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  • Sonya Deol

Why I Became a Therapist

I was having a hard time writing a blog this month so I decided to shift gears a bit and share my story of why I became a therapist. May is Mental Health Awareness Month so this might help you understand my mental health journey and why I believe it’s so important to work on finding inner peace.

girl standing on mountain path

As I write this, I notice that certain feelings are coming up – fear of being judged and of being vulnerable, for example. This is ironic considering every day I ask the people I work with to confront these very same fears! Being vulnerable means taking a risk, so here goes.

The main reason I became a therapist is because it seemed a natural fit for me given my life experiences. Many of us who train as therapists or other types of helpers have similar reasons for entering the field. From a young age I have been a listener, been highly sensitive to emotions, and been driven to reduce pain and suffering. While these are useful qualities as a therapist, there is a lot that I continue learning in this job from every new person I meet. All of our experiences are different, and we all can be both teachers and learners. My story is just one of billions.

a stony path on a mountain

My early life experiences include:

  • Parents’ divorce and being raised by a single mother

  • Loss of loved ones

  • Different forms of abuse

  • Emotional neglect

  • Estrangement from family members

  • Being a “parent” to younger siblings and my own parents

  • Disconnect from cultural identity

  • Bullying / school violence

  • Having a parent with mental illness

  • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts

  • Diagnosis of anxiety/depression as a young person

  • Placed on antidepressant medication without proper care

These life experiences help me relate to people and their pain, but do not make me an expert by any means. Relating is useful for conveying compassion and empathy. It is my responsibility to ensure that I keep my experiences separate from the people I work with – I understand that everyone’s experiences are unique to them. However, I believe one thing we all have in common is our ability to adapt and survive difficult times in our lives.

My mind and body adapted to this chaotic environment by creating a heightened baseline of stress and anxiety. From a biological perspective, that is the impact of trauma. I felt that life was unfair, I felt unsafe in the world, I felt helpless and alone. As you can imagine, or maybe can relate to, these feelings affected my day-to-day on many levels. They still come up today and that’s okay.

a fallen tree lying over the lake

As an adult I had better life experiences, but the “fight-flight-freeze” response continued to overwhelm me. It took me a long time to recognize the need to teach my body and mind what “calm” looks like. That is the remarkable thing about our brains – they are malleable. I found a therapist who guided me to start my own journey of healing. Since then, I have been working on:

  • Creating healthy boundaries

  • Practicing self-compassion & mindfulness

  • Spending time with people who help me thrive

  • Reaching out for help

  • Prioritizing movement / exercise

  • Connecting with my cultural identity

  • Managing my emotions

  • Letting myself grieve the past

  • Focusing on what I can control

  • Regulating my nervous system

  • Living authentically and by my values

I can’t tell you how exhausting healing through pain is, but what's the alternative? Suffering through pain is even more exhausting. These experiences are a part of me, not all of me - there's so much more to life. Healing is ongoing hard work but it’s worth it. I now believe it’s possible to find moments of peace and joy, to find freedom in creating your own life, and to learn to love yourself despite the pain.

girl standing with arms outstretched in a desert at sunset

Becoming a therapist allows me to guide people through their most difficult moments, to help them make connections between their feelings and their experiences, to teach them useful coping skills, and to empower them to make choices when they may feel they have none. It all comes down to choosing to live by our own values, not by the way we are programmed because of life experiences. Like anything that seems daunting, it begins by slowing down and taking one small step at a time. Through curiosity and kindness, choice becomes the clear option.

Thank you for reading and for allowing me to be vulnerable. If you have any thoughts or concerns that you need to share, please reach out to me.


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