Prince William once said something very wise. I'm sure he has said wise things more than once, but there is one thing I heard him say that really stuck with me. He said, "We all have mental health." People oft think of therapy as a way to "fix" something, and it can be; but therapy is also like an incredible mental vitamin. If we removed the stigma from mental health, and treated it the way we do our physical, dental, and vision health, we'd all be better off. Imagine if we could have regular check-ins with our therapist. We'd all be A LOT better off.
Right as the holidays began, I started therapy again--not because I was going through a hard time, but because I know there are a number of things I could use help working through and understanding. Generally speaking, I'm the kind of person who likes to understand everything and I ask a lot of questions. A priest once compared me to an 8 year old child on a field-trip and I took that as a compliment. So, I love therapy, because it's helped me SO MUCH in so many ways. Being able to make sense of things that you've accepted as something that you'll just have to live with or never understand is relieving and empowering.
As my husband and I discuss starting a family, I want to make sure I work through and understand myself better before becoming a mother. I'd like to break the cycle of certain behavior patterns and communication issues that have been passed down through generations and cultural and societal norms that should not be norms and are actually very unhealthy. We've all learned unhealthy behavior and communication, thanks to societal norms and the media and entertainment industries.
The first time I went to therapy, I was working through a lot of trauma and fresh out of a highly abusive relationship, which I write about in my book, "Pocket Full of Dreams." Therapy helped me get to a mentally healthy and positive place, and it helped me get back to me. We all go through highs and lows, some of us more often than others, some of us more severely than others, but no matter what, it's important to recognize both and know that we're not helpless in the low times. We're not weak if we can't push aside low times, or if we need to seek help to help lift us up.
Now in therapy, even though I feel like I'm mostly at a high in my life, there are still plenty of things I'm trying to understand better about myself, and work through things that have affected me most of my life. I want to be proactive about my mental health, as much as I am with my daily workouts and trying to eat healthy. And even though I'm generally feeling pretty good, I've had a few good and unexpected cries in my sessions. Those sessions always fee amazing at the end.
Therapy reminds me I'm not alone. Not everyone can relate to or understand some of the things I've experienced and felt, but some people can. For example, I've been very lucky with the therapists I have had, and I think that's because I've been very particular about choosing my therapists. This time around, I found someone with a multi-cultural background like myself, and that has played a vital role in my sessions.
Therapy also gives me tools to help me with connecting with my emotions. I'm a very emotional and emotionally driven person, so it's not like I have trouble feeling; but sometimes we don't know how to communicate our emotions or even understand them. Sometimes we don't know how to deal with our emotions. For example, many women are taught to suppress their anger or try to "control" it, when really we should learn how to deal with anger, because otherwise we eventually lose control, especially in today's world when women are tired of being silenced. Some of us might find ourselves throwing adult tantrums, because we kept a lid on it our whole childhood. Some of us, especially men but also some women too, push aside our emotions and even our best friends have to pry things out of us. We've shamed ourselves into trying to hide, control, or bury emotions, when we need to learn how to deal with them, acknowledge them, accept them, and embrace them. For me, it has been a combo of that and the notion of not airing your dirty laundry out for everyone to see. I mean, not everyone needs to know all your business, but it's important not to hide it and suppress it all together.
Therapy is a safe space to talk, and the therapist is there to listen to you without judgment. I have great girlfriends I can turn to and talk about anything, but therapists know how to ask you the right questions and provide you with tools for understanding yourself better.
I don't think I'm breaking any news when I say, a lot that happens in our childhood affects us throughout our lives. You don't have to be traumatized to benefit from therapy. Some things that happen in our life may seem insignificant, but they could play a great role in our lives. I would love to blame a lot of issues I have on the abusive relationship I was in, but that would be an easy cop out.
One thing I've also gained from therapy that I didn't expect to, nor was I searching for, is validation--validation for my feelings, thoughts, opinions, and choices. That has given me strength and courage in some of my life decisions. As I continue to understand myself, the validation helps me stand firmer on my own feet. I'm a pretty intuitive person and quite well in tune with myself, so therapy has helped me with further confidence to believe in myself, choices I make, and what I do. Even when I feel like I'm not sure of what I'm doing, therapy helps me with focus and reassurance.
So, I highly encourage all to seek therapy at some point in their lives, and probably multiple times. Hopefully one day our health care system catches up to the reality of mental health. This is not to say that therapy is the only way to care for your mental health, but at a minimum, it's a great start to help you sort yourself out.
Think about what's going on in your life, and put yourself first, because you can't be there for anyone else if you aren't there for yourself. If you are going through a rough time, then definitely seek therapy. If there's something going on in your life that you may have been pushing aside for a long time...I'm telling you, therapy! Or if there's something in your life you want to improve, therapy is also great for that. In case it's not clear already, I pretty much suggest that everyone get a therapist, the same way they have a general practitioner, Obgyn, dentist, optometrist, etc.
If you're interested in seeking therapy, I strongly suggest doing your due diligence to seek out a therapist that may be best suited for you. Some folks try out several therapists before finding the one that clicks with them. Depending on what you'd like to work on or work through, also know that there are different forms of therapy, but talk therapy is probably where to start and your therapist can probably recommend other forms of therapy as needed.
There's no shame in therapy. People used to joke about therapy being a very LA/Hollywood thing, as if everyone is in therapy here--I mean maybe we should all be in therapy. It's not a trendy thing to do though, it's health care.
BIG LOVE & HUGS