Mental health, especially the importance of therapy, is a subject that we don’t talk about enough.
I have sought the help of professional therapists at two points in my life thus far, four years ago when battling an eating disorder, and again nine months ago when facing a transitional point in my life that I simply couldn’t handle on my own. Today I am very open about these experiences. I believe there is power in sharing these trials with other people in the hopes that I can spur more conversation on mental health and the stigmas we have surrounding therapy.
This being said, I’ve noticed one glaring stigma surrounding receiving professional therapy in my conversations… weakness.
In today’s world, it is as if the words “therapy” and “weakness” have become synonymous. Why is this? Is it because A) we have the misconception that only those that are severely mentally ill need therapy, or B) we are so uncomfortable with breaking down the barriers we have carefully constructed around us, that the thought of doing so simply sounds unbearable. I think the weakness stigma comes from a bit of both.
First we need to understand that therapy is for everyone; you do not need to be losing your mind to receive the immeasurable benefits therapy can provide. Frankly, I think the world would be a better place if we all had a therapist.
Second, becoming in touch with your emotional self is healthy and necessary. We often build walls out of defense, fear, and the desire to keep things out, but these walls are built on faulty foundations. Therapy is about creating a solid foundation, not for building walls to keep things out, but rather for letting the world and positive relationship in.
Therapy to me means strength. The ability to embrace your vulnerability, to open yourself up to a world that may hurt you is not effortless or easy. To admit that you need the help of a therapist is to say, “I am worth it”. I deserve happiness, healing, and health, but I need help getting there. I am not above reaching out to others.
You can shove hurt, resentment, uncertainty, jealousy, and pain to the back of your mind as much as you want, but funny how you notice they never stay buried for long.
From personal experience I can say that therapy requires giving your all, there is no half assing it in this ring. I have broken down into a puddle of tears on the floor, wrecked with the emotions I locked away out of fear and avoidance, but the beauty is I always got back up. True strength for me is the ability to feel wholly, hurt wholly, love wholly, and heal wholly. A life worth living requires self-love, openness, and the strength to be vulnerable and present in a world that so often looks at these qualities as weakness. I wouldn’t know this without my time in therapy.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Brené Brown, a shame researcher and all around badass, “There’s no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness”.
I wish you all the love and inner peace in the world. Never feel shame, or shame others for seeking the help of a professional therapist. I challenge you to redefine strength, redefine weakness, and above all redefine your perception of therapy.