by Melissa Geissinger
Repeat after me: therapy is not a dirty word. Mental health is important. There is no shame in seeking professional help to address the areas where I am struggling.
Put Aside the Pride. Take Control.
First of all, I know what you’re thinking. Therapy is for people who are broken or crazy. Well, it really sucks that this social stigma exists. It also sort of seems silly at first that you should go and pay to have someone listen to your problems when you can talk to a friend about them for free. Well, do yourself and your friends a favor and get that out of your head.
I’ll say it again, there is no shame in needing help - of any kind - including emotional or otherwise.
What I’ve come to find is a lot of the trouble we can have after a trauma comes from feeling helpless or like we don’t have control over our own lives. Making the decision to see a therapist is not falling further down a pit of despair. It’s your choice to take control of your mental health.
Find Someone Who Suits Your Needs.
In my experience, this can be the tricky part. Mental health professionals are unfortunately not as accessible as physical doctors. My husband and I tried for months to find someone in our HMO network. It took weeks for them to say that they had no one available, and even if they did they are only able to take individuals, not couples. They offered us groups, but what we needed was one-on-one help and there were times when we needed to be able to reach someone directly.
We each saw someone individually: me someone in-network (since I had seen them before, I was able to get an appointment) and him a network referral. My husband’s therapist was not a good match for technique reasons, and mine kept telling me that I was handling everything fine, but I did not feel fine.
Eventually, I had to take matters into my own hands. I was able to find someone nearby who actually specialized in trauma, grief, and accommodated couples. Bonus points: she also had a therapy dog! The downside: it was going to get expensive since she was out of network. Thankfully, we got lucky. She happened to be a part of a collection of therapists who had been trained to deal with fire victims specifically, and there was a program set up that allowed victims to get 10 free sessions.
Be an Active Participant.
So, a disclaimer. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experiences with going to therapy. I had very little exposure to it before my trauma. What I can tell you is how much of a critical role it played in my mental health and my relationships, especially the one with my husband.
We were not in a very good place when we first started going. The biggest factor to it working so effectively for us was that we were open to the process, and each willing to work on ourselves. It’s easy to forget sometimes when we’re going through something difficult that we’re not in it alone.
The process was hard, but it was rewarding. It was rewarding because it was clear that the more we invested in the process and in ourselves and each other, the better we felt.
Count it as a Win.
If you’ve made it happen and seen a mental health professional, congratulations! You should really be proud of yourself for doing something about your health. Seriously, it’s awesome. Own it.