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Why “seeking professional help” is worth it: My therapeutic journey

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Everyone has a different perspective and attitude toward “seeking professional help.” I can only speak from my experience and although many different types of therapy exist, I will only be able to share with you the “type” that works for me.

The first thing that I feel is important to know is that you don’t need to suffer from mental illness in order to see a therapist. I do not have a family history of mental illness, I am not on any prescriptions for mental illness and I don’t even have any symptoms severe enough to constitute mental illness. Sure, there have been times in my life that I may have found myself in a depression-like state but I never want to confuse that with true depression. If you or someone you know suffers from mental illness then you know that it is not something to take lightly. It completely effects your day to day life.

Additionally, a life-changing, horrible event hasn’t had to occur in your life in order to see a therapist. Sure we all go through hardship in our lives, some more than others, some more severe than others and there have been scars left on our psyche that we need to address. I have not had any severe life-changing events to speak of. I’ve had life-changing events, but nothing severe. I’ve had pain in my life but an outsider looking in may not constitute my pain as severe. My point is that we all have our own realities and just because my reality may not compare on the severe scale as many people out there, it doesn’t mean that I can’t find value in therapy.

At my worst, my depression-like state would paralyze me from going places by myself. That sounds silly, right? I couldn’t go to the grocery store, or run any type of errand for that matter, unless someone was with me. This was at its worst when I was in college. In turn my class attendance suffered because the idea of getting out of bed, getting dressed and ready, driving to campus, finding a parking spot, then walking all the way to class… by myself… was unthinkable. In addition to my paralyzed behavior, I was in an overall funk that I couldn’t shake. I went to the campus mental health area and began seeing someone when I knew this wasn’t something I couldn’t “make better” on my own. That was my first experience with therapy…

I thought I would simply sit down, share my feelings and the therapist would tell me what to do to “make it better.” I thought we would immediately start analyzing my childhood and every personal relationship I’ve had up to that point in an attempt to find out what was “wrong” with me. That is NOT how therapy works. Based on what I was going through at the time I was prescribed a mild anti-depressant which I took for about 9 months. The problem was, I started to feel better. Which meant the drug worked. I FELT better so I thought that meant I was better. I stopped taking the drug. I was not better.

My college therapy wasn’t “true” therapy. The therapist may have been doing their job correctly but I can honestly say I wasn’t doing my part correctly. I carried on with my life having cycles of “down times” as I would call them. It wasn’t until I was 28 years old that I found myself in a place to give therapy another shot.

I was working full-time and coaching a competitive All-Star cheerleading team. I was putting in over 60 hours a week and was wearing myself thin. I was a ball of stress… all the time. I didn’t have balance in my life and I did not have any “space” for myself. My marriage needed my attention, my boss needed my attention, 30 young girls needed my attention and the one person that needed the most attention of all was being neglected… me.

Something had to give. A co-worker at the time was seeing a therapist herself and she recommended that I give her a call. I made my first appointment and I have been on the most comprehensive and fulfilling therapeutic journey that I have ever been on. This time I was doing it right.

This time it was explained to me that therapy is a journey. It is an investment in time. Nothing is going to fix itself and no one is going to fix it for me. This time I would share things and then I was given the tools and the opportunities to change behaviors, to build self-worth, and most importantly… make “space” for myself.

Like I said, therapy is a journey and I believe that it never truly ends. I have taken time off when I’ve felt I was in a good place and I’ve resumed my sessions when I feel I have a need. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I am working very hard every single day to get to a better place.

My hope is that you don’t see therapy as a sign of weakness or something that only “crazy people” do. My hope is that if you need help or if you just need someone to talk to or to listen to you that you get the help you need. My hope is that you have the courage to change your life and to be the person that you know you want to be and that you deserve to be.

We are full-time wives, mothers, career women, etc. We have many people that demand our attention and I bet anything that you have become VERY good at accustoming everyone. Well, now it is time to do for yourself what you do for others. Find that “space” for yourself that no one else can creep into. I promise it will be worth it. We can even do it together.

The journey starts here…

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson June 29, 2012

    Good for you. I’ve had so many friends in therapy I’d like to think the stigma is decreasing. One of my dearest friends has been in a deep, dark depression for years and it is wonderful to see her rebuilding her life and changing her thought patterns through the help of her great therapist. It took her a while to find a good one but now, that has made all the difference.

    • comment avatar Kendra June 29, 2012

      Amber, you bring up a great point! Finding the right therapist is key. I had met with four before I finally found the one that I connected with. Being able to trust your therapist is part of the it, but simply liking your therapist is a huge part too. Plus if you don’t feel that you are getting anything out of it then I also think you should look elsewhere. Thanks for the comment!

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