How therapy helped me evolve from a victim to a survivor
by Joe DiMauro
My first symptoms of depression arose when I was sixteen years old. I fell asleep in my classes because I couldn’t sleep the nights before. I stayed up till the early morning hours with an overwhelming numbness inside me. Events and moments that should and once did make me very happy were replaced with irritability, impatience, numbness, drowsiness.
When I turned twenty one, I left an unhealthy relationship with a person I had been living with. I had to pick the pieces back up again, but despite my optimism, I was met with the toughest year in my existence. I became a victim of sexual assault, and lost a cousin tragically. My depression reached a new low. I was no longer a person I recognized or was proud to be, as the trauma and grief in my life molded me. It became very apparent that I needed help, and someone to talk to about the tragedies that I had endured.
I decided to take just a few minutes to search online for a therapist after months of unbearable anxiety attacks and depressive lows, unknowing that these few minutes would change my life forever. I chose my therapist quickly, and within a couple of weeks I was in her therapeutic space, where a rabbit runs around the room and bookshelves, and messages of love and acceptance decorate the walls around us. My therapist, Kristen, was patient, and gave me insight, advice, and just listened to me when I had to vent. I didn’t realize that subconsciously, events and experiences in my childhood were affecting the present. I didn’t realize that the feelings we oppress only grow mightier within time. I didn’t realize that I could come to a place where I can openly talk about my sexual assault, and it no longer feels like a caged experience stuck in my throat.
My therapist has changed my life forever, and as much as I tell her that, she insists that it was me who changed my own life. I had to get the help, I had to do the work, I had to take the necessary steps, I had to confront my fears and my traumas. I had to, and you can too. Whoever you are, wherever you are… we are not so different. Despite the cities we call home, or even the music we listen to or the friends we surround ourselves with… We are all just a bunch of older kids, running around a global sandbox, desperately trying to fit in, find our place, and not let the experiences life throws at us shape us.
Finding a therapist is like a bridge to healing. Even though I feel much better since when I first entered her office, I still see Kristen because I know that therapy will continue to help me. It makes me a better friend, lover, son, worker, and overall person. This can change your life, and I hope you know that you deserve to be free from the entities that may be caging you, or prohibiting you from happiness. Therapy doesn’t rid me of my trauma, it helps me understand it, make peace with it and learn from it.
Joe DiMauro is Mr. Gay Rhode Island 2016 and the Founder and Board President of Project Fearless, a non-profit organization that destigmatizes and provides mental health resources to the LGBTQIA community in Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts. He is the author of Spectrum, a book that depicts his mental health journey and healing process.