I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write this post. Not because I didn’t want to share my experience, but because I was worried people might assume I meant something by it that I don’t. I’m such a massive advocate for therapy. I want to make it perfectly clear that that hasn’t changed. What’s changed is me, and I’ve entered a period of my life where therapy isn’t something I need.
Let me back up. For those who don’t know, I’ve seen my therapist for just about two years. She’s one of my favorite people on this planet, and honestly I’d just pay her to hang out with me for fifty minutes once a month if that weren’t kinda weird. I began talk therapy when my work as an advocate for a domestic violence hotline got too heavy. I’ve also seen a psychiatrist for three or four years now (I’ve lost track of time!) who prescribes me two different medications for my depression and anxiety. I mention all of this to give a little background, because everyone’s mental health journey is different. Also, I wanted to note the amount of time I’ve been on said journey, as I think it has a lot to do with my decision.
So, why did I tell my therapist that maybe we should take a break? For the last few months, our appointments have felt like two old friends who get together for coffee, just to catch up. We chatted about what’s changed in my life (because, you know, therapy is one-sided that way), and she smiled and nodded, expressing her gladness to see me doing well. Of our fifty-minute appointment, this routine took up about fifteen minutes, and then I was more or less out of things to say.
I actually thought about taking this break back in April or May, but with Dago’s injury, I wasn’t sure if my coping skills would hold up. I’m happy to say that they have! Over the last couple of years, therapy has helped me figure out what I need when I start to lose control. Firstly, that maybe I don’t need to be in total control in the first place. (That one was a doozy!) Secondly, that there are other things I can control. If I were to break down coping mechanisms into two really basic ideas, that would probably be it: acceptance that I can’t control everything and re-focusing my attention on self-care.
I remember once asking my therapist if she had any openings, as I had a friend who was considering giving it a try. She told me that it’s hard to know when she might have openings in the future because therapy is something that is meant to come to a close. All of her different clients are at different points in their therapy journey, and some of those journeys are closer to the end than others, but it’s up to the individual to know when that point is.
Over two years of therapy, I dealt with some shit, y’all. We visualized this lunchbox (thanks brain, for that one) that I would mentally seal up with band-aids at the end of each appointment. It holds all my shit. During the duration of our appointments, we took out my varying levels of shit, the small everyday shit, the Big Bad Shit, and the underlying shit I didn’t even know about. Sometimes I had to stuff the shit back inside at the end of a session, only to bring it back out the next time.
In some ways, therapy is kind of like taking a workshop in yourself. There’s a lot to unpack, and it helps to have an outsider who doesn’t know the story take a look at it. The story is still mine, and it’s up to me to write what happens next, but going back and spending time on what’s already been written can help me understand how to move forward in writing the next chapters.
Also like a writing workshop, therapy helps you learn some techniques that make things generally easier and better. Those coping mechanisms are what allow me to eventually graduate from the workshop, er…therapy (this metaphor has gone too far!). Now, when new small shit or even Big Bad Shit shows up, I’m equipped with tried and true techniques of working through it.
A few favorite coping mechanisms:
- being in nature
- eating scrambled eggs or a peanut butter sandwich for fast protein
- putting sticky-note reminders to check in with myself throughout the day
- allowing myself to check out of social media, and especially the news
- taking lots of naps without shame
- doing a body scan to ground myself during a panic attack
- texting friends who get it and talking through it
- doing something nice for someone else
- being more intentional and specific about my Me Time
A lot of these things have become interwoven into my monthly small goals, which is how I create habits. I’ve always been pretty good at holding myself accountable, but putting it on the blog and out into the world helps me be even more present about staying on top of what I need.
I think a lot of people might misunderstand and think that stopping therapy means I’m not depressed or anxious anymore. That’s just not the case, but that’s okay. Now I’ve got the tools and empowerment to get myself through it, without my world completely crashing.
If someday sleeping it off and taking walks stop being enough, I know therapy is something I can return to in order to get back on track. For a long time I was worried about what it meant if I saw my therapist once a month versus every other month, or if I decided I needed to see her more often than that, or not at all. Now I realize that it’s all about the journey; there’s no success or failure dichotomy because doing what’s best for me is always a win.