A guest blog by Keren Guevara
Trigger warnings for mental health struggles, implication of suicidal ideation.
The first time I went to therapy, I was seventeen years old, crying to my mother about how there is something wrong with me. Looking back now, the moment feels surreal, almost sacred. The fine details are still so clear to me, now at twenty-seven: Seventeen year-old child prodigy, golden child, stellar daughter, headed for a breakdown. Her mother does not cry in an attempt to keep it together. She sobs only when no one is looking. They both do.
That is the first time I learned of how difficult it is to sit there and hesitate to ask for help, wonder if help will actually ever come, and hope for a tomorrow I no longer dream of.
Asking for help is the first step — and often, it is the hardest.
I sat at the psychiatrist’s office that day feeling sick, nauseous because I did not want to be there. My mother sat with me. She explained what she knew, or really — what little I told her. How could she have vocalized a sadness that was not her own? How could she have dug through the depths of my loneliness to lay it out, when I have not even shown it to her?
But the truth is, asking for help can feel so daunting. If you’ve never had to before, the shame that comes with it is overwhelming. I found that it was hardest to open up to the people closest to me, the people who cared about me. Some tiny voice at the back of my mind thought, Wouldn’t that be like showing them all the ways I failed to make it out on my own?
Asking for help is the first step — and often, it is the hardest. Sometimes, there is no language for it. There is no easy way to be vulnerable. There is no vulnerability without showing a little bit of softness. But isn’t it so much harder to make it out on your own? Isn’t it so much harder to try the same way you have been, all alone?
My mother may not have understood it all at once, but she supported me through the unknown.
Having a good support system reminded me that not all was lost.
The psychiatrist, my mother, and I had a long conversation. I catch only bits and pieces of what was said. My mother talked and listened for the most of the hour, answering questions and making sense of what little she knew.
There was no easy cure, I learned from context within the conversation. But it made me breathe lighter, easier, knowing that I didn’t have to be alone. Having my mother as my support system reminded me that not all was lost.
My mother and I headed home after. The car ride is silent. I don’t get to thank her at that moment. I only found the words some time later, when the doctor gave my diagnosis.
Putting a name to the condition helped me understand a part of myself.
It was a couple of meetings after the first that my doctor finally put a name to encompass my condition. She looked right at me as she said it. She did not shy away from the word or hide it behind a mumble. She said it for what it is, enunciated the vowels and the consonants so clearly for me to hear.
I sighed with relief.
Hearing that there was an explanation to all the loneliness and sadness felt like I could finally call it for what it is. Putting a name to the condition helped me understand a part of myself. It was as though I could say, Look! This is a part of me! But it is not who I am! Look, now it finally makes sense!
I wish I could say it gets easier after that.
Healing requires effort, time, and accountability.
When I was younger, I often wished there was a quick way out of my condition. I wanted to be fine again, to be who I used to be before illness. To laugh without caring for what others thought, and to breathe without a thorn in my chest. I wanted to be all right again, without doing the work.
But no one ever got out of a situation by doing the same thing they did when they got into it.
Learning takes some time to get used to, and unlearning takes even longer. There are days where things will feel harder, and the work to self-improvement will look a hundred times more difficult. There are days when healing seems like the last option. Sometimes, it can look so ugly and feel so tiresome. It won’t always be candles and journaling. Most days, it really is about accountability and showing up for yourself even when all you can give is your thirty percent.
I remember being twenty-five when I told my therapist, It turns out you were right. Taking care of myself does make me feel better. I gave her permission to say she told me so.
Even now, at twenty seven, there are lifestyles and habits and preconceived beliefs about myself that I am still unlearning. Even now, after ten years of therapy, there are hard days. Healing requires effort, time, and accountability. I learned to give myself patience and compassion because I did not always know this. And when I need it, I give myself grace and compassion to start over.
It gets better.
How cliché to end this on a note that has been said over and over, time and time again.
But look — I am twenty-seven years old today, when I didn’t think I’d make it past eighteen. The sun is peeking through my windows. I am learning new ways to take care of myself. There is a plant in the corner of my room and it is growing. My friends tell me they love me. I just did my laundry. Look — there is so much beauty in the world, and I am alive and allowing myself to look at it.
I am going to therapy tomorrow. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.
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Please note: Although Kindred is able to cater to mental health conditions, urgent cases such as suicidal ideation should be raised to a crisis hotline. We suggest that you contact the following numbers from the National Center For Mental Health: