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That's my secret, Captain. I'm always angry.

An adult client of mine recently discussed her daughter’s depression with her neighbors, who said her daughter “didn’t look depressed.” A teenage client of mine was recently evaluated for medication for her anxiety. She was fine to start the medications because she was “just used to always feeling this way.” A friend of mine often uses this quote verbatim because he often feels anger but has learned to manage it. Another friend of mine has said that this quote has always resonated with her.

This quote, to me, encapsulates a lot about mental health. It also opens up a discussion about why addressing mental health is important.

Let’s get into it, shall we…

Mental health struggles are often invisible – they aren’t something we can see as soon as we look at someone. In fact, struggles are often not discovered until having a vulnerable discussion or a long relationship with someone. We hear often that our struggles should not impact our lives, so we are not very open to sharing.

Even after we know the label or classification of someone’s struggle, every person is different. Sure, there are symptoms and typical behaviors of every disorder and illness, but those symptoms can manifest differently from person to person. One person’s really good day could be someone’s worst, and one person’s perception of “normal” could be incredibly different from the person sitting beside them.

This quote is perfect to illustrate the complexities of the lengths to which people go to cope. People who have depression don’t stay in bed all day every day – that’s not an option. People with anxiety don’t bounce off the walls all day every day – that’s not an option. People who have substance use habits aren’t carrying around their substance of choice all day every day – that’s not an option. People who have difficulties with anger don’t punch walls all day every day – that’s not an option.

Instead, everyone learns to work around it or push through it. They figure out how to live within the structure of their lives. Maybe it’s medication, maybe it’s therapy, maybe it’s adding coping skills. Or maybe, they just experience their struggle all the time. They white knuckle it. Maybe their secret is that they’re always angry or sad or anxious or craving a substance. They wear a mask – they maintain their Bruce Banner form because that is what they are taught to do. They only become the Hulk when the situation appears to demand it or when the idea of maintaining Bruce Banner becomes too difficult. This mask-wearing habit is often so engrained that the idea of managing or changing that can be scary. Feeling exhausted and feeling unhappy becomes the norm and the idea of changing that, even if there is potential it means improvement, can be challenging.

What does this say about our approach to mental health? It’s the secret part that is the problem. As Tony Stark tells Bruce Banner, “You’re tiptoeing, big man. You need to strut.”

This isn’t me saying that struggles give us permission to stop our lives – this is me saying to strut into therapy and seek help. It is me saying strut to someone close to you to ask for help. It is me saying strut to your doctor to discuss medication if you think that will help. It shouldn’t feel like a shameful secret to have mental health struggles. It shouldn’t feel like you need to hide it or that you bottle it all up to release like a Hulk. Instead, the struggles should be something we learn to cope with. They should be understood and managed in an effective way.

That’s where I come in – I am here to help. I want to learn about your struggles and what they look like for you. I want to help you learn how to live with them. That means learning how to get through the day as effectively as you can while also honoring the fact that it’s difficult sometimes. We will do this work together; therapy is a collaborative relationship. I am an expert in my way, but you are the expert of you. I want to empower you to experience life the best way you can. I will be there to cheer you on and support you. Not holding your hand and cheering, but definitely on a sideline not that far away.

Maybe you’re noticing cracks in your teen I want to meet them and I want them to strut around. I want to hear what their Hulk has to say. Then, once we work together to get to know it, we will learn strategies and implement different ways to help your teen control and manage. It doesn’t have to be scary – it just has to be acknowledged.

So maybe we readjust this quote – maybe instead of saying that’s his secret, we say he has a strategy. Maybe we take a page from Bruce’s book and realize that the situation is difficult. We keep ourselves together when we can and find ways to be a part of the world in our own way.

To finish this off, I want to explain the reasoning behind picking this topic. Firstly, I am a huge fan of Marvel, so it helps to get to know me a little better. My Captain America bobble heads in my office can confirm. Secondly, I think it does truly show how we sometimes approach mental health struggles. It is a constant that exists in the minds of some of our closest people and yet they wear a mask over it. They transform into what they are “supposed” to be. Maybe that’s you – maybe you have the same secret as Bruce. Maybe it’s your child – maybe you are starting to see the cracks and you are worried. Again, that’s where I come in.

I (Gillian) am the owner of Tavernier Therapy Group. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Provider and a Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider. I work with teenagers who struggle to connect with their parents and am currently accepting clients!

Take a look around my website and get to know me. I look forward to hearing from you!


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