When I first experienced depression, I was going through infertility. It was something intensely private and personal, so I had a difficult time sharing it with people in my life. I joined an online forum with other women experiencing infertility and found compassion and support. I shared my story anonymously because I worried about medical privacy. Even with that support, I was still in pain.
My husband suggested counseling and I balked. I was raised with a class-conscious and religious skepticism of psychology. It could be brainwashing or it could be a waste of money. Whatever it was, I had never known anyone who had gone to counseling. I thought I should be able to figure out my own problems. I thought it was a sign of weakness, of giving up, by going to ask someone for help with my own mind. People who really need help should go, I thought. Not me.
But people who really need help are the ones who think they shouldn't need help. That they should be able to handle this. That counseling is for those who are really ill or really broken.
Eventually, I felt so much pain that I was raw. I could no longer look people in the eye. I pushed myself, but sadness touched everything I did. It took courage, a giant push of gentle encouragement from my husband, for me to finally seek help.
The first psychiatrist I went to wasn't a good fit. He saw himself as rational and objective, yet couldn't empathize with my emotions surrounding infertility. It took another push of courage to say this trained professional is wrong, but I still need help from someone else. My second counselor was a silver-haired social worker who practiced in a church office. A graceful Southern lady, she had experienced infertility too, but it was pure chance that brought us together. She was a life-saver. She supported me, gave me emotional tools,and provided invaluable perspectives.
When a parent experiences pain now, we have many choices, but the one we choose makes a critical difference. We can blog about our pain or we can seek professional help. Experiencing problems with our children, being in constant emotional turmoil, feeling upset about our child's challenges -- those are natural experiences. It doesn't mean we are ill or broken. Writing about parenting pain online may feel good short-term, but its legacy is long-reaching. Sometimes, the things children do are borne of immature judgment and high emotions. Who wants, or deserves, those childhood incidents to shadow their lives?
After my child was diagnosed with autism, I've done both. I've blogged and I've gone to a counselor. You know which one took more courage, more blind trust? Making that first phone call. Making that first appointment. Walking in that office and staying. Opening myself up to a counselor's suggestions. Getting that prescription filled. It took all the courage and faith I had, much more than clicking "publish. "
Courage is admitting you need help, not that you need a blog. It takes courage to admit, seek and accept help in the right places.