The first time I purchased a new car, I was super excited to tune in to satellite radio. With plenty of channels to choose from, I came across a nightly program with Dr. Jenn Berman, a licensed psychotherapist. She would talk to callers about love, sex, death, relationships, mental health and everything in between; it was my guilty pleasure as I made my evening commute home in bustling San Antonio.
I often thought of different questions I could call in with, but never had the courage to actually do it. Questions about my childhood, upbringing, marriage, depression, motherhood, etc. What if someone recognizes my voice? I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy, or worse…unstable. I kept listening to her offer sound guidance, including her often repeated advice and recommendation for everyone to seek talk therapy for at least a year of their lives. Not for me, I thought. I’m good.
And so, the idea of seeing a therapist was put on the back burner.
On the Inside
Since then, I have endured countless changes in my life including loss, difficult relationships and the biggest challenge of them all — motherhood. Although I have managed to maintain a relatively healthy outlook on life and others seem to perceive me in the same manner, there are certain thoughts that creep in to my mind and cause me to feel bouts of depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, I have also experienced panic attacks which have caused me to feel as if my body has betrayed my usually calm demeanor. The reality is that the stresses of life are numerous and sometimes permanent. Between financial strains, family dynamics, poor sleeping habits (mother of a three-year-old here!) and work load, it really became too much for me to handle.
I finally decided to seek the counsel of a licensed psychologist, and although I am only in the beginning of my journey with him, I feel as if stepping into his office has made a world a difference.
There is no shame in admitting when you need help or a listening ear of a third party.
Your emotional and psychological well being matter, and if you are not able to take care of yourself, it will make it that much more difficult to take care of others, including your children.
Fighting For Mental Health
The stigma of mental health is not a good one. I’ll be honest. In the past when I overheard people bringing up the idea of therapy or that they have a therapist, I would automatically think the worst. I assumed that they must had some sort of personality disorder, may have contemplated suicide or have some kind of dysfunctional life.
In published literature, it has been shown that most people consider those with mental health problems to be dangerous or hazardous to society. But is there any basis to this?
History tells us that people with mental health issues have often been discriminated against, bullied and even physically admonished. So, what is the reality? Here are some myths associated with mental health as described by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The reality is, 1 in 5 persons are likely to suffer from a mental health issue at any given time in their lives. Additionally, 1 in 10 young people experience depression.
Myth: A mental health issue could not plague my child.
As per mentalhealth.org, “half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24”. It is not pleasant to think about our children suffering from these types of issues, or any for that matter. But it is important to be aware of the possibility.
Myth: Those with mental health issues are aggressive and violent.
Did you know that only 3% – 5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness? Additionally, people with mental illness are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.
Myth: Those with mental health issues are not able to “hold down a job”.
The opposite is true! Many people with mental health problems are productive members of society and are employed with good performance and no qualms with attendance.
I feel empowered and brave for seeking counseling in a time of need. I hope that, moving forward, I will learn strategies to cope with my anxiety and avoid situations which may be triggers for my panic attacks. I want to be healthy as a whole — physically, emotionally and mentally. For my son, for my family and most importantly, for myself.