Therapy and stigma

I attend free counseling at my university.

Before the episode hit me, I resisted attending counseling because I felt it wasn’t necessary. I knew my head was diseased, but I didn’t think it needed treatment because I was used to my home remedies.

When I was thirteen, I came inches away from committing suicide. Since then, I have had a few reoccurrences of suicidal thoughts, but I have been able to cope with them by distancing myself from them. I learned to separate the Stephanie thoughts from the Depression thoughts, and it helped me survive.

About five months ago, I had a massive depressive episode, triggered by the deaths of two grandmothers and the loss of two important people in my life.

I became suicidal again.
I couldn’t be in rooms with closed doors or in buildings with no windows.
I had horrifying nightmares, which made me terrified of going to sleep.
I stopped eating.
I had wonderful dreams that my grandmothers were alive; reality turned into a waking nightmare.
I could not stomach any kind of physical touch.
I became afraid to speak about anything.
I guilted myself heavily for everything wrong in my life.
I abused alcohol.
I attempted to make sense of my loss by finding a reason behind everything.
I felt nauseated constantly.
I regretted every decision I made, regardless of the outcome.
I retreated inside myself.
I forgot how to cry.
I hated God.
I relied on God for survival.
Fear seeped into every atom of my flesh.

I had felt these things before, but never all at once. I was drowning. At my great grandmother’s funeral reception, I called the counseling center to set up an appointment. A week later, I sat down in front of a stranger, and within ten minutes I told her everything I felt. Within fifteen minutes I told her my secret-secret, the one only she and three other people know.

The next week, I sat down in front of a new therapist, and we began to unravel my mind. I spent four months learning ways to cope with having a mind buzzing with self-annihilating thoughts, and although recent events have taken me a few steps backward, I have made progress I could not have made if I had not decided to set up an appointment.

Therapy is like a Writing Center for the mind. The counselor takes the tangled-up mess of thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns, and makes order of chaos. Takes the it’s my fault and the I can’t and the fear and the terror and the tendency to become romantically involved with emotionally-and-generally-unavailable people and the decay and the despair and the inferior and the impostor syndrome and the excoriation disorder and turns them into something beautiful and manageable and self-constructive.

For the life of me, I do not understand why therapy is stigmatized. It isn’t weakness; it’s mental organization. It isn’t touchy-feely; it’s learning to express emotions safely.

It isn’t crazy; it’s mental health.

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