It is okay to not be okay! - What people who are new to therapy should learn first
NOTE: FitPros is now offering 1:1 Wellness Coaching with licensed Psychologists because, it is no secret, 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence, and 70% benefit from the improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills they obtain from participating (ICF 2009). FitPros’ Wellness Coaching offering helps your employees receive these benefits by making coaching easily accessible and implementable.
Many families in the United States qualify as “nuclear,” and to the outside world they are essentially “Clevers” (The protagonists in Leave It to Beaver). Because they live a seemingly perfect, peachy and constantly movie-set ready life, often times it is believed they should NOT struggle with stress, anxiety, depression and or any other mental disorders. Why? Because their life is perfect! Unfortunately, this is a common misconception that even I myself have struggled with for most of my life.
The goal of this brief article is to set all readers straight. “You do NOT have to have suffered greatly, to have worries or problems.” This is a direct quote from my therapist as a response to my enquiry “my life has been so easy, compared to just about EVERYONE else.”
To give you a little context I grew up in a “nuclear family.” I had a loving dad, mom and two older sisters who mentored me through life, and made my path that much easier by simply going through puberty, dating, marriage and everything before me. They all paved the way for me to have an easy transition into a NEW nuclear life, and a worry free adulthood. Unfortunately, life does not always accept the path you are put on. Being a perfectionist, and a high achieving individual at a very young age I started to struggle with “I have to accomplish everything because my family has given me everything.” I remember winning two gold medals at the Junior Olympics, and instead of feeling proud and satisfied in my accomplishment, I felt dread that I had now set the bar high, how will I ever top it? Many people discredited any negative emotions I had (which is partially a criticism of the athletic community in general - but that is for another time).
For most of my life I had coaches,
mentors and people I truly looked up to, telling me to “suck it up, you are fine.” It wasn’t until my father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, that my sadness and despair earned credibility. People began to listen when I said I was feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. My collegiate Track & Field coaching staff, forced me to go to therapy to “work out my issues and talk about my sadness.” In my mind I thought they wanted to ensure my sadness did not affect my athletic performance. Actually they were just being good people, who had my back and my best interest at heart. I don’t wish for anyone to lose a parent, but it was that moment that allowed me to finally let therapy in, and not think “I don’t deserve or believe in therapy.” Realistically I should have been talking to a licensed professional years before, because though everything seemed fine on the outside, I was fighting a battle alone that would have been much easier won with an army.
If you still are not convinced I know what I am talking about, or if you are lucky to still be living in a nuclear family with a seemingly "perfect life"... hear my therapist out. “To have consciousness is to have problems.” I one time said to her “cave men were fine without therapy, why do I need it?” In her words, 'to be a developed human and have consciousness is unique and wonderful in many ways, but consciousness can also be a burden.' We as humans are always; exposed to and/or are analyzing information. Some good, some bad. How do we deal with the bad? Some people may be gifted in that they can healthily process information in their own way. However, after reading Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, I learned even therapists need help processing and understanding life. Additionally, my therapist said “I believe to be alive, you either have anxiety or depression,” which I will admit is a bold statement, but after reading Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are by Robert Plomin, I began to realize she may be correct.
Often times our mental health (both the positive and negative states), is so far out of our control it is ridiculous. This also answers my question “my life is perfect why do I still feel sad sometimes?” It is because a persons Mental Health can be a direct result of their DNA. I won’t begin to dive into the science of it all (because the book explains it far better than I ever could) but essentially mental health is a gene that you acquire from your ancestors. Once I learned this, I not only began to have more compassion for myself, but also for others. I use to look at people without homes and think “what had to go wrong in your life to end up here?” the answer potentially could be... their brain! If the world does not come together to support one another, and fight the stigma’s against mental health and therapy, it will continue to be a vicious cycle where children of affluent families turn to substance abuse, celebrities complete suicide and/or more people find themselves without homes, because people didn’t understand that it is OKAY to NOT be OKAY!
Again, I don’t claim to know everything about Mental Health, but my family has mental health professionals in it, and working in Corporate Wellness I do find myself attracted to research and information about seemingly “normal” people, having undesirable Mental Health. I asked a consultation group of licensed professionals (whom wish to remain anonymous), “what do you think people who are new to therapy should learn about first?” Their answer was “mindfulness and self-care.”
I am lucky to work for FitPros, who has an extensive roster of Mental and Spiritual Health professionals, who have met with me and our community to discuss their take on mindfulness, self care and more. I encourage all People Operations teams and really everyone, to prioritize their own and other’s mental health, as much as say… their grooming regimen!
Yes, therapy is expensive, but I credit therapy for making me the confident professional woman I am today. Because of therapy I am a more effective communicator not only with my team, but also with our clients and in my writing (I guess you can be the judge of that). Therapy has helped me truly find where I fit in the world, it has taken my ego out of all my actions (which trust me my personal and professional connections are thankful for), it has filled me with compassion for others and instilled empathy deep within my being. I highly encourage People Operations Professionals to set aside some of their budget and/or for employees to commit a part of their paycheck to Mental Health, because you and the world will reap the benefits of doing so!
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