Let's talk about therapy.
But first, I need to address something;
Nothing is what seems on Instagram. Underneath all of the pretty pictures are real people with real problems. If people don't want to share the darker parts of their lives with others, then that is fine. That's their boundaries and their choice. To a certain extent, this was my choice, until something in me started to shift recently. I have topics which are really close to my heart that I haven't been brave enough to share. But I want to break down those walls and the perfect Instagram illusion a little bit on here, so here goes…
I've had anxiety for years. I will probably talk about this in more detail at some point, but for now I will keep it as brief as possible.
My anxiety has ebbed and flowed over the past decade and in the past few years hasn't been debilitating to the point where I can't leave my house, but has definitely affected how I make plans with people and the places that I go to.
On the surface I am fine. I function. I'm happy a lot of the time. My life is pretty fab. I own a business. I have friends and a family. I enjoy socializing.
But, there is a delicate undercurrent. I often have butterflies and can't sit still. I regularly have the feeling that something terrible is going to happen, even when there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that. In particularly bad spells, I get nightmares and night terrors.
Certain environments and situations bring about a deeply ingrained, trauma-related stress in me, so I will often avoid them. Avoiding them has helped me have a more relaxing life, but recently I noticed the anxiety spilling into other areas of my life. It wasn't necessarily anything too dramatic or alarming, but these days I know how to read myself and how I'm feeling and I knew it was time to talk to someone again. To begin to properly face things I'd buried deep and to keep things in check. A bit of "brain maintenance", if you like.
I’m not going to lie, seeing a therapist can be hard. You go to places that you would rather forget and it can be pretty draining. But, it's also liberating. You can offload in a way that you can't in your daily life, free of judgment. They will have many approaches to help you with what your specific needs are. You can tell them things that are impossible to tell people that you know. They can help you see alternatives and guide you towards a better understanding of your mind and how your experiences have shaped you. I will never forget the relief I felt when I was told by my counsellor that my feelings were valid. That my experiences were valid. That I was not abnormal and my responses were normal to the experiences that I'd had, but that didn't mean we couldn't improve things and make life easier.
Seriously. I felt so. Much. Relief.
The way I look at it, there shouldn't be any shame in seeking help, when you feel out of your depth or are struggling.
If someone has a pain in their leg, they go to the doctors.
However, if someone has mental pain, they are often reluctant to share with someone how they are feeling and seek treatment. The brain is an organ like any other part of your body and should be treated as such and looked after.
There is definitely some shame attached to mental health issues - it's not as bad as it was in the past, as people generally understand it all a lot more now and more public conversations are being held about it. But for a lot of people, it's still something they don't want to share, for fear of being judged.
Mental health issues do not discriminate. Anyone can experience them. Someone can seemingly be on top of the world, but that doesn't mean that on the inside, their world isn't crumbling beneath their feet.
Mental health is something that needs to be talked about more. The more we talk about it, the more we normalize it. The more normalized it gets, the more people will seek help when they need it. The more people go to therapy, the less people will do something harmful… To themselves or others.
So here I am, starting to be more open about my own experiences and joining in the conversation... and hopefully someone will read this that needs it and doesn't feel so alone.