Friday, December 28, 2012

Why You Need To Go See A Shrink - Part 1: My Moment

Everyone has moments their lives when they need to go see a doctor. Even with the healthiest of lifestyles, there are broken bones, high fevers, appendicitis and other issues that arise.

Everyone also has conflicts, insecurities, fears and mental issues in their lives that require the help the help of a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor or therapist. And even with the best of friends and spouses, we all hit moments in our lives when we need professional help.

That moment for me was in a dining hall.

The first time I went in to see a psychologist was my freshmen year of college. Growing up in the Seattle area, being Asian was a non-issue. There were no Asian clubs in my school that I was aware of and I was rarely reminded of the fact that I was Asian. That all changed when I went to college.

There were a variety of Asian clubs that invited me to join. I was the first Asian friend for some people I met. This made me feel uncomfortable but what hit me was hardest was one night in the dining hall. I walked in and as my card was swiped I saw two long tables filled exclusively with people who were Asian. This made me feel so uneasy that I left the dining hall I immediately without eating dinner.

This felt like the most ridiculous thing to react to and this idea that I had "issues" with being Asian sounded ridiculous. How could I talk to anyone about this? Northwestern University made a big deal about the fact that they provided free counseling and psychological services so I figured, why not take advantage of this and get my money's worth out of this college.

The first session was awkward. I didn’t feel right telling a stranger about my feelings. But there were two things that made this experience worthwhile. First was the fact that when I told the psychologist my problem she didn't laugh at me and validated my feelings. And second, at the end of the session, while my issues with being Asia were still present, I didn't feel as bad about my problem.

For the remainder of my freshmen year for about six months I went in for weekly sessions. Sometimes I had a lot to say and sometimes I had nothing to say. I read some books and wrote some reflections as part of my therapy and gradually, eventually being reminded of being Asian stopped bothering me.

A couple years later when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease (which I discussed in this earlier post). I went to therapy again to learn how to control my stress which was having a direct effect on my disease. This therapy not only helped me with the Crohn’s but changed the way I handled problems and conflict in my life.

None of this therapy changed who I was. What it did was help me realize the kind of person I wanted to be and gave me the tools to become that person. 

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