Opinion

Therapy helped me heal

 

Courtesy of Claire Johnson
Courtesy of Claire Johnson

It’s okay to go to therapy. Counseling doesn’t make you weird. In fact, it’s one of the most emotionally healthy and beneficial things you can do for yourself. About a year ago, I realized I struggled with anxiety and depression, but I refused to admit that it was a problem until I started having panic attacks.

Last March, I was in the cafeteria eating dinner. As my friends and I walked out from the caf, they left to go to the library while I began to walk back to Mayfield by myself. I started thinking about my day as I walked back to Mayfield, and I realized it was getting harder to breathe. I called my dad, hoping that talking to someone would help me to breathe regularly again. It didn’t. I ended the phone conversation after about thirty seconds, made it back to Mayfield, laid down, and went to sleep. It was the only thing I knew to do. I couldn’t breathe, think clearly, or even really understand what was happening in that moment.

A few hours later, I woke up and went to the library to do homework with a close friend. While there, I explained to her what happened, and realized that I had just experienced a panic attack. After lots of talking, we decided it would be best for me to schedule an appointment with a doctor in Springdale.

I was terrified. I didn’t want to go to the doctor. What would people think of me? I didn’t want to admit that there was something wrong with me, but panic attacks had turned from foreign concepts to daily realities.

My friend ended up going to the doctor with me, and I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Even though the doctor prescribed me an anti-depressant, I still struggled to admit that I was sick. I continued taking my prescription throughout the summer, and when school began again in August, I began counseling at the student counseling center here at JBU.

I’ve been going to counseling for twelve weeks at this point. Some days, I still struggle to take my medicine, go to therapy or even ask a friend to help. There are still days when anxiety attacks steal my breath away, leaving me exhausted.

We’ve got to stop the negative stigma surrounding mental illness. I’m tired of this idea that only crazy people go to counseling. I believed that until I finally experienced counseling for myself.

We’re all hurting, and as a culture we’ve got to learn to support those who are hurting. According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems on college campuses,” with forty million adults suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Let’s make going to counseling normal. Medicine is great, but I didn’t really start healing until I began therapy. Medicine was just treating my symptoms, whereas counseling began to attack the heart of the problem. JBU offers eight free counseling sessions per academic year, and costs only $10 dollars for each extra session. Counseling has been one of the most healing things I’ve done throughout this semester.

It takes boldness to admit you aren’t okay, and none of us really are. Without the people who supported me and encouraged me throughout the entire counseling process, I wouldn’t have ever had the guts to begin healing. Try it out yourself, and support your friends who are already going. It’ll be worth it, I promise.