Dear Charlene: “Is Therapy Worthwhile?”
Writer and actor Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’m a writer and actor in Los Angeles. Some of you may know me as @charstarlene on Twitter, or maybe you’ve heard about my feature film, Unlovable. (Now streaming everywhere! Check out the trailer here.)
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will remain anonymous.
And if you need one-on-one guidance, check out the work I do on charlenejoy.com. I would love to help!
I’ve been following you for a long time and I just want to say it’s very inspiring how you turned your life around. I’ve known for a while that I want to be better, too—I stopped smoking weed nine months ago and I started eating healthier and exercising. I’ve lost forty-five pounds. I finally feel ready to try therapy, but I told my mom about it and she laughed. She couldn’t understand why I would need it. She said it was for “sick people” and that I don’t need to be wasting my money on something like that. She said I don’t have any problems and I’m lucky to be such a strong man. She’s an immigrant, so it’s probably a cultural thing, too (I’m sure you could understand)—but I really regret saying anything to her.
There is a lot to acknowledge here! First of all, that is freakin’ amazing that you stopped smoking weed. I also stopped, so I know how hard it can be. I just want to acknowledge what a big deal that is. And a healthier diet? And exercise too? What I’m seeing from the outside is an incredible amount of self-love. That takes a lot of courage and strength, and I hope you take the time to pause and appreciate what a great job you’re doing. As I’ve always said before, when you love and take care of yourself, everything outside of you will begin to align and elevate too.
I’m so sorry that your mom laughed about therapy. Not only do I understand the cultural divide that can happen with immigrant parents, but the general human reaction from people who can’t see or understand our perspective. It hurts to get vulnerable and open up to someone only to be shot down, let alone laughed at. I can understand your regret.
Although it’s being talked about more, therapy definitely still has a stigma around it, especially for men. So I understand your mom’s reaction. And that is exactly what that was—a reaction. Your mom’s reaction actually has nothing to do with you, but has everything to do with her. Perhaps she has her own judgments on feelings, vulnerability, depression, or expression? Perhaps she’s learned from experience that having feelings or talking about feelings is “weak”? It doesn’t matter what it is, because it still sucks that she said that. But I just want to acknowledge that her reaction doesn’t make what it feels like factual.
Therapy isn’t just for sick and depressed people. Therapy is for healthy people who have healthy relationships with themselves.
People will often associate having feelings, feeling feelings, and expressing feelings as weak. Crying little boys are taught to “man up,” then grow up to never show feelings in their relationships because that wouldn’t be manly. The truth is, being connected to your feelings is important to the relationship you have with yourself. Having feelings is important to your health and well-being; otherwise, these feelings are stuck inside of your body. And expressing and communicating feelings is important to your other relationships. Therapy isn’t just for sick and depressed people. Therapy is for healthy people who have healthy relationships with themselves. Therapy is for people who want to experience life at their full potential. Therapy is for people who want to be the best versions of themselves at home, in career, in life. Therapy is support.
And there is a stigma around support! People think that needing help is weak. When the truth is, as human beings, we aren’t meant to do this alone.
I know for me personally, the last thing I wanted to do was ask for help. I was always afraid of being a burden or embarrassing myself. I was so afraid of what people would think of me. Needing help only made me hate myself that much more. I liked being strong and independent and never needing to ask anyone for anything. I was ashamed of not being able to take care of myself. What I would eventually learn is that asking for help, being open to help, and receiving help was just another form of self-love. It’s an opportunity to value yourself and recognize that you are worthy. And it’s that deep level of worth that will change your whole world.
Your mom was right about you being a strong man. But what makes you strong—authentically strong—is your vulnerability.
Magical things happen once we’re open to support. Magical things happen when we show up to therapy and get honest with ourselves and someone else.
And more importantly, magical things happen when we choose ourselves and do things for ourselves, even when those closest to us can’t understand. That’s the level of self-love you’re at now, and it will only continue to go up from here.
As you continue to progress, people and things will show up to try and hold you back and keep you small. These are just opportunities to practice choosing yourself over and over again, and move closer and closer toward what you want.
Keep rising up. FL