SFH #128: Destigmatizing Mental Health

Opening new doors

What comes up for you when you think about telling someone that you are seeing a therapist or a counselor? How about that you've taken a prescription? I still get shaky knees when talking about my mental health therapy experiences, and I feel a lot more comfortable than I used to. I currently speak to my counselor Deborah every other week. Lisa and I have seen a few different couples counselors over the last 3.5 years. And my current favorite form of therapeutic conversation happens every Monday night with a group of men opening up around what's going on with their feelings and life circumstances. 🙌🏽

Here's the rub. We've genuinely normalized taking pills for our biochemical imbalances and, more so, our symptoms even when it comes to our brain chemistry. One study estimates that over 37 million Americans take antidepressants.1 Contrast that with another poll that showed that 47% of respondents saw therapy as a sign of weakness, and you can start to see the skewing in our culture's process to deal with mental health.2 It's a much more extensive discussion to unpack the issues we have with pharmacology, treatment practices, violence, gun control funding, and access. So instead, I want to focus on destigmatizing the treatment of our mental health through therapy. I'll do my best to simplify my experiences with mental health.

To me, it's about our entire health picture. I focus on mental well-being for the sake of my long-term holistic health and the health of those closest to me. Remember the three-degree rule? Most people are reluctant to seek treatment out of fear of judgment and the stigma by a society that views mental illness as weak. I know certain 'strong' men that have refused therapy under the same guise. The truth is I feel fu$%ing sturdy when my mental health game is on point. I gain strength in awareness and the capacity to put words to my feelings. There's a lightness or a lift that happens for me. Here's a quote about expression from Gay Hendricks in A Year of Living Consciously that I love, 'Imagine being able to communicate all your feelings as clearly as you would tell someone what time it is. When you communicate the time of day, you don't need to dramatize it, hide it, or feel ashamed of it. You just say, "It's noon." It's possible to be just that clear with your feelings: "It's noon and I'm scared," or "It's three o'clock and I'm angry." Most of us are a long way from being that skilled in our emotional expression, but considering how little practice we get, we needn't feel bad. It just takes practice.'

Whether it's been in AA meetings, professional therapy sessions, supportive peer groups, or a good conversation with a close friend, I find that the secret is in the process of reflection and release. The reflection can be our feelings and experience we express aloud or our connection to someone else's (in a group/peer environment). The release can be subtle with a new realization or perspective of a feeling we had, or it can be a cannonball erupting a reaction in us that opens a new reality. We all get a glimpse of this spectrum when something strikes enough of a chord to bring us to tears. It can be a magical release. 🪄

For those of you who may be reading and saying you are all set from a therapeutic perspective, I'll leave you with this--in your moments of real distress; you will have a choice (or a gift, if you will): shall you select the path you have visited many times before, plateauing in your complacently or possibly anguish, or shall you discover a new course towards curiosity, expansion, and growth? The option is yours.

Brian 🙏🏽