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Five Biggest Changes I’ve Noticed Since Starting Therapy

by Lena Simons about a year ago in self help
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The good, the bad, and the ugly of emotional healing.

Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash

Therapy is a bit like military training. You reap the benefits long after you’ve started. The journey’s lengthy. I’m not sure if therapy is a process of finding, becoming, or saving yourself. It’s likely all of the above. Or maybe none at all.

Ultimately, it allows you to start communicating with yourself. As you go through the evolution of self-communication, you evolve in how you communicate with others as well. Here are some of my most notable changes:

1. Other people aren’t a part of every plan I make

And that’s on codependency.

I am an earth sign, and also the eldest daughter in a split-down-the-middle family; meaning I’ve grown up with a near-violent sense of self-sufficiency. I could rant about how this trait is praised in young women when it’s actually a trauma response, but that’s a Medium post for another day.

Point is, this sense of self-sufficiency and a total inability to trust and receive help from others comes from a place of emotional neglect in childhood; another common symptom of being the eldest.

You become intensely responsible for managing your physical world, with absolutely no gauge on how to manage your emotional world. Despite my appearance of total independence, I was emotionally codependent. There’s no healthy way of being codependent.

Every thought, plan, and feeling I had revolved around someone else’s feelings. I made myself the fixer, the “everything” friend, the therapist friend, the people-pleaser, and everything in between to keep people around.

When I make plans now, I never include anyone else. They all revolve around me and what I want to do. It was a relief to learn that I’m actually allowed to do that. Finally, I can enjoy my own life.

Imagine not being the main character in your own play?

2. My walls are thinner

They’re not broken. They’re not gone. But they’re not as thick.

This was accidental. I can’t hide how I’m feeling. Therapy can allow for jumping to extremes. Either you’re emotionally suppressed and sharing absolutely nothing OR you’re that person who tells your coworkers deeply personal anecdotes that violate some workplace boundaries that you should have in place.

I became a person who said way too much when asked, “How are you?”

This can be bad. It’s emotional dumping. While you create your own boundaries, you also must learn to realize others’. I’ve been on both sides of an emotional dump. Of constant emotional dumping. It’s unpleasant to constantly be burdened with other people’s issues, so while opening up it’s important to watch out for the people you’re opening up to.

3. I’ve become better at cutting people off.

Something that’s recently come up in therapy is how you remain close to people who became close to an older version of you.

Healing can be lonely.

The phrase has been said to death, but it points to an unanswered question people in therapy have.

When you’ve built up every relationship you have based on a version of yourself you’re trying to heal, how do you maintain old relationships? Do you want to? How do you shift dynamics? Can you, even? And often the answer to that is no.

It can depend largely on how this person responds to the new you. There’s no predicting that or preparing for it. You can’t control it, but you also can’t let it control you.

And once I became the main character in my life, I realized side characters will inevitably be in circulation.

I’m the only constant here.

This is also on codependency. It’s not about needing people. That’s the biggest caveat. It appears to be about others, but it’s not about anyone else at all. If you’ve ever dealt with codependency, you’ll quickly realize how many of your relationships were built on your constant efforts and self-sacrifice.

It’s about always doing the things others wanted, going where others wanted, not saying when things that were said or done bothered you, or always being a fixer. When I started to understand that my life is for me, I didn’t care to do these things anymore. Naturally, some relationships died.

Incompatibility is not my fault, or my issue to fix. I don’t have to become someone for anyone. It’s less about cutting people off, and more about being okay with leaving doors open for an exit.

You want the people around you to change, but my therapist reminded me that wanting others to change to be compatible with the new me, is actually myself being resistant to change. I need to embrace the change of meeting new people, new situations, and a new version of myself.

4. I’m angrier

This change is both good and bad in parts. A part of getting in touch with emotions you’ve suppressed is getting reacquainted with the negative ones.

For those of us who need therapy, emotional intelligence and regulation are brand new concepts.

Suppression is freedom from acceptance and regulation.

Anger is something many women of colour have to suppress every day. We’re usually not allowed that emotion. I have to pretend things don’t bother me when they do and feign patience when it’s not required; constantly “forgiving and forgetting”.

Feeling my feelings hasn’t been as romantic as eating a pint of ice-cream and crying over sad movies. It’s learning to feel emotions, without it being at the expense of others.

There’s a lot to feeling your feelings; it’s about unearthing largely negative emotions, memories, and triggers attached to these emotions.

5. I feel primarily content and then bad.

This is a good thing. I feel more bad than good these days, but I find that exciting. I haven’t felt in so long. Finding everything you never knew was there is what therapy’s about. We don’t go to therapy to talk about all the amazing things we’ve done, all our happiest moments, and why our lives are great.

It’s a positive space, but it’s rarely for talking about good, happy, and wonderful things. Because of that, I spend my days feeling kind of bad. Failing that, I feel okay.

The process isn’t linear. I won’t tell you to expect to go into therapy and come out fixed in 6–8 weeks. Or ever. Some days will be good and some will be bad. But, all will be better.

self help

About the author

Lena Simons

I need lots of external validation to keep myself going each day.

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