So, I had my first therapy appointment today in three years. My mom is a therapist, and a damn good therapist, but growing up on a small island where she is friends with literally every therapist led to me having many issues with therapy.
I first saw a therapist after I broke out in shingles from extreme stress. I was 17. It was before I was ever able to identify what a panic attack was, before I knew I had a panic disorder or an anxiety problem, and during a time when I thought I had to be perfect to make up for my brother’s extreme issues. My parents didn’t make me feel like this intentionally, but once, my mom let slip “thank god you’re so low maintenance” and from then on, I felt obligated to be. So, after months of all honors and AP classes, a full time varsity sport, and a part time job without any free time, my body literally forced me to stop. I was in so much pain and so sick that I couldn’t move. A couple months later, two of my childhood friends died in a car crash, and I stopped going. I felt like she was going to tell my mom everything I told her, and those feelings were too personal.
I started again after college when I realized that I wasn’t sexually dysfunctional, my boyfriend was sexually abusive. Once again, I was stymied by the fact that my mother went on Sunday morning dog walks with this woman (to be fair, whenever I started seeing someone, my mom would stop any social interaction). It didn’t matter. How was I supposed to tell a woman who knew my dog’s favorite flavor of Snausages that my boyfriend told me if I didn’t have sex with him however he wanted, whenever he wanted, that I was a bad girlfriend? Also, she was very friendly. I wanted her to like me. I could spin any story to make me sound great, and I could do so credibly. I don’t think she really did anything for me in the time that I saw her. I stopped when I moved to DC.
I saw other people intermittently after I moved here. Even though I knew these people had no connection to my mother, I couldn’t get past my earlier issues with therapy. I love my mother, but I don’t want to talk to her about my rape, about my sexually abusive ex, about my paralyzing fear of failure and rejection.
At the urging of a couple of GTers, and some assistance from our fearless leader, Sorcia MacNasty (seriously, those links she found are amazing), I found a therapist covered by Medicaid. I went in and spent the first 30 minute telling her everything. I told her about my inability to find a job, about my stagnant love life, about my money problems, my self medication with alcohol, my panic attacks, problems in my social life, and my fear of failing at everything I want. I told her about my sexually abusive ex and my rape. Sometimes, just getting everything out all at once is a huge relief.
She sat for a minute, and asked what I would advise me to do if I were someone else. I told her that I only drink when my mind isn’t stimulated or I’m experiencing stress, so I need to learn better reactions to those two triggers. I told her that I get more stressed when I don’t have structure in my life, and I suck at self motivating, so I need to schedule my day in advance to give myself some structure. I told her that I use the internet as an escape from reality, so I need to structure/limit my internet time.
So, for the next week, I won’t drink, I’ve scheduled my days with productive activities, and I’m only using the internet in the evenings (recreationally, at least). Even though all of these solutions are from my own head, talking them over with my therapist and feeling accountable to her was both grounding and freeing.
I am lucky enough to live in a state (well, not STATE, but district) where I can get medicaid without having children or being homeless. That isn’t true in all places. If you are able and you need it, find help, find a therapist. Even if you’ve had problems before. Even if you think your problems with them are chronic and incurable. If nothing else, it might make you listen to yourself, and what you knew all along.