In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, which falls in May in the United States, I decided to poll the lovely readers and writers of Elephant Journal.
I also polled other forums on the internet to ask them, “What is the best advice you have ever received from a therapist, counselor, or any other mental health professional you seek for assistance?”
I asked them if they’d be willing to share one or two things that have been truly life-changing to them in that, “Oh my God, why haven’t I thought about this before” sense.
But note that every person is different, so please consult a trusted medical professional before exploring any of the therapy techniques mentioned below.
I hope that their words would help and inspire you as much as they helped me when I first read them. I thank them for their contributions to writing this article by imparting their words of wisdom.
Here’s what people had to share with me:
“I was living in the US and suffering from a bad bout of health anxiety at the time. My therapist told me, ‘The human body is miraculous. It works to keep you alive and is endlessly working in your favor.’ That alone felt like an affirmation to me. I began to feel much safer within my body, and any time I had a kind of ache, pain, or physical symptom, I didn’t fear as deeply for my life. But prior to that, any time I felt an ache, pain, or some kind of general malaise, I would google my symptoms and wake up at 3 a.m. with full-blown anxiety attacks. It really helped…I still have anxiety to date, but it’s more manageable than it used to be.”
“Grieving is more than just losing someone by death; it comes in all forms of losing. My grief was losing my motherhood as my kids went off to college. I couldn’t grasp it. It was a lightbulb moment.”
“You have developed a set of survival skills for a planet that doesn’t even exist.”
“Oh gosh, can I give a few? It took me 10 years to find her but she’s given me so many gems.”
“Two things can be true.”
“Love doesn’t always fit the facts.”
“I get what I get and I don’t throw a fit, which I believe is her own brilliance and not from a book.”
“I am getting better; I can trust myself.”
Also, in regards to leaving an abusive relationship, “It’s going to feel like you’re swimming upstream for a really long time. Just keep f*cking swimming.”
“If you’ve never been in this situation before, why are you using the same old metrics to measure your progress here?”
“I’m a therapist, and one of the most powerful things that a client has shared is gratitude. ‘Thank you for seeing me.’ The greatest gift we can give each other is allowing space and relationship. It is relational, and I tell people I’m constantly learning and that they are the experts.”
“The best thing a psychologist has ever told me was that she was not going to label me with a diagnosis that would hang over my head for the rest of my life. I was a teenager at the time and still remember that conversation.”
“DNA does not make a family.”
“The best guidance we have is learning to listen to our body and its emotions. When in doubt, listen to what your body is telling you.”
“Good parents are usually the ones who doubt their own parenting.”
“In today’s crazy life, we’re all spinning all of these plates and just waiting for them to crash around us. Who says we can’t put some of them back on the shelf for a while?”
“Sometimes, the armour we wear to protect ourselves can become too tight and may actually restrict our ability to navigate our day-to-day life.”
“When you do finally experience the very thing you’ve longed for, it can actually be extremely emotionally painful as it highlights the drastic difference between what you experienced and what you deserved. Knowing this helped me to stop pushing the good away, which was a type of pain-avoidance defense mechanism.”
“I always remember this: asking yourself why is this happening, or why are you going to do this, is better than asking yourself why. That will help you make more sense of things.”
“Not from my therapist but from Brené Brown, I discovered the concepts of goal posting and shame as harmful habits. Goal posting is the continuous invention of basically unobtainable goals and, therefore, constantly putting yourself down because the moment your scratch one item off your five-mile-long to-do list, you automatically add five more. And shame is like guilt, except people are more likely to identify with and actively try to heal it. It is an equally damaging force that’s buried within us that does its dirty work on our minds for years and decades without being addressed.”
“We are a storytelling species, but that doesn’t mean the stories we tell ourselves are always true.”
“My go-to has always been Reiki. It’s an alternative healing therapy that channels life force energy from the universe to heal oneself and others. I have been doing it on myself, my family, and some friends, and now, I also do it on people with COVID-19. It’s something that has always brought me results, whether mental peace, release from physical pain, accelerating the results of a treatment, or transforming thoughts from angry to loving and empowering thoughts. Then there’s hypnotherapy, which is my second favorite tool for helping others, though is a bit tough to apply on yourself. It’s like a deep, deep meditative state, where a person becomes more receptive to positive suggestions. It’s totally scientific. If you read Dr. Brian Weiss’s, Many Lives, Many Masters, you might have an idea.”
“It wasn’t advice but a technique: Eye Movement Desensitization and Processing (EMDR).”
From someone who was in a relationship with a person who was struggling with mental health issues, they learned the below:
“Not advice but a reflection: we’re not spending enough time or energy considering the caregivers who often become damaged when the individuals they care for do not properly manage their illness. My life has been destroyed by a selfish asshole who was bipolar. I am now crippled with depression and anxiety created almost entirely from my relationship with a man who manipulated and lied to me to cover his true problem, which was addiction, under the cover of bipolar and anxiety disorder. Please give a thought to the caregivers and the pressure that the feel-good memes place on them.”
“I had a therapist a few years back, whom I only actually ever saw once, and she said to me, ‘You know, a relationship is supposed to be something positive in your life. An addition that’s supportive and good.’ And I just turned to her and said, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that.’ And all the time now, I keep her words at the back of my mind. If something is messy and more stressful than it is positive, I keep thinking to myself, ‘This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.'”
From someone who has lost their father to suicide and sought a psychologist, they discovered:
>> We can’t take the weight of other people’s decisions on our shoulders.
>> We never know what is going on for someone else, so being kind and compassionate, and learning about the impact of mentally ill health is incredibly important.
>> Shame is not a helpful emotion. It forces us to live in the past and constantly replay what we think we have done wrong. In that place, we don’t show ourselves compassion for where we were, doing the best we could with the knowledge and resources we had access to at the time.
So what was the best life advice you’ve ever received from a helping practitioner? Feel free to comment with the gem of wisdom that has changed your own life.