How does one go about the idea of baring her inner thoughts and feelings to a stranger, when one grew up emotionally reticent? I asked myself this question as I sat in the waiting room for my first therapy session a few years ago. I looked around me and laughed at how cliché everything looked: bright-colored walls, abstract paintings, bookshelves full of self-help books, fresh flowers. The whole ordeal gave me the feeling of being a college freshman all over again, where the friendly receptionist was a college senior who wanted to recruit me in her org. I wanted an out, and I almost stood up and left. The only thing that made me stay was the fact that I paid P3,000 to be there.
When the psychologist finally called me into the room, the anxiety hit me harder. I saw a box of tissues beside the cozy couch where I was seated and I wondered if my I-don’t-cry facade would break down that day. She asked me if I was ready. I nodded yes. She began with a simple, “How do you feel?” and, boy, did that open a can of worms.
Speaking the truth about my feelings is one of the first things that I learned in therapy. The first few minutes of sitting on that couch in front of the psychologist felt like I was sitting in the principal’s office, waiting for my punishment. I knew I needed to be there. I was in a bad place in my life — I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I was grieving for my dad’s death, and my grades were at an all-time low. I had so many pent-up feelings, but the act of just letting all of those thoughts go frightened the hell out of me. So I started with the admission that I was not okay. And little by little, I found myself opening up to her.
The thing about therapy is that it only works if you also work on yourself outside the four walls of the psychologist’s clinic.
The thing about therapy is that it only works if you also work on yourself outside the four walls of the psychologist’s clinic. This much I learned after the first few sessions where I kept lying to my therapist just so she thought I was getting better. It was easy to feel overwhelmed, and think that the simple exercises that I was told to do were useless. More often than not, I felt hostile towards her because she could read between the lines, and harsh truths about my bad habits were given without a second thought.
Therapy is where I learned to be kinder to other people, but more so, to myself. I used to have a hard time coping with my mistakes, no matter how small or big they were. I would sabotage a lot of my relationships because I felt undeserving. I would date people just for the hell of it, play with their feelings, and ghost them after a week or so. I couldn’t even say “I love you” to anyone. Add all those to the highs and lows of living with Bipolar Disorder, and I was practically a mess.
Therapy is where I learned to be kinder to other people, but more so, to myself.
Two years after that dreaded first session, I am in a place in my life where I can truly say that I am happy. There are still bad days, yes, but gone are the moments of misplaced anger, gone are the random boys and drunken nights, gone are the times when I would bottle up everything. I have learned the value of my life, and learned to forgive myself for my mistakes. I am a better person, all thanks to therapy. Thank God my therapist was patient as hell.