For some reason, we live in a world where people spend more time breaking others down than they do building them up. Going to a therapist and talking about mental illness are particularly taboo subjects. People, myself included, often filter their therapy experiences out of social conversations. Here’s why we should stop.
Reason #1: Needing someone to talk to is normal
We all have challenges. Whether you are living with mental illness or it’s just one of those days where nothing is lining up in the way you feel it should, we could all use a little support in our lives from an unbiased and judgment-free third party. People are social beings. We crave love and support from others, often repetitively searching to have our feelings validated while life continually falls short of that expectation. A therapist provides a relationship that we cannot get elsewhere – as speaking freely about our problems to friends and family is sometimes paired with another challenging emotion – whether that is fear of judgment, feeling that you have become a burden, or disappointment when a loved one doesn’t have time to listen to you at all. Social relationships are complex, often making deep, emotional conversations difficult for you or for the person you love. Having a therapist as a sounding board, with no strings attached, offers a repetitive, consistent security blanket that is not easily replicated in other areas of life.
Now, don’t get me wrong – talking with friends and family is important and has perks that you won’t get from a therapist either. The love a human receives from social relationships is incredibly valuable and cannot be replaced. However, it is often helpful to have someone to talk to whose sole purpose is to focus on you, your problems, and your goals. Even more importantly, it’s okay to need that and it’s okay to want it. A lot of people do. You should be proud that you have found an effective way to satisfy your emotional needs. Most people search their whole lives for a way to do that. Mental health is no joke and you have chosen to commit time to building your self worth. There is strength and power in that.
Reason #2: Secrecy breeds pain
Nothing good comes with a loaded secret. Think back to those times in grade school when you lied about where you were and got in trouble for it or said something negative about someone else only to have it circulate around and bite you right back. Secrets hurt. People keep them because they’re worried about what will happen if they get out. The anxiety, sadness, concern, and guilt that is often paired with a secret eats away at the human consciousness and puts a barrier between you and your sanity. Hiding the fact that you’re in therapy is no less excruciating than that.
People hide what embarrasses them. They box up what makes them vulnerable because building a wall is much easier than explaining the ins and outs of your emotional self. But what if we stopped being embarrassed about it? What if we decided right here and right now, that it’s okay to talk freely about the things that bring us deep, sometimes unbearable pain? Emotions aren’t anything to be embarrassed about. Everyone feels emotions; some people just express them less often. And those deep, dark emotions – the ones that no one talks about: depression, anxiety, misery - those rock-bottom emotions – are the ones we need to express the most. The pain that you feel is real. It’s okay to embrace it. Being scared of it and feeling guilty for being miserable will only add right on to the feelings of loneliness and isolation that you’ve come to therapy to battle in the first place.
Reason #3: People won’t ever understand what they’ve never been exposed to
More often than not, people don’t know how to respond to dark, deep-rooted emotions. In fact, some people feel those emotions and don’t even know how to understand them in their own lives. Part of this comes from this world’s sucky track record for oppressing those with mental health challenges and exiling others whose lives don’t live up to “societal expectations.” More often than not, the people who seem closed to hearing about your therapy experience are the people who’ve never met someone who’s been open about therapy before.
It’s vital to break down this barrier so that people can learn to accept those around them, regardless of whatever shitty situation someone is walking through or not-so-sparkly story they are telling. Part of breaking down the stigma associated with mental illness and therapy is being open about the real parts of it – the good, the bad, and ugly. Trust me, there’s so much relief in speaking freely and uncensored. We also can’t expect those who have never experienced therapy to be immediately open to or understanding of the concept. The first step in evoking empathy in others is to share the real truth you’ve been hiding. In order to get to a place in the world where people who are hurting can shout for help from the rooftops and find the support they need, we need to be truthful. Our openness about therapy will help others feel okay asking for help.
Reason #4: It’s not as uncommon as you think
I promise you, if you start talking about therapy you will find people who are right there in your shoes – people who’ve cried about what you’ve cried about, people who’ve laughed at the things that make you smile, people who’ve found frustration in the same things that turn your stomach inside out. There are more people in therapy than you probably realize. The thing is - they are hiding their experiences too. It’s easy to feel alone in your therapy journey because no one’s talking about theirs. Start mentioning it in your daily conversation. People might do a double take at first, but I promise friends will fall into your lap that you never thought you’d have and people will find comfort in the real you. You will grow to be confident in yourself because you will be embracing all that you are and not hiding a huge part of yourself from the world anymore.
Reason #5: Your bravery will inspire others
You’re scared. I’m scared. Honestly, most people on this earth are scared about something in their life. Committing time to therapy is a brave thing. Sitting in a room with someone and consistently verbalizing the very things that shake you to your core is the definition of strength. There are few things more difficult than exposing your heart to the world, for that is the deepest, most emotional part of our inner selves.
Being open about therapy will not only give you a sense of relief, knowing that you no longer have to hide a huge part of yourself to satisfy some messed up social norm, but it will also give relief to others. As you change the way you speak, the people around you will grow to be open to their own emotions too. As you embrace your truth and share that with the world, the world will open around you and people will start to find strength in you. People will start to be comfortable in their own skin and the world will continue to grow as a more accepting and kinder place full of people who are not afraid to show their true colors. There is beauty and joy in helping others find strength in their lives as you continue to find strength in your own.
Featured quote: "What is stronger than the human heart, which shatters over and over and still lives." -Rupi Kaur
Trigger Warning: This blog may discuss topics related to mental illness and trauma that could be potentially triggering. If you or anyone you know is in crisis, please click the link below for 24/7 support. Dial 911 if you or anyone you know is at immediate risk to yourself, themselves, or another.