Mental health is a garden that we have the right to take care of
My experience with psychotherapy
A little bit over two years ago, I decided to contact a psychotherapist. If you want to use the official jargon, I went into therapy. In reality, I repeatedly went (for about a year and a half) to a small studio with a window that faced a beautiful courtyard with a giant tree of hope. In the course of these two years, my life has radically changed, and in the meantime I have learned how to talk more and more with the people around me about mental health.
Truth is I don't know where I would be today if I didn't decide to take the path of psychotherapy in May of 2018. Most likely, I'd still be alive but I would be feeling terribly. I have a feeling that this is one of those pragmatic cases where the circumstances justify the expression "doing X saved my life"
By now, my friends are pretty used to me sharing anecdotes that have to do with therapy, and it's not rare that every once in a while we "psychoanalyze each other". But I like the idea that I can talk to as many people as possible here. On one hand, I hope my words can encourage/inform other young people that feel they might need psycho-therapeutic help by a qualified professional. On the other hand, my most important objective with this is to contribute and fight the stigma that taking care of your own mental health is something you should be ashamed of and should avoid. Not only is there nothing to be ashamed of, but it's fundamental to dedicate a lot of care and love to this aspect of our lives, as much as we give to other things.
Despite the fact that a lot of prejudices involving mental health have already been taken down, we still need to have a clear, collective dialogue about this. Statistics show (probably on the lower side) that 15-20% of the world population - about 1.5 billion individuals - suffer from some psychological disturbance. You are not alone, you are not strange.
It's time we normalize this situation and we start to think about strategies that can guarantee those who need help that they can find and receive it.
I won't go on about what is exactly therapy (SPOILER → so many different types of therapies exist depending on your personal needs, with a quick Google search you can already start to get a clearer idea), I care more about sharing some reflections and observations that I have developed over the course of these last two years.
The thing that hit me the most was that it took me more or less two years to even make the first appointment. So much precious time wasted, as my brain kept pleading for me to go get help. My desire to turn to a psychotherapist fluctuated constantly in a perceptible way throughout my brain and body, but before I could learn to listen to this cry for help, I had to start manifesting physical symptoms of anxiety and stress, until they became unbearable. There was a moment when I said enough. I didn't want to spend any more time trying to find a way to escape this feeling - often done with vast amount of alcohol - to maintain my calm and not go crazy.
Looking back, the most important invite I can make is: if for some reason the thought has ever crossed your mind to go see a therapist, please LISTEN. Maybe it's only a curiosity, and in that case I still invite you to satisfy that. Even if it's only a minute possibility that these floating thoughts you're having are hiding a tangible cry for help, the least you can do for your own good is to listen to that signal and take action.
When you're not feeling well psychologically, it can manifest in so many different ways. One of the most problematic aspects of this is that most times it doesn't have a clear, recognizable form. Just because someone doesn't manifest grave symptoms or anything extremely evident from the external, it doesn't mean that the entity of the problem is small. The most immaculate facades often hide behind a face of pandora. You don't have feel ''bad enough'' - it's either BAD or NOT BAD. From the moment you start to feel bad, you feel bad and that's it, without ifs and buts, you have the right to ask for help.
When you start to feel better and see progress after taking the thousandth effort towards it, that feeling is priceless, without a doubt one of the most beautiful and satisfying experiences I've ever had in my life. Therapy requires a lot of effort, facing your demons is not all pink and pretty and you suffer a lot. But when you start to feel better, it feels like you're being born again and getting a second chance at everything. Finally you start to feel like you really belong, you don't feel like a suffering individual who gets dragged from one situation to the other. Finally you can start to really focus on your dreams, on your inclinations. When your brain isn't occupied anymore, 24/7 taking care of your traumatic psyche, it can finally start to open itself up for more gratifying experiences and activities.
Psychotherapy isn't some sort of miraculous cure that eliminates all your problems from the root. More than anything, it forces you to confront your past so that you know how to handle better your future.
During therapy, you learn to develop instruments and strategies that help you confront painful experiences head on and you are able to elaborate them in a more productive manner. You learn that sometimes suffering is inevitable, it's part of being a human, but it is possible to suffer in a "healthy manner", without breaking ourselves.
For a last note, I'd say that it's good to take on therapy charged with a desire to want to feel better, without any other preconceived ideas. I promise you that if you decide to take on a therapeutic path you will not regret it. The paths we can take to change ourselves are infinite, often unexpected and surprising for those who find themselves on them. Everyone has their own path, and they deserve to go down it in order to leave behind their traumas and live a better life.