Therapy does NOT need to be delayed until you reach rock-bottom. Sreya B. discusses everything about getting first-time counseling, from how to choose the right therapist to how to deal with stigma.
I knew for the longest time that I needed therapy. I didn’t take the step till very late. I made exceptions saying that, “I have coping mechanisms, I can manage” or “I’m not ready, I’m embarrassed to talk to someone.” What I didn’t consider was the long haul of aid that would finally help me how to deal with everyday conflicts.
While in most cases, we think we need therapy when we reach saturation, I do recommend starting it before. A lot of people are under the misconception that you only need therapy when you reach an unfathomable state. On the contrary, you can take therapy regardless of how you feel.
“Therapy is for anyone and everyone. As a country, we have not yet reached a point where therapy is considered until problems become unmanageable,” says Raushni Khanna. Khanna is a mental health professional and is also my therapist that I interviewed for this article.
Therapy not only equips you with tools to work on yourself now, but also in the future. Likewise, had I started therapy earlier than I did, I could’ve dealt with things with a better aptitude. I had prolonged periods of distress– insecurities, body image issues, trust issues, low-self esteem, grief, you name it! Common issues most women in their 20s face. I knew that I somehow wanted to work on myself, and I did for the things I could pivot for myself. Fairly all you need is consistency and that drive!
With all the compliments and achievements, I felt confident for a while. but as time passed, all faded and there I was, back to square one. I had relapsed, left feeling empty again.
I stopped doing things I liked, gave upon my coping strategies and felt like I lost purpose again. As things were deteriorating, a part of me knew that I needed a permanent solution. So my parents suggested that I immediately start therapy.
I’ll be getting into more of my journey with therapy, its perks, and some affable tips! Before that, let’s look into some deeper aspects of mental health.
Mental Health is an Investment
We do hear this a lot, but we only understand its true meaning when things get rough. So I do want to get this across as I discovered this much later. Mental health is as important as physical health. “They go hand in hand,” says Khanna. If you are considering therapy, treat it as an investment. You will be investing in your future and for the time being.
External vs. Internal Happiness
My observation in this division plays a weighty role in maintaining mental health. External happiness and internal happiness are two extremes. External happiness is finding temporary satisfaction. Internal happiness is feeling content from within.
Now, external pleasure could depend on factors such as materialism or depending on people or certain things for happiness, whereas breaking from within when things go south. Internal pleasure is finding peace from within and being able to tackle tricky situations with a sportive mindset. Concentrate on achieving internal happiness.
The society always tends to concentrate excessively on outer appeal, and so we get into the pressure by which we tend to forget about being internally content, and focus on if we look happy to others. Therapy does help in opening that door to self love.
Can’t Help but Feel Unproductive?
The state of melancholy has its side effects, the feeling of unproductivity and helplessness is a significant one. I come as an example in this category. And that’s why mental health is so important, because in a way it affects our physical capabilities too.
When I am feeling blue, I tend to not be able to function regularly. A wave of demotivation and lethargy take over. Even though I produce work, it’s not the best of my capability. I have observed this among my peers and family as well. Hence, I envision a quality routine as the result of a sound mind!
Get the Hormone Dose!
What are feel-good hormones? They are hormones produced by our body when we are ecstatic because of doing any activity or feeling an emotion. Dopamine and endorphins are released when you feel a sense of accomplishment, or joy from an activity such as exercise, shopping, sex, or eating delicious food.
It is essential to track the release of these hormones regularly to maintain mental health as well. “I definitely suggest my clients release endorphins, through any form of activity as that plays a key role in development,” says Khanna.
Try the Hard-Pull for Relief
As lethargic as we may feel, getting involved in any physical activity helps you also release toxins and negative thoughts. Personally, I was disturbed for quite a while due to my self-esteem and body-image issues, which made me want to shed weight and become slim, as that seemed like an “ideal beauty standard”.
But what started for that sake, turned into something I love doing till date! Working out made me realize that physical exertion gave me mental relief. I experienced results inside-out.
My friend, Struti Patnaik (20, Chennai) says, “working out makes me feel ecstatic and gives me a positive high that I worked on myself, and it was mostly with my own effort, that I was able to accomplish whatever I did in the day!”
Ms. Khanna says, “There is a definite relation between mental and physical health. Whenever I recommend my depressed or anxious clients to indulge in a physical activity, I see a positive impact. When you see that your body is capable of so much, your self-esteem is bound to improve.”
Choosing the Right Therapist
Just like how you’d want to find compatibility in dating or making friends, choosing the right therapist for you is crucial. In India, this process can be tricky as numerous stigmas tag along. People often choose a therapist based on privacy rather than compatibility.
Make notes on what you want to talk about and what kind of guidance you need. Personally, I needed counseling for self-esteem and relationships. I preferred a young woman that would empathize with my issues, exactly what Ms. Khanna specializes in. Find your match by connecting the dots.
My therapist and I could connect freely because of having generation and wavelength in common. Ensure you find homogeneity or a vibe with your therapist. Most essentially, they should give you a safe space.
What A Therapist Does
A therapist is often misconceived to be somebody that gives you solutions to your problems. What they do is pose questions to you that help you realize the situation better.
Ms. Khanna underlined, “Your therapist must be non-judgmental and collaborative. They must not be looking to fix you but guide you in finding your way on your own. There are a lot of misunderstandings about therapy, that it is only done by psychiatrists, who are doctors that prescribe medicines. There is a multitude of therapies; talk therapy, art therapy, psychotherapy and more.”
Therapists frame scenarios and activities to help you study yourself by understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Finding solutions is your gig. That’s why it’s very important to educate yourself about therapy as you need to know what to take back from it.
For example, it is customary to only think of yourself in a situation, if you were right or your feelings. But only if you understand other people in the same situation’s perspective will you be able to analyze things better. If something is bothering you more than usual, it may be a trigger from the past that is playing an efficient role in your affliction. A therapist acts as a catalyst to help survey your thoughts and experiences.
My Experience with Therapy
Unfortunate as it was, I managed without therapy till the bad times got worse. I was embarrassed to talk about myself to anybody other than close ones. Then found interim coping mechanisms. It was high time when I took therapy as suggested. When I started, I had so much to express that, the process itself made me feel lighter.
I remember in our initial call, Ms. Khanna said, “Most clients don’t articulate so deeply in the first session!” Well, I had so much from years to vent! Talking to someone that just listened to me without having to recite their story in return, it was all about me for one hour!
What you don’t get with friends and family is talking only about yourself without hearing counter experiences or feelings. That is what I felt thankful for during my sessions. My friend of the same age referred me to my therapist. And per my research, she seemed like the right fit for my grievances. My intuition played a role. I felt like she would get me, with no judgments.
As the sessions continued, we unraveled things slowly. My triggers from the past that reflect on the present, my issues regarding relationships, etc. The way I was posed questions to, showed me a clear picture. Ms. Khanna nurtured the space and challenged my inhibitions. I remember when things got out of control, and I immediately contacted her. Talking to her calmed me down to a great extent and she gave me full assistance till I got better.
Though things happened at their own pace, if I had started therapy earlier, I would have had a greater capacity to deal with myself in difficult situations.
How to Glissade through Stigmas
Mental health help comes bearing scars. Not everyone believes in getting help. This can be because they understand it as being weak, not being educated enough or just cannot relate to it.
Most Indian parents did not grow up with the normalcy of getting help. They believe in dealing with the hard-knocks of life ourselves. Asking for help in this environment could be tricky. Ideally, talking to them about your situation and assuring them that it will help you for the better is what may help.
Having said that, there are parents who are extremely aware of why you may need therapy and support them like mine and most people that I’ve seen. That may also come from a point that they went through something harsh, and they couldn’t get help, but have the privilege to give that to you now.
The Up Graph
Mental health awareness has fairly improved over the years. Social movements and initiatives taken by public figures and the government helped spread the word in India. Ms. Khanna said, “Especially in the covid19 pandemic, there was massive acknowledgment towards mental health in India, as so many experienced distress.”
A good news for Indians is that in The Union Budget 2022, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced 24×7 free mental health services and care. She further addressed, “The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To better the access to mental health services, National Tele Mental Health Programme will be launched by the government.”
Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone launched her mental health foundation, Live, Love, Laugh in 2015. She came out about her depression, and it was a discernible, that even a person as successful as her has a dark side and is not ashamed of it.
A film like Dear Zindagi was a very raw and relatable portrayal of chaos in a young woman’s life and how she copes. Therapy, plays a beautiful role in the movie. Tamasha, again was an anecdote of many helpless, mentally tormented employees in India. More films like these must be encouraged in India, as we are great fans of cinema!
Silver Linings Playbook and Perks of Being a Wallflower are other stupefying films about mental health you must check out! Mental health as a genre would be revolutionary, don’t you think?
What You Can Do!
If you need therapy, it does not call for weak, neither does it slow anything down. Coping mechanisms are a temporary fix and a fantastic way to de-stress, which must continue even with therapy.
Lastly, do not wait till things get worse, if you need help, you do. Taking therapy was one of the best decisions I made, and I urge you to take that step if you need it even in the slightest!
Sreya B. is a Fashion Journalist at ShilpaAhuja.com. She also takes interest in psychology and social issues. Socializing and networking are her forte. To sum it up, she is a people’s person!
She found passion in fitness during lockdown by curating her own home workouts and diets and successfully met her goals. She wishes to bring change through quality journalism and creating awareness.