"Therapy is for crazy people."
I was eating dinner with a guy I had been dating when he dropped this bomb casually over scallops. We had been talking about someone we knew who had just revealed that she was seeing a psychiatrist.
Little did he know, I had just started going on my own. I had been experiencing extensive amounts of stress and felt like I wasn't coping with it well. I was anxious all the time about everything: my friendships, the progression of this relationship, my success at work, being away from my family in a big city.
I stayed silent and used the moment to take a sip of wine instead.
Unsurprisingly, things didn't work out with the therapy shamer. However, his words had a ripple effect. I found myself experiencing a sense of shame the moment I stepped into my therapist's lobby. I took my date's general (and inaccurate) remark about therapy and internalized it.
I'm not alone: Research shows that mental health stigma ― both self-inflicted and perpetuated by others ― often prevents people from seeking help when they're experiencing problems. As a mental health writer, I've reported on this fact time and time again. Suddenly, I found myself in a personal situation that gave that stat some validity.
But, thanks to the very thing that was being stigmatized, I was able to work through my feelings. The truth is, there's no reason to buy into the false perceptions surrounding therapy. It's a process that helps you manage psychological factors that influence your overall well-being.
I now refuse to settle for anyone who makes me feel ashamed for doing something that helps me become healthier and happier. And I encourage anyone else to do the same.
I now refuse to settle for anyone who makes me feel ashamed for doing something that helps me become healthier and happier.
According to Chloe Carmichael, a clinical psychologist based in New York City, that mentality will pay off in the long run for both you and your relationship; having a supportive partner can enhance the therapy process and make you feel closer to that person as a result.
"It shows they are in favor of your growth, they respect the choices you make for what's best for yourself and they're not trying to isolate you," she told HuffPost.
Significant others who are truly understanding about therapy tend to be curious ― not to be confused with nosy ― about what you discuss. They also might be willing to help you practice what you've learned in your sessions (i.e. working through arguments in a specific way or encouraging certain exercises for stress). But, most importantly, they have an encouraging attitude.
The benefits of therapy speak for themselves: The process can help you manage mental health issues or simply work through an acute problem that's causing stress. Research shows it can beneficially rewire the brain, help with better emotional regulation and lead you to develop more productive and positive habits. Going to therapy helps you discover ways to become your most authentic self.
"It shows that you're willing and able to reflect on your approach to life and try new skills," Carmichael said. "Rather than being ashamed, people should be proud of their willingness to invest this way."
All in all, therapy is a radical choice of self love and care. It's a health decision, just like going to the doctor for a broken bone or keeping up with a regular exercise routine. It's not the activity of "crazy people."
You deserve to be with someone who understands that.