By: Caitlin McElroy
Your doctors told you forever nothing was wrong. "You're fine", "It's all in your head", "Maybe it's anxiety". But you knew all along it wasn’t. You knew it was more. You start to second guess yourself though, and question your gut. I bet your doctors even suggested going to therapy. I bet it annoyed you at first too. It felt like a brush off, an easy diagnosis for a complex case.
What the doctors didn’t know, what I didn't know was that was one of the best things they did for me, and maybe you too. Because it forced me to reevaluate. I needed to take all that pent up frustration from misdiagnosis and incompetent or ignorant doctors and let it go. Everyone needs an outlet or a way to release, and what could be more effective than by really taking care of yourself from the inside out?
So to those doctors I’d like to say, thank you. Thank you, for not knowing enough. Thank you, for not educating yourself on my illness. Thank you, for passing me off to someone else. Because although you couldn’t, or didn’t want to help me, you helped me more than you'll ever know.
Being aware that something was wrong, very wrong, and not being able to identify it for such a long time left me feeling alone and in a dark place with my anxiety and depression. They started taking over my life, more and more everyday. So after the, I don’t know, twelfth doctor, suggested therapy I decided to go. I needed the confirmation that I wasn't crazy and that it wasn't all in my head. At the very least therapy was supposed to be a place that someone would finally listen to me. I am so thankful I made that decision.
Since that day, therapy has quickly become my go to release. It's my place to find my head again. The place to calm myself and my symptoms, my place to cry scream and bitch because I just can’t take it anymore, my place to regain my headspace and fill it with better thoughts, my classroom to develop tools to continue those better thoughts. My haven to fill my mind with longer periods of happiness instead of days filled with despair. No one, not even yourself, should expect you to handle this on your own. Realistically, how can you?
News Flash: You can’t!
This is where therapy comes in handy. When you have a chronic disease, your life isn't yours anymore. Everything changes. Everything you know, everything you did, is different now. Who you were is gone. It's like having to learn how to walk all over again, because someone chopped your legs out from beneath you. Sometimes, I can't even put the emotions into how I’m feeling or the physical pain. It’s hard! It’s hard as hell and sometimes you need the help of someone on the outside to clear out the junk or “purge the brain,” as I like to say. Talking with someone, letting them help you brings the world back into focus.
That is okay. It's more than ok! It’s empowering, it’s self loving, it’s strength, it’s investment, it’s everything positive during a period that has been anything but. It’s wonderful, in whatever form you get it in -whether it be talk therapy, guided mediation, group talk. Bottom line is it's helpful!
The mind really is a hell of a drug - the things it can do to you, is unfathomable. To talk to someone who can help you understand it better, is not only interesting but sometimes life saving.
The mind, your mind, can make you feel terrified at the sign of a new or existing symptom, it can put you into a deep dark depression when you’ve had to leave your job or move back in with family, it can cause you to think it would be better to not even exist anymore, it can make you feel like a burden to everyone around you, including your loved ones and it can make you feel completely alone even with people right next to you
The thing is though, the mind, that same mind that put those horrible thoughts in your head, can just as easily make you feel grateful that your’e getting to experience another day on this earth, it can remind you of how far you’ve come, it can make you feel proud of your body and its abilities, it can calm you down, it can love and it can forgive. Learning how to utilize your brain as a positive organ each and everyday is hard, it’s hard for anyone to be strong all the time, even without managing a chronic illness!
No matter who you are or what you’re going through sometimes a little therapy is all you need.
Honestly, in my opinion there isn’t a better way to invest in who you are and who you will be. Therapy is a way to dissect every aspect of your life, say it out loud, hear it and figure out ways to make it better than it was the day before. Therapy gives you time in your day to cry and scream if you need to, to laugh and reflect, or just to contemplate all that is going on. You get to wholly feel your feelings and learn how to move past them in the healthiest ways.
Everyone needs an outlet or a way to release, and what could be more effective than by really taking care of yourself from the inside out.
Some people see therapy and mental illness as a weakness. Sadly, those people are the ones who are weak and weak minded. It should never feel like a weakness walking into a therapy appointment, or any others for that matter. It's not our fault were sick, it’s not our fault things are different, and it’s okay to feel confused at all of that. Personally, I never had to deal with anxiety or depression prior to becoming sick and now it controls my life. I decided to be strong, ask for the help and learn how to manage it.
Walking in to that appointment, makes me feel proud. Each time I go it shows strength and commitment. Commitment to bettering my health mentally and physically and commitment to loving myself a little more each day. Show yourself the commitment, it'll be worth it.
Asking for help and utilizing the tools offered, in order to make at least one part of your life a little better, is the most empowering thing you can do for yourself. If there is one thing you take from this, let it be that. I’m better for it, my mind is better for it, my life is better for it. I hope yours is too!
Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
8 ways to accept and make the most of therapy:
- Ask for the help and make the time to invest in yourself!
- Find a doctor that works for you and fits your needs. DO NOT SETTLE. You may have to go to a few before you find the right one.
- Be open to new ways of thinking - sometimes change is good!
- Journal! Write your thoughts down everyday, once a week, when you're having a bad moment or whenever you want. Have them to review on your own time or with your doctor. You can discuss them and gain tools to handle situations better the next time.
- Bring a notepad - write down your tools, so you can reference throughout the week and put them to work!
- Find what works for you - talk therapy, one on one, group sessions, mediation, guided meditation etc. There are so many forms of therapy - try them all until you find what best suits you!
- Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself, work with your doctor on achieving them. Having something to strive for will help your mind too.
- Stick with it. Even when you don’t want to go, GO! You'll feel better and be happy you went. Your mind will thank you for it.
**This is part one of a two part mental health discussion with Fight Like A Warrior click their name to head over to their blog. Don't worry, we'll post part two on our blog as well**