I recently had a conversation with an old friend of mine. I do not mean to say that she is old, I mean more that our friendship is old. We have not seen each other in many years and through various social media we recently became reacquainted.
During our conversation I mentioned that I go to a therapist. She scoffed at the idea and said that she does not believe in therapy.
I countered her statement with "Therapy is not like Santa or the Easter Bunny. It does exist."
My friend did not want to offend me and backed off her original statement.
I told her in a somewhat joking way. "It is people like you that make it difficult for people like me to seek a professionals help."
She asked what I meant.
I told her there is a stigma around certain mental conditions. That stigma makes it difficult to feel like it is okay to seek medical help.
She was not sure how to respond.
I did my best to explain it. I said something like this:
I go to a therapist to make sure that the decisions I make in my life are not clouded by my anxiety or depression. If I ask a friend, their advice is clouded by the friendship. If I ask family, their advice is clouded by the fact that they want whats best and usually easiest for me. If I was suffering from Hypertension I could have a friend or family member take my blood pressure and they would know whether it was high or not. I could adjust my medicine accordingly. With Anxiety there is no simple tool to use. I need to check in with a person who is not biased in any way about my behavior and who can tell me if I am acting in a socially normal way.
People go to their medical professionals all the time. A dermatologist wants to see you once a year unless there is a need for more. A Cardiologist wants to see you every 2 to 3 years depending on your situation. A therapist wants to see you every few weeks. Now a dermatologist looks at your skin with a black light. A Cardiologist will hook you up to monitors. The only real tool a therapist has is to talk with you.
I don't think my friend completely got it.