I debated for a long time whether I really wanted to write and share this post. I’ve never been this open on the blog before, even though I’ve probably alluded to it in previous posts. But then I thought, there’s bound to be someone reading this who has been in similar situations. Someone out there can relate. Someone will understand.
So I’m writing and sharing it.
Everyone is fighting some battle. It may not always be obvious, but it’s happening. I’m writing this to tell you that it gets better, it gets easier, and you can get stronger even after the scariest struggles. It won’t always get better or easier faster, but it will get better. Help is available, and there is absolutely no shame in seeking it.
In high school, I was in an unhealthy relationship. It wasn’t noticeably unhealthy until later, but I stayed in that relationship much longer than I should have once it reached the unhealthy point. Several people tried to tell me it wasn’t a good situation, but I didn’t believe them. Maybe I did, but didn’t want to admit it. In reality, I was afraid of being alone, so I convinced myself I needed to stay with that person.
That’s what we call “denial,” and it’s the worst. When the realization hits, it hits hard.
For a long time, I kept those feelings and experiences to myself; I didn’t think it mattered to anyone but me. Another part of me was afraid my friends at college would judge me (why I thought that, I don’t know). Sure I had a few panic attacks, and sometimes I worried that something was wrong with me, but I thought I could deal with all that on my own. I didn’t think my issues were “bad enough” to think I should get help. Those feelings–anxiety over new relationships, wondering if I’m “good enough” for someone, fearing that my anxieties would freak the next guy out–would die down eventually, right? Have you ever experienced those feelings?
Well, they didn’t go away, and I slowly figured out I couldn’t deal with it on my own. I started opening up to my closest friends, those I trusted the most. My senior year of college, almost four years after that old relationship ended, I sought help at counseling services at my college. It wasn’t the easiest decision, but I knew if I wanted to move past my biggest anxieties, I had to give it a shot.
Getting help was the best thing I did for myself. Once I opened up to a counselor, everything became much clearer. I saw how all the pieces fit together, how one thing affected another, and what I could do to help myself next. I saw the patterns, and some of the triggers became obvious. At first, I was scared to go to therapy because of its stigma, because all I’d ever heard was “therapy is for crazy people.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Therapy is for everyone. There’s no shame in talking to a counselor. It’s not weak. It shows strength, shows that you’re willing to face your issues and work toward a solution. I was fortunate that my family, friends and boyfriend were (and still are) incredibly supportive and made taking that step easier.
Therapy didn’t solve all of my problems, but it certainly helped more than I imagined it would. I still struggle with some anxieties, but not as much as I used to. I still have weak moments, but they’re not as frequent. I know that I can go back to therapy if I feel like I need to.It's okay to get help. Really, it is. Click To Tweet
I learned a lot in those experiences: about myself, about relationships, about health. Some of the most valuable lessons I learned were:
- Never stay in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship. That’s the worst reason to stay.
- Never be afraid to talk to someone, no matter whom, about any such experience.
- It’s never your fault.
- No one will judge you.
And most importantly, you are your first priority. Do what you need to do for you.
I wrote a similar article on why it’s okay to go to therapy for GenTwenty.com.
If you feel like you need to speak to a counselor for any reason, most, if not all colleges offer free counseling services. Contact them to get started. If you’re at home, your family doctor should be able to recommend a counseling office.