Confession: I’m a self-improvement junkie.
If there’s an opportunity for personal growth/self-help/professional development, I’m on it. From Brene Brown books to podcasts to coaching to mastermind groups to retreats to personality assessments, I soak it up like water in the desert.
Because of that, I tend to think I’m pretty self-aware. I know that I’m a recovering perfectionist/Enneagram 1/Obliger who is both driven and insecure. I think a lot about the stories that drive my worldview, the triggers that make me mad/sad/happy, the bias I bring into any situation. Even when I fall short (and I do…A LOT), I believe I’m pretty confident in the role I play in any given situation – good and bad.
In all this personal growth study and reflection, though, there’s one thing I’ve never done. It’s not something I’ve actively avoided or been opposed to (quite the opposite actually), but it’s a step that I’ve never taken.
Until this week that is.
Because earlier this week, after several conversations and lots of journaling, I decided to do a thing…
I started to see a therapist.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
I’ve thought about seeing a counselor/therapist for many years. As life’s ups and downs have come, there’s been passing notions of researching professionals in my area or asking other people about their experience in therapy. But I’ve never done it – until now.
One of the things that tipped the scale for me was reading the book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. In it, the author shares her perspective on therapy – both as a therapist and as someone going through therapy herself. This book made the idea of seeking help less scary and more accessible. It doesn’t have to be stigmatized. This book gave me a peek behind the curtains to something I already inherently knew but maybe wasn’t acknowledging – all kinds of people see therapists for all kinds of things. No problem is too big or too small to earn the space to talk it out.
I’ve also ended up in several conversations over the last few months with people I trust who shared their positive experience with counseling and therapy. Coworkers, friends and – even from afar – high-profile influencers, like Brene Brown, Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell. These people have been open about why they went to counseling, how they found their counselor or therapist, and how their experience has helped them work through the challenges of being a human being. They’ve also encouraged me that seeking therapy or counseling doesn’t signal weakness or being crazy – it’s simply a tool to live a more joyful, empowered life.
I Can’t Do It Myself – And Neither Can You
The last six months have been particularly stressful for me. Challenging relationships. Frustrating dynamics. Figuring out my place in the world and where I go next. Through all of this, I’ve tried to handle it myself. To journal. To read. To vent and complain, hoping airing it out would fix it (#spoileralert: it didn’t). And, finally, I had to admit:
I can’t do it alone.
I’ve done talking to friends. I’ve done coaching. But this finally felt like the time to do something different. To sort it out in a different way with a different type of perspective.
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that I should be able to handle my stress and frustration by myself. There are so many of us that carry an unbelievable amount of weight – the pressures of work, parenting, relationships, caretaking – and we think that, if we just spend enough time on it (or ignore it), our pain and frustration will eventually go away.
And while it might, it also might not. In those instances, it’s okay to ask for help.
The Only Way to End the Stigma is to Talk About It
I could keep it to myself that I went to therapy – many do and I support whatever approach you choose to take. However, I also really do believe that the stigma around mental health care and seeking help won’t go away until we start talking about it more in our everyday lives.
I wouldn’t have gone to talk to someone if it weren’t for my friends, family, coworkers and famous people who overtly or covertly said, “It’s okay and I support you in this.” Because they were brave enough to talk about it, I was brave enough to take action.
And, let me tell you, my first experience in the therapist’s office was great! I felt heard, but not judged. My thinking was challenged (it didn’t take long for me to say, “Huh…I hadn’t thought about that before”). I was supported from my first moments on the couch – my therapist is on my team and we’re going to figure out how to make things better together.
I’m not saying you have to go to a therapist or a counselor, just because I did. If that’s not your thing, that’s fine. Maybe you’d prefer to talk to a friend, colleague, coach or spiritual advisor. Whatever you choose, I hope you talk to someone.
If you have thought about therapy, however, and have been worried about what it looks like or what it says about you, I’ll say this:
For what little it’s worth, I support you seeking the help you need. I don’t regret it. No one I’ve talked to has regretted it.
And I don’t think you’ll regret it either.