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Mental Health

Going to Therapy Changed My Life

My first identifiable panic attack happened in the middle of ballet class. I had endured six hours of school and three hours of dance prior to my breaking point. Maybe it was the yellow walls in the rectangular room, maybe it was the start and stop of classical music, or maybe it was the pile of homework sitting on my desk, waiting to be completed. Little stressors lead to a lot of stress. 

It all happened very slowly. My thoughts became clouded. The music sounded slower, muffled. I fumbled my pas de bourree and gave up on a jeté before I admitted to myself that I needed a break. The walls seemed brighter. My heart beat louder. Can I sit out? I sat in the corner under the bars. Worried looks and whispers of are you okay floated into my ears. I couldn’t answer. 

I stared at the ground for a long time. Breathe in. Breathe out. The black tape on the floor was peeling. Breathe in. Breathe out. In dance, you are only given so much time to suffer. My teacher decided five minutes was an overextension of his generosity. Up we go, off the floor. Breathe in. Breathe out. My pas de bourree wasn’t any better. 

A reasonable person might have begun their search for a therapist after this event. Unfortunately, I am not a reasonable person. It took me until my junior year of high school to accept my need for professional help. It was on my friend’s recommendation that I met with her therapist, after I broke down crying one afternoon in the lobby of our dance studio (yes, I’m seeing the pattern). 

It can be hard to broach the topic of therapy with your parents, especially if they’re the cause of some (or most) of your anxiety. The exact wording I used with my mom was, “I think it would be helpful for me to talk to someone. I’ve been feeling stressed lately, and it would be great to get some help dealing with that.” For me, that was the hardest part of starting therapy: admitting that I needed it. 

My first session went smoothly, to the best of my memory. Most therapists will ask general questions in your consultation to get to know you and your medical background, which can feel impersonal. After this period, though, your sessions will most likely consist of recounting your day or week, focusing on problem solving or learning positive self talk, and discovering underlying, depressing truths about yourself. 

One thing that I appreciate about my therapist is that she doesn’t take notes during our session. This small detail changes the dynamic because I feel as if I’m engaging in a conversation with a friend or mentor, rather than being analyzed by a doctor. Another incredible thing about therapy is that it’s confidential (with the clause of reports made on the basis of self-harm or harm to others). Knowing that I have a secure, safe space to process my stressors and my emotions allows me to open up more than I would to a friend or family member. And let’s face it, sometimes we have problems with our friends and family, and we could benefit from an impartial source for advice. 

It’s been over 4 years since I started working on my mental health, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in that time. I’ve learned about my family, my friends, teachers, significant others, and even strangers thanks to my therapist. I am more grounded in my spirituality, I have better communication skills, and I’ve been able to lead a healthier life. It’s completely valid to be hesitant or untrustworthy of therapy- and that’s okay- but if  you’re struggling with anxiety or depression (or any other mental illnesses), therapy can be a safe place to start your healing process. And maybe therapy really isn’t for you. That’s okay, too. But it never hurts to try. 

College of Charleston Resources:  

Phone: 843-953-5640

Email: [email protected]

Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
SAMHSA: https://www.samhsa.gov/

Julia is from Westchester, NY and is a sophomore majoring in Exercise Science & Kinesiology. When she's not writing or studying anatomy, she loves hanging out with her dog, Molly, and watching New Girl on repeat.
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