Therapy is normal. Feeling alone, sad, scared or anxious every day is not. Today I’m sharing a very personal post featuring my experiences in therapy.
Why is there a negative stigma surrounding mental health issues? Even though society is working hard to normalize mental health discussions, there is still a widespread hesitation about therapy. Many people (actually some of YOU) say you’re worried of what others will think of you. Some are afraid of opening up to a therapist… so you just don’t do it.
I get it. Admitting you don’t feel right is hard. I hid my own struggles with anxiety, depression, and PPD for quite some time. It was always easier to blame my emotions on a bad day or PMS than the latter. But sometimes you just can’t process the big stuff on your own. Today I’m sharing a very personal post featuring my experiences in therapy.
When I caught Covid-19 last spring I lost absolute control over my mental health. It’s funny to think just weeks before I became sick, I was living my best life going to weekly hot yoga and dance classes. My mind was clear, my anxiety minimal, and I felt amazing. I entered the ‘pandemic’ with a very positive attitude compared to others.
Fast forward two weeks into my own personal Covid-19 quarantine and the positivity disappeared. I began spiraling quickly as I became sicker and sicker. There was a constant fear that if my death was not imminent, then someone close to me was going to die instead from the virus.
I felt scared and alone. I cried every single day, allowing fear to consume me. Despite the efforts from my loved ones as they tried to save me from drowning, I kept finding myself trapped underwater. I knew NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL, but I kept waiting to wake up and magically feel better.
Then one day my primary care doctor advised me to seek help from a mental health professional. She said I was experiencing a form of PTSD from Covid and it was effecting my quality of life. I was shocked for a few minutes, but after a good long cry I came to the realization that she was right.
My Recent Experiences in Therapy
I’m often asked how I found my therapist and it was quite easy. It only took three phone calls in which I tearfully described my feelings of overwhelming depression/anxiety/fears to three different strangers. The third phone call was to someone we shall call SJP. She was understanding and compassionate, offering an immediate appointment before she even had approval from my insurance company.
Every week I meet SJP for an hour in a virtual room. I bring a pen, a notebook, and my thoughts about life. Sometimes I start a therapy session with a topic in mind, while others evolve based on my ramblings. SJP doesn’t lead the conversation, but rather prompts in depth discussions with questions. She’s given me tasks to work on, affirmations to recite, and HOPE for a life where I can control my anxiety.
There are many layers to mental health issues – it’s one of the most profound realizations I have had since I began therapy. I imagine my mental health issues looking like a big onion, each layer representing the aftermath of a significant event in my life I’ve never processed. At the core is the personality I was born with – a fear of the unknown. As a toddler I dealt with my anxiety through tantrums, but the rest of my life I bottled it all up inside. There were moments when I couldn’t hide the unsettling emotions – and that’s when I would reach my breaking point and seek therapy.
How does one let go of the fear rooted in past experiences? You come to the realization that the past does not determine the future.
I am slowly creating a mental toolkit for working through my anxieties. Self-talk is at the core, as are weekly therapy sessions. Yoga, dance, journaling and this blog are also important parts of my mental health journey.
I find that the more discussions I read or hear about mental health, the better I feel about my own issues too.
It’s Time to Normalize Discussions about Mental Health
Ever since I began sharing my experiences in therapy on social media, I receive a lot of messages from YOU. The most common statement is something along the lines of: “Thank you for making therapy sound normal.” I always hope my transparency encourages anyone feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed about their own experiences.
I never thought therapy was something to be ashamed of, but we all know there is an obvious stigma attached to the word. If there wasn’t, then we’d all have a therapist on speed dial. In 2021 it’s about time we finally normalize discussions about mental health.
There is NO reason anyone should have to suffer alone or in silence. Don’t be afraid of therapy. Never be afraid to speak up about how you feel. Don’t ever choose to be alone with the thoughts that keep you up at night.