I was in 8th grade the first time someone told me “god, you need therapy.” My teacher said this in front of my entire class after I started to get visibly anxious when he started to pass out a pop quiz. The whole class laughed, and some of my classmates even made jokes about it months after the occurrence. I did not know it then, but in that exact moment, I started to develop an aversion to therapy.
That one comment and reactions made me feel like therapy was for crazy people, and that if I ever went, I too must be crazy. As the years went by my anxiety only worsened, as I was neglecting proper treatment. I started to have severe panic attacks and hid them from my friends and family because I did not want anyone to know I was suffering. In fear, I would hear the dreaded phrase “have you considered seeing a therapist?” For years I continued to hide my struggle and would overcompensate by giving advice to my friends and helping them through their anxieties. The funny part about it was that I always suggested therapy to other people. In fact, I gave presentations, and posted to social media about the urgency to normalize going to therapy. Going back, I was clearly screaming into the void. I would give the same advice to others that I needed to hear myself. I would preach therapy to every person I knew, but refused to listen to my own damn advice.
I came to college in hopes that things would change and that my anxiety would just disappear. I wanted so badly to just be “normal.” I hated myself for having anxiety and I would do anything I could to try and make it go away. Again, my fool proof plan of repressing my emotions ultimately failed. My panic attacks became more frequent and my anxiety just got worse. It was not until the beginning of junior year where I had two friends sit me down and tell me I should go see a therapist. But when they said it, they didn’t sound like my 8th grade teacher. They were not mocking me or invalidating my feelings, but they were expressing actual concern. It took me a whole month of sitting on the idea to actually walk myself to the counseling center.
Even then I sat outside for 15 minutes, cried, and contemplated leaving and never coming back. I felt vulnerable, and I hated that feeling. I spent my entire life building up a wall to hide my emotions, and I was not ready for it to be knocked down by a complete stranger. But I finally made it inside, one step after another until I got to the front desk. I was then escorted to a room where I was asked to fill out a questionnaire relating to mental health. Every question I answered knocked down a brick to the wall I built up. At the end of my appointment, I was left with nothing but a new foundation. It has been just a couple of days since my first appointment and that foundation keeps growing. But I am no longer placing bricks, I am building something truly beautiful. I have ignored my anxiety for so long and I let the worst of it dictate my life.
Every part of me wishes I could go back in time and scream at my younger self. Back then I thought I was doing what was best for me, but looking back I see now I was so terribly wrong. Although I am still not 100% comfortable with the idea of therapy, I did take the first step and went for help. This is a problem I will always struggle with, but hopefully with my new mindset I will continue to grow. The reality is there are probably hundreds of people like me out there: people who are scared to confront their problems, in fear that it will make them weak or “crazy.” In honor of these people (and myself), we must end the stigma around therapy. To do so, people have to stop talking about it like something they should be ashamed of. A person is not weak for talking to a therapist, they are not “psychotic” or “crazy” for going to talk about their feelings—the act takes great courage. Therapy made me stronger, happier, and more in control, and that is not something I should hide.