People often have the misconstrued notion that mental health professionals have it all together and aren’t struggling with some of the same issues as their clients. When someone is in a position where they’re helping others, it’s easy to think that they don’t need help themselves; however, this could not be further from the truth.
I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life, and the anxiety only continued to get increasingly worse as I got older. My anxiety has caused me to have a constant uneasy feeling and pit in my stomach, even if there was absolutely nothing wrong. My anxiety has caused me to have panic attacks in the bathroom on vacation while the rest of my friends were enjoying themselves. My anxiety has caused some of my relationships to suffer, as I constantly felt paranoid and unlovable.
My anxiety took a turn for the worst when my boyfriend passed away two years ago. He passed away just two weeks before I was about to begin my internship as an Outpatient Mental Health Clinician. The thought of offering emotional support and advice to others while I was grieving this significant loss in my life seemed absolutely impossible, but I knew pushing through and helping others who are also struggling was the right thing to do. I quickly realized that part of being a therapist while having your own anxiety means giving advice to others, but not being able to take your own advice and help yourself. It also causes you to have self-doubt and question your own ability as a mental health professional.
While there are challenges that come with being a therapist while struggling with your own mental health issues, it is also extremely rewarding. My experience with anxiety is what made me so passionate about this field. I know how difficult and scary it can be to struggle with your mental health and feel like there is no one to turn to who will understand. I knew going into this field, especially after my recent loss, that triggers were bound to come up for me during the session. During that hour that I’m with my client, however, I’m able to push those feelings aside and channel my focus completely onto my client, as I know this is what I would expect from my own therapist. Having anxiety myself has taught me all of the patience that goes into being a therapist, and that some days a client might just need someone to vent to and listen. It is often talked about how helpful therapy can be for the clients, but no one talks about how helpful it can be for the therapist as well. I have learned so much about myself and my ability to help others through the work I have done with my clients.