my therapist & i have been speaking lately about my tendency to second-guess my illnesses when they do not resemble the form i believe they "should" take. it is rather astounding how often the world speaks of mental illness as something familiar & gentle & almost romantic - as though my ocd exists only if it forces me to clean without end, or my anxiety exists only if it keeps me from speaking comfortably to strangers. as though i could be a wisp, a forgotten & lovely one-dimensional thing. as if a tree singing with apple blossoms in the spring becomes less of herself when winter comes to life & strips her limbs bare.
so when the lovely folks over at betterhelp.com reached out to invite me to partner with them, what struck me more than anything was how sensitive they are to the ease with which we can fall into that pushing, obsessive certainty that we know exactly how mental illness works. betterhelp is an online counselling service that connects people in need with licensed therapists at a fraction of the cost of in-person therapy, & they perfectly embody what is perhaps the most liberating thing i have learned in my own journey of healing:
that my illness is valid in every form it presents itself. that my tree is still a tree no matter what season envelops her. that i do not need to exhibit performative sadness or anxiety of any sort to convince the world i am not making this up.
i think perhaps the reason why i am so drawn to betterhelp's mission is only this: they make certain to emphasise that their service is for those who "struggle with life's challenges". no one is unwelcome at their doors & no one is turned away. how beautiful is this refusal to make suffering into a contest. how necessary. how bright.
it is still something i'm learning myself - that the one who experiences depression as emptiness is no more or less valid than the sadness i experience, that we are all just trees trying to grow to sunlight, trying to find the place where light falls into us like the most beautiful kiss, & every form we do that in is true, is right, is real. it is something i must remind myself of over & over as the seasons constellate into each other, a symphony, a resurrection, an effervescent flickering certainty, something painstaking & wholly good, every blooming thing at once in the knowing of:
your aching need not resemble the norm to be valid.
thank you, betterhelp, for the reminder.
i'm trying to hold it close, cradle it like the light it is. i hope you will join me.
p.s. this essay is sponsored by betterhelp.com, the world's largest online counselling platform. click here to begin your free trial of affordable, discreet, & accessible online mental health therapy with licensed counsellors. all words & opinions shared here are my own. thank you for supporting the brands that support my work.
p.s.s. as always, i would be so honoured to hear your thoughts on this subject. do you ever find your unique shades of aching packaged into something too accessible for the rest of the world to feast on? please do leave a comment & let me know; i have a sneaking suspicion there are a great many of us who feel this way.