March Madness

March Madness

Being from Kentucky ensures one thing and that is March is the month for some basketball. Whether it be the Kentucky Sweet Sixteen or the NCAA tournament, there is a lot of excitement in the bluegrass. That’s why we refer to it as March Madness! Fan is short for fanatic, and it is often said that we lose our minds in Kentucky when the Cats are playing.

If you will, allow me to take a quick but serious turn as I am thinking about the ideas of madness and losing one’s mind. Certainly, there has been long history of bias and misunderstanding about mental health and mental health treatment. Overall, I believe that the cultural narratives around mental health are much more accepting in 2022 regarding those who suffer and are courageous enough to seek treatment for their mental and emotional health issues. But I was talking with a friend just the other day about a young person we both know who might really benefit from some counseling if not some actual therapy. This is a very accomplished person who has done and will continue to do great things. But my friend and I agreed that this person seems fairly stressed a lot of the time and we speculated if this person might ever reach out for help. I hope we were wrong, but we agreed that it would be unlikely.

Sadly, it seems that some of the old narratives are still hanging around. As recently as this past week, I had a new patient say something that I have heard many times over the years and that being some version of “I can’t believe I am doing this. People would freak out if they knew I was here. I should be able to handle my problems on my own.”

This kind of thinking really traps struggling people between two difficult ideas. Either they are so sick they will be labeled as crazy or insane or they are too weak to deal with normal stuff. Where it gets more interesting is when I ask them if they would have these same opinions about other people seeking help. A huge majority of people say they do not see others who are struggling in the same negative light. So, in short, “I” have either gone completely mad or “I” am weak.

I know you already know where I stand on this issue. I’m a therapist so of course I would encourage everyone to challenge these negative ideas. You might not know, though, that I have sat on the other side of the therapist couch. I’ve been the one trying to get past my biases about mental health issues and against seeking help for myself. I know the inertia pulling against me making that call or attending that first appointment (even as I was encouraging others to do so!). But I did call and I did attend that first one (and about 5 more). I promise you it helped. Challenge those messages that are keeping you stuck. Call the number. Show up for the appointment. You won’t regret it and maybe you’ll even be able to enjoy the hoops more! Go Cats!