When I moved to Germany to work at the Technical University of Munich, two years ago, first I was quite alright. For about a month and a half I even felt pretty good. Perhaps it was because in that first month or so, I had to travel back to the Netherlands two times, once to defend my PhD, and the second, to celebrate the Christmas holidays. It wasn’t like I had much time to be worried about anything else. When I came back to Germany in January 2020, I quickly went into full-blown meltdown. A rough period in my life, where I was haunted by the most horrible insomnia, combined with crippling anxiety attacks, often more than twenty times a day. If you’ve never experienced a real anxiety attack: they drain you. No energy whatsoever. Not sleeping is not making that any better, obviously. This meltdown is not my first. I’ve had at least three similar meltdowns in the past fifteen years. One thing they all have in common is that I got through. Another is that I came out stronger. More resilient.
What personally helped me a great deal in quickly getting hands-on with the situation, was finding good therapy, although I don’t like the word. I see therapy more as a form of life teaching. Therapy almost sounds like there is something broken, or wrong with you, that needs fixing. I’d argue that most people are not broken, they just are. However, most people certainly could benefit from guidance. Like a sort of life coach. And so I looked for one, and started psychotherapy. Not only did it help me get through, it helped me identify dominant patterns in my life, and taught me a great deal about myself. I’ve visited therapists before when I was in the Netherlands. A good therapist can guide you in finding your best self, and many can offer you quick handles to overcome serious meltdowns. One huge difference between the therapists I’ve seen before and the one I met in Germany, is that in the Netherlands, therapy, without exception, was only covered by my health insurance for a limited number of sessions. Ten, to be precise. Here in Germany, that situation is a little different. It’s a weird process, with a lot of paperwork, and even some form of peer-review of your specific case and trajectory. In any case, if your therapist can successfully defend that you’re very broken, and could benefit longer-term fixing, you will get just that.
I convinced my therapist that I’m beyond repair, but that I still wanted a long-term maintenance program. He at least agreed with me on the latter, and managed to secure the maximum package of sessions. About ninety total. Great!
After about twenty sessions, I think we covered all the basics, first of course, we covered the quick handles, to get me out of that meltdown. Then we went on to the personal background. I’ve had a rough youth, and it messed me up. It’s as simple as that. I’ve written about it before, and probably will again. That’s all you need to know for this part.
Only twenty sessions in, and I was feeling pretty good. Yet, we pushed through. It is after these initial sessions, sessions that most people don’t even pass through, to be honest, that you will experience the full power of good therapy.
The first sessions are a quick fix, that’s the therapy part, maybe. The later sessions are the ones that teach you about who you are, why you behave or respond as you do. The first sessions are important and sometimes even vital. Those later sessions hold true transformative power.
I have benefited in so many ways from long-term therapy. My mental health improved. My self image improved. My leadership skills improved. My work-life balance improved. My stress resilience improved. My quality of life improved. I think I became a better person. I think I found my truer self.
I will repeat this, because I think it is important. Pretty much all of these things I learned after I was already ‘fixed’. After the moment where most therapy ends. This is why I think it is so useful to get therapy.
I believe everyone needs therapy. Even if you don’t. If you have already been fixed. Or are not even broken. You would benefit from therapy, but you just don’t know it yet!
There somehow is such a stigma to therapy. Even worse, mental health in general is stigmatized, and perhaps most strongly so for men (as the ancient societal image is that they should be strong and powerful). Mental health is hardly ever discussed in public. I’m not saying we should all widely share our personal problems with everyone all the time, but can we just make the concept of therapy for self-improvement an acceptable subject of conversation? Why is it never discussed, or why is the suggestion of therapy perceived as a negative?
My feeling is that many people avoid therapy as they see it as failing. I see it as succeeding. Therapy is not defeat. Therapy is you winning at life!
Do you ever wonder if you would benefit therapy? I think if you’re willing to find the right therapist, and are willing to be dead honest with them and with yourself, then the answer is always yes.
I’m about seventy sessions in, and still improving! It has been an absolute blessing, and I highly recommend it.
Enjoy the ride…