Psychology

How I Discovered the Power of Hope Through Therapy

For a long time, this is how I felt. I was full of anger, frustration, bitterness, and the feeling that the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I just couldn’t take it all anymore. 

I wasn’t that anxious or depressed, just exhausted beyond reason. 

Physically, mentally, and emotionally worn out. 

I was raised with the notion that if I worked hard, I would achieve things. I would own my own house. I would ensure good education for my children. Things would be good. 

Well, I worked hard. Very hard, in fact. But I felt like I was barely making it through. 

When my boomer grandparents bought their house, my grandpa was the only one working, and my grandma was at home raising three kids. 

His job wasn’t anything prestigious by any means – it was a standard desk job at a large marketing firm. 

But he could pay for the house, provide for his family, and go on vacations on a regular basis.

Fast forward to me, 25-year-old Ashley fresh out of law school, buying a house felt like a pipe dream. Worse, because it’s one that felt like I was expected to realize somehow. 

Circumstances changed. The world wasn’t what it used to be when my grandparents were my age.

It felt like my generation was dealt a bad hand right from the get-go. 

From 9/11 to one recession after another, the rise of social media and isolation, to political and civil divide and unrest, to a global pandemic that’s way overstaying its welcome.

Oh, and student debt. Can’t forget this one. 

I was just so tired of it all.

I was tired of working all the time and getting nowhere, like I am on some hamster wheel I can’t get off of. 

My job wasn’t making the world a better place, nor did it feel particularly meaningful. It was mostly just a refined form of bureaucracy.

I was tired of people constantly curating their gallery of happiness and antagonizing one another with hot takes and clever comebacks on social media.

I was tired of seeing nothing substantial being done about the climate crisis.

Being told it is my responsibility while companies get away with whatever they feel like and politicians with one foot in the grave scoffing it off as inconsequential for them. 

I was tired of constantly being advertised to, as though I‘m a walking wallet.

I was tired of my privacy being a commodity to be owned by the highest bidder.

I was tired of feeling like a cog in a system that makes no sense to me.

I was tired of trying to live up to unrealistic societal expectations I just cannot fulfill.

I was tired of feeling unhappy.

I was tired.

It felt like a dead-end, and for the longest time, that is where I stayed – at that dead-end, believing that nothing could be done.

Then, Covid happened.

If there is one silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that it brought the topic of mental health to the public forefront. 

People were talking about it. Psychotherapy was brought up in articles and social media as something everyone should have, not just psychos and suicidal depressives.

Online therapy in particular, since, you know – pandemic.

I decided to give it a try. See what it’s like. 

I did my due diligence, asked around, and read reviews. Naturally, all options were a mixed bag of pros and cons.

I ended up deciding to go with the cheapest of the bunch, called DoMental. It didn’t have video sessions, but I doubted I’d manage to find time for a session anyway.

I answered some questions about my psychological profile, purchased a subscription, and downloaded the app on my phone. 

Based on my answers, I was matched with a therapist named Beth. 

I started my therapy.

So how was it?

In all seriousness, way better than I expected.

Let’s not jump the shark here – Beth didn’t make my problems disappear with a flick of her psychological wand and some magic dust.

The beginning was mostly me describing how I felt and Beth asking for more specifics to better understand my situation. 

After some time, she introduced me to a term I never heard before: learned helplessness.

In a nutshell, learned helplessness is exactly what it sounds like: when too much bad stuff beyond your control happens, you stop believing that your actions can change it in any way.

You stop believing that you can meaningfully improve your situation.

You learn to be helpless and lose your sense of agency in life.

As Beth described it to me, learned helplessness is something that gets instilled in us over time.

Life circumstances and the choices and actions of others with power throughout life – parents, teachers, employers – shape the way we see the world.

And just as I learned to be hopeless, I could, with time and effort, learn to be hopeful too.

I started realizing that it was not up to me to change the entire world for the better. But I could have more agency in my life. 

I could work on how I perceive problems I cannot control and how I choose to deal with them.

I could do something.

It felt like somewhere deep inside my head, a door opened.

My therapy goal transformed from a nebulous idea of “feeling better somehow” into something a bit more concrete: feeling better by learning how to cultivate a hopeful state of mind.

To achieve that, Beth devised a few cognitive-behavioral practices for me. 

These were essentially ways for me to challenge my way of thinking, test out a hopeful approach in specific situations, and keep track of how I am doing as this unfolds.

I have been in therapy for 3 months now, and while I can’t say everything is perfect and resolved, because it isn’t, I have been feeling a lot better.

I started sleeping better. I had more energy throughout the day. I felt less heavy and bloated. I started feeling more comfortable around my coworkers. 

I became curious to try new things for the first time in years and got into creative writing. I smiled more.

These are all small things, but as Beth puts it – small things like that are what matters most.

Most importantly, I came to realize that my approach and outlook toward things in life shape my interaction with them and dictate how they affect me.

For far too long, I was approaching the world with negativity because I did not believe being positive would change anything.

Turns out, I was very wrong.

And I was delighted to be proven wrong. 

These days, when I wake up in the morning, I feel like I am wielding a power.

The power of hope, and with it – a sense of agency.

And each day, thanks to Beth’s guidance, kindness, and support, that power grows bit by bit, and that sense grows little by little.

Here’s my bottom line about DoMental:

Therapy can help you in ways you won’t expect. It taught me of a problem I didn’t know existed and made me rethink and re-evaluate my approach to life. 

It’s cheaper. Therapy is expensive in general, but based on my research, spending more money doesn’t promise a better therapist. DoMental is the cheapest I found, and if Beth is an example of the quality of its therapists, I am all in for it.

Flexibility is at its maximum. I would write to Beth whenever I had a moment for myself and the energy to self-reflect. I knew she would later reply, so I just wrote whenever and wherever it was good for me. 

Daily therapy means constant feedback. I am admittedly not the most patient person in the world, but I don’t think a weekly 1-hour session would have worked for me the same way a shorter but daily correspondence did. I know I can’t be alone in this.

I am glad I decided to give DoMental a try because, without it, I wouldn’t have met Beth. I wouldn’t have realized that there’s a rusty door covered in cobwebs inside my head and that opening it will change my life for the better.

This is why I am writing this and putting it out there – because I suspect all of us have such hidden doors inside our heads.

And they can be opened.

Try it for yourself, and I doubt you’ll regret it.

Disclaimer: Always consult a professional for medical advice or a clinical diagnosis.

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