There are times in life when we often feel stuck, confused about various things and unable to decide which issue is bothering us more. Distracting yourself, talking to friends, watching Netflix, nothing seems to help. There is sometimes a feeling that something is wrong, but there is difficulty putting a finger on it. Even if there is a recognition of what the problem may be, and thoughts of it may be taking out chunks of your time, there is often a reluctance to do something about it. Wishing the problems away, or hoping that things will get better with time, often do not yield the results we expect. So what can be done about it?
There are professional means of getting help in situations where you might be feeling stuck. Counsellors and therapists are mental health professionals, who offer help, which is termed counselling or psychotherapy. Psychotherapy or counselling involves two people, the therapist and the person who has sought help, to engage in a conversation, not just about the person’s problem, but about the person himself/herself. What forms is a unique relationship, where the person in therapy gets to explore his/her thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and certain patterns of behaving which have evolved over time. The problem that a person might come with, may be as vague and generalized as stress, but what causes the stress, why is it being felt so intensely now, and what is causing it to continue, are some of the things that you and the therapist will address in therapy. It is very different from just talking to a friend. Friends may give well-meaning advice, or suggestions, but the focus of conversation may shift from you to them, and you may experience dissatisfaction from not feeling heard. Therapists, on the other hand, are trained to effectively listen, reflect, pose relevant questions and create a safe environment where you are encouraged to talk, recognize certain patterns of thoughts which may have caused certain problems to keep repeating without effective resolution.
Sometimes, simply recognizing that you are experiencing some difficulty in your life is a good starting point to seek professional therapeutic help. Your therapist will help you acknowledge and recognize what the problem may be. For instance, a person who is seeking therapy for the first time, may come and say, “I don’t know what I am doing here, I don’t know where to start or what to say.” With gentle and reflective questioning, often the heart of the problem comes to light. Some people, on the other hand, know exactly what they need help for, for instance, they might come in and say that they are depressed, and it is worth exploring what is causing the depression, and whether it is depression or something else which needs to be addressed. Some people may have difficulties with their romantic partner or spouse, be it a breakdown in communication that they are experiencing, or desire for a new partner and the associated feelings of guilt, shame as well as excitement for the new relationship. Parents often feel that their child is not achieving his/her academic potential. This may cause strain on the parent-child relationship, and lead to the child or adolescent feeling pressured to perform and yet not being able to do so. Some parents and their children, suffer from performance anxiety, and a need to perform well consistently, often takes a toll emotionally. Grief over the death of a loved one, be it a family member, friend, or pet, is an emotionally wrenching experience. You may feel that you are burdening others with your emotions if you keep talking about the person you have lost. Your therapist will help you process the enormity of what you have lost and patiently guide you through the confusing mass of emotions.
Some people, may be suffering from clinical disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, eating disorders and so on. These require appropriate psychiatric as well as psychological means of rigorous treatment, where the aim is to reduce the distress caused by the symptoms of each of these disorders.
People often have this belief, that others will think that there is something wrong with them, that they are crazy or have lost their minds, which causes subsequent hesitation to seek help. The fear of being perceived this way, and the fear of being stigmatized, discourages people from volunteering to seek help. Even those, who might need it with more urgency than others. Mental and psychological health is as important as physical health and well-being. We often take days off from work or school if we are physically unwell and expect people to understand and offer their sympathies. The same, however, is still not true when it comes to psychological well-being. This is the shift in perception and attitudes that is required in our society, and it begins with trying to understand the normality of feeling upset or stressed and just not doing your best. This mental health awareness day, we at Circle of Life, would like to emphasise the importance of and promote mental health and well-being, and encourage you to seek help if you are stressed or distressed.
No matter what the problem may be, therapy is for everyone.