The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
A year ago, I had never been to therapy.
I didn’t think I needed it — I was totally fine. I had bad days, sure, but everyone did. Never mind the years of social anxiety, stress, and suppressed trauma I never found closure for. I thought I could handle it all on my own.
When I met my roommate last year, it was as if the floodgates had opened. Stuck in our dorm room all day with nothing to do except sleep through Zoom classes and order food online, we talked to one another, and became pretty close friends. We had conversation after conversation about what we had gone through, even the smallest experiences that made lasting impacts on who we are. I realized I had never actually told anybody what I was feeling, or why.
The weight on my chest was lifted, and I found that actually sharing what I was going through was a pretty normal thing, and could even make you feel better afterward. It was so relieving — I felt like I could deal with any problem, past, present, or future, just because I could now tell people about them. Eventually, I started talking to my best friends back home about my mental health too. They were pretty shocked when I opened up to them, despite having known them for years. I was met with nervous laughter and countless questions like “why did you never say anything?” I didn’t really have an answer. Looking back on it, talking about your feelings seems like such an obvious part of having friends and people who care about you, but for some reason, it just never occurred to me.
My friends started to suggest that I try going to therapy. At first, I was confused at the idea, and even a little offended. I had just started opening up to them, and I already felt so much better and more secure in my mental health. Again, I found myself thinking I could handle everything on my own if I just shared a few things with my friends here and there — Why in the world would I need to tell some stranger about it too? They told me that therapy wasn’t just for talking about your feelings, it was for learning about yourself. Some told me that they felt energized and happier after their therapy sessions, others said that it was just nice to have someone with a degree to tell you how your brain works.
For months, I kept telling them I was fine, that I was in a good place. We kept having conversations about anxiety and stress and how we were navigating this new, frustrating indoor world and how this pandemic had ruined our last year of high school and countless other parts of our lives. At some point, after a lot of deliberation, I told my roommate that I would call the university’s counseling service, just to see what the deal was. It felt so weird at first, like I was admitting defeat or something. Not just because I wanted to prove my friends wrong, that I didn’t need therapy, but because it would be acknowledging that I couldn’t handle things on my own.
After the first few sessions, I got a lot more comfortable with the idea of asking for help. I thought talking to my friends was relieving — and it was, but talking with a therapist, someone who not only comforts people, but can offer advice with a license to back it up, was very different. It wasn’t better or worse than talking to my friends about my feelings, it was just different. Therapy taught me things about myself that my friends couldn’t.
Eventually, I realized that going to therapy isn’t admitting defeat, or about proving people right or wrong, or even about spilling your inner feelings to someone. For me, going to therapy was a learning experience, and one that I am continuing to have even now. However, it might not be for everyone right away. Therapy can be scary, and frustrating — but so can handling things on your own.
Finding a support system really helped me, and I feel as though it plays a huge part in working through my mental health. It can start with something as simple as having a conversation with a roommate, a best friend, or just somebody who cares to listen. It is about knowing how to ask for help, and knowing that above all, it is okay to do so.
UI Counseling Services: (319) 335-7294