Part 1 here
Hoo boy, we have a lot to talk about here...
I've been in therapy for about six months. I'm going to talk about it occasionally on this blog. There's a lot to talk about, and a lot that I've learned about myself and about therapy itself. That said, I'm obviously not going to write about everything that I'm working through. I haven't had enough time and reflection to work through everything. However, I'm going to try to be as open and honest as I can.
Today I'm just going to focus on one particular topic, which is: Why did it take so long for me to get into therapy?
I've helped quite a few people get into therapy over the years. I've recommended therapists, I've collected phone numbers for people, and I've generally championed therapy during conversations, sermons, etc. I've never considered it weakness when people seek therapy, and have never judged those who are in therapy. Quite the opposite, actually. I've admired the strength of those who want to heal, want to better learn themselves, or simply need support to make it through a difficult moment in their lives.
Therapy is good. I've long thought so.
Why, then, did it take so long for me to say out loud, "I think I need therapy?" If I'm supportive of the practice, and if I'm consistently trying to move people in the direction of therapy, why was I so resistant?
I think there were a few reasons...
1. I had a hard time admitting to myself that I needed therapy. Before I started therapy, there were noticeable signs that something abnormal was going on in my life. I would have repeated physical shutdowns, I never was able to sleep through the night, and I would start hyperventilating seemingly out of nowhere. These were all physical symptoms, however, and they all seemed like symptoms that could be overcome by willpower. It was about a year before I could admit to myself that these problems were beyond my capabilities.
2. I wanted medication, not therapy. My best guess was that I had depression, and I wanted to take care of it. However, I didn't want to shake up my life or my work schedule in any way, and I didn't want to make the time commitment for therapy. I figured if I could get a nice bottle of antidepressants (Is bottle the right word? What are those orange cylinders with the white cap called?), I could keep my schedule exactly as it was while also taking care of my symptoms.
Yep. Self-medication for an illness that I thought I probably had. That was my plan.
Good choices, David.
Thankfully, I did my research, and it turns out that you can't purchase antidepressants over the counter.
3. There's no other way to say it than this: it's embarrassing to tell other people, even family members (especially family members?), about mental health problems. It was for me. I assumed that nobody would understand. Honestly, how do you explain mental health problems to people?
"I hyperventilate a lot, and it comes on out of the blue."
"Have you tried breathing into a bag?"
That's how I assumed every conversation would go (and basically how a few actually did go). It's weird and strange and odd and bizarre to talk about mental health problems. Physical things are much easier.
"I have a bone sticking out of my leg, and it's bleeding everywhere."
"Why yes, you do. Let's get you to the hospital. Please don't bleed on the rug."
I didn't know how to talk about my own need for help with my mental health, so for a long time, I just...didn't.
4. It's expensive. This was less of a reason for avoiding therapy, and more of an excuse. I knew it might be difficult to pay for, but I also knew that we could make it work.
I had quite a few reasons for avoiding therapy. Maybe you do too. If you've been thinking about therapy, I'm here to say that it's great, it's wonderful, and it's helping me greatly. Absolutely get into therapy if you're thinking about it. I know it's easier said than done, but if you're on the fence about it, seriously, look into it.
In the coming weeks, I'll actually talk about therapy itself. It's going to be fun, mostly because therapy as a practice is kind of odd.
"Hi, complete stranger that I've never met. Let me sit down and tell you about the deepest, darkest parts of my life that I've never told anyone else and planned to take with me to my grave."
If you have topics you'd like me to discuss in the coming weeks related to mental health, faith, or anything related, leave me a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm not a mental health expert or anything, but I've had some experiences and made some observations.