Admit it, you’re a fraud.
I once had a friend in high school who started a sentence one day with, “My therapist says.” This from a guy who pressed buttons, gave performances onstage that would move you to tears, and could get almost-strangers to open up about anything. He was loved, feared, and hated. And probably still is wherever he is.
His approximate response was no, that he just wanted to say it to see how people would react. But later when I started seeing a therapist, I’ve wondered why it’s such a hard thing to say.
Amanda Palmer calls this “the fraud police.” Where you’re certain someone will show up at your house and take you away for faking your way through your life. You DIY. You’re adulting. Deep down, we all feel like we’re supposed to have all the answers, yet we still read articles that try to address our questions. Some of us in turn act like it never happened.
I read an article last year called “Can Women Really Have it All?” The topic was a hot piece about how women specifically have a hard time balancing work and home life. And while I agree that it is harder for women in this respect, I still walked away from the article doubting the pedestal of attainment that society fosters and we all so cruelly measure ourselves against. Which prompted me to wonder if any of us have even half of “it all.”
None of us can do it all alone.
I saw my therapist today. There are dozens of reasons you might like going to one even if you don’t know it.
- You get to talk about yourself guilt-free, and if you’re really desperate, she will probably stay longer to help you work through things if she can
She’s paid to listen to you. You’re not supposed to ask about her. That’s not how it works. And it feels good not to worry about it.
- She’s objective
When she says something or asks you a question, it comes from a place where she wants to help make you a better person. She’s not going to tell you something she thinks you want to hear, she’s going to help you realize what you need. She’s your life coach.
- She believes you and is on your side
I once described a terrible social incident that happened to me. One of my ex-boyfriend’s friends had said written some bad things about me post-breakup. I hadn’t told my friends or my mom, because I knew they’d be pissed at my ex-boyfriend’s friends. The only one who knew was my ex-boyfriend who told me I was overreacting. When I described this to my therapist, her face started to transform into anger. She began to speak, and had to pause so she could retain composure. She responded by saying, “I don’t think you’re overreacting,” and helped me to deal with the situation. Watching her temper her response for me but at the same time respect my decision of how I would address these people is something I will never forget.
- Talking helps you un-hoard your emotions
There’s a reason they call it “emotional baggage.” It weighs down your soul. When I go to her, it’s not dissimilar to going to the dump or recycling center. Our time together allows me to take items out of my mind that I can’t bear to part with, and then give them away. Therapists also practice letting go of all the emotional stuff people bring to them.
- We have fun
My husband and best friend both were surprised when I said the words “therapist” and “fun” in the same sentence. When I was little, I loved animation. I watched a Disney special after one of their Sunday night movies once where they talked about the Imagineers. They basically think up new rides and concepts to make Disneyland the optimal family fun experience. When I sit with my therapist, my life is the amusement park, and we work on making it MY happiest place on earth. We talk about what’s good. Things I’m looking forward to. We generate ideas on how to make my life better.
- She helps me stay positive
One of the most challenging aspects is continuing to stay afloat when hit by life’s storms. Frequently, I feel like I’m drowning, and occasionally, I hope that it kills me instead of flirtatiously torturing me into a half alive state where I’m still expected to function but am unable to do so. She reminds me that while I may not have “it all,” I have people in my life who I love and love me, fun events to look towards. Also, relates to the next thing.
- But if I’m having a really bad day, she just listens
Everybody needs to be heard.
- Cognitive Distortion checks
It’s defined by Google as “ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true…usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.” We’ve renamed it “Cognitive Illusions,” but basically cognitive behavioral therapy works on retraining your brain to think about things differently since “neurons that fire together, wire together.”
- It helps you let go to talk about it
Augusten Burroughs said he got through his problems, because he wrote books about them. Louis CK told Judd Appatow in an interview that his stand-up is his way to leave his anger/frustration behind. But both of these people saw somebody first. Everybody has their own way, but bringing in a professional is a good way to get started.
One size does not fit all
Keep in mind that the first person you work with may not be a match with you. It’s like working with a new co-worker or finding a place to live. You have to find the human that you feel comfortable with. Give it time, but if the first person doesn’t jive, don’t give up! Most people date more than one person in their lifetime before they get married, therapy often works the same way.
Find out your family history
If one or both of your parents suffer from depression, anxiety, or both, you could be at risk. Ask your parents or find out about your family tree from one of your relatives or online.
Temporary, short-term solutions
If you’re not comfortable seeing someone on a regular basis but are still going through a rough time, research your mental health community. Each county has their own crisis number. Even talking to someone for a few minutes can help. I’ve called a couple times in emergencies before I started seeing someone on a regular basis.
Check out the self-help section at the library
The library rocks, and going to the section and just browsing can be relaxing.
Talk to a friend
Tell them you’re thinking about seeing someone.
If you have a drug/alcohol/addiction problem, look into getting help
Nobody can do it alone. There are lots of resources.
Ask for recommendations
Your insurance or doctor’s office is a good resource for recommendations. If you feel comfortable asking a friend or family you know sees someone or knows someone else who does, you can also ask them. Your information will be confidential with whoever you end up seeing. You can also search online through a variety of different search engines, like MentalHealth.gov or National Institute of Mental Health.