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Destigmatizing Therapy

*Name changed for privacy.

This is not a post about writing or craft, but it is something I have strong feelings about.

In the year 2019, therapy is still stigmatized. In particular, studies show men resist therapy because it indicates "craziness" or "weakness." Women are more likely to attend therapy or seek therapy for their kids.

I was in and out of therapy for 7 years. Initially for a traumatizing event, but I kept attending because I struggled to control my anxiety after. (Perhaps not coincidentally, I didn't write much in those 7 years. I wrote a LOT in high school, which I do credit for keeping my teenage angst at bay.)

In my case, I lucked out. The first therapist I saw was the one I stuck with. I started seeing Owen* when I was 19, and I was a little unusual for him because he specialized in children's therapy. In my case, he heard the circumstances and what I was looking for in a therapist, agreed to take me on, and we more or less hit it off as much as a client and therapist can. My first few sessions we didn't discuss much, they were about him getting to know me and making me comfortable. We talked a lot of nonsense, like video games and books and other hobbies.

Eventually, I started opening up. He recommended I take some anti-anxiety medication - as a stepping stone, because my nightmares at the time were graphic and debilitating. I was literally terrified to go to sleep. I struggled to leave my home without clinging to my father.

Owen was patient. He worked with me. I stopped seeing him a few times, but any time I had a crisis, he welcomed me back.

After several years, we decided I was utilizing tools to control my anxiety much better and I stopped seeing him. I met someone, had kids, bought a house, life was going well.

Then my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I called Owen again and asked to talk about it. He agreed immediately, and we discussed my coping methods, my thoughts, my feelings, my mother. At the end of the session, he said he thought I was coping as well as anyone could, but to call him again if I felt the need.

Mom passed. I fought through. I didn't call. Because he was right - in my particular case, I was handling things as well as could be expected.

A year passed. A lot happened. I lost my childcare, and subsequently my job.

Then I found childcare again. I applied to get my job back. I'm waiting on a start date.

Daycare calls - they ask me to pick up my son because he isn't cooperating.

Three days of this, where I take him to daycare and he ends up sent home for refusing to follow the rules, culminating in him acting like he's going to bolt out the front door and into the parking lot.

So what do I do? I have a sudden issue with my child stemming from habits I've known were a problem, but not to this magnitude. One-on-one I could handle them. The problem is daycares don't have the staff to shadow every one child, especially if he's proving to be reckless and a danger to himself.

I call my insurance. I'm incredibly lucky: within a week they hook me up with a therapist. We're seeing her on Monday.

Now, if my son has some imbalance in his brain, I can accept that. I'll work with him. But I strongly suspect that isn't it. I suspect this is a behavioral issue that can be corrected by talking, by working with him, by communicating.

So why therapy?

Because I don't have those tools.

I know my son better than anyone. It should come as no surprise I've been with him since the moment he was born. Even at daycare, the teachers switch around. Even his wonderful father isn't around as much because he's more likely to go overseas for work. I am the constant.

But I don't know how to communicate with him sometimes. All the talking in the world hasn't gotten him to explain why he does certain things, or what he's thinking. He's a smart kid, his pediatrician has always said he hits his age markers perfectly, and he shows signs of neurotypical comprehension.

But when he won't follow the rules, he can get stubborn and shut down. And that's where I struggle.

The therapy isn't because there's something wrong with him, per se. The therapy will hopefully work with me and him and give me new tools with which to communicate with a stubborn, if sweet, kid who can't express himself eloquently.

But even if he is diagnosed with something, that still doesn't mean there's anything wrong with him. It means his brain works differently from mine, and as his mother, it's on me to learn how to properly communicate with him. My biggest job as his mother is to raise my son into the best adult he can possibly be. If I don't reach out when I need help, I will fail him.

I refuse to fail him.

At the same time, therapy isn't a cure. It's a tool, one of many in modern society's repertoire.

It's important we continue to destigmatize therapy. For our sake, for our kids' sake, for future generations' sake.

I started with me, and now I'm moving on with my son.

And I'm adamant he never feels ashamed of this.

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