In January, I went to therapy for the first time when I felt like the stress of college and my need for perfectionism was becoming unbearable.
I was dealing with the stress of school in unhealthy ways. Instead of doing helpful things to relieve stress, like journaling or going for walks, ignored my feelings and increased my workload.
I decided to go to therapy because the stress I was experiencing was unmanageable. I was close to reaching my breaking point.
Before I saw a therapist, I thought going to therapy or asking for help was a sign of weakness, because I would be admitting defeat. I don’t know where I got these misconceptions, but they stuck with me throughout the days leading up to my appointment.
I didn’t think I’d like therapy or find it useful. I thought it would be another person telling me what I should or should not be doing.
However, my expectations were quickly challenged.
At my first appointment, my therapist did not tell me what to do, not even once. Instead, she asked me questions about why I reached out and made an appointment, and how I was currently coping with my anxiety.
I had never been asked these questions before, and I didn’t know what to say. So I told my therapist that I didn’t know.
After my first appointment, I felt encouraged to come to her office again the following week.
During my second appointment, we talked more about what I felt was causing my anxiety at school.
I told her that I was used to being the best at almost everything. I had A’s all throughout middle and high school and a near-perfect GPA.
I received my first B in college, and I told her I immediately felt like a failure after I saw that grade. I wasn’t used to not being the best or not getting perfect scores.
Again, she asked me what my coping skills were. I told her I didn’t really know, occasionally I journaled but that was the extent of it.
While she said my journaling was a good idea, she also taught me two different coping strategies in that same session. The first was to make a closed fist with my hand, to squeeze it as hard as I could and then to release it.
The second was to tap different pressure points, like my wrists, temples, under eyes, below my nose, collarbone and under my arms.
I thought she sounded ridiculous as tapping pressure points or squeezing my fists was not going to solve my problems.
Not long after I left my therapist’s office, I had a panic attack.
I don’t remember what caused it, but I will never forget the way my heart was racing and the weakness I felt throughout my whole body.
Without realizing it, I started doing the tapping method I had just learned. I started by tapping the pressure points on my wrists, moving up to my temples, followed by under my eyes, below my nose, my collarbone and under my arms.
After initially tapping my wrists, my focus shifted away from my anxiety and into the tapping.
While this was not my first anxiety attack, it was my first time trying a method like this, and it surprisingly worked.
After I calmed down, I realized how therapy had helped me with my anxiety. While the tapping didn’t make my anxiety magically disappear, it focused my attention elsewhere and allowed me to calm down.
After I settled down, I immediately reached for my phone and booked another appointment.
I’ve been in therapy for almost a year now. I don’t see my therapist every week because of school, but when I do see her, my appointments always leave me feeling like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.
While my therapist doesn’t tell me what to do, she does tell me what I can do to better cope with anxiety. She’s helped me more than I could possibly explain.
I don’t ignore my anxiety anymore. When I feel stressed, I actively look for ways to divert my attention, whether it’s through tapping, going outside or journaling. For the first time, I don’t feel consumed by my anxiety.