9 Things I Learned My First Year In Therapy
I started going to therapy in the summer of 2021. The start of the pandemic left me isolated and all that time alone allowed me to deal with the things I had been suppressing for years. Between generational trauma, health-related triggers, and past relationships, things started to surface and I didn’t know how to deal with them.
I was always the friend people came to for advice. Who was there for me when I needed it? It was hard to tell. Mid-2020, before the vaccine, I flirted with trying therapy. I got as far as being paired with a therapist and then fled the scene. I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready.
Fast-forward to quitting my 9-to-5 in 2021, I was left with a fork in the road. I was turning 30 soon and didn’t consider a life transition to be a mid-life crisis, but I definitely wanted to talk to someone unbiased to my life decisions. I found a therapist who specialized in life transitions and art therapy. I gave in, and thought I would give therapy a try.
While I started therapy with the mission to navigate a new chapter in my life, I wasn’t ready to go down certain mental palace rooms I thought were locked for good. It wasn’t my intent to try and heal my trauma at this point because, I didn’t think I had any.
Consistency is key
As I continued to stick to a once-a-week schedule, I slowly started unraveling different layers of myself. There were dark times in this process, lots of shadow work. A year later, I truly feel like I’m a new me. Not better than the last, just more aware of what makes me who I am and how that can affect my relationships.
If you’ve followed this blog since it’s birth, you know I like to share what I learn to help you find your own version of a lovely life. During the first year, I didn’t feel ready to share what I learned. Who was I to give advice about something I was deep in the trenches for? While I learned I’m always in progress, I do feel more confident about sharing some of the things I learned now.
Here are nine things I learned, during my first year in therapy.
#1: Navigating negative thoughts
One of the first exercises my therapist had me try was drawing out a cast of characters to match every thought that popped up in my head–who were all the characters in my play? This opened my eyes. After five pages of characters, my voice didn’t appear till page six! I had no idea I was listening to other people, their voices so ingrained in my programming. This led to a mental palace door that started a council of Monica’s.
#2: Healing past versions of myself
After years of not hearing my own voice (which I completely thought I was, by the way) the first few months were overwhelming. It was a constant battle between who was in control of my internal thoughts. Slowly, the programming and fake voices from others, faded. I was finally able to talk to my 15-year-old self again and deal with the aftermath of my type-one diabetes diagnosis. She was the key to many others, giving each one a chance to heal.
#3: Setting better boundaries
After years of blindly people pleasing everyone around me, this was the hardest habit to break. To be honest, I’m still working on it and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. Saying no is a full sentence. Ya’ll remember my year of yes? LOL. I revisited a lot of past relationships that made me realize I wasn’t actually doing things I liked to do. I’m learning how to say no more, especially if I actually don’t want to do something. This will piss a lot of people off. They will leave you. Especially if they had you wrapped around your finger for years.
#4: Oversharing tendencies
Working on setting better boundaries with people led me to discover something I wasn’t consciously aware of. I tend to overshare. A LOT. When I met someone new, I want them to like me so bad that I over explain things. I found this was based on past relationships with gaslighters, and also because I wanted to give them a million reasons to choose why they should like me. I am now able to see when I start doing this with someone new and take a moment to assess why this person is triggering the need to overshare.
#5: Dealing with narcissists
I tend to attract leeches ready to launch their little fangs into my orbit. I couldn’t figure out why those who I thought were my closest friends always wanted something from me. After changing course, a lot of those friends dissapeared in the pandemic. We were all dealing with our own shit but I also saw how much I pulled the weight in a lot of my relationships. Both friends and family. I can now sense a leech as soon as they reveal themselves, which if you know a narcissist, it’s pretty soon. My bullshit meter is on high alert and I am able to suss out who is trying to take advantage or control me a lot sooner.
#6: The root of generational trauma
Ah, yes. Generational trauma. I didn’t know how deep the roots went until I started therapy. Before my first meeting with my therapist, I had to fill out a questionnaire. The questions that triggered me were–how is your relationship with your father? How about your mother? Oh boy was I in for a deep dive. Again, this wasn’t why I wanted to do therapy, but when they say things often go back to your childhood, they’re not wrong. If you are first-gen or have immigrant parents, I highly recommend reading Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson. Life-changer.
#7: Coping with the pandemic
The COVID pandemic changed a lot of things. I spent a lot of therapy sessions trying to understand why I was the only one on the planet who cared about saving lives, even my own. I learned how to adapt and navigate through every new COVID wave. Practicing new boundaries with family members, communicating what I didn’t feel comfortable with doing, was one of the hardest things I had to navigate. As the eldest daughter, there’s a lot of pressure to be the glue. For the first time in my life, I had to break expected molds from family members and prioritize my own boundaries.
#8: Accepting seasons of life
I am very familiar with hermit mode. Before the pandemic, I lived out of a suitcase most months, traveling for work and play, crossing things off my bucket lists. While I still love travel, I’m learning to redefine what it means to me now. We’re always so obsessed with meeting society’s milestones, we don’t often allow ourselves the time to enjoy the seasons of life we’re in. Therapy helped me accept the slower seasons. It helped me welcome the healing seasons and embrace them as much as the other seasons of my life I was excited to post on Instagram.
#9: Learning to receive
One of the hardest lessons I have yet to master is receiving. I even did a 40-day challenge to help myself embrace this type of life, and as soon as the challenge was over, I started to slip into my old ways. As much as I try to be gentle with myself about this one, it’s always going to be my hardest programming to break. Therapy continues to help me allow myself to let go of things that aren’t serving me but also teaches me how to ask for what I want. I hope we all learn to receive the blessings we deserve and find a lovely life worth living.
Mental health for all
I know therapy isn’t available for everyone. Mental health is currently trapped in capitalism and also still a stigma in a lot of immigrant households. After leaving my health insurance plan from my 9-to-5, I found Friday Health Plans, which gave me unlimited, free telehealth visits. I know this isn’t available in every state, but wanted to share how I got here. I did try BetterHelp, I know there’s a lot of other options out there now as well. Since I didn’t follow through with BetterHelp the first time I was curious about therapy, I can’t provide a recommendation over it but the pricing plan was what drew me there in the first place.