How did you first start getting into serious therapy?
I started having severe anxiety attacks last December, and then it took me a while to admit that I really needed therapy. I convinced myself that my anxiety wasn't that big of a deal, and a lot of the people around me didn't recognize the severity of the situation, so I made myself believe that I didn't necessarily need or deserve therapy for my little stupid problems. However, when I finally told my dad about how I was reacting to certain situations, he really pushed going, and then when I finally completely fell apart, I humbled myself enough to admit that I needed help.
How long have you been in therapy/how many therapists have you been to?
I went to therapy once when my parents first divorced when I was seven, and then again when I was a little bit older and my grandma passed away, triggering unhealthy emotional reactions throughout my extended family. However, I started going to therapy seriously last March when I started having panic attacks. I went once a week for six months, and then stopped going as often so I could learn to deal with my anxiety on my own, using the tools that my therapist had given me. I stopped going to therapy last October, and since then have only had two serious anxiety attacks, which is amazing considering a year ago I had them about once every two or three days.
How did you find your therapist?
My dad actually goes to the same therapist, and he highly recommended going to Dr. Mancuso when I was adamantly against going to a shrink. My dad was very against going to therapy himself at first, but Dr. Mancuso is amazing at dealing with people like my dad and I, who tend to be very high strung and stubbornly against admitting that we might be hurt in some way.
What is the worst stigma surrounding therapy that you have found to be wrong?
That going to therapy means you are somehow less of a person. Going to therapy means that you are taking a moment to prioritize your mental health, not that you’re weak or not enough. I thought that I should have had the strength to get through my anxiety waves on my own, without any help. Instead, therapy actually helps you gain the strength and tools you need to get your mind in order without hurting the people around you or letting your mental illness overwhelm you.
Have you ever felt awkward about talking to your therapist about anything?
Obviously, it’s always going to be a little awkward opening up to a complete stranger about the embarrassing intricacies of your life, but when you first start going, there is absolutely no expectation to completely open up right away. Specifically, I did have a bit of an awkward time when it first came to figuring out what was the center of my anxiety. Dr. Mancuso, my therapist, is this old turtle of a man, close to his nineties, and so when it came to discussing the center of my anxiety, a.k.a. my inability to be in a relationship with a guy without freaking out and sabotaging myself before it can actually manifest itself into something real, that tended to be a little weird. It’s always going to be a little weird as a nineteen year old talking to a ninety year old man about your boy problems.
How do you know if you need therapy?
Everyone needs therapy. Everyone has gone through crap somewhere, and everybody can benefit from getting to know himself or herself better, so they can live their life in a healthy and harmless way to themselves and the people around them. But, especially if you feel like you tend to laugh out at the people around without being able to control your emotional response, or if you are reacting to negative situations in a way that doesn’t seem to line up with the core of who you feel you are inside, it’s a really good idea to at least get a quick mental check so you can figure out what is happening and perhaps prevent a more physical manifestation of you issues into something like a panic attack.
What kind of homework do you get?
When I first started going to therapy, I had to take a little questionnaire that ranked how mentally okay I was feeling, so that my therapist could actually get a handle on what was happening in my brain. It actually turned out to be really helpful, because I ended up testing as “severely anxious.” Previously to this test, I tried to convince myself that I was just kind of a horrible person who needed to get her priorities in order, or that I was just really on edge. To have to come to terms with the magnitude of what I was dealing with meant that I was able to give myself a lot more grace in asking for help in dealing with my wonky brain. Other than that, my therapist mostly asked me to work on breathing exercises and mind-redirection in between sessions. I have PTSD-induced anxiety, which is just a really fancy way of saying that someone taught me responding in fear was the only way to save myself and the people around me. If I was taught to be afraid, I could also teach myself to be brave, but it would take time and practice and space to fail sometimes.
How do you know the therapy is working?
Not every single therapist is incredible. The second therapist I went to tended to respond to my story as if I were some specimen to be studied, which didn’t exactly help my mental well-being. I’ve seen, in myself and in other people, that if your therapy is effective, you should come back feeling like you’ve made progress and feeling centered. You might feel a little emotionally ruffled up, because sometimes the content can be tough, but you should never come back and start lashing out at the people you feel have wronged you. If this occurs, that means the therapy didn’t work. Your therapist should never whip up your negative emotions without giving you the tools to deal with those feelings in a positive way and allowing you the space to work through those feelings to a place of peace. If that is the case, I would suggest trying somewhere else, because that specific therapist probably isn’t right for you.
I got these questions from a video that one of my favorite Youtubers, Dodie Clark, made a couple of days ago. She's a huge advocate for mental health, and she's super open about her struggle with anxiety, depression and depersonalization disorder. If you want to see the original video and get some more links to resources about mental health, you can go here: