Rock Bottom, and Coming Up for Air

Last night I dreamt that I was terribly, horribly depressed. I couldn’t quite pick up my head, and I was so embarrassed about letting myself get to this point that I refused to go to therapy. Luckily, my fiancee, awesome even in my dreams, made me go, and in my dream I just sat there, resting my head on the arm of the couch, feeling miserable… and yet, already feeling better, because I was working on it.

This isn’t too far off from my actual experiences, and it’s something I’ve talked about a little bit before.  As Angie points out,”We’re not just people planning weddings, we have so many other things going on (from the fun stuff like derby to the not so fun stuff like the feelings).”  Because this is so true, and because it took me so long to finally find and start seeing a therapist, I want to talk about it a little bit more.

Two things happened that made me start therapy:

1. I really, really felt that I needed to see someone; and
2. Two nice, normal, sane people mentioned that they had fantastic therapists.  And they mentioned it casually, off-hand… like, of course they have therapists! Of course they are fabulous!  And I remember a little hiccup in my mind, like, “Wait, what? You can do that? How can I do that?”

I should admit that I didn’t just one day up and go because suddenly it seemed normal and I was brave.  I had been thinking for awhile that I should see someone, that things probably weren’t quite right with my brain or my hormones or my memories, and that I had things to talk about with someone who knew something.  But there was no catalyst, nothing to make it really okay (to myself) for me to go, until I was working at the rape crisis center.

Oddly enough, I started reading wedding blogs right around the time I started therapy.  What? Happy things, people! Take what you can get!

I found the person I found on a friend’s recommendation, and I liked her from the start.  We talked about the things that came up at work for a good four months before we were able to move onto other things, life things, history things.  In November, I suddenly became incredibly depressed.  It lasted for a week or two, but it seemed much longer than that.  When I think back to it, everything in my memory seems dark, everything in shadows.  I remember riding my bicycle through a busy intersection and considering turning into an oncoming car.  Not a thought that I am proud of, in retrospect, but a thought that crossed my mind and speaks to the darkness of that brief period.

And because I had been seeing my therapist for months before that, she saw it.  She saw right away that I was not myself, and she drew connections that I had been incapable of seeing, and she told me to stop the birth control I had started a month or two earlier… and within days I things were light again.

The point of that story is that I set this whole thing up for one reason and it possibly saved my life when something unrelated came up.  Seriously, kids, therapy is awesome.

Here are my big therapy points (taken only from my personal experience):

1. It can help anyone, for any reason. If your reason is that you feel sad on Mondays, go. Talk about how Mondays make you sad.  That may morph into some professional insecurities, or concerns you have about your best friend, or wondering why you always end up wearing just one sock, underwear, and a sweatshirt every morning – your therapist can help you figure these things out.  It’s like magic.  It’s like going to the gym for your brain.
2. FIND SOMEONE YOU LIKE. I liked my therapist from the first visit, even though it took me a long time to get comfortable enough to talk about a lot of things.  I have no clue what I would have done if I didn’t like her and kept going.  Along these lines:
3. If you don’t like the person you find, that doesn’t mean therapy sucks. See #2.  Keep looking.  Ask friends for recommendations; ask friends to ask their therapists for recommendations.
4. In my experience, therapy won’t give you the answers. Really, I’ve asked.  I think I said, “Okay, so that’s what’s going on.  Now fix it. That’s your job, right?”  Um, my therapist laughed at me.  And then helped me to figure out how I could best handle the situation.  It’s not about getting someone to understand you, necessarily – I think it’s about getting someone who can help you understand yourself.

Going to therapy has helped when things are horrible: it helped when I couldn’t handle another conversation about rape, it helped when I couldn’t think of a single thing in my life that seemed good, it helped when my parents separated, it helps every single time I am frustrated with Turtle.  And the thing about it is that for me, it helps even when I’m not there.  Knowing that I can go, that it is an option, makes things a little bit easier.  When things are really hard, I know there is somewhere quiet and safe where I can go and sort them out.  It also takes a bit of the weight off of Turtle, and off of me, when we fight or when one of us is having a hard time; sometimes we say, “Well, here’s what I think, but I think you should talk to [therapist] about it, too.”  We both know we have another outlet, and if things get really hard with us, we’re both willing to go see either her or my personal together and figure things out.

So there you are, a long, possibly rambly, definitely personal post on what I think of therapy.  Please tell me your thoughts, your experiences, and ask your questions – I’m so curious about what other people think of all this.  Did I just start thinking it was normal and okay because I worked with a bunch of social workers and counselors?  Does it turn out that everyone secretly goes to therapy?  Please share.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Rock Bottom, and Coming Up for Air

  1. lyn

    Frankly, I’ve known very few people who go to therapy (or at least have admitted it to me). Yet I completely, completely agree about how valuable it is.

    The one and only period of my life when I went to therapy was somewhere in the middle of college, after my grandmother died. I was lingering in a state of depression for a while, but it was the nightmares that made me decide I should take advantage of the free therapy sessions the school offered each of its students. I didn’t like my therapist — I eventually stopped going. But during those few sessions I had, he’d said some things about other areas of my life that over time I realized were true. At that point it was up to me to fix them (and this took time), but the bottom line is that if I hadn’t had that experience, I might be a very different person today.

    One day, when I have the money and/or insurance, I would appreciate the opportunity to find a good therapist. The stigma that therapy has long carried is gradually fading, I think. I seems as though more and more people realize that you can’t get to a self-actualized state entirely by yourself.

  2. 5 freaking stars.

    I went to therapy for 4-5 months during and at the end of an abusive relationship and after an abortion. I just could not deal with what I was feeling and I needed help. The thing I liked about therapy (and I never had ill feelings about it, for reasons I’ll explain in a bit) was that problems weren’t solved, she never told me “what was wrong with me,” but she asked me the right questions so that I could navigate myself through life on my own. That’s all therapy is- it’s a stepping stool to the highest shelf in your cupboard where all the goodies of self-awareness are hidden.

    I recommend therapy to everybody (although my therapist wasn’t awesome, she still rocked.) Oh, and I recommend eyebrow threading. I will never go back to tweezing or waxing.

    But I see therapy differently. I worked at colleges for five years and met with many students who needed support I was not trained to provide. I’d help them book appointments in the counseling center, I’d walk them over, and let them know it was okay to go. I think being able to put a positive spin on therapy and encouraging my students to go, changed my outlook on it when I chose to go. I think it’s a big scary step to take that anyone should be proud of.

    • Oh yes, and my brother goes now, too. He was a bit uneasy at first, but he loves his therapist.

      And, I forgot to add, but for someone like me, blogging has been just as healing as therapy.

  3. I used to think that going to therapy was a big freaking deal and that only the crazies went. I remember way back when Rosie O’Donnell still had her show and would talk about going to therapy like it was no big deal and I remember being surprised (this was before my degree in Psychology and playing the therapist role myself).

    I’ve since realized that it’s only a big deal if you make it one. I don’t personally have a therapist but there were times in my life when I know it would have made a difference.

    I loved reading your post, thank you for sharing!

  4. Anne

    When I was 15 I refused to consider therapy or even study psychology because I was convinced that I was going to be more messed-up afterwards and there was no way that my therapist would “get me.” Fast forward 8 years and I was in the midst of an emotionally insane relationship, in graduate school for therapy (!), having some really bad trauma reactions and having complete meltdowns at my internship when I finally went to therapy for real. I had had interns at college and grad school but it quickly became clear to me that they didn’t know what they were doing (yet), so I got a therapist who interestingly enough teaches at my grad school. She’s amazing. We’ve been working together for 5 years. I’m way better. And I’ve been in that “maybe I should walk/ride into traffic” place too. It’s scary, and thats where therapy can help. The issues have changed but because she knows where I’ve come from she can point out my unhealthy patterns when I start getting into them. And she makes me a better therapist for the teens that I work with.

    Also, I love your blog.

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