“You think a lot don’t you?” I sat in a worn green chair watching the clown fish swimming in circles. Heck yes I think a lot. It’s one thing I’m consistently good at. Day and night. Night and day. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Always thinking. “I need to make a hair appointment. Does my daughter have enough shoes that fit? Am I involved enough in the community? I need to clean the toilets. What’s the meaning of life? Specifically, of MY life?” This thinking and over-thinking has meddled in every facet of my life since childhood. I have known for a long time that it isn’t always for the best. But I believed that while it was exhausting, it was also what gave me an edge and made me who I am.
Post-partum depression brought all of these thoughts crashing down. I had to do something. So I did what many sleep deprived moms with no extra time or money do: I called my OB. She prescribed medication over the phone and never asked me to come in. In fact, I never spoke to the doctor at all. And the meds worked. I learned that I could still have the “edge” without the weight of the exhaustion part. Things got better, and I hoped in the back of my mind that maybe this would fix me once and for all. That the thoughts and worries that had plagued me my entire life were simply the result of a chemical imbalance, easily corrected by a once a day pill.
But as anyone who has dealt with depression or anxiety knows, the pills are rarely enough to curb a lifetime’s worth of thoughts. That takes real work. And not the same kind of work that is getting back out of bed and dragging yourself to the kitchen for a glass of water to swallow the pill you almost forgot, again. This is the uncomfortable kind of work where you have to say out loud to a stranger all the messed up things you know about yourself that you’re often too afraid to admit to even your very best friend. And then you have to do something about it. To change the things that have made you who you are for as long as you can remember because they are slowly dragging you down like quick sand.
I asked for recommendations from friends and ended up making an appointment with a therapist who an acquaintance had worked with and who, most importantly, accepted my insurance plan. In our first meeting, he asked me why I had come and gave me the speil about wanting to make sure there was mutual fit. If I felt like he wasn’t right for me, he would give me some recommendations. I was pretty convinced that he wasn’t the one. But I’m not at all great at confrontation, so I spent the time during the speil trying to figure out how I would eventually break it to him that it wasn’t working out. And then, knowing me, I would probably never see a therapist again. But at the end of the meeting, I reminded myself (in my head of course) that my typical behavior had gotten me into this mess and what did I really have to lose? Well, other than money because this therapy business was admittedly not cheap. I made a follow up appointment. And I’m so glad I did.
It’s been about three months now and, while the actual work is just beginning, I’ve learned a lot about myself. As it turns out, the therapist I was ready to fire on the first day is pretty great. I leave my appointments feeling curious and empowered. I’ve been able to give names to many of my dysfunctional thoughts (or as the great Brene Brown calls them, the “stories I tell myself”), and I’m starting to put myself into situations that give me the opportunity to confront my biggest fears. I see a future that is, at least on most days, much different from the one I had previously invented.
I put off therapy for years. And trust me, I had every excuse in the book. No money, no time, you name it. But I finally had to accept that I wasn’t going to wake up some day and suddenly be the “fixed” and successful version of myself I dreamed of being. I was going to have to become her, and I needed some help to figure out the proper tools to craft her. I also decided it was something I wanted to talk about. What I found out when I told friends I was seeing a therapist was that I was far from alone. I couldn’t believe how many friends told me that they do the same. By now, they’re probably annoyed with the number of times I’ve started a sentence with “My therapist told me…” While I don’t know exactly where this journey leads, I know that I’m on the right road.