So The Mental Adventurist blog hasn't really followed the path I envisioned - knocking out engaging blogs week on week, expanding the resources on the website etc. For the last few weeks that has made it a struggle to pick up where I left off but then (thanks to a little input from friends) I can see that the "hiatus" in the blog kind of sums up the theme of mental health pretty well:
It's not always going to be plain sailing or work out as you planned but you'll keep picking yourself up and going again because you believe in it.
So in that ilk (and the fact it is mental health awareness month), forgetting the time since the last blog here we go again...
Today I wanted to speak a little about mental health therapy for two reasons:
1. In spite, of the reduced stigma around mental health, psychotherapy/counselling still carries it's fair share of ill informed views.
2. I've had my fair share and in the last few months upheaval (family bereavement, relationship pressures, broken bones and alike) it has helped me not just to cope but to thrive.
A great quote in the book Waking Up by Sam Harris says simply, "Our minds are all we have. They are all we have ever had. And they are all we can offer others." (side note: If you don't know who Sam Harris is check him out - controversial, challenging but very interesting.)
I think the sentiment behind "...all we can offer others..." is very special. Cultivating our minds helps us to understand ourselves, open up to others and to give the very best version of ourselves to our values and the world.
We don't give it a second thought when someone goes to the dentist every six months to look after their teeth (saying that I've not been for two years - shh), goes to a hairdresser once a month (to look after their hair) or goes to a boot camp once a week (to look after their body).
Yet many people I talk to still believe that therapy is something for other people or for people in a worse off place than them.
It shouldn't be and it isn't! I discussed this with a good friend on the phone today and he said, "I think it should be something that everyone does at least once per year even if just a few sessions." Yes, yes and yes. I cannot begin to tell you how beneficial I find therapy.
It helps to enhance you're understanding of your self, harness your values, steer your mind away from unhelpful thinking, clear up past trauma, bring clarity to mind boggling situations, retrieve parts of you thought lost, enhance your relationships and a whole host more. I'm not saying it's a magic bullet but it really is a gift to yourself, and a result others, that you will not regret.
I know there are barriers that can make it difficult to step in to that therapy room for the first time but: "I'm not telling you it's going to be easy. I'm telling you it's going to be worth it."
This personal homage to therapy is also backed up by hard facts (just take a little look at some research papers online if you want - won't bore you with that here).
What kind of therapy?
If you do decide that therapy is something you want to check out then there are a lot of options. This can be pretty daunting but these are summarised well on the Beyond Blue website:
or on the Mind (UK) site:
Giving my two pennies worth:
When I first had depression over ten years ago I tried Freudian therapy (lay on a sofa and analyse your thoughts etc.) - this helped in many ways and can be useful for intense trauma. However, I've found the therapy I've done more recently far more beneficial, these are called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). They are therapies focused on helping you to address the way you think about different situations and to promote living a value-driven life (I'll talk about this more in later blogs).
There are also a myriad of other therapies so don't get daunted - anything you do to work on your mental health is fantastic!
Where to Start?
The first thing I'd say here is that I am definitely not an expert so my first recommendation would be to go and see your GP/doctor, speak to those around you and alike. I really understand how tough this can be, especially if you've only recently started struggling with mental health issues, but doctors these days have such a great understanding of mental health and they can help you navigate the next steps. You're not alone!
You can also gather a few facts online or get in touch with me via the website...
If you don't quite feel like dipping your toe in face-to-face therapy yet then there are some books and online courses that are great. A few options to get you started are:
Overcoming Depression by Paul Gilbert (A self-help guide to CBT)
The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris (Book that ACT is based on)
This Way Up - Online CBT Course (Megan and I did this online therapy course together)
I want to stress that the person-to-person therapy is definitely the optimal form of therapy but these other options are good alternatives or supplements to other therapy.
I'm really struggling to hold back writing a lot more here as psycho-therapy has been such a major player in my ever expanding "mental health toolbox". It is never easy but it has helped me flourish and grow and most importantly offer the best version of myself to others. I'm sure it isn't right for everyone, and that's cool, but if you haven't tried it you'll never know!
I hope, with your help, I maintain my courage to go to therapy and that a little sharing of our experiences opens up doors that will help us for years to come.