When I was younger, my depression was debilitating. As I grew older, I experienced horrible trauma, topping off my depression with severe PTSD. As an adult, therapy has been instrumental to my mental health, but it took me a long time to rediscover that resource because I had been betrayed by my therapist as a youth. They informed on me, telling my family my secrets, and my trust in the profession was shattered. I can only wonder how much healthier and happier I might have been all those years I went without therapy, had I not lost trust in the profession. Regaining trust in therapy wasn’t easy, but it was essential, and I am a healthier person for it.
I grew up in Jordan, a politically and religiously conservative kingdom in the Middle East. As a gay man, I had to hide my identity for fear of my life. I was already struggling with that when my mother suddenly died, and I quickly became a very depressed, drug dependent teenager. In my new book “The Kingdom’s Sandcastle,” I detail the whirlwind of depression and trauma that consumed me, as well as the crushing social pressure of a society that did not accept me and did not want me. All this together was a devastating weight to bear, and my young mind couldn’t handle it. After a series of incidents, including a drug overdose, my family shoved me into therapy. It wasn’t long after I began therapy that I discovered my therapist was reporting all my secrets back to my uncle’s wife, who always had it out for me.
This was a jarring experience. My aunt had weaponized what was supposed to be a tool for healing. I immediately stopped attending sessions. My drug abuse worsened, and I fell into a horribly abusive relationship. In those fragile years, when therapy could have helped dramatically, I completely turned my back on it, dismissing the entire profession and institution following my break in trust. Those were bad years, and I am still dealing with the scars left from that time in my life.
Learning to trust again is a difficult task, especially concerning mental health. Because my depression and PTSD went untreated for so long, I suffered for it. My mental health deteriorated quickly, and as an adult it has been a brutal slog to repair some of that deeply entrenched damage.
The first step in learning to trust a therapist again was simply recognizing my own need for mental health care. I was in denial of that for a long time, trying to just forge ahead and forget the past, but I could never outrun it. The trauma was always there, and so was the depression. I gradually learned that it is never too late to seek help, even if the events or issues lay far in the past, because the past is never that far behind. By trying to shove it down, I was actually keeping it around and dwelling on it incessantly.
It is also crucial to establish a support system outside of therapy. Once I began to understand my past traumas had to be confronted, I was able to talk with close friends before seeking out therapy. Of course, they couldn’t provide the professional level of care that I needed, but it was a start. It was a way for me to acknowledge my mental health issues and to feel heard. It was this support network, made up of just a few close friends, that eventually helped me get back into a therapist’s office.
With that support system in place, it was easier for me to understand that not all therapists are the same. It is not a blanket profession. One person’s unethical behavior does not represent the entire field. This is a hard lesson to learn, especially when considering my past betrayal, but my support network and my own desire for mental health care worked together to overcome that obstacle. It took a long time, but it was essential, and I am better for it.
Mental health is a true struggle, and self-care is absolutely essential. To anyone who is facing those issues alone, know that you are seen. Your support system may already exist all around you, but it is up to you to acknowledge your own needs and act upon them. Therapy is a crucial tool for healing, and I encourage anyone who is struggling with unhealed emotional wounds to seek it out. If I can learn to trust a therapist again after such a betrayal, you can too. Don’t be afraid to lean on your support system; they can help you find the right therapist whom you feel comfortable with, and know that it will be the best thing you can do for yourself. It certainly was for me.