Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I'm Ok, You're Ok

Photo by Victor Bezrukov
For those of you who regularly read my posts, you know that I have been pretty honest about things in my life. I've been very open about some of my personal struggles and other things that have occurred.  From time to time, I wrestle with how much I want to disclose.  This is one of those things.   

I see a therapist.  There.  I freaking said it.  In the grand scheme of things, it is really not that big of a deal.  However, in our society there is some kind of unspoken stigma that there is something wrong with this.  There is so much emphasis on physical health, but not enough on mental well being.  No one bats an eyelash when you talk about going to the gym to get fit, but if you say you're going to get therapy, people assume that you have a straight jacket in your closet and hang out in padded cells.  Mis-perceptions and fear of judgment are keeping people from getting the help that they need and that's sad.  The purpose of this post is to dispute that theory.

Do Tell...
The first time I went to see a therapist was when I was in elementary school and my parents were divorcing.  My mom wanted us to have a neutral place to discuss our feelings.  Everyone in our family was invested in the situation and she wanted us to have a place where we could be honest and express ourselves without fear of hurting someone's feelings or being judged.  

There was a point during college where I was super anxious and feeling down.  Add to that, my boyfriend of 4 years and I broke up.  My stress level was over the top and I needed help, so I started seeing a counselor at my school for a few months.  Most recently, my engagement ended and it brought up some deep seated issues that I wanted to work on, so I found someone through my insurance.  I've been going to her for over a year now.

Get it if when you need it
All of us have things that we could use help with.  Some of us have issues with letting things go, being more confident, anger, forgiveness, things that happened during childhood, extraordinary amounts of stress, most or all of the above.  There is nothing wrong with going to see someone that can help you work on solutions to the things that you are going through.  

It feels good to talk to someone who will listen to you without an argument ensuing or someone's feeling getting hurt.  It feels freeing when someone gives you sound advice without an agenda.  It feels good talking to someone who only has an interest in helping you get better.  It makes you happy when you use a technique or take advice that works.  

I've noticed that people are wound so tightly these days.  They are so frustrated and angry.  I know that you feel the overall heaviness out here, too.  These issues are bubbling to the surface.  People are losing it and lashing out.  You can see it in situations like the Colorado movie theater shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.  Those things will keep happening if people don't get help when they need it.  

"I don't need that when I have ..."
I know what some of you are saying.  Why should I go to therapy when I have friends and family that I can talk to?  I don't want to tell my business to a stranger!  Why should I go to therapy when I can save money by buying a self help book?  I can just keep doing what I'm doing.  I'll be fine.  I only have one thing to say to those arguments.  How's that working out for ya?  I'll wait.

I've been there, so I hear you, but if you are still having issues despite burdening talking to friends and family, reading everything in the self help aisle at Barnes and Noble, and / or keeping things to yourself, then do yourself and the rest of us a favor and see a trained professional.

Some Tips
I recognize that this may be the first time at the therapy rodeo for some of you, so here are a few tips that might help you:

The best way to find a therapist is by recommendation.  The problem here is that many people who see a therapist may not be open to discuss it and you yourself may not feel comfortable asking people.  
  • Ask your doctor.  They tend to have a great network and you don't care enough about what they think about you to hinder you from asking.  
  • If you belong to a group of like minded individuals online, you can ask them.  They are a bit more removed from your personal circle, so you may feel more comfortable asking them.  
  • Go through your insurance company's website.  My insurance had a search option, a description of the practitioner's experience and education, areas of specialty, and style of therapy.  Sometimes, they even have reviews.  I was able to narrow down what I was looking for.  
If you don't have insurance
  • Look for clinics or community mental health organizations that may offer counseling services on a sliding scale.  They may be hard to find UNFORTUNATELY, but you may be able to find one in your area.  
  • Self help support groups are another good way to get help.  Meetup is a great place to look for groups.
  • I know I mentioned doing something other than self help books above, but if you aren't able to find a therapist or afford one, self help books are helpful.  It's important to apply what you learn though.  Having a therapist will help keep you accountable and they are more likely to help you dig deeper and push you past your comfort zone to get to the meat of an issue.
  • If you are religious, consider talking about your issues to the head of your house of worship whether it is a priest, shaman, rabbi, imam, or someone else.  They may be able to provide you with a good listening ear and guidance grounded in your practiced religion.
Once You Find Someone
  • Be honest.  Completely honest.  Like you've never been before.  They are not going to be able to help you if you are holding back.  Leaving out information will only hurt you, so speak up, no matter how bad you think it is.
  • Be open.  You may not want to do what they are telling you or you don't agree with them.  Simply be open to what they are saying.  Pause and let it marinate.  Give their suggestions a try before you say no.  If you aren't open to making some changes then you are wasting your time and money.
  • Respectfully disagree.  They may have years of education and training, but they are human and make mistakes too.  They may come to a conclusion about your situation, but if you know that it is not correct, gently correct them.  Help them get the full picture, so that they can give you better solutions.
  • Go in with a plan.  What is it that you want to work on?  What area do you want to focus on?  Don't sit in the chair and rattle on aimlessly and then get upset that you can't see any progress.  What did you hope to get out of going?  What were the results that you were hoping for?  Be specific.
  • Go with the flow.  You might go in there wanting to talk about one thing and end up some place else.  Allow it.  There is a reason that you are there.  A lot of times, people come in to deal with the symptoms.  Ideally, you want to get to the root cause to work on the problem successfully.
  • Lower your expectations.  That sounds crazy, I know, but most of us think that we are going to go into therapy, they are going to solve our problem overnight, and life will be good.  That is unrealistic and a set up for failure.  Therapy is a slow process.  They are getting to know you, talking through problems with you, working to get to the root cause, and giving you suggestions to work on healing years of build up that you may or may not do.  All of this takes time, so be prepared.
Lights, Camera, Action
In the comments below, I'd like to know how you feeling about therapy.  Do you think that it is a waste of money or is it a good idea?  

If you feel comfortable sharing, have you sought therapy and how has it worked for you?  What advice would you give to someone is considering therapy?

Reminder:  This is a judgment free zone and what you share here can help someone else.

Lots of love!

Photo credit lurve: Photo by Victor Bezrukov


  1. Dear Ms,

    I totally agree with the idea of therapy. It is unfortunate that people are reluctant to get help when they need it. I just want to add that you do not have to be at the bridge before seeking assistance. Remember, a good therapist will tell you that you do not need therapy so if you are feeling burdened schedule a session and ask!

    1. You're right. A lot of times, we know when something isn't right and if it is an ongoing feeling or if you find that the feeling is getting more severe, then you definitely want to get some help sooner rather than later. Thank you for your comment!

  2. There definitely is a stigma attached to therapy, but I think it's extremely helpful! Even just for a little bit or to have a different perspective on a situation. I really hope the perception about therapy continues to change... it already is getting better than even 10 years ago or so. I think it's becoming more normal for people to open up about having issues and thus, going to see a therapist. Think of all the "therapy" reality shows there are... once there is a reality TV show about it, haha, should be hitting the mainstream soon!

    But seriously, thanks for opening up and giving tips about what to do in order to get started. :)

    1. Is that sad, Erika? How many people are missing out on the help that they need simply because they feel ashamed to seek it? It is absolutely helpful for the reasons that you mentioned.

      I agree that it is becoming more normal and people are more open to others about going. Have you seen the show on Bravo? I've watched it a couple times, and it was actually good. What I liked the most is that the shrinks had issues and were seeing other shrinks for help. We are definitely going in the right direction, until Psyche Wars comes out on the Oxygen Network. lol

      You're so welcome and thank you for your comment! :-)

  3. Getting help is what a lot of people think they don't need when those are usually the ones who need it most!

    There's a stigma in a lot of our communities that getting help somehow means you've failed but I think the opposite is true. To obtain and maintain a healthy life, I think we all need to seek help - whether it's a trusted friend or a professional.

    Kudos for doing you!

    1. So true. Getting help means that you've failed and failure is a sign of weakness. What people fail to realize is that asking for help takes courage and it is actually a sign of strength. Thanks for your comment, Kesha! It was an absolute pleasure meeting you last week. I hope you enjoyed the city!