Welcome to the first blog post of Rainy Days Therapy!
This is exciting and a little anxiety inducing! I definitely won’t be writing blog entries on a regular schedule no matter how much I wish I could. Life, mental health and school will probably get in the way. But I thought this blog could help me share my thoughts and reflections on gender and sexual identity, race, mental health and social issues that I care about. I may talk about some art pieces that have helped me through the healing process and suggestions for self care and self exploration through the arts.
I thought hard about what I wanted my first blog post to be about. And, as typical me behaviour, I had so many things I wanted share that I got overwhelmed. I decided I should probably practice what I tell my clients, which is to start off small and figure out what’s the core idea I want to share. In this case, it’s why I became a therapist. It’s the beginning of my journey to therapy school, and will be the foundation of my future as a therapist. So that is where I’ll begin.
Why I want to be a therapist?
As a child, my dream job was not to become a therapist. I think it was something along the lines of being a teacher, singer and the owner of all the dogs, like in 101 Dalmatians. Psychotherapists weren’t on my radar of future careers. I don’t think I knew therapists existed as a child. It wasn’t something that was talked about at home.
It was around my early 20s that I decided I wanted to help others. I didn’t know how to do that, but I knew I wanted my work to be meaningful. That’s about as far as I got when thinking about the future. It was hard enough to finish undergrad. Future career is something the future me can worry about.
Life rarely works in the way I plan it out to be. Halfway through undergrad was when things began to go downhill. My grades fell, my mental health deteriorated, my relationship with my family became tense, volunteering was hard, dealing with racism and microaggressions everyday, and I was trying to figure out what my sexuality was. Everything went to shit.
But that’s the thing. I knew I wasn’t doing okay. I knew something was wrong. But I was also adamant in not seeing professional help. Only people who are mentally ill see therapists and I was definitely not mentally ill. I was in denial to the tenth degree. So I let it simmer, until it became boiling and overflowing. It spilt everywhere and burnt me and everything around me. I had thoughts about suicide and had a couple of close calls. That forced me to admit I wasn’t okay and that I needed help. The arts were there for me, and my puppy as well! But sometimes, it just wasn't enough.
That’s where therapy came in. I won’t go into detail about my experiences with various therapists. That’s a story for another day. But therapy did eventually help improve my mood. I was managing and functioning. It was first hand experience that therapy works. If I didn’t see my therapist during those awful undergrad years, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here writing this blog.
I still didn’t think about becoming a therapist, but I now knew about the possibility. It wasn’t until years later that I applied for school again. I spent years working on myself and healing. Clarity came when I was no longer drowning. I wanted to help. I wanted to be a therapist.
At therapy school, I had to think about what kind of therapist I wanted to be. Wanting to help is great, but I needed to know why and how I would help. Was there something that I could bring into the field? What do I want my clients to feel when seeing me? What are my core values as a therapist? Answering these questions were harder than any course material ever could be.
Reflecting on my own experiences in therapy, I realized two things:
I felt like parts of me were not seen or understood
I was subconsciously leaving parts of myself at the door before each session
I had therapists who were queer and understood complexities of sexual orientation. And while it was easier to talk to therapists who aren’t straight, I didn’t feel understood or seen. The therapist I was seeing didn’t seem to understand when I said I was Ace. I got the feeling they thought there was something wrong with me. They brought up childhood trauma, implying my asexuality was because something terrible happened to me as a child. So I subconsciously never brought up my sexuality to sessions again. I pretended to be heterosexual and “normal” because my aceness was not accepted.
I didn’t know I was missed because my therapists didn’t understand my culture. I recognized it after I saw my first Asian therapist. I didn’t need to explain things about my culture. The therapist just got it! I was able to explore ideas of family that matched my Chinese heritage. I was able to talk about feeling the culture gap between family and I. I could express my anger about the discrimination and microaggressions I faced everyday and know that my therapist got where I was coming from. After all, the therapist also had similar experiences. I didn’t know I was leaving my Chineseness at the door when I was with my previous, white therapist. However, even with the Asian therapist, I felt parts of me were unseen. My sexual orientation was glossed over and not mentioned again. I knew my therapist felt uncomfortable with LGBT issues so I didn’t talk about it. So once again, I could not be all of me in sessions. I was always hiding parts of me, or playing a part.
That’s when I realized, I needed a therapist who was both queer and Asian. (Ideally, I’d like a therapist who was also AroAce, but that’s very unlikely to happen). I needed a therapist who could hold both my Chinese and queer identity. And that realization steered me onto a path of the therapist I wish to be. Amongst other things, I want to be the therapist I needed. In essence, I wanted to be a queer Asian therapist that would also work with other queer and Asian folks.
I’m sure my ideas of what kind of therapist I want to be will change and shift as I grow, but I do know that at the core, my identities matter to me and they shape me into the therapist I am today.