May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Did you know that? I didn’t. Not until mental health became a thing I actually cared about.
And I’m not saying like, “Ugh, I need a mental health day,” in response to a crummy stretch at work.
Nor am I speaking in reference to calling yourself insane for the tiniest of reasons, like forgetting something for the millionth time or getting emotional over an argument.
I mean mental health like you’re hyper-aware of your thoughts—and the actions that follow—and take healthy steps towards ensuring none of it does more harm than good.
I’m not going to turn this into a diatribe of why you should care about mental health or offer advice on ways to lead a more positive and healthy life.
Because I have zero idea.
Instead, I’m just going to tell you why I care now. Because I’m kind of mad at myself for waiting this long.
I started seeing a therapist in January.
It was something I’d thought about for a while, but never had the guts to follow through with. I was convinced making that appointment would be an admission that something was wrong with me. That I couldn’t figure things out for myself. That I was some sort of crazy.
But if you remember this post, I was having a garbage few months. And while I spent the majority of that article discussing politics and the effects they’d had on my relationships, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
I had zero motivation. Would cry at the drop of a hat and constantly jump to the worst possible conclusions. I was in a daze half the time, totally unaware of the passage of time or the conversations I was having. And it all felt impossible to verbalize.
How f*cking terrifying.
Once winter hit, things only got worse. But also better? I can’t remember what led to it, but I started making more time for some friends I wasn’t seeing as often. We’d just do dinner or happy hour every few weeks.
It’s thanks to those friends that I finally made the appointment.
Two of them in particular were super supportive of therapy, mentioning how much they’d enjoyed it. How much they’d grown from it and how they couldn’t imagine life without it—even after only a few months!
So I made the phone call and instantly felt better. I hadn’t even seen anyone yet and was already convinced this would change everything. How easy! How silly of me to worry! I’d be “better” in no time!
Anyone who’s been to therapy will appreciate the humor in that last part.
At this point I should probably correct myself: My real first therapy appointment was in December.
It was horrible.
She’d ask a question, I’d answer and she’d repeat it with a very expectant tone. Like I was supposed to elaborate? But I didn’t know how! This was my first time! What the heck did she want from me!
She also suggested Drew come with me next time. To my second therapy appointment EVER. Because apparently I couldn’t be fixed on my own?
And I really think she thought I was an addict. Maybe because that’s her specialty—which I learned with a quick internet search the next day—or maybe because I answered a certain question a certain way. Who knows.
Safe to say Drew did not attend my second appointment because there was no second appointment.
I felt bad bailing on her after just one meeting, but after chatting with the same friends as before, they agreed we just didn’t have the dynamic I needed. It wouldn’t benefit me and would absolutely be a waste of her time.
So I called and asked if they had anyone else I could speak to. They followed up on my first appointment and I said she did nothing wrong, but there was no connection.
It is a relationship, after all.
Skip to January and I had my second first appointment. What I consider my really real first time.
I cannot begin to explain how much better it felt.
She asked questions, I answered and she would make an effort to understand that answer. Sometimes with another question, other times with a very simple (very empathetic) response.
YES, I CRIED MY EYES OUT. NO, I’M NOT EMBARRASSED.
I’ve seen her maybe a dozen times since? Each one better than the last. I walk in and she asks what we should talk about. Sometimes it’s a continuation of the last appointment, other times it’s whatever’s at the very top of my mind.
And she always gives me homework—usually some form of catching myself mid-shitty thought and correcting it.
That’s the biggest thing: Those stupid shitty thoughts. Everyone has them, but what you do with them makes all the difference.
I like to think it’s working? I like to think I’ve become more aware of what really goes on in my head. More aware of my intentions and what they mean for the people around me.
But does that mean I’m cured? Lol, no. I’m not sure I ever will be. And that’s fine.
Going to therapy doesn’t make me a less effective person.
Asking for help doesn’t make me weak.
And qualifying for a given diagnosis doesn’t make me crazy.
I wish more people could understand that. Maybe this post will help? If not, I understand. It can be hard for people to grasp. The stigma attached to mental illness has definitely taken its toll.
But even if therapy isn’t for you, try to support those who want it. Those who need it.
You’d be surprised the difference that can make.
Maybe the new James Bay will help.