I recently asked on my instagram (@madisonleonardo_) what YOU guys wanted me to write about this week...so this post is gonna be all about my experience with therapy!
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed or medical professional and I should not be your only source of knowledge for this! This is purely my experience.
So I first started therapy probably around 6 years ago when I was in highschool, but I haven’t exactly been in therapy for a full 6 years! It all started when my teachers, parents, and I began noticing new struggles in school that I had never had before. Elementary school was always pretty “easy” for me but highschool was when we realized something was making life really difficult for me. I had a full psychological assessment done and learned through that assessment that I was dealing with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and OCD. It was then recommended that I begin weekly talk therapy with a psychologist to help with my anxiety and OCD. I wanted to feel better of course so I tried my best every week to be really present and open minded in therapy. I now realize that as much as that was true, I’m also a huge people pleaser and wasn’t fully opening up in therapy because I wanted the woman to like me! Quite counterproductive but also extremely common. This is something that I’m working on even now in therapy, I have to consciously remind myself not to put on such a happy face and hold back. And let me tell you, it’s a process and a learning curve for us people pleasers.
The type of therapy I was doing with this first psychologist is called CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and it sounds really serious but it’s actually the most commonly used kind! It is focused on the relation between our thoughts and feelings, and how we can learn to restructure our negative thoughts. A big part of CBT is building your toolbox of positive skills and coping mechanisms that you can put to use on your own. Because I did this kind of therapy years ago and did it for a couple of years..I now have a very full and very useful collection of tools that I know work well for me and that I’ve been practicing for some time. After a few years of that, I was moving away for university, my issues became a bit more manageable and honestly the therapy got very very expensive, so I stopped.
So my first 2 years of university (when I REALLY needed it) I wasn’t in therapy. I obviously managed to get through it but it was really hard and I don’t intend to ever go without it again. Some people might think that’s super negative because they figure “you think you’ll never be okay enough without it?” and that’s just not the case. Therapy is also for maintenance of good mental health, not just for bad mental health, so even when I’m feeling really good, I make sure to continue at least bi-weekly. Therapy is also for self-reflection and self-improvement!! You don’t have to struggle with mental health to go to therapy, it’s such a positive resource for anyone and everyone.
I found my current therapist just a few months ago and i’m SO glad I started it again because I had no idea how much I really need it in my life! I look forward to having that one day a week to just release everything in a safe space and work on myself. Therapy helps me remain in control of my life, it helps me to be the best version of myself, it helps me to recognize toxic habits, behaviours, and people. Some weeks I’m doing really well and don’t have anything negative to talk about but somehow we still use up the full hour, because whether it’s positive or negative, it’s all about self-improvement.
I was super hesitant about re-starting therapy with someone new because you usually have to dedicate the first few sessions to introductory content such as your history, background, childhood, family, lifestyle, etc. I find myself often frustrated with this process because I feel like I’ve disclosed all that information to so many doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists, but it’s so important. It’s so important for your therapist to really understand your roots and everything you’re working with, but it can often be a difficult or uncomfortable process...and that’s okay!!
I love therapy and I believe everyone should experience it. The issue is that it’s not affordable/accessible to everyone (find resources at the end of this post). Starting therapy can feel like a really big step for most people, it can feel uncomfortable and weird and even scary...but these are all good signs. I call them mental growing pains! Like when you were little and you had growing pains in your legs but it was also a good thing cause you knew it meant you were growing. Ya, same thing...it’s hard but also good because you’re growing! If therapy is something you decide to do, you HAVE to remain open-minded and be really honest with your therapist, which can be hard. All in all, I highly recommend it and it’s definitely the most prominent factor in how I keep my mental health under control.
Thanks for reading...find some useful resources below if you might need em!
24 hour Crisis number: 416-408-HELP (4357)
Hi everyone, welcome back!
It’s been a while, but I’m back and feeling creative again. I’ve been missing writing here as an outlet, but I’ve been balancing online school and a job for a few months now. Now I’m FINALLY on my Christmas break!
(Disclaimer: I’m not a therapist! This is simply my knowledge and experience!)
Today’s topic is something I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about lately...why do we always try to “fix” a bad mood or force ourselves into a good mood? You can’t heal what you don’t let yourself feel... this is something I am constantly reminding myself. In our world, we have subconsciously labelled each emotion that exists as good or bad. Emotions like sadness, fear, and anger have been labelled as bad or negative emotions simply because they’re uncomfortable to feel. In reality, nothing about these emotions is inherently bad; we’ve just been made to believe this.
So when we find ourselves experiencing an uncomfortable emotion, we should resist the urge to try and avoid feeling the feeling. We have to let ourselves feel the way we feel and really get used to being uncomfortable, because it’s how we process things in a healthier way. We all know by now that suppressing emotions and not dealing with them only does more harm than good.
Again, this won’t be comfortable, and it will take some getting used to, but it’s worth it. When allowing yourself to process things, depending on the emotion you might be feeling, the number one thing to ensure is safety. So if I find myself feeling super anxious and afraid, the first step is to identify safety cues so that my mind can begin to realize that I am safe and not in danger. For me, identifying safety cues can look something like this: “I am in my safe home and everything is ok, my heart rate is elevated but it is not dangerous, I may feel like something is wrong but there is no imminent danger right now.”
That’s how it usually goes for me, but if for example you find yourself processing the feelings of deep sadness and loneliness, safety cues might look more like this: “I feel sad and lonely but I know there are people here for me if I need them, these feelings are hard but they are not dangerous, these feelings will pass.” Essentially we are reassuring ourselves enough for our brain to feel safe again and come out of that fight or flight response that often occurs.
If you find yourself unable to identify safety cues to regulate your mood, it might be best to share what you’re experiencing in the moment, with someone else who can help identify those cues for you. Once I’m more grounded and regulated, I focus on unpacking the emotions I’m experiencing typically by journaling and really trying to understand the root of my feeling. It can be difficult to totally break these things down by ourselves because we don’t see things from any other perspective. For me, this is where weekly therapy comes in because anything that has come up for me during the week, I will journal about it in the moment and then come back to it and dismantle it further with the help of my therapist because hey, that’s their job!
This isn’t an easy process or habit, and sometimes we can find ourselves feeling guilty or negative when putting this in to practice. This is simply due to the constructed notion that these emotions are “negative”, and not because it’s true.
Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad for experiencing your feelings. We have to remember to be gentle with ourselves and to hold space for all emotions and not just the “good” ones.
(disclaimer I’m not a therapist by any means, this is simply my experience and advice! and my DM’s are always open to chat🤍)
so much love,
I'm Maddi and Im a full time student (studying Child and Youth Work), and a self proclaimed content creator. Here I have my blog and my shop, I hope you enjoy!