How Does That Make You Feel? Destigmatizing the Human Need for Therapy
As I sat in this leather chair – feet propped up, head laid back, and my hands unsure of where to put themselves (cue the Ricky Bobby quotes) – I started to take in the office I found myself in. Tight, cozy, slightly cluttered, and carrying a faint smell of pine and sandalwood from a dimly lit oil diffuser. Stacks of books on human behavior, abstract paintings to get lost in, and a middle-aged main sitting no more than five feet in front of me with a notebook in hand . This casually-dressed, soft-spoken man is the psychologist I’ve been seeing for the last month, and he’s been the catalyst of a few seemingly obvious, yet impactful reflections of mine lately.
“So… what is it like to be you today?”
A question we start out every session with. A question that really makes me stop to reflect on my week. A much-needed barometer on my mental health that’s only nine words long, but so comforting to know that someone genuinely wants to know how I’m doing.
Before I begin, I want to ask – when is it the right time to go to counseling? I mean, things can get pretty rough at times for everyone… that’s life, baby! But, who’s to say that you can’t handle your life battles on your own? If you could tackle issues of yours in the past, why not have faith that you can do the same today? What could someone possibly ask you that, if you’re anything like me, your mile-a-minute thoughts haven’t crafted up already? Well… I asked myself those same questions, and found myself resisting the idea of reaching out for help. I’ve been through quite a bit in my life and I had gotten through each trial and tribulation without any paid help. So, why now? Why did I feel the need to get a third party perspective? Well, given my newfound anxiety (paired with some longstanding self-confidence issues) following a deteriorating and slightly-volatile relationship with my in-laws I decided I couldn’t tackle this on my own.
So, I found myself a psychologist… and it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was pretty daunting to pour through the list of counselors that my insurance covered. Dozens upon dozens of mental health professionals to parse through – psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, etc. Each of them requiring a call to their office to see if they’re accepting new patients. I honestly think that was the biggest obstacle to overcome because I was getting turned down left and right, all while I was just trying to get some help. I was in a vulnerable state and willingly putting myself through rejection after rejection. I either wasn’t the right kind of patient (goodbye psychiatry), or was one person too many for their workload. Thankfully, I found someone after trying for what seemed like weeks.
Now, the reason I’m writing about this particularly vulnerable facet of my life is to not only own it and empower my own journey of improving my mental wellbeing, but to also put out a call to action. Or rather, a call to… a greater conscious and subconscious reaction to anyone visiting a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor – whatever. Before all this I used to view someone visiting these professionals as slightly less than, or rather, weaker than I would like to believe I personally was. It wasn’t a strong emotional response, but one that I could feel in the background. It was unnecessary judgement… and I think it’s only fair that I do my part to help humanize a very humanistic need – to feel at peace.
Having now benefitted from just a large handful of therapy sessions I can’t help but feel that so many individuals could benefit from counseling, themselves. Why? Validation is the first thing that comes to mind. Having someone who’s educated, trained, and experienced in the nuances of human behavior validating what you’re feeling and thinking is a powerful tool. Yes, expressing your feelings is therapeutic in itself – especially to a licensed mental health professional – but it was the validation that followed that expression that I found so impactful. Following that validation is a combination of two things – advice or feedback on your troubles, and a thoughtful, engaging set of questions to help you really unpack the facets of your thoughts, perceptions, and reactions to certain issues.
That’s it. Really! It seems so simple, but therapy still has a faint sense of taboo surrounding it. Even as I’ve been writing this article I couldn’t help but keep asking myself, “Is this really something I want to let everyone else know about?” Yes. A million times yes. Because I so look forward to sitting down with this one person to just talk for one hour a week. That hour is so impactful, and the “talk” is so, so alleviating. I had built up the idea that the issues I was facing were either insignificant, insurmountable, or a combination of the two. It only took one simple question from one invested connection to start the process of directing my self-defeating thoughts toward more positive, reflective ones.
“So… what is it like to be you today?”
I’m still working on it, but it sure feels good to know that I have someone in my corner who will not only challenge me, but empower me. So my question is, if you’re willing to go seek professional help for any other health issue, then why shouldn’t that include mental health?
Don’t just take care of yourself - Invest in yourself. And maybe go see a damn counselor, because we all have something in our lives that could use that kind of perspective.