I recently started seeing a therapist at my college’s health center. I’ve known for a few years that this was something I wanted to do, but asking for help was so much harder than I ever expected. I originally wanted to go to therapy to get a formal diagnosis, but I won’t really go into that. Mainly, I wanted to validate thoughts that I had been having for years, just to be able to understand what is going on inside of my head. Growing up with two parents who were very much on opposite ends of the spectrum — one is a clinical psychologist and the other refuses to talk about feelings or mental health at all — I got a lot of mixed messages about mental health, culminating with two separate but equally disastrous experiences in family therapy. Even after all of that, I saw therapy as an incredibly valuable resource. The final push for me to actually talk to someone was after discussing it with my doctor and finally feeling validated; it wasn’t all in my head. She, along with my mother, suggested that I see one of the counselors available through my college’s health center.
It was quite daunting at first because it felt like admitting defeat. First, I had to email the counseling office at the health center and then fill out an intake form. I had to list any previous experiences with therapy, anything that I had ever experienced with mental illness, any family history, and even if I consumed any drugs or alcohol and if I did, how often. It was only after that I was able to book an appointment. Walking to that appointment, I debated turning around, and agonized over what time I should get there: should I be early, how early is too early, oh god I’m ten minutes early, that’s definitely too early. Finally, I walked in the door and signed in at the front desk at 8:55 for my 9:00 appointment. The woman at the front desk was really nice and directed me upstairs into a separate waiting room. I only had to wait about three minutes before the therapist came out and brought me back to their office. They were warm and welcoming, asking me about myself and why I was seeking out therapy. Talking to them felt very natural, like someone was actually listening to me. Before this, I had only really had conversations similar with my friends late at night — those nights when you stay up too late and start talking about things you wouldn’t ordinarily divulge. This was different; I finally had someone listening who was qualified to hear my problems. I love my friends, but playing therapist isn’t always enough.
Since that first visit, I have gone back twice and will continue to go every week or so. It was incredibly daunting reaching out for the first time, but it has been an incredible resource, not to mention a free one. In the end it was really easy to make an appointment, the hardest part was reaching out. I highly recommend taking that leap for anyone who is debating whether or not to see a therapist, it is absolutely worth it, especially if you have it readily available through your school or work.