I really hate the negative connotation that therapy has in our society today – namely because I’ve been going myself now for the past 2.5 years, and I love it.
Anxiety is something that has ebbed and flowed in my life dramatically over the years – there have been times when it was a struggle just to go out to dinner where there would be people who I didn’t know and other times when I felt like everything was fine … whatever that means. I also had the habit of harboring my anxiety inside where it could fester and grow until finally after enough stressors had been piled on top of me, I would ultimately just snap and everything would come crashing down all at once.
Of course, there’s no such thing as an ideal time to have a mental breakdown…
…and so I had one the day before my wedding. I had one trying to prepare for my niece’s first birthday party. I’ve had them trying to deal with mounting deadlines and personal conflicts at work.
But the final breaking point that I hit – quite literally, in fact – was about six months after my oldest son Christopher was born. I had him for the evening by myself because my wife was working overnight, and he was giving me a really hard time going to sleep, and I was trying to finish up a writing project that I’d already been struggling with for weeks … and I just snapped.
After about the hour and a half mark of incessant crying with no solution in sight, I put my son back down in his crib, I walked out into the hallway, and – screaming at the top of my lungs – I punched a hole in the wall.
And it was in watching that sky blue painted drywall crumble beneath the full force of my frustrations that I finally realized I needed some help…
So the next day I showed my wife the hole that I’d made and she encouraged me to call our family doctor to talk about some anxiety meds. It was during that appointment a few days later that in addition to trying some medication, my doctor also wanted me to visit a therapist.
Both sounded equally unnerving at the time, but the hole in the wall incident had spooked me enough that I knew something needed to change.
There are ways that therapy can be a lot like what we see on TV and in the movies, and also ways that it’s completely different.
For example, there is a couch in my therapist’s office, but I don’t lay down on it and stare up at the ceiling while she scribbles down everything that I say on a clipboard.
She also doesn’t sit behind a huge oak desk and lecture me about all the things I’m doing wrong with my life.
Instead, she does a lot of listening…
I basically talk about whatever happens to be on my mind that week, and my therapist listens, and every now and then she’ll provide some insight on the things that she’s hearing me express. It’s that simple.
We’ve had discussions around just about everything – from learning how to manage my time better and working through issues that I’ve faced in my career, brainstorming ideas for dealing with family affairs, finding new coping mechanisms to try when I’m faced with different kinds of stress, and even addressing how politics is affecting the world around us! In turn, my therapist has provided me her professional guidance about how to both handle the stresses and as well as enjoy all of the fun parts of being a new parent, we’ve worked through ways for me to move forward with my career goals and fuel my creative passions, not to mention helped me to identify different perspectives from which to evaluate the challenges in my life.
Therapy helps me to organize my thoughts and it provides me with an outlet to address the things that are bothering me in a safe, unbiased, and productive environment … something that despite their best intentions, even our closest loved ones often simply aren’t equipped to handle. And that’s ok because a lot of times I find myself using my therapy sessions as a springboard for extending these important life conversations with others within my circle once I’ve had a chance to break the ice and get the gears turning in my mind with my therapist.
The way I’ve come to look at it today is that mental health really isn’t all that different from physical health.
You wouldn’t expect someone who had broken their arm or needed their appendix removed to suck it up or just deal with it, so why should the mental health obstacles that cause us harm be any different? It can be a big step – sometimes years in the making – for a person to work up the courage to ask for help and the last thing they deserve from the rest of us is ridicule and embarrassment for trying to make a change for the better in their lives…
Personally, I can say that my life has vastly improved since I first started therapy. The challenges that I find myself up against these days don’t seem nearly as daunting because I have ways of working through them in more manageable pieces. I can enjoy bonding with my kids a whole lot more because I’ve learned how to make the best of a situation when they’re having their own mini meltdowns! And it also helps simply knowing that I have a support system that works for me in place when life throws me a curve ball that before would’ve threatened to bring the entire house of cards crashing down.
I owe a lot to my therapist.
Her passion is helping people, and my passion is writing, so it seemed only fitting that the least I could do was share my own story in hopes that maybe it will motivate someone else to take the next step and reach out to get the help that they need.
Because there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Life is too short as it is to live it walking around with a broken arm, much less something worse…