I’m coming out…I go to therapy! GASP! SHOCK! AWE! Ok but seriously why is getting help for my mental health taboo? We go to the doctor when we aren’t feeling well! We go to the gym to maintain our physical health so why on earth wouldn’t I go to someone who can help me maintain my mental well being?
I have noticed that even though we are making strides as a society we are still not quite there with mental health acceptance. I’m not talking with others judging I’m talking about us judging ourselves! For so long I had this filtered, unrealistic idea of what happiness is. I used to think I was broken for not obtaining this impossible idea of happiness. I judged myself so hard for not being (gulp) “normal.” When I had exhausted my friends for advice and couldn’t make peace with myself, I decided to get help. I have learned so much and honestly I know I am not the only one who battles with these thoughts of being broken. It’s OK to NOT BE OK! Here are some tips to help you ACE your rough patches:
Take notice of how you feel oppose to how you think you should feel!
There was a time my feelings were deeply hurt. Instead of acknowledging my feelings were hurt I decided to control the situation by over analyzing it. I had this entire circle of events explaining what happened which caused me to re-act a certain way, which lead me to a video that helped me reflect, on and on…and eventually the cycle lead back to the event that started it all. My therapist stopped me and said “ok, but how do you feel?” I just explained, with visuals and all, what happened and I was asked how I felt?! That was when I realized I had not taken the time to recognize my feelings. I tried to rationalize them which ultimately doesn’t answer HOW I felt it just, justifies WHY I felt that way.
Advice: You can rationalize all day, until your face is blue, but it will never answer how you really feel! Seriously, take the time to acknowledge your feelings. It’s not going to be easy and first, especially when they initially hit, but focus on what feeling is going on and give it the attention it deserves.
Allow yourself to feel the emotion (however unpleasant) and do like Elsa; Let It Go!
I love my puppy. He makes me so happy but there are times he poops on the floor and that is not cool! So I have to take the time to discipline the puppy, clean up the poop and then let the puppy know I still love him. Now let’s imagine what it would look like if I treated my puppy the same way I used to treat my emotions:
He would be caged up all the time unless he was in the mood to play; which being caged up would likely make him feel depressed and not in the mood to play. If he pooped on the floor I would ignore it and eventually my entire house would reek of poop. Finally, I would get so fed up with his inability to play and his constant pooping I would grow to resent him and not want to be around him.
Yeah, you read that right, I treated my feelings and ultimately myself horribly. Constant neglect and eventually resentment. Please know I do not nor will I ever treat an innocent animal, or other human, in this manner; yet I treated myself like this. Our feelings are like a puppy! When we address the problem right away and give the attention that is needed to resolve it we can move on. Don’t treat your emotions like I used to. You deserve so much more!
Advice: Give your emotions some TLC (tender love and care)! Taking the time to address your emotions as they come will give you the ability to let them go. Bottling them up is only going to stress you out more which will lead to an even more unpleasant emotional experience than the one you are about to bottle up. Letting them go means that you care about and love yourself enough! It’s ok to not be ok! It is much better to feel bad for a period of time then to be in a constant state of stress, anxiety and self-loathing because of all the baggage you carry. Unpack your bag, clean your clothes and move on to the next adventure.
Strive for progress not perfection; no success happens over night!
You have acknowledged how you feel, you have committed to feeling that emotion and now it is time to evolve! Before I went to therapy I had the same cycle: get upset, reflect, feel bad for getting upset, reflect, justify why I got upset, reflect, on and on … eventually I would end up feeling like an awful person and not want to be myself anymore. This horrible cycle lead to me hating myself; this vicious cycle had to end! What I learned in therapy is that I can’t control my thoughts and I can’t control my feelings but I can control my behavior. I needed to change the way I went about my reactions; I had to evolve. With help from therapy I have a much healthier way to go about my emotions.
Advice: Stop getting in your head! You are not a bad person because you said something mean out of feeling angry! In fact, you will likely feel awful for saying that mean thing for a week which is punishment enough. Try to evolve your emotions into an action that is healthier. Try to not lash out at the person or thing that upset you. Instead, take a deep breath and excuse yourself so you can acknowledge what feeling is coming on then, try to sooth yourself until you are alone or in the gym or at a place you can release the emotion fully.
I hope my ACE (Acknowledge, Commit, Evolve) plan has helped you with not feeling ok. I understand not everyone can afford therapy but I highly encourage you to go! It has helped me tremendously! In the mean time, read The Happiness Trap; this book explains how to use ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) which is the therapy I practice. Remember it is OK to not BE OK! You are human and humans were created with emotions; it’s what makes us unique. You deserve happiness and that starts with giving your emotions the tender love and care it needs.