“The first step to healing is awareness.”Nicole LePera
This month marks one year of going to therapy consistently, completely changing my life. My purpose behind sharing my experience is to highlight how therapy has been helpful for me. This is coming from someone who felt extremely scared to start and even had somewhat impostor syndrome when I finally started. Reflecting on the past year, I can say that it is not as scary as TV shows make it seem, and it has improved my quality of life significantly.
According to a study done by the CDC’s National Center of Health’s Statistics, one-fifth of U.S. adults in 2020 received mental health treatment within the past year. Marking a tick up from 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic . Similarly, after receiving my narcolepsy diagnosis in December of 2019 and the isolation caused by the pandemic, I realized it was time to find a way to cope with my mental health issues.
I have always loved science and psychology, which is why I believed in therapy even though I had never tried it myself. I also had the wrong idea of what therapy is really like. I thought that I would walk into therapy and have my therapist ask me a series of questions that would bring to light all of my traumas and anxieties. Then they would give me a few sentences that would change my life moving forward. Turns out therapy is way more straightforward, and it is really what you make it.
The first few times I attended therapy, I spent most of the time talking about my life, like the places I’ve lived in, my family, and my narcolepsy diagnosis. I did most of the talking as my therapist just followed up with questions. It wasn’t until my fourth or fifth session that I started to really dig deeper within myself. I talked about my life, insecurities, happy moments, etc. Through these talks, I understood my emotions and, ultimately myself.
Through therapy, I realized that absolutely no one is immune to trauma. Many circumstances of my life that were normal to me, such as moving a lot growing up, have caused patterns and anxieties in my adult life. Getting my narcolepsy diagnosis completely changed my life, and I did not take the time to acknowledge it, which heightened my anxiety and even caused me depression. Talking to a professional about the hardship of having an invisible illness while also being a young adult trying to figure out life allowed me to express my emotions, sometimes through tears and others through laughter. It made me feel seen, and this is when I started to appreciate myself and prioritize my worth instead of giving in to the negative self-talk or repeating harmful experiences in my head.
It’s not like I am immune to mental health issues just by going to therapy, but I have gained coping skills. Skills such as prioritizing and scheduling in time in my day to practice self-love. Recognizing the negative voice inside my head and how to turn its narrative into something positive. Ways to stay grounded to ease emotional pain. It has also made me appreciate myself for putting in the work to keep growing as I get to know myself more and more.
I come from an upbringing that was filled with unconditional love and support. Therefore, the idea of sitting and talking about my childhood felt wrong since I would never want to “complain” since I know I have been fortunate to have the support system I have. Truth is, we all faced adversity at some point, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out for help. We could always compare our lives to others and think they have it better or worse, but that does not matter. What matters is validating our emotions, struggles, and victories and understanding that we all deserve to feel happy.
Therapy can be expensive, so I wanted to provide this link with different options: https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-to-do-when-you-cant-afford-therapy#no-cost-options.
Terlizzi EP, Norris T. Mental health treatment among adults: United States, 2020. NCHS Data Brief, no 419. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2021. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:110593external icon.