Wednesday 19 November 2014

Deep and Meaningful

I want to have a D&M with you all today.

I want to tell you something about me that I hardly ever talk about on my blog or with anyone for that matter.

The truth is, I have a counsellor.

A shrink....therapist....personal listener....whatever you want to call it.

Yup, I said it.

You can judge or applaud all you want, but this is something I've been meaning to get off my chest for the last two years or so.

A lot of people know that I've sought help in the last couple of years, but a lot of people don't know the extent of my story and what I have gone through or what I am going through currently. It's not their fault though. They don't know because I haven't told them.

There's a reason for that though. You see there's such a stigma associated with mental illness, and even seeking help, that is so strong and cemented within our society that opening up about the issue results in confused, negative or blank reactions. When I tell people I'm off to see my doctor for a monthly checkup, I get a nod of approval and a thumbs up. But when I tell them I'm seeing my counsellor this week, I see a sudden awkwardness flood their face and their body starts to nervously shift in their seat. 


I don't blame anyone though. I'm not angry, not really. I used to have that same reaction too. I used to think that if you saw 'someone' it automatically deemed you crazy, or if you did have depression all you have to do is 'think positive' and you'll be okay. How naive. Truth is, seeing a counsellor is as crazy as going to your doctor when you have a belly ache. In fact, seeing a counsellor doesn't even mean you have a mental issue, it might just mean you want someone to talk to that week. Is that really so hard to understand? 

Apparently so.

I remember analysing the different reactions to the tragic death of Robin Williams. Many people mourned his loss with a loving heart and opened up to the idea of starting a conversation about mental illness, but then there were also many who said to me "but he has so much money, so much could he take his own life? isn't that selfish?"

At first I raged about these comments. Selfish!? You call that selfish?! But I realised that this ignorance about mental illness isn't anyone's fault. As a society we have failed to talk about mental illness as much as we should. We are improving day by day though, and that's wonderful, but we still aren't where we need to be, not in my opinion anyway.  

Because here's the thing, I've struggled with anxiety for two years and depression for a lot longer than that. It's something that is a part of me, something I am working on healing, and something that I don't want to hide from anymore, especially with those around me. Is it hard to live with? Yes. Is it hard to talk about? Yes. But am I ashamed of it? No. I shouldn't be scared to talk about my life or any part of it, I shouldn't feel embarrassed when I tell people I have depression, I shouldn't feel judged (even if I am).

No one should feel ashamed.

I watch movies and TV shows and read books set in New York and it seems like every second person has a personal relationship with their shrink and they're not afraid to admit it. I'm not sure if that's what New York culture is really like but there's something in that notion I admire. There's no fear in admitting to have a counsellor, someone to professionally talk to. In fact, it's encouraged!

So if anyone tells me they're going to go seek professional mental help, I don't just sit there awkwardly and say "oh cool...", instead I give them a nod of approval and a thumbs up. In fact, I want to give them more than that. I want to say "Yes! Congratulations! This is the best thing ever! I am proud of you" because sometimes all people ever need is a little support.

I don't really know the point of this blog post. I don't even know if I want to make any kind of point, because that's not really my aim. My aim is to just start having a conversation about this. My aim is to not weird you out when I start talking about what my counsellor and I worked on this week. My aim is to be straight about my life and what I go through.

I have that right, don't I?

Please note I am not a mental health professional:
If you or someone else needs support in a crisis situation please call at Lifeline on 13 11 14
If you or someone else needs information on relevant services for depression and anxiety related matters, please call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
If you or someone else is in an emergency situation, please call 000 immediately 
The numbers above are for AUSTRALIA only.


  1. I completely agree with your post. Too often people just don't understand or can't, it has strained some of my friendships. That comic is so accurate. Someone told me once, why is it that when we physically hurt its okay to go to the docs for help, heck it's actually expected. And yet when something is not right inside, it's almost as though it's only acceptable to deal with it yourself.

    There are not many things that irk me but one of them is when someone calls someone else who has commited suicide selfish. No honey, just no.

  2. Picture me giving you a nod and a thumbs up for this post!!

    I'm very blasé when it comes to mentioning that I see a psychologist every month or sometimes more when I need it. I don't see it as a big deal anymore. Most of the people in my life are supportive, but I find it difficult sometimes in terms of jobs. I often feel that I'm looked over because of my mental health which doesn't really affect my work, but sometimes I just need to take a five minute breather to deal with it. When I first started seeing someone I was in year nine at high school and I felt so embarrassed about leaving class I tried so hard to get sessions during recess or lunch time.

    I hope you're receiving the support you need and if you ever need to vent/relate about anything anxiety and depression related shoot me an email! Sometimes it's nice to talk to someone you don't know in real life :)

  3. It was a beautiful well written from the heart post! It took bravery and guts and I think you did such an amazing job of starting a conversation. Thank you!

  4. What a wonderful post Sam. I truly believe that one of the ways we will reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness is to talk about it if we are struggling with it, and not shy away from the topic. And then hopefully if there are people in our lives who don't understand it, they will ask us about it, and by doing that people will begin to recognise it as something just as common as a physical illness, and just as hard to get through sometimes. And then hopefully people won't be as ignorant about it.
    And I think it's awesome that you go to a counsellor. Just saying. You rock Sam. :)

  5. Sam Sam Sam, I love you so!
    A+ and all the gold stars for this post :)

    I feel the same actually, I've never actually mentioned that I talk to or see someone professionally for a reason, I know what the point of this post was, just to say it. Get it out there. It's not a problem and you're cool with it, happy about it even! Now you can share what is a consistent part of your life with the world if you ever want to. I often find myself in social situations and go to say "Oh yeah, I talked to ____ about that the other day and she thought..." but I sort of censor myself depending on who it is. I look forward perhaps pushing myself to continue those conversations normally and comfortably.

    I'd love to hear about the work you do if you ever needed anyone to tell. I'm right here with you in the process of making conversations about mental health more comfortable and accessible to everyone. :)


  6. great post. I've struggled with depression and anxiety for many years myself, and I know exactly what you mean. admitting to it makes people uncomfortable, and in a professional environment it often makes you unreliable. people assume you break down in tears for no reason. and if you get upset about something, it's because you are unstable. your co-worker getting upset about the same thing is, however, ok somehow. and being a woman makes all of this worse, because we are oh-so-emotional to begin with. people should speak about this more openly.

  7. I'm nearly on my third year studying counselling, and can I just say that there is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing wrong with that at all.

    I saw a counsellor for quite some time, going from counsellor to counsellor until I found the right one, and when I eventually did I felt like I should stop seeing them purely because I couldn't "lie" to anyone anymore about where I was going - especially my family (they didn't know either).

    You should never be ashamed. :)

    Here if you need a chat, Sam. Always. x

  8. There's nothing shameful about seeing a counsellor at all. If anything, it's a really responsible decision to realize that you need some help and to actively seek it. Even if someone doesn't suffer from depression or another mental illness, it can be so helpful to just talk to someone who isn't involved with your life and isn't personally affected by your decisions. I hope with so many more people sharing their stories, we're moving toward a world where mental illness isn't stigmatized and we're more understanding of one another. Thanks so much for sharing! I hope posting this felt like freedom.

  9. Big up, Samantha! Honestly I've lost count of the number of patients I've seen struggling with mental illness who have delayed seeking treatment for years because they believe they just need to 'snap out of it'. The more obviously normal people who open up this discussion the better.

  10. I love how frank and upfront you were in this post, go you! I think it's important to normalise asking for help when it comes to mental health.

  11. This is too true. People are so sensitive about depression and mental illnesses. They don't realise it's just like any other illness. Instead they judge them in a different way, a more negative way. And it's wrong. Counsellors are definitely not for people with drastic problems. Counsellors are just there to talk it out to. In fact, blogging is a bit like counselling too. Congrats on having the courage to write this.

    The Life of Little Me

  12. Can i give you a nod & a thumbs up & a high 5 and a hug & say how proud i am of you?
    It takes courage to speak openly about mental health issues & not everyone has that.
    9 years ago i realised i had been battling severe chronic depression for many many years. I was ashamed to admit it so i pushed it deep down inside myself. Doing that caused my brain so much more trauma which i am still not fully recovered from.
    I applaud your courage Sam, and need you to know you're absolutely not alone in this world and when there's times that the deep dark hole feels like its swallowing you whole, i and many other people will be there for you..

  13. Couldn't agree with you more Sam, wonderful post. It's sad, because people offering advice don't mean it to be hurtful, we just need to work on changing the perception of mental illness. (I think you might like this cartoon as well).

    Also, there's absolutely nothing shameful about seeing a counsellor. Congrats on having the courage to write this post. You can always send me an email if you need someone to talk to! :) *hug*

  14. I admire you a lot for this post, I just wanted to let you know that. I also have a therapist and deal with the same things so I understand. I wish it wasn't so stigmatized, it makes it so much more difficult to deal with.

  15. Sam, I admire you for writing this post! And I completely understand the stigma you are referring to. Thank you for writing this out & bringing it to our thoughts! xx

  16. I think there is nothing better than people wanting to be the best versions of themselves :) We should all be encouraging of each other and try to have kindness because it's human nature that everyone struggles in some form or another and nice to know we are not alone. I feel in the last few years the stigma of mental health is definitely decreasing and hopefully continues to do so and with that more research into the human brain - an area that is largely and scarily unknown. I definitely have huge sympathy for anyone suffering mental health issues.

  17. yes. people can be too much sometimes, I totally agree with you. because seriously, what's wrong with seeing a counsellor? I wish I know a good one so I can have a fresh perspective sometimes on things that are difficult to deal with, things I can't talk to people around me about. and there is no reason to be ashamed, really :) kudos to you for putting it out there, love this post x

  18. My sister suffered with anorexia, and people would say "just eat. Is not such a big deal" It really wasn't that easy ... it got really bad at some point where she almost lost her life. Thank God with a lot of help and support from her family she is alive and doing so much better. It took years, and though I know she struggles sometimes, she has overcome. I pray you find the same love, comfort and help. The Lord knows, more than anybody else in this world and He is there whenever you need Him.
    Juli xx

  19. Well, there is nothing wrong with proactively doing something to improve your well-being. That's how I would describe the fact that you have a counsellor. I can relate to your situation because I have been going through tough times as well and for the past six months I have been seeing two therapists in parallel. But things have been improving and my last session with one of them (medical) is scheduled for December. I will continue to see the other one (more of a coach) for as long as I feel the need to. So, great that you have shared this. Just know that you are not the only and things can improve if this is your intention. Wishing you all the best in your journey!

  20. I just came across your blog but I think this is wonderfully brave and awesome. I totally agree with you about mental health stigmas in our society and I also think that counseling in general is just a wonderful idea for anyone! We all deal with so many issues and pressures and it's so therapeutic to get an outsider's professional opinion as well as to have someone to listen to you and give you tools to manage life. Whether or not someone has a mental illness, that's just helpful! But beyond that, getting help is the bravest thing that anyone could do. It's so painful to live in shame at who you really are and struggle with. I have recently opened up about my health issues and it's been cathartic to be like, "This is what I am going through!" So congratulations to you and know that this post is helping so many people to feel less alone.

    Also, if you're more interested in this kind of stuff, you'd probably like Esme Wang's blog. She writes a lot about mental illness stuff and living a thriving life even with those issues and people's misconceptions. She's a beautiful and powerful writer and based on this post, I think you'd enjoy her blog. :)

  21. Oh, darling. I love your raw honesty.

  22. I have the same issues. In fact I am going to see a psychiatrist next week (I have only ever seen counsellors, but there are major life decisions I need to figure out so this is a big step). It's hard, it sucks sometimes but it's normal. So many people suffer from mental illnesses. Good for you for getting help! Now I want to write about my issues on my blog...

  23. i think it's healthy for people to see therapists or counselors. there is a lot of misunderstanding around mental illness, it's unfortunate. my mom has been battling mental illness for many many years and the woman i know is long gone.. although from time to time i think i see her, hear her. but growing up it was hard to deal with because of the stigma and stereotype and what other said. it was hurtful but i was also embarrassed. but then i got to college and graduated and saw the world differently and i was no longer ashamed and talked about it openly and challenged those who took pity or looked at me as a child who grew up in a bad environment with a sick mother. every experience i had with my mom and also my dad who took on the caregiver role i wouldn't trade. it's made me and our family better people. much love to you sam. xx


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