How Therapy Changed my Life

I was never one who thought I absolutely needed therapy. Growing up, however, I had a hard time finding my way and sorting out my feelings. I was bullied for a large portion of my childhood, and that type of trauma is very deeply rooted. I have a great deal of anxiety surrounding many pivotal movements in my life. My parents getting a divorce when I was 12 seemed like the catalyst that started a slow downward spiral. My mom and I have a non-existent relationship and there are toxic, unresolved feelings toward how I was treated in my upbringing. There is so much that I compartmentalize on a day-to-day basis to be able to function normally without showing outward weakness. This method I inherently adopted for myself over the years has not been a healthy way to cope, and after years and years and deflecting, it all came to a head.

I noticed my significant decline after college. I was adjusting into a full-time job that I did not love, had just broken up with my then-boyfriend of almost 2 years, and I was struggling with lost friendships. I don’t think I have ever felt more alone than in the two years following college graduation. My circle of friends dwindled. It felt like the only string holding us together was that we went to the same school, and the friendships proved to be more surface level than anything without a strong foundation to last long term. I got into a huge argument with my best friend of 9 years in the Spring of 2019 and we didn’t speak for 6 months. I felt lost at work; knowing very well that I did not like what I did and it is not fulfilling me in the ways that I want my job to do. I felt stagnant. I felt like I wasn’t growing. I felt scared, that I dug a hole for myself and was falling deeper and deeper into a space of negativity and self-doubt, until eventually I broke. I started to self-sabotage most events in my life, made regrettable mistakes I still painfully reminisce on, and drove away people who were good to me. August 2019 I decided to take a very important step in the right direction for myself. I learned that my current job offers a wellness package for all employees, including therapy sessions paid for by the firm. I knew this was the step I needed to take, especially when my life around me seemed to be slipping away and I was in the worst mental state I have ever been in my life. My therapist’s name is April and she is an incredible woman. She has done a remarkable job over the past several months to pull me out of the dark, scary place I used to be in. The first few sessions were difficult. She asked the tough questions right off the bat. She challenged me. I was triggered in many ways by many of the stories I voluntarily brought up based on her probed questions. 

Therapy brought to light that I am a product of emotional abandonment. This is deeply rooted in the Nigerian culture. My parents were raised by their parents in the same manner I was raised by my parents. My parents are warriors, and I have come to know them as having the thickest skin out of anyone I have ever encountered. They battled through the pain, and they are stronger for it. By that comparison, I like to think of myself as a different breed. I was raised by Nigerian parents, in the United States. I am African, and I am also equally as American. Growing up was hard because I felt that I was living in a constant identity crisis; not knowing in which bucket I fit into, and not being accepted by both groups at times throughout my life. I was never able to fully settle and accept how I was treated by my parents growing up, especially because I have always been very emotional and sensitive and did not inherit the thick skin that my parents had. No “I love you’s” or “I hope you are ok”, or calls to simply ask “how are you?”, no hugs, kisses, or any type of physical or emotional affection. I learned at a very young age that my love language is Words of Affirmation, and I truly believe it is because I was deprived of it when I was younger and began to search for it in all areas of my life, even in the most unhealthy ways. I rebelled when I was in High School, and started to resent my parents for not letting me grow up as my fellow peers did. In my opinion, although there is some validity to their actions, overall, I handled the lack of love, empathy, and comfort very harshly. In the midst of this, I took mental note that my peers instinctively received from their parents all the empathy, guidance, and nurturing presence that I yearned for and so desperately sought out for all my life. My dad and I have grown closer over the years, and he definitely understands how to nurture me in the ways I need in order for me to be me. On the other hand, my mother and I still to this day have not mended our relationship fully. We see the world through two polar opposite lenses. She doesn’t know me, or showed interest in getting to know me. This is a mental burden that I have run from since I was a kid. As far as I have been running, therapy unpacked the inevitable reality that the way she treated me is how I have been treating others, and it has been driving a wedge in all my relationships. As my therapist enlightened me on this fact, I couldn’t help but uncontrollably cry. I cried in silence sitting on her couch for 10 minutes, knowing very well this topic deeply pains me to talk about above all, and I have suppressed it for so long. As the tears so easily rolled down my cheeks, and as my heart pounded and dropped all in one fell swoop, I slowly saw myself growing. I saw myself healing. I realize through therapy I am stronger than what triggers me. 

Tapping into childhood trauma was a big metaphoric hill I had to cross in order to make amends in the other areas of my life. From that session on, therapy equipped me with the tools I needed to combat my trauma, pain, and conflict. I made amends with my best friend and now our friendship is stronger than it ever has been. I am stepping into my power and realizing that I do not need to coast and stay complacent in a job that is not serving me and not allowing me to be the best version of myself. I am learning to love myself all over again and be proud of who I am and all that I encompass. My love, compassion, and ambition for making a positive difference will serve the world in many groundbreaking ways, once I allow myself to fully step into that mindset. This is a thank you letter to therapy, for being there when I believed I hit rock-bottom, and lifting me up to realize how to improve upon my short-comings, and in turn reacquainted me with my self-worth. 

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