Therapy can give you back your confidence
For the first five minutes in the therapist's room, I couldn't stop staring at the box of tissues. 'Am I supposed to start crying straight away?' 'What if I don't cry at all?' Unlike an appointment with my GP, I didn't know the rules. I didn't know if I was 'troubled' enough to be seeing a therapist or merely self-indulgent. Was I even supposed to be there at all?
I'm not alone in questioning whether or not I should see a therapist. Despite the fact that women are twice as likely to suffer anxiety disorders as men, and that one in four women will require treatment for depression at some point in their lives compared to one in 10 men, the stigma surrounding therapy remains.
Women are supposed to be good at talking about our feelings, leaping at every chance to try out amateur psychology over a flat white. But many of us are still embarrassed about seeking help - and keep quiet about it if we do. I've decided to speak out, as I'm very lucky to have had a fantastic experience with therapy - despite initially dismissing it as a desperate last measure.
The first time was after a mugging; I couldn't forget it and wanted help unravelling my feelings. I turned up, talked for 50 minutes and left announcing 'therapy doesn't work'. I went back after a traffic acccident and a horrible break-up. Again, after just one session I left mystified as to why I wasn't 'cured'. The third time, after a summer when daily tears made it clear I wasn't coping, the tehrapist suggested I commit to a course of sessions. I was torn between fear that there was something wrong with me and relief that someone was taking me seriously.
I now realise therapy is an essential part of any mental-health tool kit and nobody should feel ashamed to try it. Talking to a professional can lift an enormous mental burden if you feel yourself drowning in anxiety or sadness that's putting pressure on your other relationships. Yes, friends and family should always be there for you, but sometimes they're just not equipped to truly help.
Therapy helped me to understand why I repsond to certain things the way I do. It also showed me how to stop overreacting before the panic sets in, by realising how much of what i'm afraid of is within my grasp to change. Turning up merely to dump grievances on someone, while taking no ownership over the rest of your life, simply won't cut it.
Now, running is how I keep a clear head, but I might never even have had the guts to lace up my trainers without therapy. It was 10 weeks that'll last the rest of my life - and I know I can always go back.
Of course, there are issues of accessibility in some areas if you can't afford to go private, but since the NHS put thousands more trained therapists into GP surgeries, it's more widely available. If you need to, go for it - it can truly be life-changing.