"Only the crazy kids go there" was the first response I'd gotten from my peers when trying to gauge the vibe of our college counseling services.
I was in my senior year of undergraduate studies when my life became doused with unfortunate events and overwhelming decisions. During my time in college I mastered the persona of a girl that always had her sh*t together, but in a matter of months that all changed. I was extremely stressed out and crumbling, and I knew that I couldn't offload my feelings to my family or friends. When my emotions became too much to bear, I knew therapy would be the answer to my problems. But I faced a huge dilemma: I didn't want my family to know that I was seeing a therapist — or worse, think I was crazy or emotionally damaged, though I felt like I was.
I remember scanning my campus website and noticing that free counseling services were offered to students. It was just what I needed! I wouldn't have to go too far between classes to talk to a professional (and my family would be totally in the dark). But then it hit me: What would people think of me if they saw me going in for counseling? Would they call me crazy? Was I crazy?
Before I made my decision, I had to pick the brains of a few students to see what their thoughts were on the service. Plenty of my peers pointed out that only "weird people" went to the counseling floor. But after weeks of weighing out the pros and cons, my curiosity and desperate need for help surpassed my desire to avoid being called weird by my peers."F*ck it," I told myself, and I made my first appointment.
When the day came, I was summoned to a room and greeted with a smile. "How are you, Aimee?" I was asked by a seemingly happy woman. Before I could say a word, a flood of emotions took over me. I couldn't keep it together. I cried my eyes out and gave her what felt like my entire life story in under an hour. I was handed tissues as I sobbed and before I knew it my session was over.
I continued meeting with her for an entire year until I graduated. Fast forward to over a year later, I successfully completed college, and now, I am in a much better place emotionally than I was as a 20-year-old senior. My entire perspective on speaking to a therapist has also changed. While I am no longer seeing a therapist, there are times I consider going back. For one hour a week I was given the opportunity to lay out all of my problems, and I was given all the tools and education I needed to change them IRL — all while never feeling as if I was being judged. It was that one hour a week that made me a much better person and adult.
I've learned that while it is unfortunate that society has allowed many of us to feel crazy for seeking help, it is important, and quite liberating once we do. Since my very last session I've tried to convince all my 20-something-year-old friends to speak to a therapist at least once, whether they are going through a tough time or not. I've grown to believe that seeking therapy doesn't make you crazy, but makes you smarter and stronger than ever. Here's why:
You can get sh*t off your chest in a safe space
Between school, work, pursuing a career, family, relationships, and becoming an adult, life can begin to feel like a really intense puzzle. It is common to avoid being completely open with the people closest to you. However, in therapy you are given designated time to focus on your feelings and needs alone. Everything discussed in therapy is also confidential, so you won't have to worry about anything you say meeting another set of ears, or dealing with awkwardness between family and friends. Plus, an hour (or more) to sit and talk about whatever you want — without interruption — will feel like a huge relief once it's all said and done.
Instead of just venting, you can create actionable solutions
If you've ever felt like you are constantly stressed out about the same things, but nothing ever changes, therapy will help fix that. Once you've released the bulk of your venting, your therapist will strategically work with you to come up with realistic solutions and actions for your life. You can act out scenarios and figure out ways to address any concerns you may have. With a little coaching, you'd be surprised at how confident you'll feel to act on things you probably wouldn't have before.
It'll improve your relationships
You don't have to be in a romantic relationship or attend some form of group therapy to improve how you communicate with other people. During therapy, you'd be surprised at how much you learn about yourself, how you affect others, and vice versa. If you're dealing with an issue in any relationship, going to therapy can also open your mind to view things from another person's perspective, allowing you to handle situations so both parties can benefit. You'll be more aware of your personality, and you'll treat others better as a result.
You'll feel more confident
If you go into therapy feeling invisible, you'll notice a huge boost in confidence even after just one session. Sharing your problems with a therapist can open your eyes to how strong you've actually been the entire time. As you make small, positive changes, you will feel more empowered to take control of situations and your emotions — without the help of a professional.
It'll keep you strong when things get tough
Even though I am not in therapy at the moment, I find myself referencing many of my learnings in my life today. As a result, I handle stressful situations better than I would have before. The strength you gain from therapy is very likely to stick. You'll handle more of life's situations with a smile rather than with stress, and you'll be so proud of your choice to go to therapy in the first place.