Therapy is for crazy people.
That’s what I’d always heard and been told. Only people with really bad, seemingly unsolvable problems go to therapy or counseling. Therapy is for making not-normal people normal. In one of my favorite TV shows, Two and a Half Men (RIP seasons 1-8), Charlie often refers to his therapist (Jane Lynch) as his “shrink” and talks about counseling as if it’s something shameful.
As it turns out, therapy isn’t for crazy people, or only for people with seemingly unsolvable problems. It’s for everyone. I believe that everyone needs therapy or counseling to some degree, at some point in his or her life.
We all face experiences that affect us in not-so-pleasant ways. Sometimes we realize those effects immediately; other times, it takes a little while for those ramifications to come to fruition. When those realizations do happen, therapy may be an option; it’s okay to pursue it. In fact, it’s probably one of the best things you can do for yourself. It shows that you’re willing to face the problem and look for a means of healing.
In high school, I was in an unhealthy relationship for two years. It took nearly two years into college to understand how the situation affected me, and why certain aspects of relationships made me tick. It took another year and a half (plus anxiety and panic attacks) to seek professional help.
At first, I thought I didn’t need it. My problem didn’t seem “bad enough” to warrant going to therapy. I thought I could handle it and get past my issues on my own. Sometimes I reconsidered, but still convinced myself I’d be okay without it. Maybe you’ve experienced the same emotion; it’s called “denial.” The longer I put it off, the worse my anxiety and panic attacks became. Eventually I hit a breaking point and knew it was time.
As it turned out, talking to the counselor relieved an incredible amount of stress, just after the first meeting. I realized how much I’d kept to myself, and how much I’d forgotten in the past several years. This helped me see the scope of the situation and start thinking about it differently. Sometimes this happens when you talk to someone new, like a counselor or therapist. That’s okay; it means you’ve accepted and can move on to the next step: healing.
I stayed in therapy for the rest of that semester, and through the summer while I was at home. The more I talked with my counselors, the more I was able to piece together different aspects of my condition, and how the old relationship had impacted more parts of my life than I thought. Lightbulbs went off in each meeting, and I began to see everything much clearer. Finally, I had answers. Now I knew what my triggers were, I could warn people (when necessary), and I could find ways to avoid those triggers.
Would this have happened if I had sought therapy earlier, or not at all? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes we need that outside source to help us make connections and find and fill the holes. That person isn’t always a parent or close friend, and that’s okay.
My counselors also taught me new ways to calm myself down when I started to feel like I might have a panic attack. I’m no stranger to deep breathing, but I learned what different mental visual cues can do to help quell anxiety and let the feeling pass.
Verbal affirmations provided a spoken comfort; hearing myself say, “I’m safe, I’m okay,” was the extra layer of the safety net. I had never done that until my counselor suggested I try it. It worked. I still do it now (when I need to).
Finally, there is no shame in seeking counseling or therapy. I never went to a therapy session and saw an empty office or waiting room. You’re never the only one who sought help. You’re not crazy. You’re doing what’s best for you, and that’s what’s important. You are your first priority.
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No one’s life is perfect; we all have our demons and struggles, no matter their severity. Sometimes we need extra help with those struggles. Maybe we all need help with our struggles, whether they’re short-term or more prolonged. You don’t have to go to therapy forever, either.
Everyone has questions that need answers. Therapy can help you find those answers. It helped me me find mine.