A Frank Talk About Mental Health

I know, I know. It seems mental health is the new gluten intolerance. It’s the new bandwagon to jump on, the new battle to be fought, a new chance to be the hero of our own stories, to be labeled as “brave.” I don’t make claim to that label, because the truth is, I have been been anything but brave.

I’ve been very cognizant of my mental health issues for a very long time… decades. I’ve done everything from self-medicating to motivational speeches in the mirror to just plain ignoring it and waiting for it all to get better. But I began to spiral recently. I don’t know why, really. I know what triggered it, but it was such a small thing that I have a difficult time believing it was a cause so much as simply the final straw.

I finally went to a therapist a few days ago. It was the initial meeting, which means I just spoke about what I’m feeling and what I hope to accomplish. She expressed a couple of times how she’s surprised I never seriously sought out therapy before this. I told her it just wasn’t a part of my culture growing up, that we were expected to suck it up and deal. She then explained what she thought would be a good course of treatment, which includes a trip to the psychiatrist. Now we have a plan, and I’ve actually been following through with my tasks. I left the office feeling – for a fleeting moment – a sort of relief. But that didn’t last long.

I cried on the way home. The next day I was beset by a string of severe panic attacks that made me physically ill. Today I feel like I am recovering from the flu. My body is tired and I’m afraid to stray too far from a bathroom. I am sick – literally, physically sick.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s not “just in my head,” as I’ve been told most of my life. It’s an actual physical sickness that starts in my brain and affects everything else. And, much like any other chronic sickness, I can’t cure it with positive thinking or exercise or diet alone. I’m going to need a professional to guide me.

And that brings us back to therapy. I’ve avoided it for so long for a number of reasons. There’s the money issue, of course. But I’ve eschewed the idea of therapy primarily because I just didn’t want to bring up old suffering. “Come on!” I would chastise myself, “We’ve already been over this shit a thousand times. We’re over it.” I’ve been told over and over how I’m strong, I can endure anything and come out better on the other side. Can I though? Am I really strong, or do I simply have an unbelievable tolerance for pain?

So… here we go. On a new journey that I’m absolutely determined to complete. Will it help? Probably, but I don’t really know in what capacity. I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better, because I’m going to have to explore some deep recesses of my mind that I’ve long packed away. The only thing I am sure of is that I cannot go on the way I have any longer. It’s time to seek out that proverbial light at the end of this very long tunnel. May the universe be gentle with me.