What it’s like Being a Therapist while also Needing a Therapist

Oh, I didn’t write a post about how I also see a therapist? Well, in that case: I see a therapist. And I’m now okay with admitting that. Ironic, right? You’d think that because I work in the mental health field, I’m alllll for encouraging getting a therapist… which, I am. However, it’s a little bit different when I’M the one seeking the support. There was a bit of shame. A little bit of self-doubt. And a whole lot of hesitancy before meeting my therapist. The shame stemming from the thought and the belief that HOW COULD I POSSIBLY NEED SUPPORT when I have gone through the schooling, “have the degree,” and counsel others. Well, the answer is simple. I’m human too. And it’s okay to admit that I need some support as well.

Let’s back track about 10 years when I first began to see a therapist. She was alright; we never really connected, and I didn’t get much out of it (which may have been partly due to my denial that I had an eating disorder). Then she sent me to treatment and I HATED her, obviously. So fast-forward another year, and my mom got me set up with this therapist who always wore khaki clothing and her office smelled like a whole bottle of incense broke and leaked literally at all times. Also, she didn’t specialize in what I needed. So the whole session felt like she was just a silent bobble-head nodding at everything I had to say.

It’s no wonder that I decided to avoid therapy for the next EIGHT years. Yep, I haven’t seen a therapist for eight years. So you can imagine that there was still a lot of shit I had to work through, or at the very least, things I needed to TALK about. I was hesitant to reach out to therapists because of that very reason. I was living in my own little nice avoidant bubble for the past eight years. This “nice little bubble” allowed me to continue on with my life happily, without a problem in the world. And of course, this wasn’t my actual reality. There were months, weeks, or even just days at a time that I felt just downright sad. I’d break down, cry for a few hours, stop, and then it would start again the next day.

You know, that feeling of emptiness. You know, that feeling of loneliness even though you aren’t actually alone. Or, maybe you don’t know. And in that case, I’m really glad you don’t. Not to go down a tunnel of self-pity, but DAMN it sucks. It impacts the way I interact with those around me, the way I view myself, my motivation. It’s just this dark cloud that feels like it’s hovering closer and closer over my head every single second.

Reason #1 I didn’t want to go to therapy

Of course, it’s not always this way. Which always led me to believe that I didn’t need therapy. That I could just focus on the days where the dark cloud wasn’t there. That I could avoid, suppress, move forward. And yet, I never really was able to fully move forward. Therapy would force me to think about the things I quite frankly didn’t feel like thinking about. It would force me to have an hour where I was the complete focus, which also meant all my “shit” was the complete focus. That didn’t sound enjoyable. And then I had to remind myself: therapy’s purpose isn’t exactly to be enjoyable or comfortable.

Reason #2 I didn’t want to go to therapy

You’re lookin’ at a therapist! I HATED the idea that a therapist would need a therapist. I can give all the support/advice/insight in the world to someone else, and yet when it came to my own life, the advice didn’t apply. There is this unsaid expectation that if you’re a therapist, or work in the mental health field, that you’re this zen-like-Buddha-source of knowledge, insight, and wisdom. HAH! I laugh at that irrational expectation, and yet part of that message I truly started to believe. I’m supposed to have the answers. I’m supposed to have my shit together.

So each consultation call I had with potential therapists started out with the statement: “Just to let you know, I’m a therapist too. So I feel weird doing this.” And I shouldn’t have to defend myself with this statement!

That’s the other part of the problem. Feeling like a phony. Here I am providing support to others, while I am completely aware that I still am struggling in some areas of my life. Would they still want my support if they knew? Would they still see me as a credible professional? This is where the self-doubt kicks in, and I begin to question how I would be perceived if my client’s knew I wasn’t 100% mentally stable 100% of the time. Would they rip my license off my wall?

Reason #3 I didn’t want to go to therapy

Because for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been perceived as “on,” and by “on” I mean: not struggling.  If I was anything but “on,” it’s like others didn’t know how to act around me. Or thought I was dying, or something extreme. Example: any time I’ve told my mom I was struggling a bit, it got matched with a response that was something along the lines of: “are you relapsing?! You’re worrying me! Are you okay? What is going on?!” I’m not exaggerating, even though I wish I was. Not being “on” has historically been so out of my norm for others, that when I am going through a period of depression, I’m suddenly this weak individual who is URGENTLY seeking help.

On the other hand, I also am met with the response: “well, you k now what to do. You know how to handle this.” Truth is: sometimes I don’t. And when you assume I always know the answers, it places me in a position where I’ve put a fuck load of pressure on myself. These sorts of statements deter me from seeking therapy because the expectation is that I don’t need one. “Because I know what to do.”

And here I am…

I’m seeing a therapist. And she’s awesome. Her office doesn’t smell like incense (though there is a little Buddha figurine). She laughs at some of the shit I say – which is oddly refreshing.  She somehow listens to me ramble for 60 minutes. Her couch is comfy, and I feel bad she has to sit in a smaller, more uncomfortable looking chair. I wonder if she wants to switch places and sit on “my” couch. And it feels damn good to have an hour of my own, without feeling selfish for saying that.

I think it’s important to remind ourselves, whether or not we’re in the mental health field, that it’s OKAY to not always be okay.

 

Nicole

Nicole

Nicole works as a life and wellness coach through Nicole Leigh Coaching (www.nicolenessLPC.com) Nicole strives to empower women with similar struggles to redefine and re-identify themselves, separate from their eating disorder. Through her work, she empowers women to use balance in every aspect of life to maintain lifelong recovery. When Nicole isn't blogging or counseling, she loves spending her time traveling, eating burgers, and surrounding herself with positive people.