For most of my life, I rarely talked about my feelings, even with my closest friends and family. The good stuff, like when I got a job or internship that I really wanted, or wrote something I was particularly proud of, I rarely acknowledged. Talking about it always felt like bragging to me. Plus, what if it didn’t work out? The fear of failing at something that someone, anyone, knew that I wanted was not worth the risk of daydreaming out loud. And the not-so-good stuff—breakups, family drama, the latest rumor going around in my small hometown—well, that I just flat-out ignored. Instead, I coped the same way everyone who should be going to therapy does: by stuffing it inside of a tiny box to be locked away in the back corner of the attic in my brain and avoided at all cost. Of course, those boxes are all bound to explode. And when mine did, it ignited a years-long struggle with depression and anxiety.
The first time I can remember consciously opening up to anyone was when I was 22 and four years into my relationship with my now-husband. And that only happened after he sat me down on the white wicker porch swing in front of my parents’ house and calmly and kindly explained, as we casually swung back and forth in the warm summer breeze, that I needed to be more vulnerable with him or else he didn’t think our relationship could work. It was a real come-to-Jesus moment, for us as a couple and for me as a human. I knew he was right. I didn’t want to be closed off from the people I love.
Still, it didn’t occur to me to seek professional help. I had nothing against therapy, but I was living in a small town where people thought of mental health care as something reserved for people with “real” problems. That “wasn’t me,” so I just promised to be more forthcoming with him and we moved on. Making a concerted effort to be more open did improve our relationship. But I soon realized that it didn’t resolve my tendency toward avoidance and secrecy. It took another four years—after we’d married and moved to New York City where it seems like everyone openly references their psychologist (a good thing, in my opinion)—that I finally decided to see a therapist.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 41 percent of adults with mental health conditions in the U.S. received mental health services in the past year. That number is even smaller for minorities. I’m white and considerably privileged. And still my insurance wouldn’t cover my therapy sessions until I met a very high deductible in the thousands of dollars, something that is hard to do when you’re young and otherwise healthy. It took several weeks of researching the different types of therapy and trying to locate a doctor who not only had new patient openings, but also accepted sliding-scale fees (a reduced fee based on income level) before I got in to see someone.
At that point, I was emotionally exhausted from white-knuckling through my anxiety and fighting with my husband because I didn’t know how to talk to him about my feelings. I wanted to understand myself and I wanted to open up. But the transition from non-sharer to sharer was…difficult, to say the least.
Therapy challenges you to reexamine events and interactions from your life that you assumed you already had a handle on. Sometimes you realize that things aren’t how you remember them. Repressed memories occasionally surface. You may begin to question everything, which is scary because it sometimes feels like you’re losing perspective on your own life. For me, the experience was such an emotional ride that once I started talking, it was nearly impossible to shut up.
When I say “other people,” I mean practically everyone—from my coworkers to my friend’s friend who was visiting from their shared hometown. At a party, someone could mention family—theirs, mine, the Kardashians, doesn’t matter—and I’d end up telling some random story about a fight I had with one of my sisters eight years ago that, like, shifted the entire dynamic of our relationship forever (so deep/dramatic, I know). Or someone might ask the usually safe question “How’s work going?” and I’d launch into a 20-minute stream-of-consciousness diagnosis of my current level of professional happiness and speculation about “what’s next.” Here’s a PSA for you: When you’re in the midst of sorting through all your messy, complicated baggage that you’re really in your head about, maybe don’t force an audience to indulge in every detail. It’s truly a wonder I haven’t lost friends over this.
I’ve since talked to my current therapist about my experience and she says it’s not uncommon, but it really depends on the person. For some, going to therapy causes them to be less open with other people because they see therapy as the designated safe space to talk about the intimate details of their lives. But for others, personal epiphanies are harder to compartmentalize. This is the case for me partly because I’m a fairly obsessive person. I need to feel like whatever I’m dealing with is 100 percent resolved before I can move on. So once the lid came off of that “Do Not Open” box in my brain, attempting to work through the contents consumed me. I couldn’t help but to talk about it, no matter who was around.
To make matters worse, my oversharing intensified the anxiety I was struggling with. My therapist has since pointed out that I probably wasn’t oversharing as much as I think, rather my panic had to do with my extreme aversion to being vulnerable. But for the first year or so that I was in therapy, I didn’t have that context. So the second I would catch myself in the middle of what felt like an embarrassingly long personal monologue, I’d experience pre-anxiety about the anxiety I knew I was going to feel later for letting myself talk so much. Instantly, I’d apologize. But still I’d ramble on for a few more minutes before I could finally shut up. Which is why I’d make a second apology when we said goodbye. And, hours later, a third when we’d exchange the “Got home safe/so fun hanging out!” texts.
None of that prevented me from waking up at 3 A.M. panicked because I’d been too busy word vomiting to ask my friend Chelsea about the work project I knew she’d been working on. You did it again, I’d reprimand myself while tossing and turning in shame and self-loathing next to my sleeping husband. My aerobics often woke him up. So, if he’d been there during the conversation, I’d take the opportunity to ask him if I’d been as terrible as I feared.
To be clear: I still believe the pros of seeking professional help far outweigh this relatively minor con. But after years of being told that I needed to “open up” and “share more,” having my feeling floodgates opened so dramatically made me feel out of control. And I really hate feeling out of control (I gained that particular insight about myself through going to therapy). There were times, especially within the first year, when I questioned whether therapy was right for me. That type of intense self-analysis requires spending a whole lot of time in your head; I was uncomfortable with that. I tried to dismiss any revelations about myself that I didn’t like as—I don’t know what you’d call it, an identity crisis, I guess? I even quit going for a while. But then I realized my issues are my issues and they’ll never go away until I address them, head on.
Now, as I’m slowly getting a better handle on when and how and with whom I share personal information, I realize that opening up to another person doesn’t have to be scary. If fact, when it’s done with someone you trust, like my husband, it can make you feel safer than you ever thought possible. Plus, having a better understanding of your experiences and the feelings surrounding them makes you a better, more compassionate partner, sister, daughter, and friend, so everyone wins.
The path to whatever destination waits at the end of therapy—my best self? enlightenment?—might be messy and cause people to slowly back away from me at parties for fear of having their ears talked off. But I’ve come to accept that going through a process that shifts the way I see myself and the world is something I need to talk about. And that’s actually kind of beautiful. Shutting down is easy. Being open is hard. Especially since our human instincts tell us to protect ourselves. If the side effect of getting to a more honest and accepting place is a “small” bout of word vomit, I’m OK with that. Eventually I’ll find the cure.
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Source Article from http://www.self.com/story/going-to-therapy