Updated: Jun 15, 2020
In the past three years, a lot has happened. I experienced culture shock from moving from LA to UO. I was constantly homesick. I achieved some goals; I studied abroad in Japan. I lost a loved one, went through a breakup, and joined Majesty Digital. Throughout all that, therapy was the one consistent experience I had. Whether it was individual or group therapy, here are 5 things I learned.
Reaching out is the first step. Admittedly, it took me a while to go to therapy. I had zero expectations, and was afraid it wouldn’t help. I didn’t realize at the time that by going to therapy, it was the first step. It’s arguably the hardest step, but once I got into a rhythm and consistent schedule, the rest is invaluable.
It’s okay to cancel if you’re not comfortable. Your experiences in therapy should be tailored to you. As a woman of color, I had to realize that not everyone I was working with might be able to understand my experiences, or recognize the importance of my culture’s influence in my life. My university’s counseling center does its best - if you have a preference for a certain identity, they do their best to match you appropriately. Unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I was looking for a fellow woman of color, and when I didn’t match with someone, I took it upon myself to keep looking off campus for therapists that might fit. Whoever you start with is not who you’re stuck with. You’re asking for help, and you should get the help from someone you ultimately feel most comfortable with.
Your experiences are not something to apologize for. Often in therapy, I found myself not wanting to share some of my experiences. I thought they were dumb, not worth sharing, or irrelevant to the conversation. And granted, there are certain times and places to share things. But overall, I slowly realized that my experiences are not something I should feel timid or “wrong” about. How I experienced something, or how an experience affected me, is not an “I’m sorry” moment. Your life is how you live it, and it’s not someone else’s place to tell you that your experiences are wrong.
Self care looks different for different people. I’m not one to meditate, or to focus on being mindful through phone apps or deep breathing exercises, and I found that that’s often what some therapists might push towards patients, those tactics don’t work for me. Something to recognize, and more importantly to accept, is that self care and healing looks different for different people - whether that be alone time, face masks, or letting loose at a party. It’s however you choose to take care of yourself, whatever works best for you.
Making space for yourself is necessary. Sometimes I would find it difficult to find a space for myself to think, calm myself, and slow down. Purposely scheduling a time for therapy, and having that hour devoted to myself and thinking or contemplating about myself is a way that I ensured it would happen. It may be hard to spontaneously take the time and dedicate that time to yourself, but it is absolutely necessary to recognize that sometimes, you need space. And sometimes, it’s necessary to make that space for yourself.