I have never been one to shy away from discussing my mental health. As a psychology major we are taught that the stigma around the disease has a way of keeping people from discussing it and I hope to change that one day. However, today, nothing I ever learned inside a text book prepared me for the amazing talents of another mental health professional.

As with any sort of visit to a practitioner of any kind you are filled with apprehension of what to expect and what to talk about. So when she asked me if I understood why my doctor had me see her today, I told her that I did however little did I know that I really didn’t have a clue. Of course as any therapist would do we delved right into the heart of the problem, one which I was readily aware of. We discussed that at length and it wasn’t until she said something valuable that caused me to get to the heart of the situation.

“You like to try to fix people, don’t you?”

*blink*

*blink*

*mouth gapes wide open*

Of course she was right. Stray animals, or people, tug at my heart strings. I hate to see people sad and I always hate disappointing others. I’d rather do without than know that someone else is doing without themselves. However, this always gets me in trouble. Then we brought up the subject of bullying.

I was bullied as a kid. It started in the second grade. I was born with a cleft lip that had four surgeries and if I had never said anything, you would have never known. But when I was six you could tell and trust me, I got picked on a lot for it. I also got picked on for being the new kid in a new school. My parents decided to transfer me over to a public school after I’d spent 3 good years in a private school. I had no friends and no one to turn to.

The bullying continued until my high school years. People were cruel. The emotional scars are just now starting to heal but then my therapist said something else that made so much sense I nearly lost it. “You’ve had to use your ability to make other people happy to your advantage as a survival skill. You don’t have to do that anymore. You don’t have to make anyone else happy except yourself. You are not that scared 6 year-old anymore. You can let that go.”

Of course I cried, hard. I have never had anyone validate that to me before. I’d never had anyone say to me that it was okay to say no and to move on. She told me that it was okay to cut the negativity out of my life and let those people who bring me down go. I needed healthy, easy as pie relationships in my life. She was so right.

Then before I left she handed me this piece of paper and on it listed my basic rights to assertiveness. That word has never been in my vocabulary. However starting today, I need to learn to use it.

You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts and emotions and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

You have the right to offer no excuses or to justify your behavior to others.

You have the right to judge whether you are responsible for finding solutions to the problems of other people.

You have the right to change your mind.

You have the right to say “I don’t know.”

You have the right to make mistakes and be responsible for them.

You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.

You have the right to say “I don’t understand.”

You have the right to say “I don’t care.”

You have the right to be treated with respect.

You have the right to have and express your own feelings and thoughts.

You have the right to be listened to and taken seriously.

You have the right to say your priorities.

You have the right to say NO without feeling guilty.

You have the right to ask for what you want.

You have the right to get what you pay for.

You have the right to ask for information from professionals.

You have the right to choose not to assert yourself.

When I think about all these rights, I think the biggest one is the guilty feeling I get when I say no. I’ve got to learn to say that more often. I’ve got to learn to become more assertive in my feelings and my well being. No one else can determine my happiness and I’m going to work on using those two little letters together more often. If not, I’ll find myself killing me to make others happy.

Of course there were a LOT more topics covered in my therapy session, but this isn’t the time or the place to discuss those specific topics. I may one day but as for now, these two topics were the ones that made me open my eyes to my own issues that I’d never realized were so important. After I left the therapist office, I felt like Kathy Bates when she became “Towanda” in Fried Green Tomatoes. I felt like I could take on the world. However, for now, I’ll take on myself … to become a better me.

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