“Evidence indicates that the absence of mental illness does not imply the presence of mental health, and the absence of mental health does not imply the presence of mental illness” (Keyes, 2007, p 100)Keyes, C.L.M. (2007). Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: A complementary strategy for improving national mental health. American Psychologist, 62, 95-108.
When I was in middle school, I saw the school’s social worker. It was my first experience seeing someone to talk to and I DID NOT like it. I felt uncomfortable, like an outcast and I felt as though everyone in the school KNEW I had “issues“. Even though, at that time, I didn’t even know what these “issues” were. It makes me realize that at such a young age (around 11 or 12 years old), I was experiencing the STIGMA that mental health has attached to it. In high school, I didn’t see any professionals for my mental health, except for the occasional times I saw the school advisor – (definitely not helpful for me). In all reality, high school was probably the most critical point in my life in which I actually needed someone to talk to. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen and I guess my high school experience can be for another post…
As an adult, I’ve seen 3 different psychologists, 1 psychiatrist, and currently seeing an MSW therapist (Masters in Social Work). They all have served a purpose in my life.
I briefly went to a local clinic that offered mental health services with students who were completing their Psychology degree. I was able to receive services from 2 different providers there in less than a year. I decided that I didn’t want to continue to keep introducing myself and repeat my story.
I thought “I’m good” and ” I don’t need help anymore”. ( HA! 🙄 )
Not sure how long after, but I was in a small car accident. My anxiety came rushing back in and it started affecting my everyday life. I was referred to a Psychologist and I was excited. I wanted to finally figure out why I’m always nervous, scared, sad out of nowhere, and completely low in self-confidence. She was exactly what I needed to truly start my journey in really understanding my mental health. Through her, I learned that I not only have anxiety but I also go through times of depression.
I remember when I first heard her say “Moderate to Severe Depression” I just wanted to cry.
She had asked me, “Why does hearing that make these emotions come up?” I simply said, “I figured I was depressed but hearing it makes it real.” We worked through what my triggers are and what to do when they come up. We tried exposure therapy, which is not fun but SO needed! I was learning why and how everything that I experienced in life connects to everything I do now.
I always struggled with sharing everything with a therapist but I was able to be open with this particular one. Being honest and open with your therapist is the best thing you can do for yourself. I had finally shared things that I never dared to say out loud to anyone else.
I remember I walked into the therapist room SO nervous, the tears were just ready to burst out and my lungs were yearning for a breath of air.
I finally just let it out. I told her what I was struggling with and how I have these “irrational thoughts” that make me feel like a horrible person. I was ready for her to tell me “You’re going to need to go to a mental health institution.” I was ready for her to judge me and confirm that I am a horrible person. She didn’t. She asked me follow-up questions, “How often does this happen? What ways does this interfere with your responsibilities?” I answered her questions.