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You Should See a Therapist

The following is just my personal opinion. Maybe you can relate and maybe you can't. Either way, I'm not nearly an expert and none of the following is intended to be offensive. Also if you are depressed and easily triggered, maybe skip this.

 

If someone ever told you "you should see a therapist," you would probably be offended, right? Because seeing a therapist means you're "crazy" or you have "issues" or you're "unstable" or any number of stigmas that pops into your head when someone mentions therapy. It's almost a taboo. If you do see a therapist, maybe it's something you hide from your friends and family. You avoid the topic and hide it like a dirty secret. As soon as you mention it at Sunday dinner the judgy eyes will pop out and the questions will pour in. "Why are you seeing a therapist?" "What's wrong with you?" Maybe it's something you've never thought about. You workout and eat a balanced diet to take care of your body but taking care of your mental health has never crossed your mind.  

 

 

We go to the gym to be strong and physically fit. We eat a balanced diet to fuel ourselves and maintain our physical health. Sometimes we may even go to a doctor if we feel physical pain or sickness. All these things seem normal; taking care of our bodies is important, but what about our mental health. If you feel pain, mentally, who would you see about that if you even thought about seeing someone at all? Mental wellness isn't usually at the forefront  when we think about our overall health. Granted, for the most part you may feel happy but what about the times that you don't. Or maybe you don't usually feel happy but you don't know what exactly you are feeling, much less how to cope.

Most of us have some kind of "issues", maybe not life-shattering, but nonetheless, issues. Talking to friends helps a little, but only if the conversation goes deeper than the surface and the walls fully come down. Sometimes, we ourselves don't even recognize what's really bothering us. I've always had a bad temper, you might think. Or so what if I have some bad days, everybody does. Maybe even, tomorrow will be better.

 

I remember telling a close friend my freshmen year of high school that I thought I was depressed. At the time, my sister had just moved out and my parents divorce really started to sink in. My family dynamic had suddenly changed and I didn't know how to cope or even what I was dealing with. I would cry myself to sleep often for no apparent reason, I quit swimming year round (a sport I had been doing for 8 years previously), I felt lonely even when I was surrounded by friends, and I started sleeping in a lot. My friend told me it was all in my head. I was making myself sad and if I wanted to be happy I just had to be happy. Of course, that didn't help, but I tried to believe it was "all in my head" and I was making myself unhappy. Things didn't get better and I started to feel so trapped inside of my own skin. Without any particular triggers, I started to have suicidal thoughts. I didn't want to think those things but once the thought came up it wouldn't go away. It constantly felt like there was a gaping hole running straight through my chest that I couldn't cover up or fill. I wanted the sadness to go away and to just be happy but it felt like I couldn't no matter how hard I tried. 

My senior year in high school, another friend organized a suicide awareness conference. I went just to support her and help set up. One of the speakers was a woman who lost her son to suicide months earlier. She said it was devastating and she wished she knew what her son was going through so she could've gotten him the help he needed. It happened not long after her two older children moved out of the house. Her son's friends told her, he felt alone; he felt like he didn't have any friends. Just like that I started uncontrollably sobbing, in the middle of her speech. "He felt like he didn't have any friends;" it was like someone was saying my own thoughts out loud to me. I recognized the way her son felt because that's exactly how I was feeling at the time. I was surrounded by people everyday but I still felt so isolated, like I didn't have any friends. For years, I had told myself depression isn't real and it was all in my head, that my problem was my attitude. That I was too self-pitying and a "cry baby" whose only issue was my pessimism. After hearing that someone else had been feeling the same thing, I suddenly recognized that it wasn't just something I could shut out. It was like I was trying to fight something in the dark and I finally turned the light on. It was like a huge weight was lifted and I took the biggest sigh of relief. I started seeing a counselor after that. Of course, that didn't instantly make the depression go away but it helped. 

In college though things started to get bad again. I had stopped seeing the counselor and the depression came back. Some days it felt like I couldn't leave my bed. I wanted to go outside but it was too hard and I just couldn't. I would miss classes because the thought of having to interact with other people was overwhelming. In my last year of school, I started having panic attacks. I would work in a lab for hours feeling fine and suddenly it would feel like I couldn't breath. My heart beat would start pounding and feel like it had dropped into my stomach. I would feel terrified like I was free falling without a parachute. Eventually I had to leave my position in the lab because the panic attacks were affecting my work. I had gotten used to the sadness again and just accepted it. When I finished school and started working, nothing changed. I felt sad for no apparent reason and continued to do nothing about it. A year and several moves later (and some encouraging words from my favorite podcast My Favorite Murder),  I finally gave therapy another try. I found out my insurance covered it so I made an appointment with a psychologist. I had been going through some issues at work that I just couldn't get over and I didn't know how to deal with. I didn't expect therapy to instantly make me happy but I figured it would be nice to talk to someone unrelated about it. I'm kicking myself for not doing this earlier, uggghh. We talked, I "ugly cried" for a bit, and the psychologist taught me how to cope with what I was going through. She asked me questions that made me think about what was really the issue, something I wouldn't have come up with on my own or by talking to friends. It didn't suddenly fix my problems but it made me feel so much better and continues to make me feel better.

 

 

Even though currently I don't feel majorly depressed and nothing significant has changed in my life, I continue to go to therapy. There's never been a time I regretted going, only missed opportunities to seek help. Even if you're not depressed or have major emotional issues, counseling and therapy can still be beneficial to your overall mental wellness. I don't know of anyone whose life is completely perfect and you shouldn't feel ashamed for asking for help or trying to improve yourself. Maybe if more people talked about mental health, going to therapy would be as normal as going to the gym.

 


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