When I worked with a therapist for the first time, I did not imagine it was something I would ever enjoy. Part of it was the way I started. My parents nagged me into going. After doctors were unable to diagnose or treat my sleep deprivation, my mom suggested it might be related to mental health and that seeing a therapist could help. After months of resisting her recommendations, I finally booked an appointment.
At first I perceived it as the mental health equivalent of eating healthy foods that tasted terrible, going to the dentist, or getting a physical. It was an unpleasant chore, but it couldn’t hurt.
The initial months were difficult and painful. My therapist and I discovered I had constructed a subconscious system of negative beliefs to cope with the pain of living with undiagnosable, painful, relentless, and stressful health problems. Rather than protecting me, this system had poisoned my mind and exacerbated my physical issues.
Because no one was able to help me or understand my suffering, I believed people were incapable of being there for me. To numb the pain of disappointment, I eliminated my expectations of everyone and everything but myself. Expressing my emotions hadn’t seemed to make a difference, so I pushed them down or ignored them. I perceived them as nothing but a waste of time.
By challenging my negative beliefs, my therapist was able to crack the dam I had used to suppress my pain for so long. All of the frustration and sadness I had bottled up for eight years bursted out of me. Sometimes I worried my eyes would bleed from the uncontrollable crying.
My parents were right to push for therapy. The seemingly medical symptoms I had been experiencing were actually psychosomatic, intertwined with mental health issues.
I quickly realized the benefits of psychotherapy. Each session made me feel a little better. The therapists I worked with taught me how to better cope with challenges in my life. Nonetheless, I still couldn’t imagine therapy being fun or enjoyable.
About seven months in, my attitude began to change. Because I had talked about the bulk of the heaviest issues, there was room for something lighter. Sometimes I consumed the majority of a session ranting about frustrations with the shallowness of my peers, the foibles of fellow millennials. During one session I spent what must have been at least 35 minutes airing grievances about not getting into a prestigious literary workshop.
Somewhere in the middle of one of my many irreverent, silly jeremiads, I realized my therapist and I had laughed a lot and enjoyed ourselves. Not every session was like this, but it was common.
Since then I have always looked forward to therapy. Today I use unlimited messaging therapy from Talkspace, so I don’t commute to an office or have a session every week. Nonetheless, I still carve out an hour each week and dedicate it to therapy. That way I still feel like I’m “going to therapy” and have an event I can enjoy each week. Even when my life is difficult and full of serious issues to discuss, it’s often a bit of levity in my week.
If you’re considering working with a therapist, don’t assume it will forever feel like a chore. The first few months are difficult, but it becomes easier after that. In therapy you can cry, laugh, and even laugh so hard you cry. It’s something to enjoy.