Taking steps forward with therapy

I am writing this post after my first therapy appointment with a new therapist.  I got a recommendation from an amazing friend of mine for a therapist she said changed her life.  After the big emotional meltdown/breakthrough I had 2 weeks ago, I knew it was time to take a step towards figuring things out.  I have always been nervous about therapy, scared of what deep rooted things would come up.  I was definitely nervous about this appointment but knew it was for the best. 

I had gone to see someone for a session a few months ago, but I didn’t feel a connection and when it comes to therapy I definitely want to feel open and safe with the person.  When I walked into my appointment today I immediately felt a different vibe.  The space was way less clinical and much more inviting.  I had an image in my head of an older bald man with glasses for some reason but that is the opposite of what my therapist turned out to look like.  He was much younger than I expected, laid back looking.  I sat down across from him on the couch and the first thing he asked me was how I felt about being in that space.  I was honest and told him I felt nervous and so we did a breathing exercise together.  I felt much calmer and knew this guy was way more my style.

Since it was my first session with him we touched on a lot of the basics; my childhood, growing up, family dynamics, high school and college years, past relationships and what my current struggles are.  We really just brushed the surface on these topics so he could take a mental inventory on things to come back to going forward.  He asked what the main thing was I wanted to uncover and I explained to him my sleeping issues.  My problems with sleep have been going on now for a little over 3 years and have severely impacted my life.  It has gotten to the point where I won’t go out at night and if I have to I automatically put into my head that I won’t be able to sleep that night. 

When my sleep issues started, they were a symptom of anxiety I was having about work.  I did a bunch of my own research and found some tips for sleep issues.  The majority of what I found said that it was important to have a consistent bedtime and nightly routine.  After learning this, I started developing my own nightly routine.  It has gotten to the point where I have convinced myself that if I am not home at night, doing my nightly routine than that will result in a night where I can’t fall asleep.  Since I have this anxiety about not being able to fall asleep, now if I am out at night that is all I think about and I can’t even enjoy where I am. This has caused a lot of strain on my relationship with friends and with Derek, who is a very social person and loves going out.  I know I am not going to become someone who loves going out at night all the time, but I want to get to a place where I can go out and it’s not even something I think twice about.

Something I really connected with that my therapist said was that we have “sub selves” or different parts of our self that make up our whole being.  We aren’t any one of these particular selves but more a collection of them.  Sometimes we create “sub selves” as a protection measure or for some other self-preservation reason.  He said it is important to be able to sit with our bodies and listen to what it has to say to us.  Towards the end of our session we did a visualization exercise that was incredibly helpful.  He had me close my eyes and imagine watching myself get into my bed at night.  He asked what I felt and I could feel the anxiety start to rise as I was visualizing myself going to bed.  He asked where I felt this anxiety and I told him in my chest (this is where I always feel my anxiety, a heart pounding tightness).  He asked me to ask this anxiety if it was there for a reason and the first thing that popped into my head was “no this isn’t serving you.”  I was surprised by this, I thought I would have trouble being open to this technique but things just popped into my head. 

I wish I had recorded the session because I don’t remember exactly how he worded it but he then asked me to sit with the feeling in my chest and ask what I needed the most (or some variation of this) and the first thing that came to my mind was compassion.  We talked a little bit more and then my session was over and we would pick back up with things next week.

Having the word compassion come up for me felt like a huge awakening.  Having compassion for myself is something I know I struggle with.  I know I am too hard on myself, in many aspects of my life.  Especially with the sleep issues, I get mad at myself for not being able to sleep and end up extremely frustrated.  I am hard on myself when it comes to food, exercise and the way I look.  I was super hard on myself when I found out all my healthy habits had actually had a negative impact on my health. I am hard on myself when it comes to work, always feeling like i don't do enough or I am not smart enough. I am overall not very compassionate towards myself.  It is like my body/mind had to manifest a physical condition in order for me to figure it out.  My new therapist is so right, if you listen, your body will tell you what it needs, your “sub selves” are there to help guide you.  I am really excited about this breakthrough and to explore it further.  I know there is a lot more to uncover and it is going to be a long and most likely hard process, but I am way less nervous and way more excited about it.  And it feels really good to finally be able to talk about it and share with you all. 

If anyone has had similar experiences or can resonate with this or just wants to feel less alone I would love to hear from you!  You can always send me an email or a DM.  In sharing my story, I hope to be inspiring and supporting others.