Where I found my voice
by Dayna Altman
I have always said that I wish my therapy journey started earlier, but if it did, I don’t think I would have been able to grow as much as I have. I started asking my parents about therapy when I was in middle school, after I had heard about it on my favorite tv show at the time, Desperate Housewives, and that’s exactly what I thought therapy was: an outlet for rich housewives on TV-- little did I know that therapy can be, and truly is for anyone who wants it. Because of my initial understanding of what therapy was from the ladies of Wisteria Lane and the culture of my family and community, I didn’t go to therapy and smiled through my pain, my undiagnosed mental illnesses, and my life… until I couldn’t anymore during the beginning of my first year of college.
I started seeing a therapist because I could not function. My first therapy session led to my first medication trial, my first diagnoses, and my first hospitalization. It was also the first time I saw everything I once had in jeopardy; I started listening to the words of my illnesses and believing that I was as worthless as I felt.
I have come a long way since I walked in the doors of my college counseling services, completely surrendering to the confusion of what it meant to be diagnosed with a mental illness, and I am proud to say I am still in therapy. In fact, I have a whole therapeutic team that has helped me transform into a strong woman who is making positive changes.
Therapy has given me and taught me so much, that it is hard to imagine where I would be had I not chosen to seek help. It has taught me the power of a relationship and what it means to have someone believing in you even when you sit in front of her in a puddle of tears. Therapy has given me insight and something to be passionate about: I created and continue to run two organizations related to destigmatizing and normalizing mental illness (The BEA[YOU]TIFUL Project and Changing the Tape).
Most notably, therapy has given me a voice. It has given me the confidence to yell about my experience and to help others feel less alone by being vulnerable and transparent about my experiences.
This past summer I made a documentary about healing from sexual assault, which has been a significant part of my therapeutic journey. On our last day of filming, we filmed final wrap up interviews. I had already done an interview in the beginning of the production process, but something didn’t feel right; I didn’t feel as if I had truly painted the picture of my healing with the surface interview we recorded on the first day. On the last day, I remembered something my therapist told me about speaking my truth. In that moment, I received a text from her asking how the filming was going and it was that text message and the thought about my truth that made me reconsider which version of myself I wanted people to see. I put down my phone and sat in front of the camera and told my whole story. I laughed, I cried, I was real, I spoke my truth and now it is having ripple effects I could only dream of before.
I would never have found my voice if I didn’t find therapy. I would have never had the strength to speak my truth without my therapist. I wouldn’t be me without the progress I have made.
It has not been easy and life is still hard, but I have found myself a cheerleader who has helped me recognize not only what the world can offer but what I can offer. And that is something to speak about!
Dayna Altman is a Public Health graduate student at Northeastern University and entrepreneur by nature. Creator of non-profit organizations: "The BEA[YOU]TIFUL Project," "Erasing Excuses," "Changing the Tape," and a new short documentary: "Life After." When she isn't creating, she is on a SoulCycle bike.