Why I Don’t Mind That You Know We Go to Family Therapy

09 Oct

Why I Don't Mind That You KnowOne of my personal goals in life is to take the stigma and shame off mental health issues and to open wide the floodgates so that people who struggle (or their family members/friends) will not shy away from walking through doors of help. I want to write about the things we all desperately want to know so we don’t feel alone, but maybe we just aren’t ready to be public about. Maybe we are intensely private in general, or perhaps we just can’t let this part of our lives out into the light yet.

That’s okay. I get it. I’ve been there. I felt deep shame for a while because I didn’t know how to tell people I wasn’t well, find the right words, or even understand how to get them to listen. It’s only been six years for me. The feeling is still fresh. I get it.

Today I want to open up conversation about family therapy because even if you go, you might not write about it. Or maybe you’re considering it but not sure what it’s about. Maybe it seems overwhelming or intimidating. Obviously, I will not divulge personal details here that dishonor anyone in my family or step over any privacy/professional lines. This is about the overall experience.

It’s to broaden the dialogue.

To make people feel less alone.

To reach into dark places and shine some light.

[Disclaimer: I have permission from my family members to share this. We remain committed to sharing the journey together with the goal of bringing hope and help to others walking a similar path. Ours is neither a worst-case nor a best-case scenario. It’s simply our scenario.]

One of the members of our family has been struggling with depression/anxiety/OCD this year. Along with ADHD, that’s not really a fun cocktail: not for him and not for us. Thankfully, much of that is currently under better control. But how many eight year olds do you know who have depressive episodes—and have since they were three? And like anything else, it has its ups and downs. I believe for the good days and am thankful for the way our family shutters in to heal these moments on the bad ones.

That brings me to my week: a double-shot of the mental health advocacy group in our town and family therapy.

I feel so strongly about knocking down walls of shame. It’s been a while since my dip into the depression pool. I’m so grateful for that. But it’s also why I felt screaming-angry when it touched my youngest child. There was no way I was treating this casually.

First, if you have a chance to be in a regular support group for people with similar struggles in their families, please consider it. It will bring so much relief just being able to hear how others deal with similar situations and to know concretely:

There are others.

This particular advocacy/support group is not a faith-based group, so it’s not a place for me to preach Jesus, but several of us do seek Him for answers, direction, and peace while riding these waves. I also go

  • To support friends with struggles
  • To get information on resources and help
  • To put another body in a chair that takes a stand in fighting mental health struggles

So many people run screaming from this issue. So many just honestly feel overwhelmed by it and don’t know what to say to us when we state that our child just had a full breakdown emotionally and is rocking himself in fetal position against the couch. People mean well, but it scares the poo out of them. I think some might even think it’s something you can “catch.”

As for family therapy, we decided recently to all go as a family in support of our struggling peep. It wasn’t convenient. The older kids had to forego school activities for the afternoon. Salad Boy (husband) lost a half day of work.

I wasn’t entirely sure how everyone was feeling as we drove there yesterday. I couldn’t tell if there was resentment, nervous flutters, curiosity, or anger?

I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say we performed a “sand world” activity. It was supposed to reveal things going on in our subconscious. Um, yup! As each family member took his/her turn in sand world, I was really enlightened. It was incredible watching each person find his/her voice. Believe it or not, after the appointment, each kid wanted to go back. They had not received any direct feedback or counseling during that time, but they were heard and expressed themselves in a safe, unbiased setting. I think they thought they were going only to help Little Man and then realized they also got something out of it. They need support too.

So, that would be a sweet little story, except that the ride home was hairy. Everyone walked out peacefully, but once in the car, the “voice” a few of them suddenly found loomed nice and loud all the way home. I heard hurt, sadness, loss, mourning, regret, disappointment, you name it.

Yeah, fun.

I even heard some very quiet blame. It took everything I could muster not to be defensive. Much was aimed at yours truly since I’m the one who is around; Salad Boy has been traveling so much, he has a legitimate excuse. “Mom” is the one who should keep this ship running well, despite all variables exploding around me at all times. I get it. That’s a reasonable expectation for children.

It’s okay.

Really, it is.

That’s why we went. And it’s so massively important to me that we each are heard. That is so important to me.

At one point, I looked at Salad Boy and quietly said: “Geez, will this stop? I’m hoping there is an end to this sudden flood of expressed thoughts.” And I did wish that because I also needed to be heard.

I thought (imaginary conversation with child therapist): Thanks a lot, ________. You get the fluff of people feeling heard and lighter, and I get the processing damage all the way into the rest of the week. How about I collect that copay next time?!

It turned out to be okay.

We learned more about each other.

Voices came out.

That’s never a bad thing, although it’s not always pleasant. I think Little Man wasn’t sure what to make of us all processing all over the place as a result of seeing his “friend,” ________, together. He liked sharing her. I know that much.

We will be okay. We didn’t go because we thought things were massively wrong with the family unit. We went to support Little Man. But, it’s always helpful to hear what we could be doing better.

That is scary and also a relief at the same time.

You mean there’s a better way to manage _______, do  ________, think about __________, talk about  ___________?

Scary, threatening ground before you take a leap of faith and cross it—but always good to know.

So, I’m completely okay with you knowing about our journey, mostly because if you feel at all alone in yours, I want you to know:

You’re not. 

There are others of us walking it with you. Might be a different flavor or intensity. But we’re there.

I will keep being a face at the mental health advocacy group. I will keep putting myself out there when family therapy is scheduled. I will keep being transparent.

And I will not fear change or feedback.

For a while, there may be blame, misunderstanding, anger, fear, resentment, and the like. It’s okay. If you are in this battle yourself somehow, you know that we’re all affected by this struggle. But I also know that going through this together means positive change for all of us—and growth.

Take my hand. Better yet, take His hand (see verse below as He walks among us, wanting to be involved), a few deep breaths, and press through the hard stuff. Life isn’t fluffy on the other side, but in a lot of ways, it is better.

And offer to take someone with you to a support group. Once you have crossed the Courage Corridor, grab the hand of the person next to you thinking that hallway looks awfully long and dark. They just need to know you have gone down it, and it didn’t completely eat you up. In fact, strength/endurance was waiting for you—strength you didn’t even know that you had.

Leviticus 26:12-13, Moses narrating, but God speaking, ESV
And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

More on our faith walk through personal struggles can be found in the just-released Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

This post was shared at Grace & TruthDance With Jesus, Breakthrough Link-UpPick Your Pin TuesdayFaith-Filled Fridays, RaRa Link-Up, Blessing Counters, Coffee and Conversationand Christian Mommy Blogger.


Posted by on October 9, 2014 in ADHD, Anxiety/OCD/Depression


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27 responses to “Why I Don’t Mind That You Know We Go to Family Therapy

  1. Sarah Philpott

    May 29, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Thank you for your honesty & help in removing the social stigma of depression, therapy, and all the other “un-talked abouts.” Good for you! What you are doing is so important. There should be no shame.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      May 29, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      Thank you, Sarah, for such beautiful encouragement! I really appreciate what you say here and that you stopped by #EspressosofFaith! Blessings to you!


  2. rmclellan1949

    May 29, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Good for your family in taking the step to make you healthy. We don’t ever feel shame if we have a broken leg treated or go to the doctor for a sinus infection so why should we feel bad if we are treating internal illness. I visited a therapist when I was having serious problems with my daughter and it helped to sort out things. Thanks for sharing this personal story and my prayer is that this will help and heal your family. Blessings. Visiting from Missional Women.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      May 29, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      Thank you so much, rmclellan1949! I really appreciate you sharing your own journey in this and what you say about treating physical ailments is so true! It should be no different. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such an uplifting comment. Your prayers are so appreciated!


  3. Mary Collins

    May 29, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Mental health is tough issue for everyone, particularly Christians, since many believe we are blessed and should just snap out of it; whatever “it” may be. Thanks for working to remove the stigma attached to this issue. Mental issues are illnesses just like our physical ailments.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      May 29, 2015 at 2:11 pm

      Yes, Mary, yes! That’s so true! I’ve been told that before as well! God absolutely can heal, but sometimes we walk this journey for a reason. I agree that Christians in particular often struggle with what to do with mental illness in any form. Thank you for coming by #EspressosofFaith!


  4. Norma Gail Thurston Holtman

    May 29, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks for your openness, Bonnie! This is such a tough issue! I have a sister who went through years of depression and we have been in an out of therapy with our adopted kids several times. It is so important to remove the stigma so more people will get help and not feel embarrassed or ashamed. You are a blessing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      May 29, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      Norma Gail….thank you so much for sharing your own stories. I draw strength from that. It’s so wonderful to be connected with you! I really appreciate you stopping by and leaving such a ministering comment!


  5. ginabad

    May 30, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Thank you for having the courage to share that! Therapy has been helping someone close to me and I want to enter it with my husband to strengthen us after some struggles we’ve been through. It’s not easy, though, it’s not my usual thing – to get a professional rather than a friend to help – but I see how much it’s helped my loved one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      May 30, 2015 at 10:35 pm

      Ginabad! Thank you for coming by and leaving comments. It means a lot to me! I also appreciate what you share here. Couples therapy is so helpful. We’ve done a stint of that before as well. It is always a good thing to check on the health of relationships, especially within the family. I’m so glad your loved one is benefitting so much. We’ve really been in a better place getting some advice, understanding, and recalibration. Courage to you as you go down that road… Blessings!


  6. ForgivenWife

    May 30, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    We can find so much comfort in knowing we aren’t alone in the challenges we face. Thank you for sharing this and for shining a light to outshine the stigma.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      May 30, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      Thank you so much, ForgivenWife, for your thoughtful comments. I am so glad you stopped by Espressos of Faith! Outshining the stigma is definitely my mission…as is bringing hope and encouragement to others out there who feel afraid and alone. Blessings!


  7. holyvacationqueen

    June 3, 2015 at 11:46 am

    So glad I’m right after you on #RaRaLinkedup. Thank you for your brave and informative post! So many families face mental illness, it’s a shame it’s still a stigma. I grew up with a mother with a mental illness and nobody talked about it or got help…sadly it was a tragedy when it could have been hopeful with the right help. I pray God will continue to use you to educate about families seeking counseling and help. I believe God’s angels are those counselors and mental professionals out there who can help turn lives around! Blessings!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    June 3, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Holyvacationqueen…so great of you to come by and share your own story. I’m so sorry yours was one of hidden pain. I honestly feel like God continues to refine me in this area. Sometimes I get it right, and sometimes I myself have so much to still figure out and have him scrape out of my heart. I am so encouraged by your words. Thank you so much for that prayer. Blessings!


  9. Wise Hearted

    June 5, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    thanks for being so brave with your family and then posted it for all to read. We need more wise hearted parents to step up and do what it takes to have a healthy family. I’ll be back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      June 7, 2015 at 11:30 pm

      Wise Hearted, I am so encouraged by your comments. That is so kind. Courage…yes, it takes a lot of courage. The benefits are so amazing, and I believe they will help my kids know their own red flags as they grow into adults, but it’s not an easy journey while in it. Seeking help is also not as scary or awful as I think we anticipate sometimes. Blessings! Thanks for coming by!


  10. enthusiasticallydawn

    June 5, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    I have a family member with similar issues that you mentioned. We have been through quite a journey the past few years…no easy answers, but God is faithful, and your courage to share is beautiful. I love the way you put it when you said “it’s our scenario”…Popping in from Grace & Truth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      June 7, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      enthusiasticallydawn….No easy answers indeed. Thank you for sharing some of your own story. We walk this thing together and not in a vacuum….so important for others to know they are not alone. Thanks for coming by! I’ll have to find you on my next trip to Grace & Truth! 🙂 Blessings!


  11. blessingcounterdeb

    June 7, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Thank you Bonnie! We have done family therapy and personal therapy several times in the past. I’ve always jokingly said, “It’s wonderful to pay someone who has to sit and listen to you!” Kidding aside it was always good to get their added perspective and help. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      June 7, 2015 at 11:34 pm

      Deb…so lovely to see you come by here and leave a comment! Thank you for sharing your own piece of a similar journey. I agree…extra help, added perspective….all provision and extra tools needed to cope the best we can. Counting blessings alongside you!


  12. stultsmamaof4

    June 12, 2015 at 1:18 am

    I’m so thankful you shared this with the Grace and Truth group last week! Yes, there is so much shame associated with going to therapy or counselling, that many of God’s people are missing out on some much-needed help! My husband and I currently see a counselor for help with stress placed on our marriage by PTSD. It’s been so helpful over the years that I just want to send everyone in that direction. Even if you aren’t currently “struggling,” there is so much to be learned about one another!
    Jen @ Being Confident of This

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    June 12, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Jen…thank you so much for sharing your own story. We have benefitted from therapy several times over in different ways. I so agree. It’s such a healthy thing to do. I really appreciate you coming by!



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