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The Extended Release 'Drug' -- Why Therapy Works

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Many people in the world who struggle from mental illness struggle alone in silence. People hesitate to seek help because they fear it will label them or turn all the fears that reside deep in their soul into reality. This is a story about my own experience with therapy and how even though I experienced the same doubts, in the end it changed my life.

My therapist was there for me during the darkest depths of my depression. She helped me get out of bed and back on track. She helped me get back on the train instead of tirelessly running behind it. However, after a few months we plateaued. I had some ups but I had many more downs. I felt like I was falling again but this time deeper into an abyss to a place I didn't even know existed, a breaking point in my sanity.

It was at that point I made a decision that my weekly sessions with my therapist (let's call her Meghan) were no longer serving a purpose. To be honest I had lost faith in therapy entirely. I chalked all my progress up to sheer luck. Meghan always talked about therapy being "a process" that took time to work. She said that I needed to "have faith in it and in her."

In my worst days of existence I did the exact opposite of that. I lost hope in her process, in her and in therapy all together. Just like that I walked away from it all.

Let's fast forward to March of this year. I was beginning to feel better. I was finally digging myself out of the hole I was so deeply buried in.

Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle everything was starting to come together and that's when it happened. I was accepted into Physician Assistant School, a goal that I had been working towards for the past two years. I should have been overjoyed. However I didn't feel elated by my acceptance at all. I actually felt like I was going to vomit right at my desk as I read the email.

In order for me to explain this I need to go back many months before to those "pointless" sessions with Meghan. Something we were always working on was that, in her opinion, I had an unrealistic vision of needing to have my entire life figured out by the age of twenty-three. I thought if I didn't then it meant that I was a failure.

Meghan felt the extreme pressure I was placing on myself was only aggravating my anxiety. She expressed to me that when parts of my "plan" would fail, which they did, it would only exacerbate my depression. I acknowledged this but I didn't agree with her. I didn't think there was anything wrong with my thought process. "Of course I need to have everything figured out," I would say. "Why?" She would inquire. I would just shrug and reply, "I don't know, I just need to."

Back to my office and my wave of nausea as I read my acceptance letter to PA school. The timing couldn't be more ironic or should I say, more perfect. One day recently I woke up and realized that I didn't need to have it all figured out. It was okay to not know what I wanted yet. I shouldn't sacrifice my happiness to just live out a vision I conjured up in my head. That's exactly what PA school was. It wasn't my dream, it was something I convinced myself was my dream to fit into my life plan that I had so meticulously laid out at the age of twenty-two; as if I knew anything back then and honestly I still don't. But what I did know was that I didn't want to be a PA and I had no idea what I wanted to do. However for the first time in my life I was content with that. I was no longer afraid of the unknown.

It was then I realized I didn't just wake up one day with this epiphany. These were Meghan's words, her suggestions. It was like she could predict my future. Her process worked. I finally let go of the very thing at the root of my anxiety and depression. I was finally free to explore life with no fear or regrets.

But what took so long? An extended release "drug" is the best way I can describe it. You take it and expect it start working immediately. That's what we all want these days, instant results. But it doesn't work that way, especially with therapy. In the words of Meghan it's a process and it takes time to see results. Similar to finally feeling the effects of that extended release pill pumping through your bloodstream hours later, long after you thought it had failed.

This may be one of the reasons why people think therapy does not work. They are coming in for a quick fix, a Band-Aid to put over their problems. That's what I was looking for, but I can tell you that's not how it works. It's a process that therapists know works but can only hope that you as a patient will have enough faith in them to believe and see it through.

I didn't have that faith. I'll admit I had up and walked away and then months later all the results from all that hard work I thought was for nothing came pouring in like a euphoric rush.

So what I am asking is before you write off going to see a therapist or giving up halfway through just please show up and try to hang in a little longer. It's a long process and I know it's a hard process. However it's a process I swear to you works and if you give it a chance it will change your life.