Over the last twenty years, I have seen countless therapists, counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists, and I have taken something from every single one of those appointments, good and bad. Sometimes I have come away feeling more positive, other times more negative, and yet they all impacted on my life in some way, and looking back I wanted to share five lessons I learned in therapy.
1. Nobody can change your life but you.
If you think your therapist can wave a magic wand and make your life wonderful again, you’re wrong. Nobody can change your life but you, and those changes have to come in your own time, from your own mind, and with your own determination and strength to make them happen. For a long time I wasn’t ready to change my life. I found comfort in my eating disorder, in the control I had over my body, when I was losing control of everything else around me, and I wasn’t ready to make those changes and admit to how poorly I really was. I can’t tell you how many times I sobbed and pleaded with my therapist to give me the answers to make it all go away, and I will never forget her telling me, “Only you can do this for yourself.” And with the right tools, and the right support, I really did.
2. Not everything is black and white.
One of the most important lessons any of us can learn in life is that there is no such thing as perfection, and not everything is black and white. It took me a long time to realise that, to work past this type of thinking where if something isn’t perfect, it’s not good enough. And once I finally let go of striving for the unachievable, I realised that the world is a myriad of colours if you just open up your eyes to see it.
3. Fears are just unclear thoughts
I have been plagued by anxiety and panic my whole life, but never more so than the last decade. I developed an inability to exist in normal, every day situations, due to irrational thoughts and physical symptoms of panic, every minute of every day. Through therapy, and particularly through CBT, I realised that fears are simply unclear thoughts and, once we have learned to process those thoughts and think about them logically, the fear seems to melt away.
I learned to face those fears head on, to address them rather than run from them. and to allow myself to realise that there the biggest waste of time is worrying about something which hasn’t happened yet. And once you realise that, and accept that, life becomes so much easier.
4. Be kind to yourself
Oh how I wish I had learned this lesson years ago. As parents we raises our children to be kind to others, and often forget to teach out reaching to be kind to themselves. I was so unkind to myself for such a long time, blaming myself for all of the wrongs in my life, for not being the person I thought I would be, or succeeding at the things I felt I was expected to do. I beat myself up for the mistakes I made, blamed myself for the loss of my son, loathed myself for the break up of my marriage, and I was so unkind to myself on a daily basis.
Learning to be kind to yourself can be hard, but so very important. These days I look in the mirror and I tell myself that I am a good person, with a beautiful family, and I deserve to be happy, and healthy, and enjoy my life to the best of my ability. I take time out for myself, I eat well, I laugh lots, and most of all I like myself, far more than I ever thought was possible, and it has changed my life absolutely.
5. You are stronger than you know
And the last lesson I have learned through therapy is undoubtedly, you are stronger than you know. Honestly, when Joseph died I thought that my whole world had ended, and I wanted to close my eyes and never wake up. But every morning I got out of bed, I put on a smile for Lewis, and I did whatever it took to get through each day, minute by minute, hour by hour. When people ask me how I ever survived that time, I have no idea of the answer and yet I tell them that the fact I am stood here, happy, smiling, healthy, is proof that we are all far stronger than we know.
** This is a collaborative post **