What Therapy Taught Me

By Tara Brown
Woman meeting with therapist for mental health - Vitality

I remember Dec. 23, 2005 as if it were yesterday. In between body-shaking sobs, I explained to my doctor that I was losing my mind. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t concentrate. When I was at home, I spent all my time laying on the sofa staring at the ceiling. I was not motivated to do anything. I was upset all the time, but I didn’t understand why. She said, “Tara, you’re depressed.”

As I started my treatment journey, I learned it was more than depression. I was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

Major depressive disorder, commonly referred to as depression, is a medical condition through which the person experiencing it feels sad, hopeless, or disinterested in life for more than two weeks with those feelings interfering with everyday life. Depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness with 18.5% of U.S. adults experiencing symptoms.

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is characterized by persistent and excessive worry that disrupts everyday life and is out of proportion to the situation. Common symptoms include feeling on edge, difficultly concentrating, and having a sense of impending danger or doom. GAD is diagnosed when a person feels this way more days than not over a period of six months or more.

My psychiatrist gave me medication which helped, at first. I felt better but not good. I felt like I was in a fog just sleepwalking through my life. There had to be a way to get back to the happier version of myself that I had lost. But how?

My psychiatrist suggested psychotherapy. Immediately I imagined laying on a daybed in a dusty office while an old man with a notepad asked me about my mother. It wasn’t appealing to say the very least.

Could talking to a therapist really help? I decided to go ahead and find out.

The Benefit of Therapy

While you may talk about your mother at times, therapy is so much more than that. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, therapy can take many forms. It can include learning relaxation and mindfulness techniques, reworking harmful thought patterns, or improving communication skills.

For me, therapy gave me a toolbox of skills that I can pull from whenever I get overwhelmed. I learned to recognize and challenge my negative beliefs that were crushing my self-esteem. I also began to understand how my past experiences affected my current behavior, allowing me to become a more positive, compassionate and patient person.

Therapy taught me something else, too. It taught me that the only thing I have control over are my thoughts and my behaviors. Once I really understood that, I started to step out of my fog.

Through therapy, my life began to transform in ways that I never imagined were possible! I was able to get a promotion at work, improve my marriage, and find the courage to advocate for myself. Physically, it helped, too. I started sleeping better and I found the desire to take care of myself and my surroundings. But it didn’t come easy. This transformation took work and could be painful at times. It often left me mentally drained for a day or two. But I wouldn’t change a single step in my journey because it gave me such a precious gift … a life that I enjoy living.

Finding a Therapist

If you think therapy can help you, there are many ways to find a therapist:

  • Reach out to your health insurance carrier for a list of covered providers.
  • Ask for a referral from a friend or trusted medical professional.
  • Search online at your state’s department of health or psychological association website.
  • Use the online directory from a reputable mental health organization.

No matter how you find a therapist, the most important thing is to find one you trust and with who you feel a connection. That trust and connection will allow you to open up to allow for the transformation that can change your life.

Tara, the Director of Tax for Vitality Group, has been a long-time advocate for therapy and is a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Tara and her husband enjoy traveling the world together, watching cooking videos on YouTube, and checking out local brew pubs and distilleries. Most weekends you can find her out hiking the Fox River trail or spending time with friends and family.

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