Life is great. I have so much to be thankful for and not a lot to complain about. A lot of us probably feel that way.
But life can also have rough patches. Sometimes, those rough patches seem like hell on earth and they don’t care if the timing is inopportune.
Those things can take a toll on our health, both physically and emotionally. Just as you would go to the doctor for physical health, there are places to turn to get mental health help. What are some things that a person could need some outside help with? Stress management, depression, anxiety, eating disorders/body image, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual trauma, couples/marital counseling, family of origin issues, personality disorders, PTSD, and a slew of others. Even writing those down feels burdensome–nobody should have to feel alone while going through them! At the beginning of my senior year I decided to finally see a counselor on campus to deal with some things that happened in my childhood that were still affecting me. One of the top 3 best decisions I’ve ever made. So it’s about to get personal while I share 10 things to know about getting help when life is hard.
1. You’re not crazy/stupid/incompetent/etc. if you need therapy. Seriously. There are a lot of unfortunate things we go through in life and society in general does a pretty crap job of teaching us how to deal with things. For generations people have not been expressing their emotions well. We could all use some help and it doesn’t mean you’re crazy.
2. Where do you go? You can check out your school’s counseling center or health center. You’ll meet with licensed therapists or potentially graduate students if your school has counseling degrees. I met with a girl working on her Masters in Social Work and she was fantastic. I have seen online schools that offer counseling as well; you may need to call your academic advisor if you can’t find the information on your student website. If your school isn’t an option for getting help, your state is another great resource. Just do a quick google search for your state’s department of social services and you’ll find a ton of information. Mental health is important for everyone–there are services to help you! Also, if you aren’t a student, check your insurance first to see what they cover.
3. It’s affordable or free. Most campuses have a counseling center and oftentimes it is free for students for short-term. I went for a semester free of charge. If you’re going through your state resources, it would depend on where you live, but if it’s not free they can help you find affordable options.
4. Scheduling the first appointment was hard. After I realized that I really needed to go, it still took me like 2 months to make the call. There is totally a stigma, though there shouldn’t be. If I’d known how much better my life would be, I wouldn’t have waited. So if you’re procrastinating, just do it.
5. Therapy is an investment in your future. Whether you consider your issue big or small, getting help is smart. Therapy helped me address what happened, how it was affecting me, and taught skills to help me overcome damaging habits and thoughts. Some of it seems so common sense, but when you’re in the middle of things it doesn’t seem so clear. I had a lot of trust issues I needed to work on. I believe 1000% that if I hadn’t gone to therapy, I never would have been able to get married. Well, I could have gotten married, but I’d be divorced already. You’d better believe I sent my therapist a wedding invite too. My husband owes her big time.
6. Sometimes it is embarrassing. Some days when I came out of my appointment I was positive my mascara looked like the Joker. Once, as I was going into the building, I ran into an old friend who was coming out of the same building, where she happened to work. She said, “What are you doing here?” like any normal person would. I know I look mortified and she said, “I’m so sorry, I’m not supposed to ask that. I was just happy to see you!” She was gracious, but I was so embarrassed. I saw her there a few more times after that and it wasn’t ever awkward again. Everyone needs help and people get that.
7. You’re going to be vulnerable. Pretty sure I could have been nude during those appointments and it wouldn’t have made me feel any more naked than I already did. I told my therapist things that I’d never told anyone or even really admitted to myself. Coming to terms with the past and trying to make the present and future takes honesty. When you’ve been telling yourself that you’re fine and you can handle it for a while, it is kind of a shock to the system to admit you’re not and you can’t. But I am a much better me for allowing myself to be vulnerable, both then and now.
8. If you don’t like your therapist, get a new one. Considering the naked comments above, if you’re not feeling it with your therapist, get a new one. So if your therapist knows your mom or you have some other reason to not feel like you can be completely open with them, don’t feel bad/dumb to ask for someone else. It’s your investment in you, remember?
9. It’s not about getting “fixed.” As much as we want the broken parts of us to be fixed, I think we confuse that with forgetting. Life can never un-happen to us. Sometimes I still get anxiety when I think about it or something similar happens on the news. Every day I go to work and some station plays Kelly Clarkson’s “Piece by Piece” and I hold back tears. JK, I’m usually crying. So those things don’t go away, but I can put my life in perspective and not let it consume me. I also know that as my life changes, I can go back if I ever feel the need and it wouldn’t mean that I failed therapy.
10. It sucks, but it’s the best. Honestly, going to therapy was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was also the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
Hopefully this helped anyone feeling like they need a little help, but are understandably nervous. Good luck, and know that it’s okay for things to not be okay sometimes. You’re still pretty awesome.