January 25th was Bell’s “Let’s Talk Day” aimed at raising awareness and dollars for mental health. As a psychotherapist for the past 15 years, I’ve journeyed with so many brave souls from all walks of life as they work on the awesome task of healing. I see the common wounds and mistaken beliefs that fuel their struggles, and more and more I’m discovering the common themes and aspects necessary for healthy coping and happier lives.
The more we share our own struggles, fears and self-doubt, as well as what we have learned and healed, the more we can help one another. But I know for so many opening up and sharing seems like an insurmountable task. You don’t feel worthy of such support as you’ve internalized the negative beliefs and lies that say you are lazy, not strong enough or just too sensitive. For a lot of clients what holds them back from reaching out is the fear of burdening others. Having grown up believing everyone else’s needs and feelings are more important, you can’t imagine saying or doing anything that would bring pain or sadness to another, especially a loved one. We convince ourselves that by sharing our suffering we are unleashing suffering onto the other. But another perspective I like to offer clients is that you have actually given them gifts. First, many people feel honoured and valued when you choose them to open up and share your most vulnerable feelings and experiences. Second, this can be a welcome escape from the drudgery or challenges of their own lives. It can also offer them an opportunity to gleam valuable information about ways they need to solve their own problems as it tends to be easier to come up with ideas or solutions for others than ourselves. I’ve often sat in session as the words were coming out, thinking this is not just important for my client to hear or do. Finally when we reach out and if we can identify what we need, we take the anxiety away from our loved ones and friends who may have been saying or doing the wrong thing because they didn’t know what to do. By asking for what you need, you take the guess work away and ensure you are more likely to get your needs met.
As hard as it is to share, healing does not happen in isolation. Alone with our thoughts, our shame only increases. We fall deeper into our thinking traps as we have no one to offer a different perspective or shine a light on our strengths. Most importantly, often what we find out when we share is that we are not alone and there is not something wrong or bad about us. Although everyone’s journey is unique there are common struggles. What we need is to have our feelings normalized and validated.
So please don’t suffer alone. You are not a burden. Your pain, your story matters, you matter. You are so much more than your struggles and have so much to offer the world. Please be gentle with yourself and know things will get better. I’ve seen countless miracles. I’ve seen people draw on strengths and supports they didn’t even realize they had. Remember it is always darkest before the dawn and sometimes you need someone else to hold the hope for you just a little while until you can see the light again. Counselling can help you identify and work through barriers that are preventing you from reaching out to your supports or empower you to find healthier relationships. Our weekly walk-in counselling clinic runs Thursdays 12:30-7pm. We have also partnered with the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council to offer a 9 week support group beginning Feb 8th for adults who have lost a loved one to suicide. Call Dena (519) 745-2195 to register.
Nicole, February 2017