How Therapy Helped Me Help Myself

How Therapy Helped Me Help Myself

Your Problems Aren't Too Small, and Your Feelings Aren't Invalid
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This article is really hard for me to write. Not only is it really personal, but its also very emotional. I just felt that with all the talk of mental health in the media these days, it was something that I needed to write.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety since early high school. It was something that I never wanted to admit to myself, but when I did, it was a breath of fresh air. When I told my guidance counselor, and eventually, my parents, it felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. But I was left with the nagging question-- what now?

I never felt the urge or desire to do harm to myself or others. I am very fortunate for this, yet it made me feel that my problems weren't serious and didn't warrant attention. My depression was not "bad enough" to need outside help. So I tried, for a long time, to ignore it.

It wasn't until about a year ago that I realized that my struggles were valid. It was important enough-- I was important enough-- to get the help that I needed. So I did. I went to the counseling center on campus, and I did something that was way out of my comfort zone-- I talked about me. I talked about my feelings, my day to day struggles, the things I found inadequate about myself-- all of it. It didn't all happen right away; it took some time. But the more I opened up, the more I understood that seeking help was not a sign of weakness-- but a sign of immense strength.

I had an amazing experience with my therapist and the school counseling center, which I am so lucky for. She was patient, understanding, and compassionate. Most importantly, she didn't make me feel like some crazy person under a microscope. She made me feel like a strong woman, a capable human being, and someone who deserved to be happy and whole. Talking with her opened up so many resources, coping mechanisms, and general knowledge that made my life so much easier.

Some might wonder, if I wasn't harming myself or others, how I could claim that therapy saved me. Even though I never stopped wanting to live, I knew there was a better life for me. I had so much potential, and the wants and desires to do so much with my life, but I just had to heal first. I can say with absolute conviction that I would not be the person I am today if it wasn't for my decision to enter into therapy.

I no longer live feeling the need to constantly pick up the pieces. I am successful, happy, and hopeful because I was armed with the tools I needed to grow and heal. My next step, and the main reason for writing this article, is speaking up against the stigma of mental illness.

We need-- and by "we" I mean myself and the 50+ million people per year that suffer with mental illness in the United States-- to feel accepted, normal, and loved. I am resentful for being depicted as a crazy person. I am resentful for every mass murder being chalked up to mental illness. I am resentful for being talked about as weak, or violent, or desperate for attention. But most of all, I am extremely saddened by the lack of knowledge, attention, resources, and effort being put into mental health awareness.

It's time to be more serious, accurate, and realistic about the way we talk about mental health. No one should be afraid or ashamed to seek help due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues-- because therapy saved me from a life that I did not want for myself. And I'm not the only one.


For additional resources:

National Alliance on Mental Illness: NAMI

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Germiston City News

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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I Never Thought I'd Have To Attend A Classmate's Funeral Two Weeks Before He Was Supposed To Graduate

Teen suicide is a taboo topic where I'm from, even if we have lost two members of the community to it in the past two years.

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One of the hardest experiences of my life happened just this week, at the funeral of a boy I barely even knew. I had gone to school with him since kindergarten but hadn't had a class with him since fifth grade, and I don't think we had talked since then. All I had ever thought of doing with my classmates two weeks before graduation was complaining about finals and maybe going to a few graduation parties.

Instead, we all left school midday to head to the largest Baptist church in town. I sat in the middle of a row of pews, surrounded by two hundred or more people that I had either gone to school with my whole life or had gone to school with at some point in the past thirteen years.

There was not a single one of them that did not have tears in their eyes. We listened to the pastor share memories of our classmate that had been shared online, and some of us even got up to share our own and to thank his parents for raising such a kind and caring, young man.

He was the type of guy to invite you to go out to eat, even if he knew you had to work, just because he didn't want you to feel forgotten about. Every single person who spoke said, "There wasn't a single thing I didn't like about this kid." They spoke those words in full truth.

The senior class was named in the obituary as honorary pallbearers. We followed the eight football players and the rest of the football team and our classmate's closest friends to a hearse waiting outside. I watched as the hearse pulled away, and I believe that is when it truly hit everyone.

He was gone, and he wasn't coming back. As the hearse pulled away, all I could see on the other side were tears streaming down the faces of some of the toughest guys I know.

We called the football team the Thunder House. The phrase "Thunder House" went from something normally said with a smile or a chuckle to something said with a melancholy tone. No one cheered when it was said anymore, they only gave sad nods and tight, depressing smiles.

Teen suicide is a taboo topic where I'm from, even if we have lost two members of the community to it in the past two years. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an article stating that Americans in rural areas are more likely to die by suicide, also stating that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.

The week before we lost our classmate, there was a walk at the school on a Saturday to raise awareness for teen suicide and depression. I only heard one teacher say anything about it beforehand. There were no signs around the school. There was no mention of it on the morning announcements. There was not a post on the school's website inviting members of the community to join us.

I truly believe that more could have been done that could have possibly prevented the heartache that has impacted a school, a family, and a community. Reach out to those you feel may be in need, and even those that you do not feel may be in need because you never know what someone is going through.

Articles on suicide prevention or recount stories of suicide or suicidal thoughts should end with the following message, written in regular weight font, styled in italics:

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


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