I have always been afraid to say that, I NEED THERAPY.
Growing up in an African household, and coming from a diplomatic family, I was taught to believe that the painful things that happen to me are reasonable. The people in my life told me that part of growing up was accepting that “shit happens,” and the idea of going to see a professional to discuss my issues often brought the assumption that I am crazy, or I am incapable of handling my problems.
During my high school years, I would hear people talk about needing “self-care days,” and going to therapists, and I thought it must be an ‘American thing.’ I thought the best way to handle stressful situations was NOT to allow myself the time to process it. “Just keep moving,” I thought, “it’ll fix itself eventually.”
First of all, there is nothing reasonable about pain. We were not created to experience pain, but we do because of the kind of world in which we live. The things that happen will either affect us in a small, barely noticeable way, or in a significant way, but they will affect us. When we don’t take time to process the things that happen, we begin to pile pain on top of more pain until eventually, it becomes baggage that we carry into every new season of our lives. What my parents and my culture did not teach me is that it is okay to work through difficult situations with other people.
Therapy is a form of self-love, which is necessary for every single person. The bible says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” which is why people will always reflect onto others what they feel about themselves. The only way we can show the maximum amount of love to the people around us is if we have the maximum amount of respect for ourselves, and when we don’t, then we are walking around allowing the lack of love for ourselves to hurt other people. By doing so, we also make ourselves open to receive other people’s hurt.
It can be as simple as having a coworker tell you that you did a lousy job with something. Not because of anything you did, but because the coworker is unhappy, so you begin to remember all the times people told you, you were terrible at something, and because you didn’t allow yourself time to work through it the first time it happened, now you believe that you are not enough.
Everything that we think is normal today is because, at some point in our lives, someone or something taught us that that is the right way to think or react, or even the right way to behave. In my case, I thought suppressing my emotions was normal. I believed that therapy was a form of weakness, and so whenever I talked to people about what went on in my life, I felt scared because I thought I was becoming a weak woman.
Society and culture have made therapy sound like the last resort when it should be the first. The idea behind counseling is not that you should keep going for the rest of your life, but that you use it when you need it most as a tool to help you get back on your feet, and once you feel that you no longer need it, you are not required to keep attending. Every person needs time set aside to confront their feelings, process their pain, and to reflect on their life. We cannot continue to be afraid to share the burden of our emotions with the people who are trained to handle it. It makes change easier when you can see the parts of yourself that need changing. All therapy is, is an objective perspective of our thoughts, and situations so, you are not crazy for needing counseling, and you are not weak. As Christine Obaugh once said, “We repeat what we don’t repair.”