I see a therapist. There. I said it.
I feel like there is a pretty big stigma around mental health so it’s hard to discuss without someone jumping to conclusions. Does she have postpartum depression? Is her marriage okay? Is she crazy? Did she try to hurt herself? She probably doesn’t have a friends to talk to.
Did that cover all the assumptions you just had? I’m a mommy blogger so I tend to overshare about my life in general and I’ve easily posted some of my hardest moments online for anyone to read. From details of my traumatic birth to family planning issues, I typed away at my keyboard knowing someone could relate and feel less alone if I shared…not to mention writing things out is completely therapeutic for me. But even I hesitate when it comes to talking about mental health. Why?!
Seeing a therapist can help you improve your relationships, set and achieve goals, better your coping skills, discover your strengths and weaknesses, and build self confidence. None of these things should have a stigma around it!
There are many unhealthy ways that people deal with stress in their lives: alcohol, overeating, zoning out in front of a screen for a long time, smoking, sleeping all day. None of these are really great for you, but it seems to be easier to joke about binge drinking than to admit to our closest friends that we are seeing a therapist. Anyone else find that odd?
Then there are the healthy ways we deal with stress: yoga, meditation, massage, exercise, time management, eating healthier, talking about things. Talking to a licensed professional counselor is just one of the healthy ways to deal with stress in your life. That’s it! Little stresses OR big stresses (I think the goal here is to see one BEFORE things escalate into big stresses.) And yes talking to a therapist IS different than talking to a friend. I know this for a fact because I happen to be in a book club with three counselors and they are my friends, but they are NOT my therapists.
First of all, it’s a completely one sided relationship, when I have an appointment we are there to talk about ME and only ME. I really don’t know much about my therapist at all and I’m not supposed to. This allows for unbiased conversations. Second of all, we get right down to the nitty gritty every time we talk. Even with my closest friends it’s hard to do that sometimes. Counselors are skilled at seeing the underlying issues and at helping you see them too so you can better yourself.
Sometimes I walk into an appointment with a happy, clear, stress free mind and I think we will have nothing to talk about that day. Somehow she always proves me wrong and I always leave with a new challenge for the week or skill to work on or conversation to have with someone else. Sometimes I talk to her about something I’ve shared 100 times with my friends, but when I bring it up to her I’ll start crying and be entirely shocked by the emotions that come up.
Therapy isn’t a quick fix. Hard work and brutal honesty with yourself is involved. Just because we talk for an hour doesn’t mean the work is done. Recognizing the things we discussed in the days to come and then dealing with them appropriately is the real work. Homework may also be involved. I’ve made lists, written experiences, charted moods, etc. all in an effort to better myself and to talk about with her at my next appointment.
Therapy can be emotionally exhausting. I can be pretty drained for about 24 hours after a session and I thought it was so weird at first, but it makes sense to me now. I’m just kinder to myself on the days I need to take it easy…I’m kinder to myself every day actually because that’s one of the things I’m working on!
Finding the right therapist for you can be a task. The first one you see may not be a good fit. If you are looking for a place to start you might check with your health care provider, your insurance, or from Psychology Today. Many insurances cover mental health care and if cost is an issue providers often have a sliding scale.
Anyone really can benefit and grow from seeing a therapist. I hope in the future the stigma surrounding it will be reduced. If you find yourself facing a big life change, stressed about a job, unhappy in your marriage, concerned about your behavior, unsure of the future, confused by your feelings, and DEFINITELY if you are thinking about harming yourself or someone else. Seek help. There’s no shame in bettering yourself!