Support can and will come from many different places. For thoughts on how to build a support network, check out: https://brainbelay.com/2017/10/18/building-your-support-team/ Hopefully you are bringing people in: friends, family, personal connections that obviously want to help and provide some ease to your discomfort. However these lovely humans are filled with all of the beautiful biases that make them your friends and family. In my case I am very thankful that my mind decided “You need a pro.” Although I am graced to have friends that are caring, intelligent, and resourceful, this was not a DIY job. These are the people I would call if I needed to redo my kitchen, or figure out how to. If we burst a pipe in the kitchen it would be a Tim ‘the Tool Man’ Taylor moment, but we would figure it out together, and probably laugh our way to the solution. However my mind, body, and life were flooded. Even the most handy among us would hopefully realize that as the water in the basement is rising towards the electrical box, we should call a professional.
In the theme of a now timeless classic, Pulp Fiction, you may need to send in the wolf- someone who has studied, read, and written for years about the situations you are going through and the symptoms you are experiencing. Therapists are not miracle workers, but they are better informed than you or I.
Our society has for many years had certain stigmas around seeking mental health. I would encourage you to move past some of these inhibitions with these thoughts. #1 If you felt a constant pain in your right leg with every step you took, wouldn’t you eventually go see a doctor? I say eventually for the most stubborn out there who would spend the first 6 months learning to hop on the left. When would you finally cave in and get it checked out? When your friends start calling you ‘Hoppy”? #2 From an anatomical point of view, in any kind of accident or activity what is the number one part of your body you should be trying to protect? Hopefully you realize the answer is your brain (writes the human who once was getting an x- ray and used the small heavy vest they gave him to cover his genitals). You can live without a leg, arm, jaw, and yes even your privates, but you cannot live without your brain. So if it is the MOST important part of your body and you realize it is having trouble functioning, why would you hesitate on getting it checked out? #3 I am not going to get into the validity and possible setbacks of prescription anti-depressant and other mental health medications. I know they have helped many people while in some cases being a factor in serious setbacks. However from the perspective of seeing a LICENSED therapist or counselor, my only question is “why not’? Don’t you think EVERYONE in life would benefit from being able talk openly about their problems for one hour? How many hours do each of us waste a week? In cat videos alone, that is probably 27 sessions. Point is this a very low- risk, high-reward investment. Worst thing that happens is you spent an hour talking to a stranger who you will probably never see again.
Now here is where I was met with another challenge. How do you find a good professional? What about when you cannot get an appointment for 2 months? What if you get a terrible feeling from the first encounter? All of these are possible and likely. The main suggestion is to understand that this process takes time, but it is essential. Start with your health insurance company if you have one and ask if they cover counseling. This is confidential and you can be assured that this information does not go to your employer. However I found my insurer’s website to find providers awkward to use and incomplete. Instead I was directed by a family member to the therapist listings on psychology today’s website under ‘find a therapist’. https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rmsutm_source=PT_Psych_Today&utm_medium=House_Link&utm_campaign=PT_HomeTopB_find
If you need a breakdown on the differences between therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists check out this link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/couch-meets-world/201107/psychiatrist-psychotherapist-whos-who-in-mental-health
There I could search by zipcode, specialty, gender, therapist or psychologist, etc. It was an incredible resource. From there I would research the ones I was interested in. Honestly there were some that I would not even consider because of my own personal biases. Some of them just did not look like the kind of person I could open up to. Sure that involves prejudices, but you need to feel comfortable for this to even have a chance at being useful. I asked a friend of mine who was a graduate student in psychological services at the time if gender, nationality, etc mattered when choosing a therapist. To my surprise her answer was “absolutely”! To paraphrase her words:”I am a Dominican woman. If I am seeing a white American therapist, she is liable to think I’m loca when I’m acting normal.” In other words if your cultural or societal norms don’t have some common ground with that of the person listening to you, there might be some misinterpretation. That being said, I also think this is also a great opportunity to get a dramatically different point of view on your thinking. Maybe you need the support of your inner Latina right now. Perhaps it would be helpful for a man to get a woman’s input on his relationship situation and vice versa (he types while laughing at the thought that any woman would need MORE of a man’s point of view in her life).
In the end I think the biggest surprise will be that they actually do not give you too much feedback. A good therapist listens, helps you facilitate your understanding, and is mostly a guide in the process. He or she is not the person with the answer so they may actually say very little. Go with your gut so you can commit to opening up quickly and getting proper help. Once I found a few that were on my short list, I began calling them. Please note that most therapists are self employed or share office space without a receptionist. You will most likely not get a person who answers the phone. This is not a rejection it is the nature of their business. Leave a message with as much information as you feel comfortable sharing and your return phone number. You should get a call back within a day or two. If it is during the summer or holidays this can be way longer. If they don’t call just try someone else. Do not overthink this. The important thing is to see someone. From there you can search for someone else if you do not feel it is a good match. If nothing else, it is something productive to do with your time and that you can check off a list. Congratulate yourself for every accomplishment during this time. Looking up therapists and leaving voice messages should be enough for a small reward- whether it is a pat on the back, a few minutes of online searching, or a healthy snack break. You are learning to help yourself and that is a skill we could all use more of.