In my first post I mentioned I’ve been in and out of counseling and therapy since I was five or six years old. The terms counseling and therapy are used interchangeably a lot, but in case anyone is wondering the difference, thank WebMD:
“Counseling focuses on specific issues and is designed to help a person address a particular problem, such as addiction or stress management. …Counseling is also usually more short-term than therapy.
Psychotherapy is more long-term than counseling and focuses on a broader range of issues. The underlying principle is that a person’s patterns of thinking and behavior affect the way that person interacts with the world. …If someone has a form of mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or an anxiety disorder, psychotherapy also addresses ways in which the illnesses affects their daily life, focuses on how to best understand the illness and manage its symptoms and follow medical recommendations.”
Well, that checks out to me. When I was five years old my parents got divorced and they wanted me to see the counselor at school. Or social worker? To be frank I hardly remember going. I don’t know how long I went since I was so young, but I don’t think I really enjoyed it, but I did like that I got to color a lot.
I started seeing someone again when my father was really struggling with his mental health – and then again when he passed away at twelve years old. And once again, I hardly remember anything. I remember getting very frustrated, which is typical for losing a parent so young. I was so angry I had to talk about it because it was so difficult to accept. After a couple years when I got into high school, I stopped going again.
Flash forward to end of freshman year to sophomore year in college, and I have no clue what hit me. It was something I never felt before. I was having the time of my life, then it was like I woke up one day and I didn’t know what to do. I was nonstop crying, I wasn’t eating, I was barely sleeping, and I had no idea why. To this day I don’t know what sparked that because nothing “happened”, but nothing necessarily needs to happen. A big, traumatic event doesn’t need to happen to you to feel a certain way.
Finally, flash forward to now, and oh do things make much more sense. I started getting those feelings again, crying all the time, etc. and not knowing why. After a while I thought, I can’t do this by myself anymore. I needed to know how to cope with whatever was happening.
Sometimes it might take a while to find a counselor or therapist you like, and I finally got a winner (I did really like the counselor I saw in college, but of course that wasn’t permanent since I was out of state). Maybe since I’m older now and am able to recognize my feelings and verbalize them better is why therapy really works for me – but if you aren’t totally comfortable with who you’re talking to, it can be even more stressful vs. helpful. Of course, it may take some time to adjust and may not be instantaneous.
It took my therapist maybe twenty minutes of talking to me to say it was evident I had moderate to severe anxiety and at least low-grade depression, and it was like a light bulb went on. Same with finding out there is an actual mental illness called dermatillomania (also referred to as excoriation, a skin picking disorder).
The more I have been talking and exploring things about myself, it’s like I’m putting together pieces of a puzzle. A puzzle I didn’t know existed, which of course has a million pieces.
So, here’s what I found about counseling and therapy:
“Overall, four in 10 American adults (42%) have seen a counselor at some point in their lives. Thirteen percent say they are currently seeing a counselor or therapist, while more than a quarter (28%) says they’ve seen a counselor or therapist in the past. Another third (36%) says they’re at least open to it, although almost one in four (23%) says they would never see a counselor.”https://www.barna.com/research/americans-feel-good-counseling/
Not too shabby. Honestly, it’s more than I thought. Out of all my friends and family that I know of, only myself and two others are currently in some sort of counseling or therapy, so it isn’t something I casually bring up with friends and family often.
Although, I have a feeling more people I know are talking to someone that I’m aware of. I am starting to talk about it more. I’m happy I’m getting help. It took me a while, and I still have a long way to go, but I challenge more people to talk about it. The more people talk about it, the more you’ll find there’s plenty of others going through or that have gone through a similar situation.
Something that helped me decide to go to therapy again was my boyfriend suggesting it could really help me, in a nonjudgmental way. He said it could be a smart thing to do and would hopefully help me in ways my friends and family can’t – that it helped me before so maybe it can again. I didn’t take any offensive to this suggestion – knowing it is coming from a good place is key. I couldn’t be more thankful to have the support that I do.
I do want to say, you don’t have to have a mental illness or mental health issue in order to go to counseling or therapy. Something traumatic doesn’t need to happen to you in order to want to talk to someone and have some help.
Going to counseling or therapy when you’re doing great, is great! It really allows you to reflect on your progress and accomplishments and keep moving forward. It really is a great feeling to keep the positive momentum going.
I don’t think anyone needs anyone’s say in going to therapy or not – but it sure wouldn’t hurt if there was more support out there either. But it all starts with the realization and courage to speak up. If nothing is said, we can’t hear you.
As always, friends, reach out to those who may need it, even if it doesn’t seem like it.