I didn’t grow up thinking of therapy as something someone looked out for when feeling troubled. It wasn’t like eating all your vegetables or going to the dentist for a cavity. If you were upset, you spoke with your parents. Later, when boyfriend issues reared their head, you went to your girlfriends.
Therapy wasn’t an option. In fact, it was rather like that old, slightly stained dress in your closet that you would probably never wear again. My parents certainly never went to therapy and my grandparents, holding steadfast to the belief that only legitimately crazy people went to psychiatrists, couldn’t even stand to have the topic mentioned. So no, therapy wasn’t a big part of my life when I was growing up.
Five years into therapy, I can’t imagine life without it.
How did it all start? I was 25. I thought I had it all figured out. I had a job I liked immensely, as an editor at a leading city blog, bosses who patted me on the head every time I let loose a whacko article idea and a best friend sister who looked up to me.
I was also in my third consecutive serious relationship since leaving school and I planned to marry him. He was perfect – on paper, that is. My father’s school best friend’s son, he lived in the same area as I did, came from the same sort of background and our families had been friends since before I was born.
He told me he would marry me, but started becoming evasive when it came to actually speaking to his parents about us. My parents, who had always known about us, started getting uneasy. They saw what I was resolutely refusing to see that the boy and his family were behaving oddly.
All this while, he kept up a constant reassuring stream of platitudes that would keep my questions at bay for just a little while longer. He had now begun to hint that his parents might not accept me because I was ‘short’. At 5’1″, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t too short for him to date, but too short for him to marry.
After months of recriminations, tears and self-flagellation, I broke up with him. In doing so, I also unwittingly terminated my relationship with my own body.
I saw the stretch marks on my thighs and told myself I was ugly. I took to wearing heels to go to the corner store, flipping through happy Facebook pictures of newly-married couples and began to hunt for people who had a massive height difference just so I could tell myself that your stature shouldn’t dictate whom you can love.
I knew, then, that I didn’t want to go on feeling like this. I decided I needed help. When you come to a point where you feel you can no longer rely on yourself to pick up the pieces of your own life, you need someone to shine the light of logic and reason over the dark parts in your mind that you can’t bear to examine closely.
That was the point I was at when I started that fateful Google search that led me to find the one person who has done as much as anyone to bring me to where I am today. I found my therapist. In a way, this was better than me finding a boyfriend, because my therapist helped me find myself.
It took me a solid year of regular weekly sessions to admit that the boy (who I later found out had been cheating on me while assuring me of his desire to spend his life with me) was perhaps not the best thing that had happened to me.
We made lists together. There were countless ones detailing why I felt he had been such a great lover and we would pore over them together whereupon she would calmly and methodically break down every single quality I wrote in his favour with a counter-argument that completely demolished my rose-tinted view of him.
I told her that someday I would get to the point where I wouldn’t want to text him. She told me that one day I would get to the point of never wanting him in the first place. When I looked at her disbelievingly, she gave me a metaphor. She asked me what I usually ordered when I went to Starbucks.
“Iced Mocha,” I replied, thinking it was such an easy answer.
“Correct,” she said. “You will always order an Iced Mocha, never a Flat White or Cappuccino because that’s what you want. You’ll know you’ve moved on once you realise you no longer want him because he simply isn’t what you deserve. You’ll automatically reach for an Iced Mocha. Never a Flat White.”
Eventually, we moved on to the myriad of other issues I had and slowly started chipping away at the massive iceberg that was my anxiety.
And all through this time, I kept our sessions a secret. My parents didn’t know. Some of my friends had no clue. I tucked it into a corner of my heart and went in every single week for my liberating tune-up.
Why? Because even though the dress was beautiful, it still had a stain on it and I couldn’t wear it in front of others. Even though therapy made me into a more happy and well-adjusted person, I couldn’t admit that I had any problems in the first place.
The shame was mine. The stain was mine.
But the thing is, we all falter in life. The trick to being confident is not knowing that everyone’s going to like you, but that you’ll be okay if they don’t. Let’s not forget that we’re all flawed.
And maybe that dresses with stains aren’t so bad, after all.
Mehar Luthra is a 28-year-old coffeeholic currently living in the always-rainy town of Galway, Ireland. Not nearly as anxious anymore. Survives on pancakes and will work for Nutella.