Therapy and mental health is often represented poorly in movies, books and the news. It is seen as something only for people with “real mental illness.” These misconceptions and stigmas cause people to avoid getting help they need. Often, it’s an idea that going to therapy makes you weak, broken or crazy. Instead, therapy should be viewed as a healthy option for everyone.
Sharing opinions and talking, especially with those I trust, is like therapy for me. Over the years, I’ve cultivated friendships with people that I can truly talk to about a wide variety of topics, in fact, with some friends no topic is taboo. I have a wild thirst for knowledge and I’ve been known to fall down rabbit holes that many (especially in LDS culture) would consider wrong or taboo, just so I could understand it.
Despite these friendships, there are certain things I just don’t discuss. Perhaps it’s my own struggle or even knowing that some people wouldn’t be sympathetic or compassionate. A particular event that happened to me years ago, I have only told 2 people and when I did, it was years after the fact. It was shared as a tidbit to show understanding or explain a view or belief and never discussed again. After my last post, I was invited to submit an article to an online blog themed around road trips. Well, that would be a home run! I have so many stories and surely I could punch something out that would be funny, upbeat and positive. A semi-secret goal of mine is to be a published author/writer. I’ve never seriously pursued it, but I’ve always loved to write. Writing is a form of therapy all on it’s own!
Unexpectedly, the only story that came to mind was a dark blemish on my love of travel. I wrote the article in an hour and sat on it for two weeks debating on if I wanted to submit it. It was a secret shame, never meant to be discussed. I never imagined it would be chosen to be published, but even sharing it with my friend, one of the blog’s editors, was hard. Would it change her opinion of mine? Would I be blamed? Judged? Marked with a scarlet letter? Writing it down was cathartic. It felt like a burden was lifted. When I submitted it, I felt peace. It was now behind me.
I was soon informed they wanted to publish it. My elation was sky high for about 30 seconds when I realized I’d have to tell my parents. How could I share the excitement of having written something someone wanted to publish, only to tell them they couldn’t read it? Telling my parents was something of a sitcom/drama. It lasted for about a minute, explaining it briefly, then we moved on to a different topic. My parents were definitely proud of my accomplishment, but sad at what had happened. In fact, my dad made sure to tell me that if I told him the guy’s name, he’d take care of it.
My emotions went on a roller coaster for about two weeks and I felt completely anxious, out of control and not myself. I called my mom one day in the middle of the week and just cried. How could I allow such a thing to be published? How could I let other people see that dark and weak side of me? What if potential husbands saw it and didn’t want anything to do with me? (Obviously, I would have nothing to do with any man that thought such a thing, but when you’re spiraling, all the bad comes out.) A couple of days went by and I found myself struggling again. A late night call with mom and therapy came up. It was something I had considered off and on for years, but even despite being a student of psychology and recognizing stigmas, I couldn’t bring myself to share everything with a stranger.
The next morning, I signed up with Better Help, an online counseling and therapy company. I was matched with a Christian-centered therapist in my state and I was able send him messages anytime for the next month. I rambled my whole mess out and my anxiety and it was… amazing. The second I made the decision to sign up, I felt better. Letting it all out felt even better. But the funny thing is that he didn’t tell me a single thing I didn’t already know when I’m panicking/struggling. I need to a) write things down, b) change locations and/or c) breathe. Writing has always been a safe space for me. I have books upon books of journals that I pray someone will burn after I die. If I’m feeling trapped in my apartment, go for a drive. I love to drive and blast music in my car, something I don’t get to do much anymore. Breathing exercises has always seemed a little hippy-dippy/yoga nonsense to me, but I was introduced to some a few months ago in a guided sleep meditation session on YouTube (amazing). I’ve used the techniques on a plane, when I got upset, and when I need to sleep.
I don’t expect the counseling to go beyond the one month agreement, but knowing the option is out there is immensely gratifying. Knowing that I can write out all the jumbled mess in my head into a chat box instead of sitting across from a virtual stranger is a huge relief. I have tools to guide me, even if I had already known them. It’s not a cure all. I have work to do to get over some of my anxiety, but most of all? Recognizing that it’s okay to ask for help, even if it’s from a virtual stranger.
Single Mormon Lady
P.S. You can find my article here.