Make the right call
The call to schedule my first appointment with a therapist forever changed the course of my life. Looking back, it’s hard to believe I was ever that person. It feels as if I’ve lived two lives- one before therapy, and one after. I used to wish more than anything that I could change my broken past. Now, I don’t think I would even if I could. I feel so proud of everything I’ve accomplished in spite of my experiences with mental illness and abuse. If I hadn’t been through what I have, who knows where I might be today. While I’m not recommending you neglect your children to build character, I can’t deny the positive impact all that negativity ultimately had on me. But here’s the thing. I couldn’t change my past or my mental illness. What I could, and did, change was how I lived with them.
Growing up broken.
My childhood was not an easy one. I can’t remember a time in my entire life where I didn’t feel crazy. Growing up I was overwhelmed by problems I was too young to understand. I was unaware that my home life was abusive and neglectful. It’s hard to identify “healthy” and “unhealthy” relationships when all you’ve ever known is the latter. It wasn’t until I was much older that I fully understood what I had experienced. Living with a neglectful and abusive family and having no real support system, I came to believe that the symptoms of my mental illness were simply who I was- a broken, unlovable outcast. I hated myself so much that I felt I needed to hurt myself. For years I blamed myself for the abuse I received both at the hands of myself and others, and for the impact this trauma had on my life.
Everything I touched was falling apart.
I spent my childhood and early adult years believing there was something deeply wrong with me. With no control over my self destruction, I was numbed by my mood swings, anxiety, and abandonment issues. Anything good I came in contact with fell apart. Holding down a job was out of the question, at best I could manage a year before I got tired and gave up. Every relationship I had seemed to implode right when things got serious. I became too insecure to maintain any level of intimacy. I lost every friend I made because I never attempted to see them, or even call them up. Deep inside I knew that my depression was the root of all of these problems and that if I ever wanted to be happy I needed to get help. It was in realizing this that I took my first step to recovery.
Deciding to call for help.
Countless miserable years passed before I finally reached out for help. In my strongest moments I convinced myself I didn’t need help. In my weakest moments I hated myself too much to even consider it. Finally I was faced with yet another meaningful relationship falling apart, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I’ll never forget the apprehension I felt attempting to call the office. I began imagining everything that could go wrong. What if something horrible was wrong with me? Or if there was nothing wrong with me at all and I was just a terrible person? What if they hospitalized me, or if reliving my trauma did more harm than good? I hope some of you out there reading this have also fought this battle and can relate. I hope that the rest of you who are still fighting pay very close attention to what I’m about to say.
Scheduling my first appointment.
I did call the number that day and scheduled my appointment. The following week I found strength I didn’t know I had and showed up. I spoke for an hour with a total stranger about my deepest, darkest fears. You know what? I went home that night unchanged. I had all the same fears, symptoms, and self doubts. Over the following weeks I learned that personal growth is a process you have to really commit yourself to. It’s a process as beautiful as it is difficult. Most of my worries about that first phone call never came to fruition, but some of them did. It was facing those fears that helped me grow into the ever-evolving person I am today. I have fought many battles, and while I can’t say I won each time, I can proudly say I survived them all.
You deserve it.
This battle with mental illness is a fickle one with many twists and turns, but know this: as long as you’re still fighting, YOU are the one winning. You’re waking up and resisting this horrible thing even when it feels insurmountable. You are a warrior my friend, and you have so much more strength within you than you realize. Please keep fighting, and do me a favor. Call the damn number. Regardless of how it feels sometimes, we are far from alone in this fight. I welcome you all to share stories of your first experiences with therapy in the comments, or to reach out if you’re struggling with taking your first step. Despite how it may feel sometimes, you are not alone. Please take care of yourselves, and take comfort in the millions of friends you have in this world who are fighting the same battle as you.