A few years ago, I was dealing with a lot of dilemmas in life. No, I was not depressed, nor was I broke. I wasn’t heartbroken, nor was I dealing with illnesses. Life was strangely wonderful!
I was living comfortably in Brisbane, 10 mins walk from the riverside, earning a six figures salary working at one of the largest consulting firms in Australia. Work was challenging but not too stressful. My performance ratings were exceeding expectations. I was travelling for leisure every couple of months.
My health was thriving too. In my early 30s, I was in the best shape of my life. I was excelling in whatever I did. Life was good. But I was yearning for a change. I wanted to move back home to live with my parents and work as a fitness professional.
From living on my own in one of the most beautiful countries in the world to moving back with parents and dabbling with an unknown profession that is not even considered lucrative. Everyone around me thought I had lost my mind.
- What will happen if you don’t make it?
- Will you be able to sustain it financially?
- What if you can’t find another job afterwards?
- Are you making a mistake by giving up what you have?
All those questions were clouding my mind and making me anxious. For almost a month, I could not sleep properly. Workouts felt tiring. I would mindlessly scroll through “What happened when I took a one-year sabbatical” articles and try to find inspiration in them. Hell, I could not even enjoy a Netflix series without thinking about it!
Soon enough, I started experiencing back and neck pain. The kind you get due to stress; a sharp burning like pain in the middle of the upper back and a stiff neck. At work, I was a high-performing leader who knew how to get things done, but internally, I was losing confidence. I was feeling lost despite having clarity on what I wanted.
An indecisive mind is the biggest evil of all! It rips you off your mental peace and makes you feel like a loser.
Finally, I reached the tipping point when I realised I could not continue like this. There was no trigger for the event, but a voice from inside told me to stop brooding over what “could be” and decide what “will be”.
But I could not understand what was going on inside me.
- Is it chronic anxiety?
- Or maybe I am depressed?
- What does it feel like anyway?
I started reading self-help articles on anxiety, depression and mental health. But I could not arrive at a solution. Of course, you cannot see or immediately feel mental health issues, unlike physical injuries or illnesses. I was confused again, and the cycle of dilemma continued.
Finally, I decided to seek help and visit a psychologist. Fortunately, my workplace had a portal where I could find professionals based on my location. So, I found the closest possible psychologist and booked an appointment. It was one of the best decisions of my life. The experience was eye-opening, and here is what I learned.
1. Therapy Is Not Just for Those With Mental Illness
There is a common notion that those who seek therapy or mental health support are emotionally weak. It’s like assuming those who suffer fractures suffer from malnutrition and have weak bones.
I consider myself a mentally strong person. I have faced many adversities at a young age and have fought my inner demons head-on. Most people around me are envious of my self-discipline and control. Yet, I found benefit in working with a psychologist.
It helped me introspect in ways that I would not have otherwise and assured me that I am normal. Asking for help does not make you weak, it demonstrates courage even when you do not feel strong.
2. Therapy Provides an Opportunity To Express
A psychologist does not have a magic potion that makes all your problems disappear. But it provides an outlet for you to talk without the fear of judgement. I realised my anxiety was a result of my inability to express myself freely to anyone. I knew what I wanted, but I could not make a decision.
I could not discuss my situation with my parents, friends or colleagues because I thought they would not understand me. They knew too much about me to not judge.
My psychologist, on the other hand, was bound by her confidentiality clause. She was a stranger with no shared connections and knowledge of my history. I could tell her my story the way I wanted to without any preconceived notions. It helped me believe what I was going through was normal and I was not committing career suicide.
3. Seeking external support helps You Zoom Out
I always knew what I wanted, but I never made a plan. I was so self-absorbed in deciding whether to take the plunge or not that I could not think beyond the first step. I was lost even before I started!
During my six sessions of therapy, I brainstormed a plan with my psychologist. I broke down the next 12 months into smaller chunks, from quitting my job to spending time with the best coaches to travelling and finally moving abroad and opening a gym. I had it all mapped on an A3 size sheet.
To be realistic, she did not give much inputs. I planned everything on my own, but I had someone as a sounding board. She would listen without judgement and share her honest opinions without any ulterior motives. It’s all about having a comfort level. And that gave me the freedom to zoom out from the problem and look at the situation holistically.
Sometimes, an outsider can reveal a fresh perspective when you are deep into the problem.
4. Therapy does not fix your problems
Six sessions with a psychologist did not fix my problems. But it gave me strength and direction to cope up with them. It allowed me to think objectively and make a decision for myself.
I did feel the nervousness and fear you experience when you step outside your comfort zone. But I had accepted that it would be uncomfortable.
During one of the sessions, I realised I should be seeking advice from someone I look up to. I dropped him a text to meet for a coffee and received a response within 15 mins. Does that all it takes to seek support?
He was an ex-colleagues who had about 20 years of additional life experience than I did. I opened up to him and shared my dilemmas. He reminded me of something that my dad used to ask:
What would you do if you knew you could not fail? What is the worst that can happen?
My inability to ask these two simple questions was holding me back from seeking the right path. The process made me realise that asking for help is about letting go of your ego and opening up to those you trust. It is not as hard as we think.
Therapy did not fix my problems. But it gave me the strength and direction to cope up with them. It is all about you. It is how an injury does not heal merely by visiting a physio. But if you focus on recovery and sincerely go through the rehab process, you eventually recover. It is all about you.
Not everyone may be dealing with mental health issues, but anyone can seek mental health support. You do not visit a doctor only when you are sick. Often it is precautionary, and sometimes you are in a dilemma. Your mind is the same!
Seeking support from a psychologist was a wise decision. It gave me the strength and direction to deal with my problems head-on. It also assured me that my line of thinking is reasonable, and it is normal to experience those feelings.
Sometimes, all you need is to let your thoughts flow freely without fear of judgement.