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Monday, July 11, 2016

Therapy

I see a lot of memes about how ______ is better than therapy,  because _____. Or how _____ can replace medication. Now, lots of things can be therapeutic or play a role in someone's mental health. Unfortunately, those memes tend to add to the stigma against discussing and treating people with mental illness, so I thought I'd write about what therapy actually does for me.

I have anxiety. I've written a post about that already. However, that was in September of last year, and this is July. Life has changed since that last post, and I think it's time for an update.
I met with a therapist at the UK Counseling Center for a little while last Fall, then I didn't feel like I was making much progress, mainly because I was doing pretty well and I hadn't been buried by graduate work yet. So I didn't meet with anyone until the end of April/beginning of May this year, when I felt like I was drowning in the end of the semester. Finding a therapist that fit my needs was like grabbing a life raft in the middle of a rough sea.
Since then, I was able to finish my final papers and get everything turned in. It's been less stressful since then, but I've continued meeting with my therapist over the summer, to get myself in good emotional and mental shape for the fall semester, when things will get MUCH more stressful (I'll be teaching again). The thing about therapy is that it can be beneficial for anyone, as long as they're willing to set and work towards goals. It's not for crazy people or weird people or stupid people who can't cope with the real world without help. It's for human beings who want help with whatever.
The benefits I get from therapy are things I can't really get anywhere else. I have great friends and support, but a therapist is a concerned yet detached third party, someone who cares about you and your situation, but who has no other stake in your life, so they don't feel the need to influence your decisions. Instead, they act as a sounding board and help you think things through and build good emotional resilience. It's a good way to examine personal strengths and weaknesses and to track my progress. Therapy provides a safe space for me to express myself. Since therapy is confidential, it's a great place to think out loud and work through difficult problems before discussing them with other people. I can work through difficult emotions there, too: after the Orlando shooting, I was really distressed by humans killing other humans (again... shootings always make me feel that way, and each one makes it worse), and it helped to talk that through with my therapist to process the grief. I'm also working on creating good study habits and a solid routine so that I can be ready for when stuff gets crazy again this fall.
There are tons of resources available online. Not everyone has access to the mental health care they might need, and some people may choose not to manage their mental health through professional therapy. Others may need medication in addition to therapy, as I do for my anxiety. I really notice a difference if I take a dose late, and it is an essential part of my treatment. Therapy can encompass many aspects, and if something works for you, great. Professional therapy and medication are part of what works for me.