People react different to you telling them about a horrible experience. Some people just gape and obviously have no idea how to respond, some start trying to tell you what you can/should react, some deflect with humor, and some look around a little nervously and ask if you've maybe considered therapy of some stroke?
It's interesting, watching them do it. They always lower their voices and glance around conspiratorially, they talk about how they were/are in therapy, or someone close to them was/is. Some will tell you that it isn't necessarily a life time commitment, and that it's not a failing.
Despite the fact that anyone who suggests therapy will say almost the exact same thing, it still feels like you're a failure if you actually do something about it. What, you mean I can't just get through this with heroic will power? I cannot just drag myself through by the bootstraps?
When I was younger, my thought was: no matter how awful something got, I would get through it, because that was my only option. I had to keep going, and sooner or later I'd emerge from the other side. I might come out a mangled and broken mess, but I'd come out, and then I could put myself back together! As I've gotten older and had to deal with more responsibility and bigger issues, I've come to realize that my issues are almost never singular, and that reaching the "broken and mangled" stage of things had much bigger consequences than my own feelings. So now I find myself trying to learn how to juggle all these big important issues and keep myself healthy and happy as I do so. It's not easy, and I know it isn't easy for anyone, but for some reason, doing something to take care of myself like therapy almost feels like a failure. If I was stronger I could do it all without breaking a sweat/suffering any long term emotional damage, right? That is obviously a reasonable thing.
Wait, no it isn't, hm. Well then.
The strange thing about my ongoing struggle with stopping and asking for help is that I've done it before. When I was... 14? I was dealing with some things no kid ever should, and I knew I was in way over my head. So I reached out, said I was in a bad way and could really use some outside help. Shockingly, and without any begging or drastic measures, I got it. I was in counseling for about a year and it was by and large an awesome and positive experience. I would also discover a bit down the road that my parents had lied to my siblings about where I went every Wednesday after school and said I had joined a club.
When I was in therapy, I didn't talk about being in therapy. I didn't really think anything of it, but it just seemed like it wasn't something you were supposed to talk about. Finding out that my parents had either just not said a word, or outright lied to my siblings about it, would later on reinforce that thought. People who suggest it now lower their voices and make sure no one else is listening. They're afraid to be overheard. They're ashamed. People are nervous when they suggest therapy because they know the potential insult that lies within it. As I got older, I wouldn't be surrounded by people talking openly and honestly about therapy, and the people who did talk about their mental illnesses and various treatment plans? They were weird, or crazy, or desperate for attention, and reams of other not-so-nice things. As I got older therapy went from being a way to call in a ringer when shit was getting tough to something only undesirables did.
When I reached college, no one talked about things like therapy or mental health maintenance because in high school those people had been the weird messed up outcasts. We were all scared to speak up, and it all fed into this culture that mental health issues are something to be ashamed of, which keeps us quiet about it when that's basically the worst thing we can do about it. We stigmatize these issues, which makes people who are suffering afraid to speak up which leads to the whole "ruined broken mess" situation I described earlier. When you're already hurt and vulnerable, speaking up about your hurt is hard. We have however made and nurtured a culture where it practically an act of heroic courage to do so, let alone talk about it.
There have started to be cracks. Campaigns to de-stigmatize mental health problems, to normalize talking about these things, but until you've stood on the side of the fence where you actually need that help but are scared to ask for it, it's hard to really understand the depth of the problem. I know my situation could be so much more drastic and dramatic, and I don't think even having been where I am and have been I grasp the entirety of its depth. So, I'm going to do my part and speak up. I know alone my voice won't do much to chip away at the foundation that this toxic culture is built on, but if enough of us speak up, maybe it'll make a difference.
My name is Erika, I'm 25, hold down a steady job, am self sufficient, and able to maintain healthy functional relationships. Life has been happening to me in such a way that I need to call in a ringer to help me deal with it. The simple decision to actually seek help is already helping. I am not ashamed, even if I am scared.