This was the first paper I ever wrote in college. Long before I believed in myself, or even believed that my story could help others. I have come along way in 6 years, sadly the stigmas, the shame and the misconceptions remain.
The most important part of becoming an adult is finding out who you really are. But, what does this mean? First we must understand that the person we have become is actually only a culmination of our experiences, as well as the thoughts, ideas and other influences we have received from the world around us. Once you have grasped that concept, you must begin to pick apart these outside factors and choose which ones you really agree with and which ones you unconsciously adopted. Many times, included in the ideas we receive from the outside are also many misconceptions, but we do not think much to challenge them. if your family, friends, and all the media all told you the world is flat…would you really challenge their beliefs or just accept it as one of your own? As impractical as it seems, this is what we do most of the time.
During my childhood, I was raised in a home where communication was limited. I was taught through the actions of others that if you had a problem you had to learn how to cope with it on your own. They taught me it wasn’t fair to push my problems upon others who had problems of their own. And professional therapy was definitely out of the question, because it was seen as a weakness, and it would bring a sense of shame to the person as well as the rest of the family to seek professional help. I never challenged the idea because the media around me portrayed the very same scene. In this society as well as many others there is a stigma attached to psychiatry. Many people that need help are not seeking it, because they know how society will react. For example, according to the artofloving.com website there are two popular misconceptions that society has about therapy. Misconception 1: Only people with sever psychiatric problems see a therapist. Misconception 2: If i decide to go to a therapist, I am admitting that i am “weak.”
I went on through life believing that psychiatry was actually not good for you, instead it was just a way to make you feel weak and submit your power to someone else. I was always seen as the stronger sibling in the family for whatever reason. They saw me as independent and mature because I handled my life without any help from anyone. What they didn’t know was that by portraying in me this way, they built a wall around me that didn’t allow me to seek help when I was going through hard times. Every heartache, every letdown, every fear, every failure was bottled up inside and it had no where to go. I felt like I had no one to turn to,and I had to learn how to be strong and move through it no matter what. At 13 years old, I began experiencing depression, and I began cutting myself as a coping mechanism. At that age I didn’t know why doing what I did made me feel better, but I knew it worked and at that point that was all that mattered. It was my own form of therapy and no one ever had to know what was going on. For years I hid my secret, scars on my arms and legs were now the norm and i was a master at hiding them or making up stories about them. In my eyes I was in control, and to my family I seemed happy, healthy, and most importantly strong…and i felt they could be proud of me.
But the facade couldn’t last forever. Soon my life was going to be turned inside out and I would be the one to tear down the picture of the happy family. My life became a scandal full of shame. My school found out about the cutting and I was forced into a hospital for an emergency psychiatric evaluation. I needed help, but all i could hear were the questions of “how could you do this to us”, “what will people think when they find out”. Eventually I was released and I had to agree to have a psychiatrist or I would not be allowed back into school.
In my first session, I was uncomfortable, but i realized that therapy really was not that unhealthy after all. I finally had someone to talk to about my problems and they could help me get through them. After nearly five years of struggling in silence I was seeing a breakthrough. Who could imagine that the one place I feared the most would be the place that could help me. Back at school I met with the guidance counselor who gave me a mentor to confide in. My school completely changed my view toward therapy and psychiatry.
For me there is no longer a stigma attached to seeking help. Although conventional psychiatry did not pan out for me, having my mentor, my pastor and my youth pastor talk to me and counsel me helped me get through some tough times in my life. Had I never been forced to seek help, I would have never sought it on my own, and I probably wouldn’t be here today.
I have learned to challenge the ideas and principles that others have tried to instill in me. I no longer fall into the misconceptions of society. In turn, as i grow older I am learning to form my own beliefs and ideas rather than taking in someone else’s. As a result of the experience, I have had to conduct an autopsy of my life, and truly consider if the beliefs that i hold are ones that I myself believe in, or ones that i haphazardly allowed to creep into my life.