I used to be really ashamed that I had to see a psychologist when I was a teenager. I hid it from all of my friends and never brought it up to anyone. I saw it as a weakness and I was scared that people would think I was crazy if they knew about it. But, now I’m ready to talk about that experience.
For most of my life I have been painfully shy. I would never participate in class or talk unless I was spoken to. Social interactions were my number one fear. I was different from the other kids, with feminine mannerisms that I couldn’t control. And you have no idea how hard I tried to change those, but that shit is biological. It didn’t matter how nice or sweet or quiet or masculine I was. I was bullied for being different. I quickly became hyper aware of everything I said or did in school. I wanted to blend in as much as possible. The constant behavior monitoring led to a lot of social anxiety. I was so afraid of being rejected by my peers that I just started avoiding them, even my friends.
I wondered why I was so afraid of public places. I thought that all eyes would be on me and everyone would be watching to see what mistakes I made. I think my friends probably thought I didn’t like them or didn’t want to hang out with them, when really I just couldn’t. I could barely leave the house other than school. I hated phones, too. I still kind of do, but I’m not deathly afraid to talk on them anymore.
My mom noticed this social anxiety in me and remembered that she used to be the same way. She avoided social events and rarely left the house. I don’t think she got her driver’s license until she was 27 due to her social anxiety. A therapist helped her to overcome her fear.
So, my mom set up an appointment for me to see a psychologist that my primary doctor recommended. I was 13 and so fucking mad at her. I had no idea why I had to get therapy at that time and I felt betrayed. And I wasn’t told why until I was much older. I was confused, scared, angry…everything.
I was so nervous that first day of therapy. I remember sitting in the waiting room feeling like I was going to throw up at any second. I had no idea what to expect.
I finally got called back and burst into tears as soon as the doctor started talking to me. At that point in my life, if I was singled out or scared I would cry. And it was so embarrassing. I had learned that boys weren’t supposed to cry and I always felt like a failure when it happened to me. I thought for sure that something terrible was going to happen in that room, like I was going to get locked up or ridiculed. What if everyone found out that I was crazy and they never wanted to see me again?
But, the doctor was very nice and didn’t laugh at me. And the next session went a lot better. I would come in and talk about whatever I wanted to. It was nice to talk to someone who didn’t judge me. He wasn’t the best psychologist in the world and a lot of the stuff that he did didn’t sit well with me. For example, he was often late to our sessions, visibly stressed, and would leave the room mid-session to take calls on his cell phone. He was going through a divorce and very young children were involved. Sometimes I felt like his therapist…I should have known then that I would end up studying psychology.
Despite all of that, I think the therapy was beneficial. I grew to enjoy spending time with the doctor. Dr. M was Hispanic and quite short. And a little odd. His office was really cool. There were huge windows that stretched from the floor to the ceiling and I loved to look out them. The furniture was really unique, too. Sometimes we would leave the office and get ice cream next door, which was pretty awesome. We would watch movies, like The Shining, which I thought was a little inappropriate (what is that movie even rated?). The 500 question personality assessments that I had to fill out sucked ass, but the picture interpretations were fun. There was one where a lady was throwing a chair at someone and I was supposed to react to it. All of the pictures were not quite right and kinda creepy, which is why I liked them. And the crossdresser that I sometimes saw in the waiting room kept me intrigued and entertained.
I stopped seeing the doctor when I was about 15 or 16. I just didn’t want to go. And I didn’t need to see him anymore. Granted, I probably still needed therapy because I was suicidal a couple years later. But, my time with Dr. M was obviously over.
Sometimes I miss going there every week. I hope Dr. M is doing well and I would like to see him again one day. I think he would be proud of me. I’m finally myself and I love who I am. I couldn’t say that back then. I don’t know if my experience led me to go into mental health or if I was destined for this all along. But, I know that I want to help teenagers in pain like the doctor helped me. Because sometimes we just need someone who’s there to listen.