At 25, I sat on a therapist's couch for the first time in Atlanta. I felt a little anxious being there - I certainly hadn't told any of my friends what my "doctor's appointment" was for. I'd made the meeting private at work, double checking that no one with access to my calendar would be able to see where I was spending my lunch break.
I sat down and told the therapist I had one goal: to forgive my ex-boyfriend, who'd broken my heart. I told her it had almost been a year since we'd broken up and I just couldn't seem to get rid of that horrible type of anger whenever I saw him - the kind that shoots down your spine and tightens in your chest.
Years later, she told me I was the first patient she'd ever had who'd sat down with one goal in mind, asking each week for homework to accomplish it as quickly as possible.
You see, I wasn't comfortable with therapy then. I thought it was embarrassing. A sign of weakness. And perhaps, a lack of stability. Forgiving him was just another item on my ongoing to do list, one that was taking a little too long to accomplish. I needed this thing taken care of ASAP.
Six years later, we both cried when I told her I was moving to Virginia. How things can change!
What I learned during all those years on her couch is that therapy is very much not a sign of weakness. In fact, it's a sign of strength.
Therapy is a way to value yourself. It means you recognize the relationships you have are worth tending to, growing, nurturing and fighting for. It means you recognize the value of self-care and self-love. Therapy is brave.
But you know what else it is? It's not a big deal. To me, it's like washing your hair for the first time in a week - cleansing, a fresh start. It's like cleaning out your vacuum or going through the car wash. It's a simple act of caring for something that is valuable. If your house is a little icky, you clean it, right? Well if your insides are feeling icky, too, don't you value them as much as your home? Clean them out! Begin again. And, furthermore, why let them begin to feel icky at all? Why not keep them clean in the first place?
I can't tell you how many people have told me in hushed tones that they're starting to see a therapist - a confession wrapped in shame and hope all at once. Every time they do, I assure them it's not something that needs to be wrapped in shame - only hope.
There is nothing embarrassing about valuing yourself enough to care for your mind and soul.
There is no shame in admitting that you and your husband love each other so much that you both agree it's worth spending an hour talking about the hard parts of marriage. Because marriage is hard! Why let it be harder by pretending it's easy?
There is nothing wrong with admitting you want to forgive, grow, remember, heal and have a fresh start.
I saw my therapist from Atlanta in January. I'd been really struggling with something - it was starting to infiltrate my brain a little too much, giving me anxiety and impacting my sleep. In one hour with her, we talked through why it was bothering me and what hurt about it. You know what? I've barely thought about it since then. It's been over a month and this issue, which felt major last month, is a thing of the past. That's the power of speaking our truth, receiving validation and making a plan to move forward. And that's why I love therapy.
Also because I totally forgave my ex within just a few months of meeting with her. And what could be better than forgiving someone who hurt you, releasing the bitterness in your heart and moving on with your life? Absolutely nothing. Besides maybe washing your hair.