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  • Writer's pictureFintan Davies

The Benefits of Therapy

Updated: Apr 1

The quote "People are all we've got." from the TV series Fleabag sums up all the lessons I've learnt in Therapy.

I truly believe that Therapy can help every single one of us. You get given the gift of expressing your hopes, dreams, problems and fears to someone who can help you develop amazing abilities. A therapist can help you both understand yourself from an objective standpoint and explore limitless methods and tools that can help you become a happier person.

I have done a mixture of therapies since my mental health crisis in 2019 ranging from family therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and therapy with a mental health professional.

From my experience, therapy has worked when I stopped masking, hiding my flaws and insecurities. I just tell my therapist literally everything about me, even things that I have never told anyone else.

I know this works because, for my family therapy sessions during my first year of recovery, I didn't fully commit to changing for the better.

For context, when I first left hospital, the Early Intervention Team told me I had to stop playing violent video games. I couldn't accept this because violent games like The Last of Us were my coping mechanism from the emotional pain I was experiencing in my life.

Because of this, I wasn't fully present and willing to heal when I did family therapy. I was manipulative and played the long game of convincing the therapists that it was ok for me to play violent video games again. For the whole year of Family Therapy, I was desperately waiting to play The Last of Us: Part II in June 2020.

But, the true irony is that The Last of Us: Part II would lead me down the path of quitting playing and engaging with video games for good. The violence in The Last of Us: Part II was so disturbing and graphic that I began to ask the most important question... why am I doing this to myself?

These introspective questions kept coming to my mind and I knew I needed to change.

But... how did I do that? Through commiting fully to therapy.

I found my Therapist through Harley Therapy and it has changed my life for the better.

What I appreciated about looking for a Therapist on Harley Therapy is that you can narrow down what you need help with. For me, the main one was addiction.

I've had unhealthy addictions all my life to deal with the struggles I've had living in a world that isn't designed for autistic people. I had unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the complete lack of romance in both my teenage years and adulthood.

I was obsessed with superhero movies growing up and almost all of them had the narrative that people who are different are loners, have one friend (no large group of friends) and their lives only got better/exciting when they had a romantic love interest.

Imaging a kid already struggling with social skills watching Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man Trilogy and Batman Begins over and over again from early childhood to late teens. These narratives are going to affect how that kid sees the world. That kid will interpret the world as one that owes romance to them because they believe that is what will make them happy and fullfilled.

Not only that, the real world was so stressful for me that a virtual gaming world on one screen, in one single, unmoving location, was more appealing.

I was a gamer for over 20 years and I relied on it to cope both with the innate difficulty of socialising throughout my life and the party/drinking culture at University that my mental health deterioated.

Fiction was my escape and it nearly destroyed me.

When I was looking for a Therapist, my intention was to tell them every single issue and addiction I was facing in my life, even the most darkest and embarrassing ones. I felt it was the right thing to do because, in late 2021, my problems were numerous and I had enough.

I needed help.

I can happily say that my therapist and I have explored many questions to help me understand why I have the addictions I have and how to develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Here is what I've learnt about myself since being in therapy.

How has my unhealthy coping mechanisms around romance affected my life? When I always saw the people I fancied as potential romantic partners, I didn't truly listen and engage with them as thier own person. I would always think of a idealized version of the future where we would be in love.

With me not being fully present for most of my life, I have missed opportunities to build strong bonds of friendship without any expectation of being owed romance. This state of expectation I had, for the longest time, made me anxious. Whenever someone I fancied had a partner and it wasn't me, I felt hurt and jealous. I sadly thought that friendship wasn't enough and hid away.

Superhero movies and Video Games were my interpretation of reality and only through cutting them out now have I come to value friendship in all its wonderful and beautiful ways. I just want to learn more about people and have a bigger network of friends.

I now read non-fiction books about topics such as Misinformation, Gender, Tudor History, Spirituality, Friendship, Evolution and invest in the real world so much more now. Real life feels so much more fullfiling now especially since working as an usher at Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Do I still struggle with addictions and unhealthy coping mechanisms? Oh yes!

That is what is so valuable about seeing a therapist. I openly talk about my struggles, my relapses, my dissapointment and we, together, figure out another solution to try out.

An addiction that I have been struggling with has been with sugar. It has taken me over a year of trail and error to get to this point but I have now tried a behavioural method that has helped me moderate my sugar intake.

When I get the train home in the evening, I get myself a cup of Decaf Tea at Costa and listen to peaceful piano music throughout the train journey home. But if my craving for sugar is bigger than usual, I have a bite of healthy dark chocolate that is 70% Cocoa.

Why do these three elements work together to help me with my Sugar addiction? It simply calms my whole body down. I've found that, in the past, when I listen to loud/exciting music on the train, my energy levels go way over the top to the point where I feel such an intense craving to binge eat sugar. The healthy dark chocolate only needs a single bite to lessen the intensity of a sugar craving.

It has taken me a very long time to get to the point where I can now moderate my sugar intake and I'm so happy and relieved.

My therapist and I have also been exploring my anxiety and how to manage it. It has been a consistent part of my life since I left hospital in 2019. While the anxiety is less frequent and upsetting than it used to be thanks to being open about it with my therapist, I still find it very uncomfortable.

What triggers my anxiety? The pattern I've observed is that it seems to happen the first day I come to work after a day of relaxation and stillness. I've tried a mixture of methods these last two weeks like taking my anxiety medication when I arrive to work or going to the gym the day before work.

While these methods do work in lessening the impact of my anxiety symptoms, it is still there and I have to concentrate harder on having a conversation with the people I work with.

The best thing I can say about my therapist is that they have helped me be self-sufficient in that I can take the initiative to figure out methods that help my mental health for the better.

These past few days, I've been exploring mindfullness. This came about as I had been recommended the Wes Anderson short film 'The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar' which explores the benefits of meditation and how it can bring out the best in you.

After I saw this film, I was asked what I could have in my life that would make it better. I pondered on this for a while, trusted my gut instinct and gave mindfullness as my answer.

At the time of writing, I'm using the Calm app to explore mindfullness techniques and build upon the foundations that were established when I did Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 2019. The most impactful part of CBT was breathing techniques which I've come back to time and time again.

Breathing techniques such as breath in for three, hold for two, breath out for three have helped me calm my heart rate down completely when I make mistakes. I'm forever thankful to my CBT therapist for giving me the breathing tools and foundations that have helped me be present.

If you're considering therapy, I'd say trust your gut and go for it! The only person that knows everything about you is you. You are worth fighting for!

Image of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Kristin Scott Thomas from Fleabag Season 2 Episode 3 by BBC iPlayer.

Image of Harley Therapy Promotional Banner by Harley Therapy Facebook Page.

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