Today is World Mental Health Day, so I want to get real with you.
A few days ago, I shared on my Instagram (@ashburgett) that this summer was really rough for me. I experienced one of the most traumatic life events that I wouldn’t wish on anyone (although I know it happens all the time), and I had trouble processing that experience. I was working 50-60 hour weeks while going through it too, so I never gave myself time to cope with the emotions I was dealing with. I put on a front like I always do when I go through something difficult, told myself to put my big girl panties on, and tried my best to suck it up and put a smile on my face every day.
This was so detrimental to my mental health.
Because I’ve always been commended on how “put together” I am, how ambitious I am, or how much I’ve achieved, I try my best not to be vulnerable around others and never really open up about what I’m going through. I’ve created a wall to block out emotions that are hard and unpleasant. I never want to deal with those feelings because I’m literally terrified of being “weak”.
I also shared on Instagram that rescuing Fitz, my adorable lab/retriever mix, has really allowed me to start healing. And it really has. He’s a total sweetheart, cuddles his mama all the time, gives me something to nurture, and showers me with the all affection that a girl could want (J does this too lol). However, what’s really started getting me over the hump of what’s easily the worst season of anxiety and depression I’ve ever gone through is seeking professional help.
I’ve always been apprehensive about seeking out a therapist/counselor/psychologist for my depression. I think this is mainly because I’ve always prided myself on being able to work through my problems myself or talking myself out of thinking that I’m really in that much pain, but I also think I’ve always been worried about the stigma associated with seeing a therapist. I don’t want people to see me as weak or think that I’m “crazy” or “psychotic”. I want so badly to be that strong, ambitious, put-together girl that I’ve always been told I am.
But the truth is, I’m pretty fucked up. I have a lot of problems: I’m insecure as hell, I always fall into seeing things through “the glass is half empty” lens, and I genuinely feel like I’m always bitter about something. My life has never been sunshine and rainbows; it’s messy and uncertain. I’m constantly worried about money, but I still seem to spend so much on frivolous things. I care way too much about what others think about me, and I’m always thinking about the “what ifs”. I’ve created this wall that doesn’t allow me to be vulnerable with others, and makes me not give a shit about making new friendships. I’ve put myself on this downward, self-hating spiral that I can’t seem to get out of.
And while recognizing all of this about myself hasn’t been the easiest, it’s forced me to really think about my life and how I need to make some changes. Recently, my therapist had me diagram my inner self. I split myself into the “good” and the “bad” and was able to identify which qualities affected the way I thought and acted. I can now go back to that diagram and check myself when I start feeling insecure or when I start feeling bitter and ask myself “Why do I care what people are thinking about me?” or “Focus on all the positive things that came from doing this or doing that”.
I want to implore you all to seek out a therapist/counselor/psychologist. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about going to therapy is that you have to “have problems” or be depressed to talk to a psychologist, but you don’t. Some sessions I just talk about what’s been going well in my life and that things are going smoothly. Other times I do have problems (whether they’re trivial matters or something more serious) that I need to work through. Either way, talking to a third-party about what’s going on in your life is so, so helpful (especially while you’re in college and have so much going on!!!).
I also want to note that most colleges and universities usually offer free clinical services. I grew up with either not-so-great health insurance or no health insurance at all, so I didn’t have the opportunity to meet with a counselor when I went through some of my “underlying issues” as my therapist would say. I also never took advantage of the counseling services my undergrad offered when I really should have, and it’s one of my biggest regrets. So, try it out! Make an appointment and just talk to someone. We’re all works-in-progress, and you’ll learn so much about yourself, trust me.
What are some of the experiences you’ve had with therapy? Let me know in the comments below or via email! I’d love to hear from all of you.
I want to thank my very best friends for being there for me through all of this chaos, and for pushing me to talk to a professional. I am truly so lucky to have such great people in my life.
To learn more about World Mental Health Day (October 10th), visit the World Health Organization website.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number is: 1-800-273-8255.