Don’t feel like going to therapy? Tell your therapist
There will come a day, after months of waiting, desperate for some kind of help, that you won’t want to do therapy.
This might coincide with the time you decide to stop taking your meds, out of some mixture of not feeling that they’re working anymore, the return of your self-destructive impulses, and your self-reassurance that actually you’re fine.
You will consider not showing up in your counsellor’s office or in the online waiting room.
You’ll try to come up with excuse beyond ‘I don’t have the energy’, ‘I just don’t want to’, and ‘I don’t want to be told that what I’m doing isn’t healthy, because right now I don’t want to be healthy.’
You’ll want to avoid your therapist for all kinds of reasons that you don’t entirely understand.
There will be days when you’re tired of admitting that you’re struggling, tired of being a ‘person in therapy’, and you’ll want to just sack it off and do something fun, ‘normal’.
There’ll be days when you genuinely think you’re doing brilliantly, and really don’t see the point.
There’ll be days when you’re at your lowest, and you can’t stand the idea of having to admit that to the person who’s working hard to help you get better.
These days will come after months on waiting lists, of searching for therapists, of ranting about how much you need some care.
You’ll grumble at yourself for being unappreciative. But the therapy-dread won’t budge.
Sometimes you’ll explain that something came up at the last minute. Other times you’ll push yourself through the dread and get your butt to therapy – usually because you feel too guilty about letting your therapist down rather than any sudden excitement about working on your mental health.
Most of the time, when you do end up going, you’re glad you did afterwards.
Therapy’s a lot like going to the gym.
You know you should go. You know it’s good for you. But you also know it’s bloody hard, and the sweet relief of putting it off and doing something unhealthy instead is brilliant enough to make you think skipping it is a good idea.
But when you do push through, lace up your trainers, and work out, you feel brilliant afterwards.
And it’s the same with therapy.
It’s okay to sometimes dread it. It’s okay to resent having the commitment, especially when you find yourself turning down fun plans because you have an appointment at 6pm.
But it’s the days when you dread it that you likely need therapy the most.
Therapy isn’t easy. It can sometimes feel like a chore, and it’s a weekly reminder that while everyone else seems (emphasis on seems, because it’s rarely the reality) to have everything together and be able to go forth and live without any baggage, you’re reliant on some extra help.
It’s easy to convince yourself not to go.
You focus on the unpleasant bits – the awkwardness, the tears, the frustration of having to put in work when all you want it to just hurry up and be better.
You tell yourself it’s not working. You tell yourself it is working, but you’ve already learnt everything you need.
You bend over backwards to justify not doing therapy, because your brain, as it so often does, tells you not to take care of yourself.
Remember that when this happens, it’s not the logical part of your brain that’s talking, or the part that actually cares about your wellbeing.
It’s the bit you’re working on, the bit with the destructive impulses, and the patterns that you’re trying to break down, and all the negative stuff.
This bit of your brain doesn’t want what’s best for you.
It wants you to sit out therapy so it can step in and make you feel rubbish, uninterrupted. It’ll tell you you’re a mess because you need therapy, and that you should feel guilty because you didn’t go, and that you don’t need therapy all in one spiral of crap thoughts.
That part of your brain can be tricky to ignore. But you have to try to drown it out.
Remind yourself that just like working on your physical health, working on your mental health gets easier as you go – but you have to keep going. Otherwise you don’t get the benefits, and it seems like a massive waste of time.
Know that pre-therapy dread is normal, but remember how much more positive and equipped you feel after a session.
If you find yourself dreading it week in, week out, and end up miserable after every session, that’s a sign you may need to change things up and talk to your doctor about getting a different therapist.
But if it’s just the occasional pre-therapy dread, don’t worry too much – you’re not failing and you’re not being unappreciative, it’s just that natural human impulse we all have to avoid doing something we know is good for us because it requires some effort.
Push through. Force yourself to do therapy even when you’re really not feeling keen, because at the end of the session, you’ll be glad you did.
And hey, feel free to bring all these feelings up in your therapy session. That’s kind of what it’s there for.
This article is part of Getting Better, a weekly series about a journey through getting help with mental health.