Time to get real
Mental health has a long way to go in the public eye. For some reason many people who haven’t seen a therapist in their life sometimes think only crazy people see them, and many people who have seen one or regularly see one feel shame for it. Well, here’s the reality: therapy is not just for crazy people. Therapy is for people with normal everyday LIFE problems! So, I think that covers just about everyone… Yes?
This does not mean everyone needs to go to therapy once a week for the rest of their lives, but it does mean that if you’re struggling with something and feel you need help dealing with it, 1) that’s totally normal and not anything to be ashamed of, and 2) you are absolutely not alone.
For one, I’m with you.
I experienced my first episode of depression when I was 9, and it lasted a couple years. I was young and didn’t really know anything about mental health at all, so I really just suffered in silence. One of my friends had already been diagnosed with clinical depressed mood, and whenever I used the words, “I feel depressed,” she told me I didn’t know what it was to feel depressed, and that I was being insensitive. So I assumed depression was something your parents had to discover in you and then take you to the doctor to get diagnosed. Well, maybe that works if your depression really shows, but I was a master at hiding my feelings. Everyone thought I was the most cheerful person in the world. But if you read any of my journal entries from back then, it’s obvious I was far from happy.
Fast forward five years. I’m 14, and things have been pretty good for the past couple years. Surprisingly, I was actually pretty popular. I got perfect grades, was ahead in math and science, sat second chair in orchestra, and played the leads in our school plays. I was never in the “it” friend group (that was the band, not the orchestra), but people generally liked me, and I talked to lots of different people.
But age 14 came with a whole new scene I wasn’t prepared for. In my church, the youth groups hold monthly church dances for everyone ages 14-18. I was ecstatic about going to dances. It was the big social scene for all LDS 14 year olds (the older kids kinda get bored after awhile).
My first couple dances went pretty well. But after awhile I noticed strange behaviors among the attendees. Everyone danced in these tight little circles. I still remember the first time I got cut out of one of these circles. Dances turned from social opportunities into overwhelming feelings of loneliness. Still, I attended every month. It was a weird thing for me, I had to prove I could break into that social circle. But no matter how hard I tried, I was closed off. On the outside, looking in.
The dance thing turned into a ritual. I would cry getting ready, then try really hard on my hair and makeup and get myself pumped up. Then at the dance I would be my outgoing self, but it never seemed to pay off, and I would end up wandering around by myself, hoping one of my friends would want to take a break from dancing with the older “cool” girls and come talk to me. Then I would go home and cry while my parents ranted about the “exclusive circle thing.”
It was a pretty vicious cycle, and eventually the loneliness started seeping into other areas of my life. I became paranoid of the way other kids at school looked at me. I became self conscious of my weight. I started comparing myself to other girls with whom I never measured up. Why didn’t the other kids at the dances like me? What was wrong with me?
I started feeling that big empty black pit feeling. I remembered it. I recognized it. And I remembered how bad it had gotten before. And I realized I had a lot more power now than I did when I was 9 to hurt myself, and I was frightened beyond belief that I would get back to that place.
So I turned to the only people I knew could help me. My parents.
And two weeks later I saw a therapist for the very first time.
And it was the best decision I’ve ever made.