At the age of 20, I was diagnosed with depression. I was a shy kid growing up but I had multiple groups of friends, so I wasn’t a loner by any means. I had good grades and was involved in activities at school. I was never sad, but I wished some things in my life could be better. But they were the kinds of things every other teen thought could be better (the amount of money they had, their social lives, etc.), so it wasn’t anything to worry about.
Once I got to college, things changed. I was attending my dream university, but none of my close friends chose to go to the same school as I did. I never realized how hard it was to make friends because my extracurricular activities in school always surrounded me people. I felt alone.
After realizing this, I became closed off. I was afraid to talk to people. I would call my friends back home multiple times a day. I would attend classes, but would be that one weird, quiet kid in the back not talking to anyone. I only spoke if I was on spoken to.
I knew something had to change after I was put on academic probation after my first semester. I started browsing the internet for advice, and came upon my school’s mental health center website. I decided to pay them a visit.
Mental health therapy didn’t scare me. It took me a while to understand that I had a problem, but once I understood what it was, it was as if I had a cold or the flu. I needed to go the doctor. It just happened to be that for my sickness the doctor was a therapist. I started attending therapy sessions on a weekly basis, and it worked. I made friends and slowly started getting better.
I like to tell people that depression is like a drug addiction. You’re always in remission, but you’re never fully cured. There’s always the possibility of a relapse. I had my own form of that twice. I stopped going to therapy because I thought I was cured, but slowly it crept back in my life and there I was back in therapy.
Here are 7 ways therapy has changed my life, for the better.
1. I now know have someone there whenever I need to talk.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I never told my close friends that I was attending therapy till my third year in school. I wasn’t ashamed to be there but I thought my friends would feel ashamed to know someone attending therapy. Because I couldn’t talk to them, I had someone there for me whenever I needed to talk. Now that I live in a different city It is not the same person, but I know the steps to get in touch with a therapist whenever I feel I need one.
2. I now know that you never really know what someone is going trough me.
What actually led me to come out of the therapy closet was when a friend confessed to me of his own depression struggles. It was a friend of mine that had actually had days where he couldn’t leave his room. He would make up excuses to me just like I lied to people about where I was at times. Therapy was the only thing that got him through his relapses. It was validation that my therapy treatment was what I needed to go through.
3. I now know that I have four walls of comfort when I needed them.
One of the effects of my depression was that I often felt so alone that I felt like every person I walked through on campus was talking about me. I felt like I was hearing voices. I felt like the only way to escape everything was to go to my dorm room. When I got to therapy I knew I had my four walks of comfort. I knew that during this hour or so it was just me, my therapist, and a very comfy chair.
4. I now know that there are people in this life who are literally paid to help you and understand you.
Let’s face it. Even without attempting to, we often judge a book by its cover. During therapy however, the conversation between you and the other person is a judgement free zone. Therapists are the cheat sheets to getting better. They don’t give you the answer to those analytic questions that traumatized us during exams. They simply help you process the information that you present them into a forward moving future. Where else would you find someone like that? My therapist gave me the ability to see my life through a different set of lenses.
5. I now know that I have the ability to trust people.
I still deal with it. I am the girl that has trouble trusting everyone from my next door neighbor to my own mother. But therapy, without even realizing at the time, gives you the ability to trust. It teaches you that ultimately you are the person that you need to be trustworthy with. You will find it difficult to tell your story at first. In the end you end up telling more of the story that you even knew existed. Because I was able to do that, I learned how to trust people in the process.
6. I now know that depression is a life long battle.
In the begging stages of therapy I expected to only have to go once or twice. After two years of therapy I learned that depression is a life long thing but also took away the things I learned in those two years as tools to help deal with it. It didn’t take away my sadness but allowed me to see my life in a new way. But now that I have my relapses or bouts of anxiety, I now how to deal with it. I wouldn’t have know how to without therapy.
7. I now know that sharing my story helps fight the stigma.
After I got the confidence to share my story from my friend, five other friends of mine came to me for help. As a writer, I often write about entertainment and gossip, but whenever I share pieces of my mental health journey I know that that is what is truly making a difference. I now wear the title ”mental health advocate” with pride. I am proud of my journey. I wouldn’t change a thing.