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Trying to Diffuse the Stigma of Being on the Couch

Because sometimes, we all really do need a little extra help in life

I may as well just out and say it now to spare any melodramatic buildup - ever since I was 13 years old, I have seen a psychologist on a regular basis. 

I started to see one shortly in late December 1998 after some of my teachers were alarmed at my lack of friends and the bullying that I took from a bunch of the prototypical mean girls in my grade. After my parents were alerted of the situation, they decided that it would be best if I saw a psychologist. 

When I found out that they were going to have me see one, I'm not gonna lie -- I flipped out. The only exposure I had to anything like this was when I was 10 years old and my brother saw one. I remembered being in such deep trouble after letting it slip to my brother's friend one day.

So from that experience, I got the impression that these were one of those things that nobody ever talked about because it was not socially acceptable. (The truth was that it wasn't my place to say anything...honestly, it slipped!)

Of course, the problem here wasn't that I didn't have friends or that I was bullied, it was because I was depressed. Actually that isn't quite so past tense. I'm still dealing with it, but it's controlled very well with proper medication and the necessary therapy. 

When I first started seeing my psychologist, it took me forever to really open up. My hypersensitivity just made me cry all the time in my first few sessions. After a while, I finally opened up and realized that -- hey! -- this is actually a good thing. I ended up feeling a lot better about myself, I even got to tackle the other issues that I had other than depression. Like the inferiority complex I always felt compared to my siblings (which happened a lot), how I always felt like nobody took me seriously, and whatever else. It was a real revelation and things just got a lot better for me. 

Despite this, I was hesitant on telling people. I mean classmates and the few friends I did have thought I was enough of a freak, I didn't want to make it much worse. So whenever friends would ask, I'd just say that I had to see the doctor. This got them off my backs for the most part, at least until one friend noticed that I was "seeing the doctor" quite a bit.

She just flat out asked me if I was sick...she actually thought I had some kind of health issue. Obviously, I had to tell her...and she was pretty cool with it, even if I got annoyed with her calling it the "Psycho Doctor" for a while. 

As the years went by, I opened up more about it and realized that the stigma that I had felt was all just merely in my head. There was no shame in seeing a psychologist. It was just an unbiased third party to help talk through your issues. It may not seem much to you, but to me it means a lot. 

I guess I'm mostly writing this to help take that stigma out of it just a little bit more. Most people who see therapists are just normal people who just have some problems that they can't handle on their own. It doesn't mean that they're not strong...hell you could argue that they're stronger for actually admitting they need the help.

So if you need the help or know someone who needs the help, don't be afraid/don't let them be afraid to go see a therapist. While I was reluctant at first, it's easily one of the best things that's happened to me. Life isn't easy and there's hardships for everybody, and if you just happened to need that extra hand to get you through, it's alright. We all need it sometimes.

Karena Garrity October 20, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Good for you!!!! Great article, I hope it helps others.

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