Recently, I was having a conversation with a co-worker in which I casually mentioned that I was going to counseling the next day. He immediately responded with, “are you doing okay?” I responded explaining that I’m relatively fine, but not the best I’ve ever been. I’m not in a crisis, so I guess you could say that I’m just “okay.” I was really just going because I felt like there were things that I needed process externally. My family has a pastor that we all see individually. I used to only see him if my anxiety was bad or if I was feeling depressed for long periods of time, however I’ve been trying to make it more of a regular thing. I guess you could say that I was going for kind of a check-up like you would see a family doctor for, but it was for my mind instead of my body. However, that got me thinking. Why do we wait until there’s a crisis before we decide to take care of our mental and emotional health? We see doctors for regular check-ups and exercise our physical bodies multiple times a week. Why don’t we treat our brain the same way? Why are we taught the importance of good physical health in schools, but there seems to be little emphasis on taking care of our minds and emotions?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults, in the U.S., are affected by an anxiety disorder. That’s over 18% of the population. However, only around 36% of that 40 million will actually receive any kind of treatment. Along with that, the World Health Organization reports that 322 million people worldwide deal with depression. Also, according to WHO, 50% of those affected will not receive treatment. That number increases to 80-90% in low-income parts of the world.
The reason I bring all this up is because mental illness and lack of emotional health appears to be a growing problem in our world today. However, it seems that we’re doing very little to combat it on an individual level. The more I think about it, the more I don’t understand why seeing a counselor, pastor, or therapist is not a regular thing. Why do we have to be on the verge of insanity before it’s acceptable to get counseling? I have a few theories.
For starters, for awhile I thought I was above going to counseling. Nevermind that I had frequent bouts of depression and crippling social anxiety. I wasn’t the kind of person that needed counseling. That was only for people who suffered serious trauma in their lives, right? Plus, if I went, was I going to be put on medication? Besides my prideful attitude stopping me, I was scared. I was scared of what might come up, what parts of myself I’d be confronted with, that my counselor would judge me for the abundance of crap that was happening on the inside of my head. I was also scared, because keeping these things inside my head gave me a false sense of control over them. I was scared that if I started processing the darkest parts of my heart, that I would not find the answers I was looking for and I would just be causing myself pain. I’ll be honest, some things really are painful to talk about.
Despite my original plan to wait until I’m having a mid-life crisis at 45 to start asking for help, I started going to counseling when I was 18. I’ve gone semi-regularly since then. Did counseling fix all my problems and make me a perfect person? No. It’s not a magic pill that you take and the pain goes away. A lot of time, being vulnerable can be painful. Sometimes it requires reliving painful memories or having to admit things about ourselves that we would rather not acknowledge. However, on the other side of that pain is freedom. In going back to places of pain from my life, I’ve found that Jesus can heal the ones I’m willing to let him into. Understanding where my anxiety was coming from was the first step getting healing from it. In order to do that, I had to swallow my pride and talk about it.
The reason I’m writing this article is not to glorify myself or my decision to get counseling, but instead, I’m hoping to normalize taking care of mental and emotional health. Sometimes, you just need to talk to someone who will listen without judgement. I don’t care who you are. We all have crap that needs dealt with, wounds that need healed, and feelings that need to be expressed. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.