and some of the truths I’ve discovered are not ideal.
From how I was raised, how my family functions, and how mental illness flows genetically through a lot of us, taking some as prisoners and leaving others feeling abandoned and alone, is just the start. I didn’t realize that the people I had once chosen to share my heart with hurt me more than I had thought, or that the way I responded to love was toxic. I didn’t know how flawed my communication style was or how the lack of boundaries I had growing up made me feel like control was the only way to survive.
How I felt that if I wasn’t always the best, always working toward the next big thing, always trying to beat the person next to me, I would be a failure of a human.
Yeah, there was a lot of shit to uncover, sift through, and dispose of. And the work isn’t over. I don’t think the work will ever be over. But I’m starting to realize I’m okay with that. I’m starting to actually look forward to that.
From the moment I started therapy, I’ve wanted to be transparent. Walking into that first session was terrifying to me on so many levels, most of all because I didn’t know anyone else who saw a doctor for their “fucked up” brain. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what others would think of me, and I didn’t know what we would discover.
Now, 366 days later, I tell almost everyone I meet that I’m seeing a psychologist. Seriously, it’s my favorite conversation. I would shout it from the mountaintops if I liked hiking and if that dang ankle that would get me to the highest peak, but I’ll have to settle for this corner of the internet. Because the thing is, therapy gave me my life back — absolutely, completely, and fully.
And if I could change one thing, I wouldn’t have waited until I fell so far to ask for help getting back up. Which is why I’m here, right now, urging anyone and everyone to go. Because sometimes the first step to getting out of that hole is to just curl up on a green couch in a blue house across from a stranger and cry until the poison is out. Don’t wait another 366 days to get out of your own darkness. Don’t wait another year to start living again..