“You know there are people you can talk to about this, right?”
My first instinct was to tell my mother, rather vehemently, that I was NOT crazy. I had a loving family, great friends, and a rock solid Christian faith.
I was also 26, living in a small town with very few local friends, and spending the majority of my time working. Overworking, really. I was definitely having a bit of a quarter life crisis, and I kept filling my life with more and more things, saying yes to whatever came my way.
I was stressed to the max, and because of that, had no idea what I should DO with my life. I was offered several opportunities for new work and each would require significant life changes. The stress left me with no tools to make those big decisions.
That’s how I ended up in my first appointment with a counselor.
I was totally skeptical, and I felt embarrassed for allowing myself to believe that I was potentially mentally unstable enough to see a counselor. That’s what society had taught me to believe—Only crazy people need therapists.
NPR was a staple on my radio, and as I drove to my appointment, it seemed like a stroke of fate when I heard the counselor’s name mentioned on air as a recent donor to the station! I felt a certain kindship to her as we listened to, and supported, the same station. But, that didn’t stop me from plopping down in her office and saying, “You know, I’m not sure if I believe in this ‘therapy’ thing.” She assured me that I never had to come back if I didn’t want to!
It took her about 10 minutes to peg me. As I talked to her about my confusion and overwhelming sense of not knowing what to do, she was hard at work writing on her desk. Was she even listening?
But when I stopped speaking, she handed me her work: a stack of sticky notes each containing the word “no.” Instead of actually saying “no” to people, which seemed to be a huge struggle for me, I could give myself permission to just hand them a sticky note. It seemed small and silly, and honestly I don’t think I ever handed one to anyone, but it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.
I left her office with a little homework, and a huge shift in mentality. There was nothing scary that happened in that office, and definitely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it was really helpful.
This experience definitely made me wonder why there’s such a stigma surrounding mental health. Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to be as healthy mentally as we encourage them to be physically? Is this really less important than having routine bloodwork done, or a healthy BMI? Is there any danger in seeing a counselor—or talking to your doctor when physically you’re healthy, but you just don’t feel right?
“Use Your Resources” has become a bit of a battle cry for me. I say, let’s end the stigma!