Therapy can be a pretty sensitive topic. People often talk about it in a whisper, and that can make starting a conversation about it very difficult. In an effort to get the ball rolling, I’m here to tell a little story:
When I was young, I looked at my parents as though they were two absolutely perfect people. They both had qualities that I wanted so badly to emulate, and I wanted them to look at me and see how accomplished, smart, and funny I was. They always took an interest in my extra-curricular activities and made me feel special every chance they got. At six years old, I remember coming home one day from school and watching my mother set the table while my dad helped cook the food and I thought, “Wow, I can’t imagine them ever being apart.”
The elements of perfection that I once saw in them faded, because I came to better understand that perfect people simply don’t exist. In the years between then and now, life happened and they separated, and soon after they filed for divorce. It wasn’t easy, but I knew that they both still loved me so much that no matter what, we would still be a family.
I saw them turn into different people. As silly as it might sound, sometimes we forget that our parents still age after having children. My mother was heartbroken for years over the divorce, and started to go to therapy. I had never met someone who went to therapy (or so I’d thought), and I was confused about what that meant for her. I was only 14 at the time, and I was afraid that if people knew my mom was going to see a therapist, they certainly must think she’s crazy. I was supportive of her, but behind closed doors I was a little embarrassed.
At 17, I went to college. Life was so different now! I missed being home, being with my friends. I felt the effects of divorced parents more deeply now, and it hurt to think they had to split up which “family weekends” each of them would attend. October of 2014 was difficult for me, because I saw so many happy families together, tailgating and barbecuing, and I knew that that would never be my family.
After my freshman year, I fell into a depression. The reasons why were not only related to my parents, but life in general had not been going well for me. College had changed me in ways I wasn’t ready for, and that scared me. My mom saw that change in the summer of 2015, and suggested I see a therapist. I was taken aback by this suggestion, not because I was “embarrassed” about the thought of therapy anymore, but now I had believed that therapy was for people who were severely depressed, which I felt I wasn’t.
For months I put off my mom’s advice, until one day I woke up to my alarm and couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. The thought of going to class and participating in life wasn’t something that interested me. I thought I could continue feeling this way without seeking help, but soon enough these feelings went from every-once-in-a-while to every day. I did some research and made an appointment.
My decision to go to therapy was long overdue, but it was one of the best decisions of my life. Every week for an hour I sat with a professional who helped me unravel some reasons for my bouts of depression that came and went for years. She was a listening ear, and someone I was sure wasn’t going to judge me. She didn’t “cure” me, but she made me feel normal and assured me that all my thoughts and emotions are valid.
In the months after I started seeing my therapist, I went home for break and told my friends about my experience with therapy. Little did I know, many of my friends back home were doing the same thing. My best friend said to me one day, “College is stressful. I feel better when I talk to someone about it.” I was relieved, not only because I felt as though I was better understood by her, but because she was getting the same kind of help that neither of us could necessarily get from each other, even though we are the best of friends.
Seeking help when you need it is not shameful. Unproductive days happen and they’re nothing to feel badly about. Talking to a trained professional is not a reprehensible thing, and neither is taking anti-depressants. Understanding that therapy isn’t something to be embarrassed about changed my life for the better. I’m a happier, more productive person because of it.
If you’re interested in learning more about therapy, check out this article from Psychology Today.