I remember vividly the time my mom and her sister were on the phone talking about something that sounded like a government secret from their whispered tone of voice and apprehension. When my mom got off of the phone she explained to me that my cousin was going to therapy for “depression”. I put the quotes around it because that’s what my mom did with her fingers when she spoke it. She also added “I don’t know what she has to be depressed about.”
This pretty much summed up how everyone back then regarded depression or the desire to see a therapist. In the 70s and 80s therapy wasn’t something you would talk about and in turn was something that most people in blue collar suburbia didn’t have much experience with. On TV it was the fodder of variety shows and comedic skits. I can remember visions of cartoons with folks lying on the psychiatrist’s couch while the doctor took notes. It was something we didn’t do. You certainly wouldn’t tell people you were being treated for depression or seeing a therapist because they absolutely would walk on eggshells around you. Such shame and secrecy around all of it. I remember not really understanding what my cousin was dealing with. Was she sad? Would she act differently the next time I saw her? Should I act differently?
My cousin is much older than I am, and we have never discussed this at all. But now that I’m in my 50s with a 13-year-old child navigating the hormone rollercoaster (for both of us!) during a global pandemic, I clearly understand that you never know what may eventually lead you to seek out the help of a therapist. I can see how stressful the idea of needing therapy would have been for my cousin back then without the internet to search through for answers and without hordes of social media folks and celebrities to commiserate with and offer up a sense of normalcy.
But even today it’s not easy for us “seasoned” folks to ask for help. Or to even know we need it!
Look, I’m usually the one that others turn to for help. A Reiki Master Teacher who does healing sessions and classes, holds meditation circles, and promotes wellness and mindfulness should surely have their emotional well-being in pristine condition, right? How can I tell people that I’m in therapy?
Won’t they think I’m not one to be giving advice or laying hands on them?
So, when I hit the wall with the big “YOU NEED HELP” sign plastered on it, I wasn’t ready. It was January 2021 and I was running errands with my mask on, coated in hand sanitizer along with all the other adults in the shopping center who had clearly escaped their homes that were now being used as virtual middle schools, homework hubs, and 24/7 cafeterias. We were free for a few moments. Free to sit quietly without frustrated kids crying and having meltdowns. Free from trying to figure out what the hell we were going to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every damn second of the day. And free to think and really process the chaos.
So, I sat in my car in the parking lot of Best Buy and just started bawling. Big ugly tears. Granted, the service at Best Buy can be bawl worthy but that wasn’t it. Everything just hit me at that moment. Seven years after the death of my father, five years after the death of my mother, in the middle of a global pandemic with my son navigating the emotional struggles of virtual middle school, the uncertainty and stress of it all, I lost my whole entire shit alone in the car at Best Buy. I was tired and edgy and worried and helpless. I was a big hot red faced, snotty nosed, crazy looking, hand sanitizer smelling mess.
I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know where to go or where to start. Is this what a nervous breakdown feels like? And even though celebrities and social media experts had made seeking therapy seem like the new cool thing to be doing, a part of me felt like a failure. It felt weak to need help. I felt alone even though I have a huge supportive circle. In the grand scheme of things, I have nothing to be depressed about like my mom had said about my cousin.
But I guess it was a culmination of stress, worry, fatigue, and probably hormones that pushed me over the edge with no warning. I scared myself. I probably scared some shoppers walking past my car in the parking lot. I rarely "lose it" like that.
I sucked up my courage and texted my best friend and told her I thought I needed help. Without pausing she replied “Oh girl I got you. Here’s MY therapist’s office number and website.” If nothing else, at least I knew I wasn’t alone.
I couldn’t fathom talking to a stranger about my feelings. I didn’t even know where to start. But my kid was struggling, I was struggling, and I had to do something. I started seeing a therapist that month.
Fast forward to today, over a year later. My therapist is amazing. She’s like a friend I can tell anything to. I can ask her anything. I don’t have to worry that she will judge me or think differently of me. We’ve done grief work to help sort through my feelings around the death of my parents. We talk about tools to help our kids navigate the world. She has helped me recognize patterns in my family that are affecting me now. Today she said that I’m doing great and probably can cut back on my sessions if I want to.
And what about my own question from before regarding clients not wanting to entrust their energy to a Reiki Master who is openly seeing a therapist? HA! Oh, honey it’s the complete opposite! When people know you are transparent and open about your journey, they feel empowered and seen when working with you. They see themselves in you. They see that we are all human and we all need help sometimes. Who better to help them get aligned than someone who has also stood on the edge of the abyss and cried big ugly tears in the Best Buy parking lot? We can navigate the darkness together. We can move toward the light together.
So, listen. If you are feeling like everything is too much right now and you don’t know what to do, consider asking for help. Seriously. Ask a friend, ask a support group, ask a doctor. This shouldn’t be something you have to hide or be ashamed of. Your mental and emotional health is equally as important as your physical health. Go after whatever you need to feel better. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you think people will say. Be brave and take the step toward healing for yourself. Do it FOR YOU. You won't regret it, I promise. And if you are reading this through big ugly tears in the Best Buy parking lot, just know that you are absolutely not alone.