I thought my problems were ‘too small’ to have therapy – I was wrong
‘Why have you decided to seek help today?’ the friendly, but unfamiliar, face on screen asked.
Sitting at my dining room table on Zoom, wearing a smart top paired with my Snoopy pyjama pants, I thought about why I’d decided to try online therapy.
I was an anxious person, sure – but I wasn’t depressed. I hadn’t been through a big break up, major trauma, or was amidst the throes of grief, unrequited love or crushing disappointment. All reasons that had led to me seeking help before.
After a big life move six months earlier I was, for perhaps the first time in a long time, happy. Content. Nothing ‘bad’ had happened to me – I wasn’t struggling for air, or treading the waters of my depression, constantly on the verge of drowning.
So, why was I seeking therapy?
‘No real reason,’ I admitted shyly, adding that I just wanted to talk.
Express how I was feeling about disappointing female friendships, life direction, and growing older. Everyday, niggly little problems that could seem petty on paper to some, but to me swirled relentlessly around my head.
Yet despite initially doubting whether I even needed therapy, it has been one of the most healing, cathartic processes I’ve ever experienced.
I ended up in tears on my first call, not realising how deeply-rooted my ‘minor’ problems were, or the impact they were having on me
While this is the first time I’ve tried e-therapy, if you could call it that, I’ve had in-person therapy twice before.
The first time was in university when I was cheated on. The toxicities of our relationship that I’d looked past came rushing toward me, while our planned future – and my entire life – unravelled before my eyes.
As a vulnerable young person, this was the first time I had encountered such dark, intrusive thoughts, and I take no pride in admitting that it well and truly broke me.
Broke my self-esteem, my confidence and all I felt was a mix of pure, unadulterated shame and hatred. For him, and myself.
Over the next year, I fell into the arms of faceless men in the dark before I found my first therapist, Brenda, through my university. On her advice, I went on medication, and she built me back up. Though I was lopsided, and not the same person as before, I started to feel a little more whole again.
The second time was only last year. I was married, with steady work and income, but a few toxic, pretty terrible, female friends.
I started having panic attacks for the first time, and was obsessed with what people thought, and were thinking, about me at any given moment.
My self-esteem was shattered and I spent long days in bed under the covers, convincing myself that I was a terrible person that everyone hated. I had eight weeks of counselling, arranged through my local council – which helped.
Both very ‘valid’ reasons to seek therapy, right? To have a problem and seek help to try and ‘fix it’ with the help of a professional?
So, when the option came up to give online therapy a go through a benefit my husband’s work offered earlier this year – which I recognise is a huge privilege in itself, I can’t deny it – I initially waved it off.
‘Nothing is wrong with me, it’d be a waste,’ I protested. ‘Someone else needs it more than me.’
But then my husband reminded me of the tears I’d shed on my pillow after feeling lonely after moving to a new city only months earlier.
How people, who were once so set on being my friend, had consistently let me down. How my WhatsApp messages were left on read. Ignored.
How old friends seemed happier without me, and the jealousy I felt of seeing them together online – laughing, eating and drinking wine.
How I was worried about turning 30, convincing myself that I hadn’t ‘done enough’ with my life.
Small, fleeting worries that I knew from experience can turn into overwhelming, intrusive thoughts that keep you up at night, or help you cry yourself to sleep.
After thinking about his words, I realised I wanted to stop the vicious cycle of waiting until my stresses caused me to break down completely before seeking help.
So, I signed up and was matched with a therapist after doing a quick online survey.
I ended up in tears on my first call, not realising how deeply-rooted my ‘minor’ problems were, or the impact they were having on me. The relief I felt after an hour of someone listening, offering advice or simple, helpful suggestions to slot into my daily routine, was incomparable.
I’d convinced myself that my problems weren’t enough, or weren’t ‘real’ issues to be able to seek therapy over which, looking back, is wrong.
Now, I have online sessions every six to eight weeks, with more or less time if I need it – and it works for me. I feel armed with the right tools to combat any intrusive thoughts, stress or anxiety that comes my way, and take comfort in knowing there’s someone to talk to if I misplace them.
While I don’t endorse time-wasters, especially when the NHS is on its knees, this notion that something needs to be ‘wrong’ in order for you to seek help is wrong. It’s outdated, and it’s exclusive.
No problem is too small for therapy. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, rather a form of routine, preventative healthcare. It can help make your issues manageable, without them escalating to crisis level – and you don’t even need to cry to feel a sense of relief after having a chat with someone.
Even if you feel ‘fine’, your problems are worthy.
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