My story: Admitting to seeing a therapist
I’m seeing a therapist.
Just want that sentence to sit there for a second. Alone. No qualifiers. There. I said it.
I have postpartum mood issues and have a history of general anxiety. Still, even now, when we’ve come so far with understanding and accepting mental health, the stigma of seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist can seem suffocating.
Even though nearly half of American households contain a family member who has sought mental health at some time, and nearly all found it helpful, admitting to my place on the couch feels risky.
No matter how people saw you before, the admission of depression or anxiety slams you into a new category on which others look with a sideways glance – somehow less reliable, less a source of reasonable decision making, less worthy of respect. At least that’s how it sometimes feels.
There are so many reasons to seek the insight of an objective, trained professional and yet so many reasons people avoid it.
According to this article from the Journal of Counseling and Development, most people with psychiatric conditions avoid turning to therapy for a dozen different reasons, from fear of facing emotions to social stigma. Financial costs and lack of insurance is a heartbreaking reality but don’t let it stop you. There are often low-cost alternatives. Start by asking your primary care physician or your insurance provider.
I was among those afraid of what people would think. We’re human. We want to be a part of something, to contribute, to be respected. But the fear of being seen as “less than” can keep us from getting the help we need. We stay quiet. Deal with it ourselves.
And I tried. I was meeting people. I was learning new things. I was exercising. I began taking a medication.
I was also afraid that admitting to the horrific thoughts would force “them” to take my children.
The truth is, I opened my mind to help when a friend decided not to remain quiet. She shared with me her struggles with postpartum depression and encouraged me to explore my emotions and seek help in whatever form I needed.
I don’t know where I’d be if she’d have kept silent — perhaps still whirling between sleepless nights and fright-filled days, mind bombarded with images worthy of a Hollywood horror film montage.
Instead I feel finally in a place of happiness, less fear, able to deal with the anxieties that do arise, able to live my life instead of being bounced from crisis to crisis.
Therapy isn’t easy. It requires honesty and that in itself can be daunting. But I love this quote from Garden State (a great movie if you haven’t seen it) about a young man on pockets full of meds:
“I’m in no position to comment on whether you should stay on the meds or not since I don’t know your story, but my opinion, since you’re paying for it, is that, yeah, those drugs may help you as a means to an end, but sooner or later, if you’re not in some form of therapy, whatever’s going on in your mind will find a way to peek its little head out of the water.”
If we all keep quiet, we can’t do what we need most – let the steam out, begin to call things as they are, lay it open and sort it out. To be true to ourselves. Begin to heal or cope.
If we keep the conversation moving, acknowledging our truth instead of hiding from it, we can be that one voice that helps one more person get their life back. We can help others recognize how common this stuff is and how much survival hinges on feeling supported, feeling not less than, but equal to.