Things therapy has helped me do, unrelated to a diagnosis

I spend a lot of time thinking about how much I resent 90’s sitcoms for stigmatizing therapy. The picture we paint of mental health services is, “you have to be broken to need help.” Nah.

Therapy, for me, is an hour a week where someone asks me questions and, on a good day, those questions lead me to answers I always thought I would figure out on my own, but never took the time or had the self-compassion to. A lot of the things I’ve accomplished are basic, minimal, pragmatic, but so important. I’d like to share them, because I have to assume a lot of these problems affect every single person I know, and I didn’t even know some of them had solutions until I got coaching.

Therapy has helped me:

  1. Gather confidence and a convincing pitch to ask for a raise.
  2. Ask for specific things I need from friends and romantic partners (and acknowledge no one will know what I need until I tell them).
  3. Set small financial goals over time and pay off my credit card.
  4. Drink less at social events by finding ways to be present in individual conversations.
  5. Negotiate interesting tasks at work.
  6. Lessen guilt and shame about dumb things I said in the recent/distant past.
  7. Recognize that some shame I feel is because of things people said not based in objective fact.
  8. Apply to jobs that are good fits.
  9. Set boundaries with my parents and friends, even when it sucks, so I don’t lash out down the road.
  10. Feel ok with a dip in my number of projects, and trust that more will come if I want them.
  11. Recognize and respond to emotional scars from past break ups, even if I’m in a loving relationship.
  12. Handle the jealousy toward friends having more success than me, so I can love & applaud them.
  13. Take less time to send emails, and other tasks that were time consuming and painful before I started working on feelings of perfectionism.
  14. Conversely, write angry emails about things that upset me, and then save as drafts I never send.
  15. Accept that often, when people are unkind to me, it’s because they suck, not because I do.
  16. Accept that when I 100% was the sucky one, even if I can’t find a way to apologize, I can still love myself.
  17. Consider lost love, romantic or friend, a sunk cost I can mourn rather than something I have to bang my head against walls to fix.
  18. Trust that some people will literally just never like me, but that doesn’t mean they’re out there convincing my actual friends to dislike me.

Most importantly, therapy taught me that you can feel pain and not have to do anything about it. That you can just try and love yourself while you heal. It taught me that I will always mess up, but that my mistakes don’t invalidate my strengths or good deeds. It taught me that it doesn’t make me a better person to beat myself up for my flaws – only to accept them and keep working on them. And now, I have a structure to work on them.

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