For me, mental health, like physical health, is something I need to work at. For a long time in my youth, I figured my mental state was something that was beyond my control. My mind was just the way it was, my cross to bear and something I just had to live with. I thought that battling with ones mind was just a normal part of everyday life and that an internal struggle and suffering with a brain that was not user friendly was a continuous process, a series of tunnels with brief respites of light; nothing to be done but hang tough. It took me many years, too long, to realize that their is help for mental illness and that you alone can't in fact think your way out of bad mental health; its like a junkie trying to cure their addiction through experimenting with drugs; an exercise in futility.
The thing about just trucking along and not dealing with the root of a problem is that even though you feel like you are getting somewhere, you are not essentially moving at all. You can't run from yourself and things don't get better when you don't deal with them but often times they do get worse. I was always a little suspicious of the value of therapists. I had gone to a few sessions as a child and teenager at the insistence of others so my M.O was to get out of the room as quickly as possible. I just told the counselors what I knew they wanted to hear, I put on a pretense of being together and emotionally well balanced and for the most part I feel I did a pretty good job and minimizing my time at therapy. I hated the fact that people thought there was something wrong with me. When I began to experience a rather intense level of depression in my early 20's it occurred to me that perhaps there was something not quite right, not quite normal with my state of mind, I was desperate for some relief and so I reached out for some help on my own terms. This was me trying to help myself. It began a process of discovery and slow a healing that gave me a better understanding of my mental health and an appreciation of therapy.
I have been to various therapists throughout the years and my experience has always been a valuable one of learning. I like to say that the crazier I realize I am, the saner I feel. It sounds like a glib sound byte, but it does have some validity. As I began to pay less attention to my thoughts and in doing so, my ego, I began to feel happier and freer. Having someone to bounce off your ideas about love, life and Facebook addictions and all the first class nonsense that eminates from my brain is wonderful. It is kind of like a dream come true: someone whose job it is to listen intently to whatever comes out of my mouth. It sometimes takes me a while to sift through the denial, but as I peel back layers of false projections and notions of identity that are fiction, the simple truth of being and feeling and discovering a real sense of self esteem is freeing and uplifting.
I think everyone should have a personal trainer and a therapist. In this day and age our egos and our minds are revered as our identity; it appears to me now that believing your thoughts is a good definition of madness. When I began to click that thoughts aren't reality it was a real moment of clarity for me, what can I say, I'm a slow learner. It makes sense to me that the more you can vocalize what is eating you to someone, have a person help you identify triggers that lead you into a murky world of irrational judgements or to have the incredible luxury of having an impartial other to listen to you and give you more perspective on yourself, these can only be good for you and are the real and tangible benefits of therapy. Regardless of your opinion on the different schools of psychological thought, therapy is a great massage for your brain. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to spend many hours boring the hell out of therapists listen to me talk, and talk, and talk some more about all my fascinating ticks. What can I say, part of loving me is understanding those parts within me that need loving the most, caring for the pain inside. So do yourself a favor, next time you feel like treating yourself, give your mind a pedicure, visit a therapist and love yourself a little like I love me.