How Therapy Changed Me

by - 6:00 PM


One year ago, I embarked on the scariest journey of my life: I started therapy. After a lifetime of denial, I faced the fact that I was gifted. I did not handle that fact too well. Looking back, I don't think I could have handled it any worse. I broke down completely, then finally asked for professional help. And so I ended up in therapy.

Therapy is scary. Starting it is scary, finishing it is scary and everything in between is scary as well. It makes you look at yourself, find the flaws and fix them. It changes you. I think that is what scares us as humans the most in this life: change.

I had no idea how much of an impact therapy would have on me. I sort of knew it could change me, but didn't expect anything drastic to happen. And nothing drastic did happen in the first two sessions. In fact, my therapist had trouble diagnosing me in those first few weeks. I'd come in to find help accepting myself and giftedness, but my therapist felt there was more than met the eye. Depression was ruled out: I was too optimistic and active in every aspect of life to suffer from depression. I didn't have a serious personality disorder either: I didn't show any sign of having one. Eventually my therapist came to the conclusion that I had an inferiority complex with a hint of anxiety. The latter explained my extreme hyperventilating in high school.

Getting an official diagnosis, a label, affected me in two major ways. First, I only felt relief. I finally understood myself, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place, I finally knew what was wrong with me. Then it hit me that something was wrong with me. I saw myself as a broken toy that needed fixing. I bawled my eyes out because I had a huge problem that made me feel completely worthless. Accepting my diagnosis was no easy feat.

I can't say I'd fully accepted that I had an inferiority complex when I started working on getting rid of it. Acceptance took me about a month. In that time, I learned more about my diagnosis and how to tackle an inferiority complex. The thing about an inferiority complex is that it warps your perception of reality. Your neighbor didn't say hi to you this morning? They probably hate you. Another blogger has a bigger audience? Probably because your writing is awful. Every single thing you see, every thought you have, it all becomes a personal attack. You feel worthless all the time. Just not good enough. Never quite good enough...

In the next couple of months of therapy, I learned to identify the thoughts that were full-on attacks. I learned to notice them as they were starting to form, instead of long after they'd ruined my day. I had to take a close look at every single thought I had. What was the reason I had a negative thought? How did the thought make me feel? Was there any concrete evidence that this negative thought was the truth? Slowly but steadily I started to change the way I think. I replaced negative thoughts with positive or at least neutral ones.

While I was working on changing my thinking patterns, which was an intended change of course, I also noticed that I was changing in other, unforeseen ways. I cried a lot more. Literally anything could get the tears flowing. Diaper commercials, travel pictures, a text from a friend. Anything. To this day, I still have emotional outbursts like these every now and then. They're not all that frequent anymore, but they're there. I think that's because I learned to acknowledge my emotions instead of ignoring them because, as was my logic at the time, it didn't matter if it was me who felt that way.

Far scarier than the sadness were my angry periods. Every two or three weeks I'd explode. All the negativity would come out in one big burst. I think it was a side-effect of therapy: back when I wasn't fighting the inferiority complex, self-loathing came out of my brain slowly. Slowly but steadily, like a polluted spring. Then, when I started challenging the inferiority complex, I basically blocked the outlet. Every now and then the pressure became too high and everything would come bursting out. I was very hard to love whenever that happened. I lashed out at everyone, provocating them, drawing them out in hopes of them saying something hurtful, so I could point at them and say: 'See? I don't have an inferiority complex, people really do hate me!' It was a weird and painful form of denial, which lasted longer than my time in therapy did. But now I'm getting ahead of myself.

Spring became summer as I continued battling all my negative thoughts. I was about as stable as a nuclear meltdown and suffered a major relapse when I realized how badly my college had damaged me over the three years I'd studied there. These months were awful. Progress was slow, painstakingly slow. I'd become aware of the flaws in my thinking patterns, but wasn't strong enough to prevent myself from making the same mistakes over and over again. I started looking for coping mechanisms. One of them was simply asking questions. Sometimes, when I was so deep into my own little spiral of negative thoughts that I couldn't find a way out anymore, I'd simply ask people if my thoughts were true. 'Mom, do you hate me because I'm so emotionally unstable?' Asking a question like that takes some courage, but it helped me a lot. I still do this nowadays. Life is too short to doubt someone else's feelings. Better ask for clarity.

Asking questions was some sort of last resort for me. If it didn't help, I'd accept defeat, tell myself to try again tomorrow and seek distraction for today. Reading and writing sadly didn't work for me. The tornado of destructive thoughts was too loud for that. I found solace in YouTube videos. Short enough for my chaotic brain to focus on, loud enough to drown my thoughts out and also visually distracting so my eyes wouldn't wander to things I didn't need to see at that point in time. Jacksepticeye and Markiplier got me through 90% of my bad days.

By the time I turned 21 in July, I was able to turn my negative thoughts around or cope with them on difficult days. August came around and I ended therapy. Finished. Done. Yet I was still emotionally unstable as could be. On top of that, I had to bring everything I'd learned immediately into practice during my gap year. The gap year had never been part of the plan, but I was forced to take one thanks to my former college. However, I was lucky enough to land a job in translation early in September. That's when I noticed just how much I'd changed. With a new environment, new people and new possibilities in my life, my inferiority complex came back swinging. This time I was prepared though. In the months that followed, I had a few angry outbursts. I felt worthless every now and then. But I never feel the way I did a year ago. If I get close to feeling that way again, I write everything down the way I learned in therapy. It's not always easy, but at least the inferiority complex doesn't control my life anymore.

Looking back on the past year, I can barely believe how much I've been through. Therapy was challenging and painful, so much so that I couldn't write about it until just now. I had to take my time, not just in accepting my diagnosis and changing my thinking pattern, but also in being open and honest about my situation. That's why I've waited a full year to tell my story. Because even though my time in therapy ended months ago, it also took me months to find emotional stability again. Months to get over the anger, frustration and sadness. Therapy shakes up your entire life like that.
It is scary and changes you more than you can ever imagine. But in the end, it's all worth it.

x Envy

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6 Fellow Ramblers

  1. You're a strong girl, Envy! Obviously, I don't know you that well, but even then it's easy to see that, just from the way you approach things.. It was brave of you to get into therapy; that method surely isn't for everyone, but it's amazing where it takes many people. I'm glad you were one of those who benefited from it, and you get some serious points for sharing your story openly.

    I've always had confidence problems. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if I had some sort of minor inferiority complex or something, too. I've never been much for labeling my personality or character, though -- I just don't think in that way. Don't care if someone does, and I understand the relief of knowing, but I'm usually just like.. always been that way, just the way I am, just another thing I can work on lol. On the other hand, I have an autisic sister, and it was like her world all of a sudden made comlete sense afterwards. That was back when much wasn't known about autism or diagnosing it, so having that label to explain her differences.. it totally changed the way she thought about it. So I get it. But sometimes a diagnosis just makes you feel worse than it should. Unnecessarily sets the flaw in stone, even if it's easily worked through.

    I don't know.. Each person's different. And everyone's got something. Isn't it interesting, though, how the smarter one is, the more flaws they appear to have?

    (My bad. Didn't mean to write a novel lmao.)

    On a more random, lighter note, you and I both have July birthdays. I'll even be turning 21 this year. *Cheers to us July babies*

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your novel, I honestly loved your comment. I totally know how your sister felt, it was the same way for me too. Like, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
      Maybe more intelligent people are just more aware of their flaws?

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  2. I feel this so hard. I had no idea that therapy would change me so much. even as someone who is literally studying to become a psychologist, I still didnt get how sitting in a room talking to someone would change me.

    it actually did though. therapy probably saved my life. its so freaking hard. but its so worth it.

    Im so glad you took the plunge and went to see someone. and Im so proud of your progress :)

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    Replies
    1. Even if you go in expecting some kind of change, you change in many more ways than you could ever imagine, right?

      I am glad therapy helped you. You're really strong to go through with it.

      Delete
  3. You have done so much this past year, and you should be so proud of yourself because you're right, it's not easy and it's constant hard work.
    Thank you for sharing x
    Cora http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

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  4. Three months later I can finally agree with you without feeling like I'm a liar!

    ReplyDelete

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