My Relationship with Therapy
*Trigger Warning* Talk of suicide.
A few years ago, I viewed the concept of ‘therapy’ with a great deal of speculation. I saw it as a useless exercise, a way to waste my time and money, yet I agreed to go to a therapist at the request of my parents. A lot of people who suffer from mental illnesses are told that Psychotherapy can help, and a lot of people react with the same suspicion I did at first.
The first time I went to therapy was in 2011; I was a very unwell 19-year-old who dropped out of Boston University and went back to India after attempting to take my life one night in my dorm room. My parents were extremely concerned; I had finally given them a very visible symptom of something I had hidden for so many years. They finally knew how bad the situation truly was and they took me to a psychiatrist at one of the best hospitals in New Delhi. I hated that psychiatrist, and would begrudgingly go to my appointments and take my medication. They also took me to a Reiki healer. And finally, we went to a family counseling center. That is where I met my first therapist; I will call her P.
P would always make this very sad, what she believed was understanding noise, “hmm.” It drove me crazy; I used to have fantasies of just smacking her face every time she would reply with an ‘hmm.” I would go for sessions every week, with her trying to break down my walls, slowly she tried to chip away the anger I felt. Unfortunately, she was not successful. The only thing I liked about P was that she encouraged me to write out my emotions. I started writing prose, poetry, fiction, and it was all just for me, and she would read it if I let her. The practice of writing was a major contributor to my getting healthier at that time. Like art therapy, dance therapy and music therapy, I believe that writing therapy can have a huge influence on people’s mental health.
After meeting with P for a few months, I stopped going to see her. I was in college and was able to cope with the issues I was facing. I was no longer actively suicidal, and the circumstances of my life seemed to be settling down. While I still had ups and downs and would occasionally feel like everything is too difficult to handle, I mostly made it through my undergraduate course without any major incidents. There were periods when I would feel like going back to therapy, and on one occasion I did tell my mother I wanted therapy, her reply, “I thought you are okay now, why do you need to go to therapy?” With that, the litter desire I had to meet P flew out the window.
After I graduated from college, I took the year off to work on my applications for master’s school. The plan was to work in my dad’s friend’s office, to get some work experience and eventually leave for grad school. Within the first week of my new position at work, I was making a list of how to get out of the job; I would sit at the computer and think “maybe I can contract a disease like malaria, or I can fall down the stairs and injure myself…” I realized that this isn’t a healthy way to live. I told my parents that I need to go back to get help, that something is really wrong with me. We met with a psychiatrist I loved; he referred me to a psychotherapist who ended up being one of the biggest influences in my life. We will call her S. The reason I liked S so much was because she did not put up with my bullshit. She made me work hard on my issues and made me stay focused on my goals. I was able to complete a diploma in the Montessori Method of Education, I got a great score on my GRE, and I got accepted to the University of Chicago. I thought my life was finally on track. While we started off by meeting twice a week, eventually S said that it would be all right for me to meet her just twice a month. The progress I made was incredible. I realized that therapy isn’t just about me sitting and talking to someone, it was me trying to unravel the mess in my head. To learn how to keep the mess at a level, I can handle.
I moved to Chicago for grad school with a lot of hope and excitement; I believed that my new healthy state of mind would continue to flourish and that I could do it all on my own. Ha, was I wrong. I did not go to see a new psychiatrist; I did not go to see a new therapist, I stopped taking medication. I started indulging in alcohol; I was struggling to maintain a very toxic relationship, my grades were deteriorating. In March, I realized that I needed help again.
When I admitted myself into an in-patient program for depression and anxiety, I re-realized the importance of therapy. I went for group therapy, individual therapy, and classes for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The out-patient program was similar, just that I stayed in the out-patient program for a longer period. Again, at first I was resistant to the new setting of group therapy, I didn’t want to share my life with strangers. But as a few days passed, I saw how group therapy could be helpful. When you share don’t share what you are going through, you think you are the only one going through it. When you share your issues with people who have similar issues, you realize that you are not alone. The group can also share their coping skills and thoughts, giving you the opportunity to learn more.
When I came back to grad school this fall, the first thing I did was find a therapist, not because I was required to, but because I wanted to. I wanted to re-start working on myself after my summer vacation. I wanted to have something consistent in my life. That is when I started seeing A. My meetings with her are less therapy and more self-care, in my mind. Self-care because it gives me a space to work out all my anxieties, and A is able to provide me the tools I need outside of that space. For me therapy is a way for me to ease my mind from the stressors of life, it is an outlet to process and discuss my mistakes and achievements. I believe the goal of therapy is not to fix you or make your issues go away, but rather to help you live the life you want.
Written by Sanya.