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  • Writer's pictureDr. Quentin J. Lee

Life After Mental Health

It's okay to get the help that you need.

I'm not sure when or why the topic of mental health became a taboo subject but it needs to stop. If your tooth was hurting you have no problem going to a dentist. If your eyes are hurting you have no problem going to an optometrist. So why is it that if you're mentally struggling with something it's strange and often looked down upon to go receive the help that you need from a professional. That help could be in the form of mental health counseling.

As a person that was extremely against counseling in the beginning, I definitely now appreciate and see the benefits of counseling. I thought I was one of those people that was invincible. Nothing fazed me. I was rough and tough on the exterior but struggling internally with life's unfortunate circumstances that seem to stack against me. Even though I struggled mentally I thought it would be best to handle things on my own. And then it happened, it became too much. This is just a small piece of my story. I understand that there are many more stories out there that are far more moving and far more in-depth. However I urge you to see the necessity of normalizing mental health counseling as a means to improve your quality of life.

I can vividly remember conversations when I was growing up of people making comments about those who could have benefited from Mental Health Services. I heard things such as “they ain't right” and “something wrong with them” and I even heard “they must be touched in the head.” The conversations, ill intended, didn’t help the situation at all, instead it continued it on the path of hopelessness. Words Hurt. Yes, I said it. Words do have the ability to build up and tear down. Let’s be mindful of the words that we use, and our impact on those around us.

As a young eager and energetic kid I was forced to mature extremely quick. Mainly in part of having to help my mother manage her 6 sons. I was the boss of the group. Things had to go the way that I wanted or I wouldn’t play. I was that kid. Being that I was forced to become mature, I also exhibited an inquisitive nature to solve things. I wanted to discover any and everything I could regarding life. Unfortunately in seeking my discoveries, I uncovered some harsh truths that made life more interesting, and not in a positive way.

As I was uncovering various truths, or what seemed to be lies at the time, I was introduced to many emotions. Some emotions were extremely positive such as happiness, pride, and celebrating success. There were also some negative emotions such as loneliness, depression, sadness, and bitterness. All of these emotions were handled the same. “You will be fine.” Even though I heard it multiple times, I knew that I wasn’t fine. I don’t believe I really wanted anything else other than to be heard. But remember… “you will be fine.”

Growing older, I came into puberty. That was an experience all in itself. I still was unwillingly subscribed to the belief of “you will be fine.” Things weren’t adding up as I thought they should. I felt even more angry at life due to the unfair hand that I was dealt. I can even remember wanting revenge and being just mad. I kept these feelings bottled up inside because I had to remember “you will be fine.” I suppressed my feelings.

The suppression did not allow me to process emotions correctly. I became a professional burrier of emotions. It was easier to bury than to actually deal with the issues at hand. I wish I knew then what I know now. I would retreat to my own philosophy instead of trying to gain a true understanding. Back then, I thought that the emotions and feelings were real and true. They were definitely real, but not true.

Fast forward to adulthood. As a grown man, I still believed “you will be fine.” It’s what we tell ourselves and especially others. The ill advice that I’ve given out over the years. Be extremely careful about the advice you give others. Make sure it’s grounded in truth and not emotions. Make sure it also helps build up instead of tearing down. The advice that I was given was not to help me process, but to help me become compliant with life.

As I journeyed on my path of life, I was met with a situation that changed my life. The “situation” caused me to experience several various emotions all at once. There were times that I was scared, mad, angry, happy, upset, fearful, energetic, and also remorseful. These feelings were all embedded due to my mentality of always “being fine.” This situation was different. A simple saying did not give me a chance to properly address or process my emotions. I needed help.

Looking for a therapist is not something that a person does everyday. I didn’t really know where to start. This process was different because I was looking for the person that I was going to willingly open up to about my problems. I clicked on many websites to be led down paths that just seemed weird. I probably called about 3 people, but I was looking for the special one. I found that one. Her website information was extremely impressive. I called and we were ready to have our first session well within a week.

I was a little apprehensive going into my first session. It was already strange to have a therapist, but doing a visit during covid was a totally different story. The session was conducted via video calling. After a few moments, I felt as if I knew my therapist for a long time. The conversations were all geared towards meeting needs that I had never spoken to anyone. The session was great. It was one of the most impactful 50 minute sessions that I have encountered. Healing started day 1.

I completed the sessions and took notes on next steps on my journey to finally “be fine.” Every session left me more and more hopeful for the next week. It changed not only my outlook on how things affect me, but it changed the way I conducted myself in situations. I was convinced, therapy is working. I’m benefiting from having conversations and being completely transparent and honest with someone who has a vested interest in helping me heal. The process has been rewarding and essential.

My therapist helped me process through one of the toughest moments in my life. I was well prepared due to the amount of support I received through the counselor. The involvement was minimal, but the impact will be felt forever. My therapist also helped me realize the importance of being able to genuinely ask for help. It’s ok to receive help. It’s also ok to give help. Change your focus. Use therapy as an opportunity to support others and not another meaningless task assigned.

Our society needs to get rid of the notion of making therapy a thing for “crazy people.” People process various things in various ways. It’s important that decisions are made to improve the quality of life by not only consulting with a therapist, but allowing a person to inventory their own specific needs. I am a huge proponent for therapy since witnessing first hand the power of sharing with a therapist things to help improve students.

If you are unable to attend therapy, I would suggest researching opportunities and agencies to join as a small group to receive support. Small groups are assemblies of people with a common general interest. The interest ranges from something as small as kickball, to full out small groups centered around books. The main focus of a small group is to support. Small groups were introduced to the mainstream a few years ago. Many churches use the small group concept to unify congregations. I would suggest any and everyone to get either a counselor or an accountability partner through small groups, that will help push and motivate both parties in the area of healing.

Life after therapy has been extremely enlightening. I’ve been able to apply principles from my sessions to my everyday life. I’ve shared resources and exercise with those I encounter daily. Therapy gave me the strength to face various situations with grace and valor. There is life after therapy just as well as there is life after any tragedy.

Dr. Quentin J. Lee has gone viral several times as an educator. His most recent videos "Can't Touch This" and "Germbusters" have garnered over 9 million views collectively. A principal in Talladega County Schools, he's one of the few educators out there who has been interviewed by Cedric the Entertainer, Anderson Cooper, MC Hammer and many others. He holds a doctoral degree from Samford University in Educational Leader. Join one of his "Kicking It With Dr. Lee for empowerment sessions!

Comments or Questions? Want to share your educational experience with COVID? I cordially invited you to reach out! All respectful, on-topic comments are welcome.

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