I've struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, but I never knew it until I was an adult. Even though I was suffering inside, I was well behaved and a good student, with no “obvious” problems. As a kid, the only people I ever saw go to a therapist were rich celebrities, deeply “neurotic” television and film characters, and classmates who were acting out in school. It wasn't until I was much older and needed help processing a specific traumatic experience, did I end up in therapy and hit with the realization that I could've benefited from it all along. I know from experience that seeing a therapist makes you a better mom, because seeing a therapist makes you a better person.
Like a lot of people in our society, folks in my family thought of therapy as a bad thing that either didn't really help, or was for people who were dangerously “crazy” or messed up — when they thought of mental health and the relevant professionals at all. As a result, it didn't occur to me that I could really use that kind of help, because I didn't fit that image of the kind of person who needed a “shrink.” Besides, as I was often told whenever I'd start to voice any kind of angst or sadness, there were plenty of people in the world with “real problems,” and since none of mine were visible to anyone else, they must not have been real.
But mental health is important, and mental illness is as real as any other illness. If I could go back in time, I'd tell my younger self to find someone else to talk to who would listen to me, so I could have gotten the help I needed much sooner than I did. I'm glad that I learned that before I had kids of my own, because I recognize now what it feels like to actually be mentally healthy and because I know how important it is to take our mental well-being seriously. That liberates me to help my own kids pursue their own mental wellness, instead of teaching them to suffer in silence like I did. In addition to teaching us to take emotions seriously, there are plenty of other ways that seeing a therapist makes us better parents.
Mental Health Is Essential To Parenting
When we’re not well, we can't give our all to our kids. We can't enjoy their presence as much as we want to, which means we can't make them feel as loved and valued as they deserve to feel. Protecting our mental health is a key part of protecting the health of our relationships.
Hurt People Hurt People…
No matter what we may tell ourselves, people are just plain not able to separate our feelings and well-being from how we act with others. When we're hurting, it always comes out somehow and, more often than not, it comes out through hurtful behavior. Whether we lose our tempers with our kids, or judge other parents, or fight with our partners, or all of the above, that hurt manifests in our lives until we learn how to deal with it.
...And Healing Helps You Parent In Healthier Ways
By working with a good therapist, we give ourselves a safe place to face and learn to deal with our pain and our struggles, so we can actually process them rather than carrying that negative energy into our interactions with our families. We're also better able to be patient with our kids and teach them better ways to behave, rather than overreacting to their behavior because we haven't dealt with our own baggage and feelings.
Therapists Help You Cope
This world is hard. Life in this world is just plain hard. Though we may not all have official diagnoses, all of us have struggles that we could be dealing with in better ways. I don't know anyone who couldn't benefit from the perspective and insight into ourselves that a good professional therapist can provide.
It's Time For Yourself…
“Me time” is essential for all people, moms included. Sadly, however, me time isn't necessarily just a trip to the spa every once in a while, or a glass after the kid’s bedtime (though that's all great, too!) Regularly taking time to work through your own issues with a therapist is a really great way to take time for yourself.
...And You Have To Care For Yourself In Order To Care For Others
It can't be stated enough: moms matter and we need to care for ourselves so we can take care of our families. Ignoring our own mental and emotional health isn't “being tough” or heroic, it’s unsustainable. We cannot give of ourselves when we don't give to ourselves. Eventually there's nothing left.
You Learn Strategies In Therapy That You Can Teach Your Kids
Many of us learn less-than-ideal ways to cope with mental illness, grief, and other heartbreaks as we go through life. In therapy, we can learn to replace broken coping strategies with better ones, which we can in turn teach to our kids so they don't have to unlearn the same bad lessons we've had to.
You Model That Getting Help Is Healthy
No one can do everything on their own. When we struggle — which is, of course, inevitable in life — we need to marshal support for ourselves, including professional support when necessary. If we had a broken leg, we wouldn't try to treat it all on our own without professional help. Broken hearts and minds should get the same consideration. Kids need to learn that to live healthy lives, and seeing their moms get the help they need is a great way to learn.
You Model That Mental Health Is As Important As Physical Health
As moms, we make sure we take our kids to the doctor and hopefully we go to the doctor for ourselves, as well. We try to eat healthfully, and to fit healthy movement and playtime into our day. Our kids see that, so they get the message that physical health matters. They don't necessarily get that same message about mental health, though. By seeing a therapist just like we’d see a regular doctor, we help normalize mental healthcare for them.
You Need To Be Your Best Self To Be Your Best As A Mom
Though people like to pretend moms are superheroes, it's just not true. We play many roles in our lives and families, but we only have one self to do all that with. While moms often do a remarkable job for their kids and families despite not feeling their absolute best, we're not meeting our full potential as parents if we're not meeting our full potential as people. That's what therapy is about: figuring out how to be our best selves, so we can be everything that we and our kids deserve.