A couple of months ago, I opened my eyes to find that I had woken up without the aid of my alarm. When I went over to check my phone for the time, I realized that the reason I hadn’t heard my alarm was because my phone had stopped working. I knew that there were two options:
- I could call out of work and go get my phone fixed.
- I could write down directions on a sheet of paper, and hope to God that my minimal geographic knowledge of the state of Rhode Island would be enough to get me through the day.
I chose door number two, and somehow, I managed to make all three deliveries that day, despite inclement weather that obscured street signs, and that made it feel like I was driving inside of a snow globe. After making it back to Massachusetts that afternoon, I went to get my phone fixed at the mall.
I gave the technician my phone, and there I stood next a collection of brand-new laptops. I was wearing my winter coat, a hoodie sweatshirt, and a beanie, looking positively stellar. As I examined the latest models, an older woman started talking to me. I won’t transcribe the entire conversation, just the most important part:
“I need a new laptop for work, for my biller.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a therapist.”
“You don’t say!”
I had wanted to say something like, “No shit,” but at that moment I had given up swearing for Lent. I had been searching for a therapist for the past few weeks, and she just so happened to do both grief and anxiety counseling. It was serendipity, and I’ve been seeing her ever since.
I cannot tell you how important that chance meeting was. I have a tendency to wait until issues pile up before getting help, and I could feel the accumulation nearing its tipping point. I was frustrated on so many levels, and that frustration was spilling into everyday conversations with friends and family. I was getting angry at random times, and I could feel myself becoming desperate. There was something inside of me that needed to come out, and therapy had always worked for me. It was a way to talk through my issues and organize my thoughts, without worrying about who I might offend.
This is my seventh therapist thus far, and it won’t be my last. I feel no shame in needing help, in needing to talk to someone about the myriad problems and ideas racing around my head. Unfortunately, one thing that I’ve encountered over the years is the negative perception that seems to swirl around seeing a licensed therapist. People feel like it’s admitting defeat, that seeing a therapist means they can’t handle their own problems. They feel like they’ve failed.
I am not my father’s son in the way that I seek out therapy. He did see one later on in life, but it wasn’t something he ever felt comfortable with. I’m more emotional than he was, and I’ve had to make peace with that.
To me, seeing a therapist is a way to not use things like Xanax or antidepressants. This is not to disparage those who do use them, but I’ve been pretty adamant that I do not want to become another American dependent on a prescription. I’d much rather deal with things naturally, and I’d rather not alter my mood in any way. I may be anxiety-ridden and neurotic at times, but I still want to be myself.
This therapist seems different to me, and not just because of the way that we met. She offers me passages from books that have helped her achieve mental peace and clarity, and is not afraid to be tough about certain things. I need that sometimes, need that cajoling. I know that even though I’m an open book most of the time, that there are still things that I don’t want to talk about. I know that there are still issues weighing on me, issues that are holding me back from taking that next step into adulthood, whatever the hell that means.
Admitting is the first step. You can pretend that mental health isn’t a real thing, that it doesn’t exist, but chances are you know someone dealing with some form of anxiety, depression, etc. Entropy, as defined by Google, is, “a lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.” My mind descends into chaos if I do not take care of it. I’ve felt this chaos, and I know that it affects everything you do, every interaction on a day-to-day basis. If your mind deteriorates, it colors how you see the world, and not in a positive way.
Not everyone needs therapy, but at the very least I think that people could benefit from just sitting down with someone and venting their problems. The person on the receiving end doesn’t even have to be a therapist, just someone you can trust, someone who listens well. Our busy lives often don’t allow for conversations to get deeper than surface level, but mental health is just too important not to give some thought to it. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but by talking about it, things can begin to process, and by processing these issues, we can begin to move on.
“That would only happen to you,” my sister/stepmother said to me, in reference to my chance meeting with therapist #7.
It’s true, I do run into people in the strangest places, but she feels like someone I was supposed to meet. It was as if the universe had put her there, and I know that I’ve made some real strides in the time that we’ve spent together. I look forward to every Tuesday evening where I make the drive to Arlington, pour myself a cup of non-caffeinated tea, and let it all out.
Therapy is an amazing tool, and I’ll go until it stops working, until I need to find another outlet for everything swimming around inside of my head. If you’re considering seeing a therapist, don’t wait. Don’t spend another minute not getting the help you deserve. I feel like every session brings me closer to feeling like myself again, and in the end, what’s more important than that?