So here’s the deal: You don’t have to be “crazy” to go to therapy. Nor do you have to be “weak” (although you can certainly choose to see yourself that way – I’d argue the opposite for people who go to therapy). A common misperception is this:
“People who go to therapy all have really hard lives, are suicidal or had nightmare childhoods….”
This is simply not the case. People who go to therapy are people. People just like you.
Still, it can be hard to tell what qualifies as “needing therapy” as opposed to everyday life stressors.
Your partner is getting on your nerves? Check.
You kind of hate your job? Check.
You’re procrastinating important stuff? Check.
These things all qualify as perfectly good reasons to see a therapist.
There’s a million different reasons to see a therapist, but most importantly of all, a great reason to see a therapist is because you will have someone in your corner who is for you, about you, and wanting what is best for you, with no conflicts-of-interest or personal stake in what you do or don’t do with your life.
I mean, come ON. How cool is that? I personally feel everyone should get a therapist, because it is so completely awesome to have one.
But the bottom line is, don’t wait on anything with “Maybe it’ll get better” or “I’ll look into this next week/month/year.” Your mental health really matters. As in all other health matters, if you let something fester, it’s only going to get worse (and possibly more embedded).
Earlier = Easier: The earlier you get help, the easier it will be to get better.
Okay! On to the list:
8 SIGNS YOU MAY NEED THERAPY
In the incredible book “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott on writing and life, there’s a chapter called “Radio Station KFKD.” (I’ll give you a few seconds to sound that out.) Here is what Anne writes:
“If you are not careful, station KFKD will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on.”
She recommends first noticing that the station is even on. So, if you are noticing that KFKD is on, it might be a signal that you could use some therapy. It can be incredibly useful to bounce these thoughts off someone who knows you, cares about you and has some tools you can try to block that station. Or change it altogether.
Feeling stuck is the worst. It’s like stepping into thick, juicy mud wearing really nice shoes, and it’s raining. And you have to pee. And there’s not a bathroom within a mile of where you’re standing. Stuck, up to your ankles. In mud.
A therapist’s job? To stand right by you in the mud and agree with you that man this sucks, you being stuck here like this, and to wonder with you what it might take to get you unstuck. You may or may not be able to keep those nice shoes, but we can definitely find you a bathroom.
I know, I know, there’s a lot of room between “not enough” and “way too much.” So you’re going to have to use your best judgment here, and if you don’t trust your own judgment, ask others who know you and care about you what they think. How’s your appetite? What are your eating habits? How’s your sleep? Are you waking up feeling rested or the opposite of that? Are you getting quality “me” time that allows you to recharge your batteries? If the answer to some or all of these questions is “Um, hell no,” you might really benefit from therapy.
That includes your doctor or nurse! And obviously your best friend, your loving partner, your awesome dog, your cool boss, etc.
Not to get too Medical Field on you, but literally what makes something qualify for the DSM-V (the Bible of mental health disorders) is if it’s affecting the person at home, work, school, relationships, you-get-the-idea. Meaning, if negative things are happening (bad fights, worse grades, firings, upset relatives, etc.) as a result of Fill-in-the-Blank Disorder, it qualifies the person as someone who has that disorder. And thus qualifies them to be “treated” for it. (Which is just a fancy way of saying going to therapy. Which you should totally do.)
Let’s not mince words here. Traumatic events happen to people all the time, and it’s definitely something that can throw you for a loop, no matter how much of a tough cookie you may be. A car accident. A bad diagnosis. A break-up. A death. Whatever it may be, if you can’t seem to shake it off, it might just mean that talking it out with a professional would bring you the relief you can’t find.
Maybe you’re drinking more beer than you used to, and you are wondering if it’s too much. Maybe someone you love has made comments about the exorbitant amount of money you’ve spent on weed this month. Maybe you’re pretty aware of the fact that you’re drinking wine every night to chill yourself out, because you spend most of the day, every day, feeling overwhelmed and frazzled.
It’s not a black or white thing, this. You may or may not even have “a problem.” But if you might be using substances to cope with your life, you might also really benefit from finding other ways to cope that don’t lead you down a potential rabbit hole. (Especially if you come from a family background of addiction.)
Stuff you used to like to do? You don’t care about anymore. You don’t much feel like doing… anything, really. You’re just blah. Or better yet, hiding under your covers. Because it’s easier to do that than to even try.
If you’re feeling like that? And you’re doing that for, say, more than a few days in a row? You could probably benefit from seeing a therapist. Someone to understand you and help you get back to your old self, or to your new self whose company you enjoy. I’m all for Netflix marathons, by the way. But if you can’t seem to get yourself to do anything that brings you life? That fills your bucket? That you used to do all the time because it was so great?
Well. You know what I think by now.