I feel so Seinfeld, so Mad About You, so oh I don’t know, Diane Keaton movie about living in New York City and having a mysterious and very interesting life, right now.
Remember when going to therapy meant you were rich? Or lived in the big city? Or were a nutjob?
It doesn’t anymore. Oh, it still means you have some money because therapy is a gift in our country. A gift to those who have money, have health insurance. It shouldn’t be, but it still is.
I went to therapy twice before in my life.
Once when I was in my mid-twenties and married to my ex-husband. I was told by someone outside of myself that maybe I had anger issues. So I went and was told by the therapist that he didn’t think I had anger issues but rather had annoying people surrounding me.
Okay, maybe those weren’t his exact words but essentially he told me that my marriage was a little toxic. I held that in for a couple more years before I finally decided to leave him.
My ex-husband, not my therapist.
Although I did leave my therapist as well because therapy is expensive when you’re a soon-to-be single mom.
The second time I went to therapy was sitting across from my soon to be ex-husband at the end of our marriage. I was checked out, he was finally ready to work on it, and it was ugly.
Over the past couple of years, I have begun a downward spiral of sorts. My menopause symptoms have sent me to very ugly places that I have written-ish about here. My anxiety (which I have always had), has taken a beating as I have maneuvered this new-to-me territory. When you are in pain, having awful symptoms, and you don’t know when it will go away, it can make even the calmest and most controlled person feel like the world is ending.
It was after a panic attack (of which I had never experienced) sent me to the emergency room that I realized I needed to get my anxiety under control.
A year and a half later.
Mental health is tricky. For years, our other insurance company said they wouldn’t pay a copay, that we had to pay out of pocket until we reached a certain amount (think thousands), and only then would they pay a percentage.
So therapy got put off.
Because I like feeding my family more than sitting in a room talking to a complete stranger about the ickiness in my brain.
It’s actually been over the past couple of years that I have slowly embraced my anxiety. When I was younger, it was called being “high strung”, or “nervous”, or many other words to lessen the big word: anxiety.
I never felt like I was “normal” although does anyone really ever feel normal? Or even know what “normal” is?
It wasn’t until my youngest daughter was officially diagnosed with anxiety in second grade when I said aloud to my husband, “Huh, I wonder where she got that from”, not at all sarcastically.
It was the panic attack that put me into an ER over the holidays two years after Ella’s diagnosis that finally opened my eyes. And on the discharge paper in front of me were the words I had always been searching for: Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Heh, look. It has a name.
This past April, my anxiety was bad and Mike could see I was struggling more than I had ever before with my symptoms, so he called our health insurance provider. It turns out that we only needed to pay a copay with this company.
But it was a specialist copay- 40 dollars per visit.
Once per week.
Still, much better than paying out of pocket 250 per visit.
I decided to look up therapists in my area and start the expensive but needed process.
But as what is “normal” with my anxiety, I put it off.
I would add it to Monday on my calendar’s to-do list but then push it to Wednesday,
Then the following Monday again.
I sometimes get overwhelmed with fear and also with too much information. It is part of why I didn’t go right to college after high school.
Too much information means I will most definitely check out and well, fear is just FEAR.
So things like researching what type of therapist I should see and have 350 articles pop up in Google search, was the worst thing possible in my little head.
What kind of therapist do I need? Do I need a psychologist? What about a psychiatrist? Are there different types of therapists?
I bit the bullet and landed on a therapist group near me that looked friendly and inviting. Because for me, that is what is most important. Got your degree online through a correspondence course? SURE! Just be nice to me, kay?
It turns out that in this group, you get the therapist that is best suited for you. So you call into the group, leave a detailed message about what it is you are looking for, and they hook you up with your therapist soul mate.
That is probably not at all what happens but let’s just go with that scenario.
I was shopping at Target with Anna when my phone rang a few days after I left the initial message. I was in the shoe department when I took the call from my soon-to-be therapist. She was asking questions about my anxiety and here I was with a pair of shoes on (that were tied together, ala Target). shuffling around the department using words like TRIGGERS and PANIC ATTACKS and HEART PALPITATIONS while Anna was looking for her graduation shoes.
My oldest daughter is giving me such amazing gifts in the form of support that I never asked for. I don’t want to burden my kids with my problems but I don’t hide them either. They see me cry when I am sad, see me get giddy over things, they see me throw a glass into the sink when I am mad. I am not perfect and I don’t hold my children to that unrealistic goal either. But I never sit in their rooms and ask them to comfort me when I am sad. There is a difference, to me at least, between being human and being a drain.
Mike and Anna are 100% supportive of my choice to go to therapy. Probably because they live in the same house as me and see me day to day. But it’s less about them dealing with me and more about them wanting me to be happier, healthier, and just good. Good with the things life will throw me, good with everyday little minutiae, good with who I am.
So Anna sees me talking on the phone and I mouth to her “my therapist”, to which she gives me the thumbs up and smiles.
I’ve been in therapy for six weeks now and I love it. I love how I feel when I leave there. It’s like a weight has been lifted off of my weary shoulders. A weight I had no idea was even there.
I can sit in her office and sob about something so small, or something really large. I can talk about my life and as things pour out of my mouth, other things start to make sense. I can hear her words and all of a sudden it’s like a lightbulb has been turned on for the first time in my life.
I can now verbalize to my husband things like, you know when you say stuff like that it makes my anxiety worse. I now don’t feel guilty for things I used to and am learning strategies to help me navigate situations that used to tear me up inside. I am learning that I will have anxiety every single day of my life so instead of hiding it, I need to own it. Anxiety is a part of who I am, AND THAT IS OKAY.
I’ve been given tools to help me work through situations, big or small so that I can function on a much better level than before.
I liken finding myself in therapy to working a puzzle.
For my entire life, everyone around me has been working on one big confusing puzzle.
I sit at the table with everyone and try to work on the puzzle but none of the pieces fit.
I try and try and try but I can never find the right puzzle piece.
I ask for help but no one can help me find the right piece, all the while everyone around me is able to get their pieces in place.
They are having fun, talking to each other, laughing while adding their pieces to the puzzle. I am staring at all of the people wondering why they are so happy, how can they do this? Why can’t I do something as simple as putting a puzzle together if everyone else is able to??
But now that I am in therapy, I am finally slowly putting puzzle pieces together. I can appreciate the laughter, the chaos, the talking, and the multitasking all while adding my puzzle pieces.
It’s still hard at times, I need to stop myself, or excuse myself from the puzzle table but I am finally okay with these things. I realize that it was how I was built, and I am slowly accepting it instead of trying to change it.
I will always have anxiety. It won’t ever go away. But I can either learn to manage it so that I can live my life in a much better way, or I can be miserable.
I choose to manage it by therapy and maybe even medication someday. For the first time in my life, I feel less afraid of everything, less intensely upset about situations I cannot possibly control, and more confident than I have ever felt in my entire life.
Therapy is a gift I wish everyone could experience. A gift I wish didn’t cost so much money. A gift that I wish wasn’t so hard to attain.
If I could give this gift, I would. Over and over.
Because everyone deserves to feel good.