That dreaded word... Shhh, don't say it too loud, someone might hear and think you are crazy.
Therapy. Psychologist. Psychiatrist.
There are very few people who are able to stand up proudly and announce that they are having or have had therapy. And when you hear someone is in therapy, you generally can't help but wonder what is "wrong" with them. What do they have issues with that they can't solve on their own? What has messed them up? Why on earth would they be depressed? For some reason there is still a massive stigma around therapy, psychologists and psychiatrists and that people need to be suffering a debilitating mental illness or going through a massive interpersonal issue before getting this sort of help.
I have had so many discussions in the last few weeks with people around the benefit of therapy and how people often fight getting this sort of help. I am hoping that I might be able to shed a little light on the benefit of this sort of relationship and how it has really helped me, not only over the last year, but also previously in my life.
Firstly, there doesn't have to be something wrong with you or in your life to go and talk to a professional. You don't have to be deeply depressed or suicidal before getting this kind of help. No matter what way you deal with things, everyone can use a little extra support in handling life's challenges. And one way to get it is through talking with a professional.
In almost every other aspect of our lives, we embrace upskilling ourselves, learning more, to make us better at the things we do. We do additional courses, read extensively, and are generally proactive about learning how to do new things and getting help. There are very few areas where we are just expected to know how to do something. Want to learn to speak French? Go on a course. Want to learn to surf? Get a few lessons. And yet for some reason, when it comes to ourselves and our emotional needs and feelings we tend to be incredibly slow and reticent about equipping ourselves at doing a better job at coping with our emotions. If we have a cough or flu or aren't well physically we go to a doctor, seek some help and get better. Why should emotional battles be any different?
I had my first experience with a psychologist when I was just eight years old. My mom had just died and my dad sent me to "talk" to someone about my feelings. I remember kicking and screaming (literally) and really fighting the whole process, and I think I only went twice before eventually convincing my dad not to send me again. The next time I went I was about 24 years old and I remember keeping the relationship hidden from almost everybody!
The help I got from my psychologist in terms of how to deal with challenges and people more effectively was absolutely invaluable and taught me lifelong skills when approaching all sorts of different scenarios. She helped me to learn not to be so co-dependent and how not to let how others treated me affect how I saw myself. She helped me in putting better boundaries in place, and also in learning to say no. I saw her quite intensively in the beginning and then over time would check in with her once or twice a year, just for a bit of a "spring clean".
After our darling Bella died, I went back to my psychologist for some immediate "damage control", and then also went to see a grief counsellor to get some specific help around how to deal with my grief. It was only after we lost Thomas though that I really hit rock bottom and realised how much help I needed both medically and therapeutically. I decided to seek out a new psychologist who had had specific grief experience and who I could start a whole new journey with, where I could unpack things right from the beginning. Without a shadow of a doubt this relationship has been the best thing I have done for myself the last 10 months. The best investment I could possibly have made in me, and by association into my family and relationships.
Talking with a professional helps you get feedback on whatever you're feeling and offers insight on how those emotions are affecting your everyday life.
A therapist/psychologist/counsellor is someone objective who can be honest with you without being scared of offending you. Friends and family can be great sounding boards, but honest, objective advice can sometimes be hard to come by. While seeing a therapist is often unbelievably exhausting, they help you to process things that would otherwise often be too scary or difficult to think about. By talking about things, it often makes things more do-able.
It helps you dissect a problem and then come up with a way to solve it. They also ask you the hard questions that you may be too scared to even think about yourself, and help you to start to process these. Not only do you talk through things but you develop tools to help you deal with things in your life going forward. You develop invaluable skills! It also creates better relationships with your partner as you have someone else to vent frustrations to and to help give perspective on things.
You don't have to go through a huge life event or trauma to benefit from therapy. Talking with a professional helps you get feedback on whatever you're feeling and offers insight on how those emotions are affecting your everyday life. You can see the problem without feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or sadness even though the problem is still there. In that way, therapy can help you contextualise the problem you're dealing with in order to develop a strategy to help you move forward. By the time you're done, you will not only have solved the problem that brought you to therapy in the first place, but you will have learned new skills so you can better cope with whatever challenges arise in the future.
Therapy is the best investment you can ever make in yourself! It helps you create a better life and be happier within yourself. Who wouldn't want that? We carve out so little time for ourselves these days, life is so busy. These sessions once a week can be an invaluable investment in ourselves. I encourage each and every one of you to take this step and to build this sort of relationship with the right person. I promise you, you won't believe what a difference it will make to you.