Two months ago, I finally asked for help—help I should have sought out over a decade ago. I approached my family doctor and for the first time I told her that my body was fine, but my mind was sick.
I left the clinic with a list of therapists in the area. On the drive home, I choked back tears, still trying to avoid the reality of what was happening. An undeniable grief over having to admit that I couldn’t fix myself on my own washed over me. I couldn’t heal myself; I wasn’t getting any better; I was still drowning.
Driving home, I thought back to a friend who had let me in and shared a heavy, but significant part of her story: she had been sexually abused by her grandfather. She allowed me to walk alongside her as she battled unrelenting attacks on her mental and emotional well-being. She would let me be her listening ear, let me support her, let me see the “ugly parts” of her.
Throughout her journey of recovery, she told me ‘it’s OK to be vulnerable.’ She encouraged me to do the same: to open up, to ask for help, and to be honest with my story.
But still, I struggled to believe her words—words that were coming from the mouth of someone who had a “story,” a “legitimate” reason to be depressed, to experience anxiety, to be seen by a therapist. I couldn’t help but belittle my own darkness. I thought, foolishly, that once the therapist found out it was just depression or just crippling self-loathing, they would secretly laugh at me—and tell me to get over it.
I worried they would decide I had no reason to be or feel any of those things because nothing “bad” had happened to me. My feelings were just feelings, so how could they be fixed by counseling? How could they be considered worthy of a $150 session?
But they are worthy. Mental illness, no matter where it stems from, doesn’t need a reason. It just consumes whichever vessel it wants. And that vessel is always deserving of help.
When I finally found a therapist I thought could help me, I wanted to resist her to protect my vulnerability. I was convinced if I was honest, I would essentially walk out feeling like it was all a waste, that she wouldn’t want to hear me whine about my petty problems. I was afraid she would tell me my feelings weren’t valid, that they didn’t matter, or that they were wrong.
But she didn’t condemn, she listened. And when I was done talking and sharing all of the “ugly” parts, she told me it was OK. She told me she was there to help. She told me my feelings were valid. That I was valid.
I had my fourth session today. Shortly after, I had an awakening of sorts. I realized that it doesn’t matter if your pain originated from an entity outside of yourself and forced its way into your life without consent. It doesn’t matter if that entity came from within yourself. We all deserve a chance to heal, to search for hope and to have it fulfilled.
I know it’s early to say, considering I’m new to this whole therapy thing, but once you find something that works, you start to witness the progress you’ve made. And even though bad things will never cease to happen, and while pain is often a constant companion, we learn to cope. We learn to accept. We find ways to be free even among the threat of darkness. When we allow ourselves to heal, we allow light to enter.
And in the end, is light not all we ever wanted?