Self-Disclosure #1: I’m a therapist who has been depressed
Mental health issues like any other health issue, affects everyone. It’s not particularly selective about who it chooses to affect, nor does it give you a time frame of how long the effects will last. I won’t get into the details of what caused my depression, because quite frankly, it’s irrelevant. Depression can be caused by numerous reasons, and what may cause depression in me, will have no impact on someone else. What is important, were my symptoms. Depression presents differently in various people. Ironically, society tends to have one very stereotypical image of what a depressed person looks like. We often look for the tearful, sad, person who is suicidal. And while, this type pf person exist and is quite common……….. I wasn’t one of them. Suicide is one marker for severe depression, not depression as a whole. My depression was severe, but thankfully for me, I was never suicidal. I was moody, extremely irritable, aggressive, constantly tearful and manipulative. I lost 65 pounds in a little over 2 months. Yes, you read that correctly, 65 pounds. I am also a diagnosed insomniac, that became lethargic and was constantly tired all day and slept every chance I got. No one knew this, because I lied, habitually and expertly. Despite what anyone says about not caring about what others think, they do; especially if it relates to being vulnerable.
Self-Disclosure #2: I’m a therapist that was embarrassed to go to a therapist
The stigma of going to a therapist is real, and one that I truly dreaded. It was actually more than embarrassment, it was deep-seated shame, that stemmed from pride. After all, I was and am “A strong black woman”. I had to figure out a way to “fix” myself that didn’t include therapy. To make matters worse, I was studying to be a therapist. The level of hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance was of monumental proportions. There I was, in the throws of depression, studying how to treat it and encouraging others to get help. I was depressed for almost a year before I decided to get help. Toeing the line of being super woman and a damsel in distress that super woman needed to save, rapidly increased my depression. I distinctly remember the day that I decided to go to therapy. It wasn’t a willing choice there was no “aha” moment where the pearly gates opened allowing my guardian angel didn’t direct me to “the one” that would help me. It was a day filled with darkness; and the choice was made out of a desperate need to survive. I was wasting away, literally and figuratively. What should have been my opening pass, became my hail Mary. I was out of options. I resented what seemed to me at the time to be pathetic weakness.
This experience truly taught me the difference between empathy and sympathy. I know what it’s like to walk into a therapist’s office looking for help, but subconsciously prepared to reject it. I credit this part of my depression: the back and forth, the shame, the embarrassment, the fear, the pride, all of it related to actually seeking help; with making me a better therapist than I could have every possibly thought to be.
Self-Disclosure #3: I’m a therapist and currently has a therapist
Shocker. I know. “How can someone, charged with helping others with their mental health issues, be in need of that same help?” But before you let allow your mind wonder into the realm of trying to yank my license because I am “unfit” to practice; remind yourself that I am actually a human. I go through the same, “normal” human problems and trials that my clients go through. I deal with death, heartbreak, financial concerns, familial and platonic problems as well as work stressors. So, I too, at times need someone to help me alleviate these stressors. Thankfully, I am no longer depressed. But, to ensure that I don’t fall back into the throes of a deep depression, I see my therapist. It’s one of my many ways of self-care. Some people go to the spa, or the gym or hang out with friends…………I go to my therapist. I don’t see her as often as I did when I was in the middle of my depression. We have more of a wellness checkup/maintenance type relationship. I still have scheduled appointments, once every 90 days and if I need more, because some crisis occurred (death, excessive stress, trauma) then we adjust accordingly.
If I am having a bad day, I can’t share that with my clients and ask them to excuse my foul mood. When a client says something triggering (and they will), I cannot leave the session. I have to be present and available to meet the emotional and mental needs of my client while they are with me. That can be difficult at times especially if “life” is happening. Going to therapy is not just for me, it’s for my clients.
Simply put, without my therapist, I wouldn’t be an effective therapist.