It’s no secret that mental health is a stigmatized subject. Research tells us that mental illness affects people of all ages, all educational levels, all income levels and all cultures. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime. That is approximately 7 million people! And still people get awkward and weird when the topic of mental health is brought up.
This September I started regularly seeing a holistic therapist, Angelika. This is like the naturopathic version of a normal therapist. The biggest difference being that Angelika doesn’t have a doctorate and so she doesn’t prescribe medication. Most of her methods and techniques focus on belief change using methods such as guided meditation, positive visualizations, supportive mantra’s, hypnosis, ect. It sounds fancy but for the most part my sessions consisted of me talking and her listening, just like in the movies but without the fancy couch.
I decided to start seeing Angelika when I realized I was struggling to cope in everyday life. She had worked with a friend of mine who saw real positive results and I knew that talking to someone was my best option. You see, a lot happened in September. I moved into downtown Toronto, Lucas moved 2 hours away for school, I started a new job. All very exciting stuff but it was a lot all at the same time and as it turns out, I had some trouble adjusting to it all.
One Monday evening in September I went to yoga class to help calm me down. While in the change room, I put my jewelry in a side pocket of my bag. The next morning I went to get my jewelry from my bag and it wasn’t there and I went from panicked to hysterical to ballistic in minutes. I ended up having to call in to work and take the morning off as a personal day. I couldn’t breathe, I was hyperventilating, I couldn’t stop crying. It took hours for me to calm down. Was the jewelry special? For sure. Was it worth that much stress and anxiety? Hell no. It was just the cherry on top of the overwhelmed pie and that was the moment I knew that I needed to get some help asap.
I met with Angelika 5 times over the course of 4 months and it has made such a positive difference in my life. I feel so much more relaxed, I am managing stressful situations better, and I have a much more positive outlook on the big and small things in my life. We talked about all sorts of things but when whittled down most of my fears and anxieties were rooted in communication with others. Communication with Lucas, my friends, my co-workers, my sisters, my parents. With Lucas, it was a fear of being unable to communicate while being far apart and I was so afraid of that happening that I was making it happen. With my sisters, it was a judgement thing. I thought they judged me and so I treated them a certain way in response to what I assumed they were thinking. It put strain on my relationships. Working with Angelika I have learned how to be less hard on myself and less judgmental and presumptuous in my communication with others. My relationship with Lucas (despite being long distance) has never been stronger. We share more now than we did when we lived together and we have learned how to make each visit more meaningful. Also, my relationship with my sisters is so much better. We used to bicker all the time, which is normal for sisters but was also very sad. For the first time in my life it feels like my sisters and I are friends rather than frenemies and it feels so good!
In October I slipped up while talking with a co-worker and said “oh I was talking with my therapist about that this morning”. He looked at me like I had three heads. At the time I was embarrassed. Even though I was making so much progress, I was proud of myself and I felt like I was controlling my life instead of my life controlling me. I was embarrassed that I had admitted this secret to someone. But now I am realizing that I have absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. So I need someone who is unbiased to listen to me vent every once in a while, so what?! It’s healthy! I’m getting things, emotions, thoughts and feelings out into the open and then dealing with them in a rational and clearly thought out way. The way I see it, everyone should be taking the time and energy to talk to someone who knows what they are talking about, it would make the world a much nicer place.
So if you have been thinking about therapy, any kind—do it! Let this post as a sign! Yes, the first appointment is awkward and weird and nerve-wracking but also so incredibly worth it. Let them think that I have three heads… I feel great and that is all that matters.