I did not want to see someone, no way, hell no. It couldn’t be that, I was not that messed up, I was not that weak and I was certainly not insane. Seeing a psychologist and asking for help seemed like failing.
Experiencing distress didn’t mean I was weak
But although I admitted that I was experiencing severe emotional distress, it didn’t mean that I was weak. What it meant was that I needed to learn and practice new life strategies in order to cope with the feelings and emotions that came with the depression and anxiety. I found those things were ruling my life, and I made an intelligent choice that improved my life forever. That choice was to see a Psychologist.
Some assume seeing a psychologist is forever
People often assume that seeing a psychologist is a long-term commitment that will last for years, but this is not the case. Psychologists are very honest and can judge you better than anyone. They will let you know when you’ve gained enough knowledge and have done enough practice to leave treatment. Therapy is difficult work, and in order to say goodbye to therapeutic sessions, you must put in the muscle. The journey is well worth the effort.
The first session with my psychologist was uncomfortable and nerve wrecking. I didn’t want to be there, and I didn’t know how to express my feelings. Also, I could barely understand what I was feeling. After a few weeks, it became something that I was excited about and ended up looking forward to. I got to drink tea, sit on a comfy couch, and talk to someone who was paid to listen, and better yet, couldn’t judge me. It was the most fun I had experienced in a long time.
Self-reflection brought me happiness
I didn’t see this curious reaction as a “poor me” thing. My self-reflection and practicing my self-worth was something that was bringing me true happiness, and I couldn’t remember the last time I made MYSELF happy.
Dr Paula Battle is a gem. She was a beautiful, kind-hearted, gentle woman. In her presence I was always made me feel as if I were both her child and best friend. She never made me feel like a stranger who was sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings. From the very first moment I walked into the room, I knew that with this woman, I could open up. I found comfort in knowing that she was there to listen.
An important point to acknowledge, is that even though one person may form a special relationship with a psychologist, that doesn’t mean that everyone will. Everyone has different ways of sharing their feelings, and ways that they would like to be listened to. It’s important to find a therapist you are comfortable with, and who you think is best to help you succeed. That is a warm feeling, somewhere in your gut, when you find that person you can confide in.
How I grew up
I grew up in a family that is tighter than the Tanner family. My mom is my best friend, and my dad can always make me laugh when I want to cry. Mom made it clear from a young age, that we would never be judged negatively by our mistakes. Instead, they made their expectations known and we were told to do better when we had done wrong.
My brother and I never crossed my parents for fear of their being disappointed. We rely on each other in times of need, and lend a shoulder to cry on when life isn’t going our way. I was always open with my family about my depression and anxiety, and always felt safe and comforted when I did.
But I have to admit, (Mom, if you’re reading this, please don’t cry), I could be feeling the worst kind of sadness and it would feel horrible to see the pained looks on my parent’s faces. Especially when I unleashed the monster that was living in my brain.
I couldn’t watch my parents suffer from my illness anymore, and so it was a relief for me to have a psychologist to go to when I was feeling lonely rather than “normal”.
The work involved in seeing a therapist
Once or twice a week for six months I saw my psychologist, and it was my time to be open about my struggles and unleash my fragile emotions. She gave me plenty of ideas and strategies on how to cope with my problems, and how to train my brain to deal with anxiety and OCD. This wasn’t a one-sided relationship though, as I had to hold up my end of the bargain.
Although I only saw her once or twice per week, the work didn’t stop there, I had to do my homework. That meant my entire week was filled with practising ways to improve my self-worth and diminish my anxiety. It was a long, day-to-day process of working on myself. It could be something as simple as going to play my guitar when I began to feel obsessive over something, or saying to myself “You’ve got this!”
Change was needed in my life
I had to change my life in order to change my mind, and that meant I had to fail until I could succeed. There are plenty of things that I was taught and that I have tried that didn’t work for me, but that didn’t leave me hopeless, it just meant that I had to try something else. The whole process is failing until succeeding.
My advice to you
If you find yourself living in the prison of a mental health disorder, please GET HELP!
It is not a weakness to you admit that you need assistance from a mental health professional. Just like medical doctors, they spend years attending universities learning how to help you heal.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. I have the right to say that because I have struggled through and survived mental illness, and that is exactly what I had to learn.
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY DON’T MAGICALLY DISAPPEAR! You need help.
Always remember, it’s okay not to be okay. I understand, I’ve been there and I’ve done that. Become conscious of the fact that there are lots of people suffering in silence just like you.
Getting help when you need it is NOT weakness
Seeking help for a mental health condition is not a weakness, it is a show of intelligence. Besides, the work done in therapy takes guts. It is not for the faint of heart. The recovery that you seek can only be found if you work for it, only you can be the change maker in your life.
In the words of Gandhi,
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”
Get help, you won’t regret it. I know I didn’t.
Reproduced with permission, originally published here