This is not something I wanted to talk about publicly just yet. I’m still working through stuff and I’m not sure what to share or how much to share or even if it’s worth sharing. But I do try to write about things that are going on in my own life as they relate to current events, and since the news of Robin Williams’ death yesterday, the whole internet has been buzzing with talk about mental health. So maybe I need to just throw this out there. Maybe there’s someone that needs the tiny bit of encouragement I have to offer.
I saw a counselor last week.
There. I said it. And it wasn’t all that hard to say, surprisingly. Perhaps because now that the first appointment has come and gone and it went really well, the whole concept of therapy isn’t quite as overwhelming. It was HARD to make the appointment and it was EXCRUCIATING waiting for the appointment, which was only 2 days later. I was an anxious, nervous, nauseous mess.
But the appointment was good.
I recognize that my one appointment (so far) does not qualify me as an expert in all things related to mental health. Far from it! But while everyone is talking about mental health and depression and suicide, I want to throw my two cents in.
Mental health is not limited to depression. There are a whole bunch of other issues that could be plaguing you, and which could be beneficially addressed by a counselor or other mental health professional. Anxiety, guilt, fear, grief, anger – if you are dealing with any of these things on a consistent basis, to the point that you aren’t sure you’re coping well and you can’t really remember what it was like to not be dealing with it, it’s time to get some support.
Many of these feelings overlap and can easily be confused with depression, but I would suggest that the defining point is when you start to feel that you’re not worthy of getting help. That is a lie. You are worthy of help and getting help is not as scary as you think it is.
Mental health is not limited to chemical imbalance. That is certainly a common factor, and it can often be treated somewhat easily with medication. But there are other factors to also consider: spirituality, personal history (abuse or other trauma), current crises (financial, relational, occupational…), or an overload of stress from the chaos of day-to-day life. If yours is a chemical problem and medication works for you, great! If it’s a chemical problem and you haven’t yet found the right balance of the right medication, keep trying!
If it’s not a chemical problem, keep talking it out with a therapist or counselor that hears you. Being truly heard will go a long way in helping you to sort out how you feel – which makes it easier to express how you feel and then be better heard. It’s a positive, healing cycle. But in order to find that right person who’s a good match for you, you have to be willing to ask for referrals. Ask friends. Ask a pastor or spiritual mentor. Ask your doctor.
Now let me tell you a tiny bit about my session. After explaining the situation that was (is) causing my anxiety and anger, the counselor validated my distress and walked me through some advice to address the cause. I truly expected that the focus would be on fixing my craziness, so it was a pleasant surprise to think that maybe there is hope for addressing the root cause instead of just letting that cause fester and giving me tools to cope with it better. That made me feel less crazy.
The counselor also asked me how this was affecting our marriage. I told her that my husband thinks I’m starting to lose it. “Are you?” she asked.
“Maybe,” I answered. “I don’t know. I think I’m on the verge of losing it, but I’m trying really hard to still be objective. But would I even know if I’ve already gone off the deep end? I know this isn’t me. I used to be strong and capable and optimistic… and right now I don’t know if I will ever be that person again. Does that mean I’ve lost it?”
Her answer was so freeing, it’s bringing me to tears just to reiterate it here. She said that I am still that person. I am strong. There is no strength in thinking you don’t have a breaking point. Everyone has a breaking point. Strength is recognizing that you have reached the breaking point and then getting help before you actually break.
I think that’s all I want to say about this right now. I may be able to share more eventually. But for today, I hope this has been helpful to someone.