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28 Lessons People Have Learned From Their Therapists

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, it’s only normal that more people than ever (like myself) are likely feeling anxious. I figured there was no better time to ask the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the most important thing they’ve learned in therapy.


Anna Borges / BuzzFeed / Via buzzfeed.com

While these lessons *might* not be fore everyone, you might find one or two to try and apply to yourself during this stressful time.

1.

It’s important to take time to get to know the real you.


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“It takes time to heal… and for this you also need to get to know yourself, love yourself. Maybe even turn it into something positive… like post-traumatic growth.” —shyeggplant55

2.

You are absolutely worthy of love.

“Anxiety will pass, you need to push boundaries to grow, and hiding the real you from the world will have a crumbling effect on you. I’ve learned I am worthy of love and I am good enough. I don’t need recognition from others. I owe it to myself to accept and acknowledge that the real me is just wonderful.”—happytortoise591

3.

Recording symptoms in a log will help you to see how much progress you’ve made and that negative feelings won’t last forever.


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“I am a therapist and one thing I work on with clients is recording their symptoms over time. Whether that’s journaling feelings or graphing your symptom intensity levels (how anxious/depressed you were feeling this day, week, month). Recording and visually representing symptom intensity also helps clients see that their levels aren’t always the same (permanent) and that things can get better with enough time and effort to work on improvement.” —lucasr4f6813e43

4.

You can’t control the actions of others, but you can control your own.

“My therapist always told me that you can’t control others and their actions, but you can always control yourself. The only power you have is over yourself, not everyone else.” —porifera

5.

It matters how YOU felt about something that happened — not everything is an exaggeration.


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“I learned that sometimes it matters more what I felt that happened than what actually happened. When I first started going, I’d always say ‘I don’t know if he meant it that way but it hurt me and made me scared’ and my therapist would always say ‘It matters that it made you feel that way, we cannot always know what other people are meaning with their actions but your feelings are valid regardless.’ This assurance made it easier to accept and deal with my trauma without guilt.” —ilovethewordhello

6.

Therapy might not be for you — and that’s A-OK!

“Therapy isn’t for everyone. I spent years in therapy trying to treat my PTSD only for it to get worse, and I always felt guilty and ashamed that I wasn’t getting better. I thought there was something wrong with me. Then I discovered research that shows like 10-20% of PTSD sufferers don’t benefit from traditional forms of therapy like CBT. I felt such a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I quit therapy and immediately felt better and saw a reduction in symptoms because I gave myself permission to heal in my own way on my own timeline. Don’t beat yourself up about it! It’s not for everyone!” —sarahliz16241

7.

It’s important to let yourself be vulnerable in therapy so you can truly learn about yourself and start to heal.


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“Just because someone I know has an opinion about me or my life doesn’t mean that it’s my reality. Also, vulnerability requires courage and it leads to becoming your authentic self.” —emilyg43b729f1f

8.

It’s helpful to get the perspective of someone who isn’t in your immediate circle of friends or part of your family.

“Hearing someone else’s perspective really helps you look at situations differently. You start to realize you may have just been looking at it wrong.” —leyasiad

9.

Stop comparing your situation to others and remember it’s OK not to be OK.


NBC

“It’s okay to not be okay. Just because some people have it worse than you doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid.” —madimcelwee

10.

You’re HUMAN! It’s possible (and acceptable) to feel multiple things at one time.

“I can be happy AND sad, funny AND serious, silly AND smart. I’m multi-faceted and I don’t have to hide parts of myself to make the other parts valid.” —makerofcloth

“You can be angry at someone and still love them. My entire life I had the most distressing, confusing, and tense feelings toward my dad (classic). But in therapy learned that I don’t have to feel like a bad daughter for being angry at him, and I don’t have to feel like a victim for still loving him. And I’d need to work through both feelings to forgive him.” —abigailbrown1013

11.

It can be helpful to refrain from asking yourself questions like “what if” but to instead say “what is.” This will help you focus on what’s going on currently instead of worrying about the unknown.


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“Saying ‘what is’ instead of ‘what if.’ It helps me stay in the present moment when I realize I am stressing about things that could happen in the future.” —mlw10

“Sometimes changing the word ‘but’ to ‘and’ can be really validating and reassuring. For example, ‘I want to go to this event but I’m feeling anxious about it.’ You can change that to ‘I want to go to this event AND I’m feeling anxious about it.’ It helps to realize that both feelings are present, normal, and are allowed to coexist.” —tinyrose

My therapist has taught me this trick as well and it’s been really helpful when I find myself stressing about upcoming social events. It’s great because it forces you to live in the NOW instead of fretting over what might be.

12.

Acknowledge the way you feel even if it doesn’t feel good — fighting your feelings will only make them worse.

“I’ve learned to observe my stressful thoughts, make room for them, and accept them. I don’t have to like the thoughts or how they make me feel, but I can accept that that is how I am feeling in the moment. My therapist taught me that it’s important not to struggle with your thoughts, because the more you do, the worse you will feel.” —deletedUser

“My therapist always reminds me that ‘feelings are real, but they aren’t facts.’ For me that meant two things. One, the way I’m feeling in any given moment is valid, but also fleeting. I won’t be angry forever, or happy forever. So we can’t put too much weight into how we’re feeling in the moment. Two, the way I feel about a situation isn’t always true. I may perceive that someone has hurt me, and while that is valid and worth hashing out, it is not worth a lifetime of bitterness.” —sarinamoniquez

13.

TAKE👏MENTAL👏HEALTH👏DAYS👏!


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“That if you need a mental health day, it’s completely okay to take one and not let anyone make you feel guilty for it. You need to take care of your mind and let it have a break sometimes, especially if you have a lot of things that are stressing you out and you’re consistently having to go to the bathroom at school or hide in the break room at work to have a panic attack. And if you tell your bosses or your teachers what’s going on, or they see you having an episode, they’re usually understanding. Especially if you go ahead and let them know in advance, they appreciate that.” —ninjagirl21cs

14.

Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the same way you’d treat one of your loved ones — stop being so darn hard on yourself.

“Learning to be compassionate to myself. We spend a lot time thinking negatively of ourselves and saying bad things about ourselves as well. We spend years doing it and then expect to turn it around with positive affirmations. If we wronged a loved one, we wouldn’t just shower them with compliments and praise. There would be a lack of trust. The right thing to do is acknowledge what we did wrong, apologize, and make efforts to change. My therapist helped me to realize that I can and should do this with myself. Rebuild that trust by acknowledging how I’ve wronged myself, apologize, and make changes.” —khloebare

I personally struggle with this as well. I know it’s easier said than done, but once you learn to acknowledge when you aren’t treating yourself with respect you’ll be able to start down a path of learning to go easier on yourself.

15.

Seeking professional help doesn’t make you weak or a failure — it makes you smart and empowered.


NBC

“You are NOT alone. You are NOT weak. You are NOT a loser. Talking to someone helps and using medication does not make you a failure.” —taraj467a5f2bb

“There’s no such thing as ‘not being sick enough’ to start treatment. Don’t compare yourself to others or other issues, and say, ‘well, I’m not that bad, so clearly I just need to deal with it and get over myself.’ If you need help, you need help. Other people might be worse than you are, sure, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve treatment.” —musicismytherapy97

16.

Ask yourself the question: “You didn’t worry about it yesterday, so why would you worry about it today?” to boost your confidence.

“My therapist told me this to deal with my OCD; you didn’t worry about it yesterday, so why would you worry about it today? That question helped me a lot, especially when my head was making up new rituals/ticks, like touch this four times or why don’t you check this thing as well. The idea that I ‘survived’ the previous day without worrying about a new ritual/tick made me realize that I also don’t need to worry about it today and that I don’t have to do the new ritual/tick.” —hiohanian

17.

Cut toxic people out of your life — you don’t need ’em.


Bravo

“That some people are like asbestos. You wouldn’t have asbestos in your home due to its toxicity, so why would you let those type of people in your life?” —jeanadinuosciogarver

18.

Visualize your worries floating away. It’s a peaceful practice in learning to let things go.

“That thoughts are like clouds and to let them float away instead of overthinking.” —cbyolve4

My therapist also taught me this technique in regards to letting go of my intrusive thoughts. The visual that has worked best for me is placing all my negative thoughts into a glass bottle and tossing it into the ocean, watching it drift away in the waves. Another example she had given me was packing all of my intrusive thoughts into a box and placing it on a conveyor belt, imagining it being taken away into an abyss.

19.

Medication is only part of the solution. You will still need to work hard to regulate your emotions and actions — taking an antidepressant is an assistance but not a cure-all.


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“My therapist diagnosed my anxiety and got me on medication ASAP. I was so terrified of medicating until she told me that the hard work is still on me. Regulating my emotions and responses is still my job to do, even with medication. All the medication does is make it POSSIBLE for me to regulate. You can’t learn how to control an imbalance, the learning comes after everything is balanced.” —sarinamoniquez

20.

Come to terms with the fact that other people will not always feel the same way you do about things — and that’s OK!

“The best thing my therapist has ever told me is that it is unfair to expect people to feel and react the same way I would. We all think and feel differently and some people don’t have the capacity to feel the things I do, or vice versa. Hearing that has helped me manage my expectations from the people in my life.” —megstanley12

I’ve had instances where someone in my life suggested “oh, but that’s not a big deal you’ll be fine,” and I felt so hurt and triggered. What is easy for you may not be easy for someone else. It’s important to be honest with the people in your life about your pain points and also understand the trials they may be going through as well.

21.

It may take some time before you find a therapist you click with.


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“The right therapist really does make all the difference. I went through eight before I finally landed with someone who checked every single box. This was my mental health at stake, and I didn’t want to settle for less.” —emilypsully

22.

At some point you will likely need to face your suppressed thoughts head-on in order to move on.

“When I was suppressing thoughts and memories, she told me, ‘you can’t bury something that’s not dead. It will come back and you’ll have to deal with it some time.'”—lizardbreathhh

23.

Don’t consider yourself a burden on the people who love you — if they really care about you, they won’t hesitate to support you.


MTV

“It’s okay to take up a little more space. Ask for something when you need it. Don’t think of yourself as a burden on other people.” —allisong11

“Boundaries are essential! I had a problem with being a people pleaser and not taking time for myself or doing what would be right for me, which caused me to become overwhelmed and anxious. I had a hard time at first because some people said I was being ‘too negative’ which was hard to take. When I told my therapist she responded with, ‘I’m sorry they took it that way, but you know when people say things are negative it really means they’re upset that they didn’t get what they want. And if they’re not respecting your boundary then they’re not respecting you and they don’t deserve you.'” —hollieh4b374ab68

24.

Don’t put your healing on a schedule — it’ll take some time and what works for you may not work for someone else.

“That everyone’s recovery is very different and comparing yourself to others is your enemy.” —llmmkk

25.

Just because your brain is telling you something over and over again, doesn’t make it true.


CBC / Pop TV

“Your brain is a damn liar. It’ll tell you things like ‘Nobody likes me because I’m so weird’ or ‘Everything I do is so awkward and everyone notices’ or ‘I’ve never been considered attractive therefore I’m ugly and am not capable of being loved.’ It’s not easy to combat these thoughts but once I got into the habit of telling myself that my brain (and my anxiety, too) is a liar I became so much happier.” —bonniereinsch

26.

Be proud of yourself! Whether that’s because you chose to take the first step in getting real help or because you decided to take a walk around the block instead of sleeping in, acknowledge that somehow, someway you’re KILLIN’ IT!

“Pride propels! She taught me pride in myself was the fuel I needed to move me forward. Self-doubt and negative self-talk wasn’t going to motivate me to get better. You can’t run on an empty tank!! This year I started to be proud of myself and I made my biggest life change yet :)” —magicalpenguin81

27.

You, and only you, are responsible for doing the hard work to improve your mental health.


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“To make changes you have to really WANT to change. I feel like everyone who goes into therapy thinks that they are ready and want to change, but there have been so many times that I have found I was not achieving my goals or ‘making progress’ because I wasn’t ready and didn’t actually want to change. Change is really hard and it’s scary, especially when you have been doing something unhealthy for a really long time. These unhealthy coping skills and habits have gotten us through life, and its hard to really want to let these kinds of things go.” —ericas478b9ff9a

28.

And practice writing down all the things you’re worrying about on a piece of paper then crossing out everything that’s out of your control.

“Whenever I feel myself start to spin out and think about all of the myriad things that could go wrong, my therapist told me to write them all down on a piece of paper and then cross out what’s out of my control. Really helped me reframe my perspective and stay focused on taking one day at a time.” —cperryrun

I hope you’ve found something helpful in here — TBH I’m proud of you just for scrolling through!


E!

Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

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Written by Angle News

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