I love America’s no bullshit attitude towards therapy. That American banker walking down Wall Street? She’s seen her therapist twice a week for the past three years. Her yoga teacher goes once a month to offload about his wife’s OCD and his worries about wanting to paint his toe nails. The yoga teacher’s postman is also into his second week of therapy after being recommended one by a friend who’d suffered from crippling grief after the death of a loved one too.
If I hadn’t made them up, they’d probably all have one thing in common. They wouldn’t be ashamed to admit that they’re in therapy.
I was listening to a podcast of Leandra Medine’s recently and she ever so casually dropped a reflection from her therapist on her behaviour. There was no hesitation. I doubt she even blinked.
While stigma around mental health is slowly on the decline in the UK, no one seems to be talking about the options for those suffering. We’re getting our heads around the idea that that confident person we know, who seems to have their shit together way better than we do, might actually be going through hell internally BUT we haven’t spoken much about how we’re going to try and help fix it.
Understanding problems are part of the path of recovery but understanding isn’t enough.
If you’ve been reading the site for a while, you’ll already know that I suffered from and was in therapy for anorexia as a teenager for years. During this time I learnt that very few parents want their children to be friends with a kid with demons – they’re scared they might rub off. As an adult looking back now, I can see the stigma surrounding mental health while I was sick was debilitating.
Fast-forward 6 years from hitting my ‘goal weight’ to writing that piece for NYLON (that I’ve mentioned a fair few times, I know) and I received nothing but wonderful words and support from far and wide. Lucky for us, 2021 is a very different world to 2010.
So, why is therapy still such a dirty word? Putting yourself into therapy means admitting that you need help and you are ready to make changes – how this can be seen as anything less than positive is beyond me.
Halfway through last year, I went back to therapy. I even went back to the same therapist who I stopped seeing 11 years ago. It wasn’t anything to do with eating; aside from clearing that up, I don’t think the reason why I went back is important to share but essentially, I wasn’t suffering from a ‘legit’ mental health issue either. What’s important is that I reached a point where I could no longer continue to lean on my friends or cope by myself and live my best life. Once I admitted this to myself and sought help, it was very clear that I should have gone back years before I did – I could have saved myself from doing things I’m not proud of and kept people around me from unnecessary grief.
Obviously it’s different for every person – plus, it’s worth noting that I’m prone to brutally honest over sharing, which makes therapy that bit easier – but it only took all of three long and painful sessions to draw stark clarity on a few issues I’d been trying to cope with for the best part of three years.
So, how do you know when to seek professional help?
The likelihood is that if you’re reading this post looking for answers, now is the time.
It is never too early to ask for help – but sometimes we need the obvious laid out in front of us before we can see it transparently.