A Blog about Career Changes, Madness, and My Awful Brain

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why You Should Absolutely See A Counselor

I've always had trouble sharing my feelings and emotions with other people, especially ones that I don't know. I'm working on it, and this blog has definitely been a way for me to share a lot of what's going on in my brain, but I still have difficulties. To be sure, I'm WAY better at it then I used to be, especially as of late. I used to be the kind of guy that was more comfortable getting teeth fillings without anaesthetic than saying I love you (or I hate you, for that matter). Now, I can say it fairly easy, and I'm even getting more comfortable sharing my feelings with strangers.

However, the one thing I could never see myself doing was visiting a counselor or therapist, even when people I knew suggested it. I always thought I knew my mind better than any other person, and I figured that I could do it without any help. The only thing worse than visiting some mind shrink was the horror of other people finding out that I was visiting a therapist. Knowing I was weak was barely tolerable...letting others know I was weak was unthinkable.

The fucked up thing about it is that I honestly never considered OTHER people who visited therapists weak. I may have felt sad for them, and empathy for them, but I didn't think LESS of them as people. Like usual, the stupid voice in my head criticizes me way more than it does other people. Stupid brain.

Of course, I was completely wrong about visiting my counsellor. Although I still think I'm the best person for the job at dealing with some of my mental issues, accepting help from someone with experience is absolutely vital for my well being. If you feel like you have any issues that are getting in the way of you being the best person you can be, I recommend that you talk to a trained professional. I'm going to give you some reasons why you should, and hopefully help you with your doubts.

Mental Problems are Physical Problems

Your brain is a physical organ, just like your liver, your muscles, or your heart. Your thoughts and feelings are made up of neural pathways, and like any other organ, can be "damaged". If you go to the gym and do dangerous exercises with bad form, you hurt yourself. Fixing the damage requires proper guidance, and in the worst cases, medical help. Similarly, depression, anxiety, etc are all "bad forms" of thinking, that reinforce neural pathways which are not good for you. The good news is, the brain has plasticity and you can change the way you think, learn and feel if you have someone help you. If there is no shame going to the doctor for a torn muscle, there should be no shame in going to a mental health specialist.

Family and Friends are helpful, but are not necessarily a suitable replacement

Yes, we all turn to our families and friends in our time of need. They can be there to support you mentally, financially, spiritually, etc. The problem is that sometimes our loved ones have biases or ideas that prevent them from helping us to the best of our abilities. For example, as much as I love my family and use them for support, they were unable to give me help I needed when I was going through the worst of my depression. I was getting help for how to deal with my boss, and advice on "sticking it out", because my family and friends believed that making money was important and leaving without another job would be a mistake. Part of the problem, of course, was that I was not completely open and honest about what was going on in my job. Nor was I completely honest about how difficult a time I was having after my accident. But that's part of the problem; your friends and family will give you advice without delving deeper into your mind and situation. A counsellor is a lot more careful, and listens a lot better. Even after I left the job and recovered from my accident, most of the advice I was getting was "get off your ass and do something" advice that wasn't dealing with the core of my problem and wasn't very helpful. I know that I need to "get off my ass". I'm trying to "get off my ass". It's just that I'm having a terrible time doing it. Going to see a counselor gave me an understanding of why it is so hard, and gave me resources so "getting of my ass" can become a possibility, instead of something I beat me self up over everyday.

You will Eventually Deal with Your Issues: A therapist can make sure you do so constructively instead of destructively.

When mental pain becomes to much to bear, we as organisms will find a way to get through it. The problem is, most times we are not equipped to deal with it in a constructive manner. How many people do you know who find the solutions to their problems at the bottom of a bottle? I find it funny (but not ha-ha funny) that some of the most macho guys out there will insist they don't need a shrink or emotional pansy shit, and then go home and beat the crap out of their wives. Or get into street fights. Or drink and do drugs. Or buy a gun and blow their brains out. There are better ways; you at least owe it to your friends and family to think about counselling.

Talking to Someone Can Crystallize your Problems in a way Thinking Can't

Often times, the solutions that you need for your problems is in your head. Speaking with a counsellor isn't always about getting advice; it's also about having someone listen as you deal with your own problems. When we write and speak, we open up and use parts of our brain that we aren't using when we are using "the voice" in our head, that niggling little jerk who leads you astray. In the same way that making a list on paper can help you organize your day, talking to someone and bouncing ideas off them can make you aware of solutions or give you new insight into what may really going on in your life. Speaking with a counselor allows you to talk openly and honestly in a confidential setting, with someone whose feelings you can not hurt.

It's not as expensive as you may think.

There are plenty of organizations such as Family Services or Catholic Family Services that have a tiered payment structure that allows you to pay based on your economic situation. Since I'm unemployed, I pay only 10 dollars per visit. You may have to pay a little more if you make more money, but it's absolutely worth it.

I've been seeing a counsellor for a little over a month, and it's been absolutely an eye opening experience for me. I hope I've given you some good reasons why visiting a mental health professional can be a rewarding activity. If you have any questions or comments for me, feel free to ask. Also, please feel free to link to this post if you have any friends or family that could benefit from it.

Thanks for listening.


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