I’ve been seeing my therapist for about 10 years. I love her. She truly helps me and makes my life better. If you don’t go to therapy, I highly recommend it. She helps me work out my problems, listens when I just want to vent, and gently helps me realize when I’m exhibiting not-so-healthy behaviors. I trust her judgement and appreciate her very much.
She’s given me some sound advice over the past decade, so I thought I’d share my favorite tidbits here.
“You can’t let anxiety prevent you from taking care of yourself.” I have a habit of making things bigger in my head, then worrying about it, which can prevent me from doing what I need to be mentally and physically healthy. Anxiety is such a monster and you can’t let it win.
“You’re not the black sheep, you’re different.” My political leanings and general philosophies on life tend to be very different from my immediate family and for years I’ve thought of myself as the black sheep, which has a negative connotation. For me it’s important that I don’t use this because it can make the metaphorical divide larger in my head.
“It’s not personal.” This is pretty common advice but advice that I need to hear constantly. I get these ideas in my head that someone doesn’t like me or is mad at me and there’s really nothing to back that up.
“You don’t have the ability to understand some things, like why people are mean, and that’s OK.” Too many times have I sat across from my therapist upset at something bad that happened or someone was cruel. She’s right, though. I don’t have hate in my heart, I’m kind and a generous person. I don’t need to know why something bad happened and I’m just fine not being able to understand.
“It’s not about you.” This goes along with “it’s not personal” and is important for me to remember, because again, I can make a mountain out of a molehill pretty quickly. My therapist says if I think there’s conflict or somethings not right in one of my relationships, just tell him you’re there for them. Ask if they’re OK. But don’t obsess because it’s just not about you.
“You grew. You turned the light on. You embraced your life, and that’s scary to some people.” Sometimes you outgrow a relationship, but that’s OK. Some people will do things to keep you small because they’re afraid of growth and change but never make yourself smaller for others.
“Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.” This is by far my favorite piece of advice. I would get caught up in something someone said about my life and get so upset, but repeating this comforts me and gives me clarity. We all have people who can be toxic at times but this quote frees you from caring about their toxic or hurtful opinion.
“You’re very concerned with how [someone] treats you. Muster enough concern on how you treat you.” I love this. I do expend a lot of energy on others, but I’m learning to focus my energy on me and I can see the positive changes.
(If you have a toxic person in your life.) “You can admit that they’re toxic. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them. You can be grateful for what they’ve given you and be aware of their behavior at the same time.“
“You love everybody and everything but you don’t love yourself. You have to love yourself.”
“If you didn’t have struggles, you wouldn’t have strength.” So, so true.
“You don’t have to stay where you are. Find the sun, like a plant. Twist however you need in order to find it.” This is also one of my favorite quotes of hers. When I’m going through a depressive episode, these words remind me that there is still good, I just have to twist and grow to get to it.
“Be aware. Awareness doesn’t equal change, but it leads to change.” This is a reminder to avoid switching to autopilot in life. A lot of us go through our days without really being aware of our surroundings, our emotions and others.
“A person’s worth is measured by how they treat the most vulnerable population.” While this isn’t advice, it’s important to remember. Be kind to others, especially those who aren’t as fortunate as you.
My therapist has said so many other important things that have helped me and shaped me. One of the things that I hate most about depression is how it slows my thinking, jumbles my thoughts and it can be hard to have clarity about what’s going on around me. I’m not the only one — scientists have discovered that there are physical changes in a depressed person’s brain, such as brain shrinkage. It can also cause structural and connective changes. Between that and my ECT treatments, I can get overwhelmed with my thoughts and emotions easily, so I’m glad I have an outlet that helps me sort through my messy — or unruly, I suppose — brain.
I can’t recommend therapy enough, even if you aren’t depressed.
Stay in the light, friends.
To learn more about depression visit the National Alliance on Mental Health website.