Just the other day, one of my students asked me why I, a seemingly well adjusted adult who is the leader of her classroom, would ever go to therapy. She said the word with disdain – therapy– as if it was something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. I chuckled, wondering just how much time I had to enlighten her on all the reasons why I do need it, and why I have been going to a therapist since college.
I’m an open book, someone who is not afraid to share her story or struggles with the general public, but I was not always that way. When I first started treatment for my eating disorder back in 2013, I was terrified about letting the world know that was what I was doing. I covered up my move to New York as a career move (I’m in the arts so it wasn’t a stretch), but the longer I was in treatment and the more I opened up to my therapist, the more I knew I needed to open up to the rest of the world. I needed the walls to come down, and little by little, they did. Now, I can’t imagine my life without being someone who shares what she went through with anyone who asks.
Because I am the passionate, go-getter individual that I am, when I started recovery I set a very high goal for myself. I remember saying the words out loud to my therapist. “I am going to love my whole self, 100% of the time.” She laughed at me. She literally laughed, and said, “that’s an impossible goal, Katie. I’m not letting you set that.” I was angry at her for doubting me. Hey, you barely even know me!! You don’t know what I’m capable of! But it’s true…I would be disappointed every single day when I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t fall in love with the broken, changing girl in front of me. She was trying so hard. She also believed that therapy was something that you accomplished, and then you were done. Much like how I viewed recovery when I first began the process. I would quickly learn that, like almost everything else in recovery, it was not that simple.
To an untrained eye, I am recovered. I eat normally, I have restored my weight, I don’t have panic attacks daily, and I’m not a slave to my compulsions like I used to be. But I know that recovery is a lifelong venture that doesn’t end just because you aren’t in treatment anymore. Because of the nature of this ongoing journey, I firmly hope that I am always in therapy. It’s a safe space – a place that taught me how to be open to trying new things, how to speak authentically, and what empathy really means. Most importantly it showed me how to begin a conversation about mental health with anyone who asks, including my students.
Katie Berger is a musician, performer, and teaching artist based in St. Petersburg, FL. She is the writer and composer of Full the Musical, which details one girl’s battle with her eating disorder and struggles with childhood trauma. She began treatment for anorexia in 2013 and is so grateful to her treatment team and the people who supported her through the worst of her illness. She is a mental health advocate and an ear for anyone who might need one.
This guest post was inspired by BetterHelp, a website that makes professional counseling accessible so anyone can get help – anytime, anywhere. If you’re interested in learning more about online therapy , CLICK HERE.