This will be my first time being single on Valentine’s Day since 2015.
A small part of me is bitter about it but I’m mostly kind of psyched. I don’t have to worry about buying a sentimental gift or scramble to make a last-minute reservation the day before. No effort is required on my part and I’m here for it!
I’ve been striving to be more vulnerable lately. My most recent act of true vulnerability was admitting to a stranger that my wedding was cancelled at a queer bar in Paris a week after it happened. It was painful to say it out loud, but doing so helped me accept it just a little bit more. And the stranger was really sweet about it. She simply told me I’d be okay. Hearing that from someone who wasn’t my parents made me believe it.
So I’m going to be vulnerable again now: I’m going back to therapy. My first session is tomorrow morning.
Why am I so terrified to admit that? Maybe it’s about wanting to appear strong in the face of defeat. Going back to therapy means I’m not strong enough to handle it on my own, right?
It could also be about not wanting to scare my family and friends. Going back to therapy implies that something is majorly wrong, that my last time with a therapist was a failure, and they’ll now have a reason to worry about me. I’ll be looked at differently.
Clearly the stigma that comes with mental health issues is alive and well. The unfortunate part is that these messed up ideas make their way into my brain and cause me to think negatively about my own mental health issues sometimes. Once I take a minute to tune out society’s omni-present judgement, I try to remind myself that there is nothing wrong with going back to therapy.
I repeat: there is nothing wrong with going to therapy! This is especially important to say in a time when our collective mental health (as a country, as a world) is suffering.
The truth of that matter is that going back to therapy is showing strength: I’m standing up for myself and getting the help I deserve. That takes courage. And sure, I probably wouldn’t be going back to therapy if everything in my life was fantastic right now, but there are plenty of reasons to see a therapist that don’t involve a big crisis. If anyone in my circle really views me differently for getting help, then they don’t belong in my circle anyway. And my last dabble into therapy was anything but a failure.
I first tried therapy at my college in 2011, but really committed to it in 2015 when I was at my lowest low after graduating. My anxiety was practically my best friend and depression was making it hard to get out of bed. My first therapist helped think about my thought processes for the first time and my life slowly but surely changed. I still use many of the techniques that I learned from that year of have therapy on a weekly basis.
So why am I going back now, three years later? I would like to talk through the details of my recent trauma with an unbiased person and try to understand what happened a little better. I want to understand how these events have fundamentally changed me. I also want to talk about how to move forward from all of this and think about what I want my new future (bright and shiny) to look like. I have a lot of concerns that are weighing on me: how (and who) do I go about dating again? What career moves do I want to make in the near future that will impact my long term future? A big goal is to learn from my past mistakes and not make the same ones again.
I’m not in crisis mode nor am I at my lowest low. In fact, my life isn’t as terrible as I thought it would be when the breakup first happened. Solo travel has brought me major happiness in bursts. Being a dog mom is pretty therapeutic and my pup has completely won my heart. I’m spending a lot of time in Westchester enjoying the trees and the company of my ridiculous parents, which has been a nice change from Manhattan. I get to see my friends now and then, and a select few of them are really amazing at checking in on me throughout all this. And hey, at least Miz Cracker made it to the top five on Drag Race!
My life is pretty good. All of the concerns that are nagging my soul are legitimate too. And I’m going back to therapy.
Sometimes your own advice is the advice you need to hear. I wrote an article a few weeks ago on finding your first therapist. Early this week, I signed up for PrideCounseling.com, a segment of Better Help’s online counseling services. I opted to try an online option to save money. I was quickly matched with a therapist who I’ve been messaging throughout the week. She’s already been understanding and has asked me some fascinating questions to ponder on. Our first video session is tomorrow morning. I’ll be sure to write about the experience of online counseling in the future.
Truth be told, I am a little bit nervous for my first session. I keep telling myself that it will be well worth it though. I deserve help, and so does anyone who is struggling with their mental state and lives. I’m not going to be secretive about it because that only adds to the stigma. Everyone should be able to access mental health care without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
Note: I am very aware that therapy and mental health treatment is a privilege. This country makes it particularly difficult to access help if you’re not rich. If you want to try therapy but know your finances can’t support it, consider trying an online option. BetterHelp and PrideCounseling gave me a financial aid discount after I provided them with my financial details.
I began planning a small vacation to Paris in January 2018. One of my dear friends from college was living there, and I wanted to visit her before she moved back to the states. The main point would be to see her, but I would also get to have my last solo getaway before our September wedding. I booked my flight for the end of March and made lists of destinations I wanted to visit. The trip would be a highlight in a lovely year leading up to my nuptials.
But the best-laid plans oft go awry. My fiance was acting odd, and when I prodded them about it, they admitted to me that they wanted to call off the wedding. After learning more, I decided we needed to break-up. It was a whirlwind of heartbreak and I was in utter shock.
The wedding was cancelled five days before my departure flight to Paris. As I struggled to comprehend the events that had just unfolded, I had to decide if I still wanted to go ahead with my travel plans. Was it a good idea to be in the city of love at this moment in time? How could I enjoy such a trip while I was feeling so broken?
After a lot of contemplation, I decided to go ahead with my trip and even extend it by a few days. Why stay home and pity myself while I could be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world? I couldn’t foretell what I’d be feeling once I was there, but it couldn’t be worse than how miserable I was already. Traveling is an activity that usually gives me joy, so I hoped going to Paris would raise my spirits.
Furthermore, I knew having one of my best friends there would help. I wouldn’t be completely alone when I was feeling so vulnerable, and I looked forward to being able to talk to her about how I was feeling.
It also made sense to go ahead with the trip for a few logistical reasons. My ex-fiance could move out of our apartment that was under my name while I was abroad, and I didn’t have to lose any money if I just forged ahead. I packed my carry-on and had nothing to lose.
I cried at JFK’s international terminal with big, black sunglasses on as I waited for my flight. That’s when I realized this vacation was as a radical act of self-love. After years of putting my wants and needs aside for my ex-fiance, this trip was going to be solely mine.
When I arrived at Charles de Gaulle many hours later, I was feeling pretty shaky. I was happy to see my friend and her fiance, but I felt like my usual traveler confidence was missing. All I could think about was the trauma I had just experienced at home. Had I made a mistake by coming? Would I enjoy any of my nine days there?
Thankfully, my mood began to improve by the end of my second day there, and it’s because Paris is so darn charming. Every building is pretty and the streets are clean. The food is superb and it’s tempting to try one of everything at a patisserie. There are numerous sites, museums, and stores to keep you entertained for years on end. The culture and beauty of Paris was a perfect distraction.
My friend wined and dined me, and it felt lovely to be pampered. She taught me how to get around on the metro and brought me to less-touristy restaurants and sites. Her fiance ordered for me and showed me how to play poker. With their support and love, my confidence began to come back. I felt a little better with each passing day.
My daily itinerary was full and I felt very accomplished by the end of my trip. I avoided some of the larger sites I had seen on my last trip to Paris and found splendor in simply wandering. I walked at least ten miles on most of the days I spent there, so the dopamine must have been flowing.
Expectedly, the big sunglasses covered my teary eyes more than a few times. Paris wasn’t able to completely distract me, but I’m glad it didn’t. Various places in the city served me well as I processed my feelings. The moments of self-reflection on my trip were powerful. There was something so special about thinking about my ancestors in Notre Dame, writing about the ordeal in a journal while I nibbled on a croissant at a sidewalk cafe, and crying about my trauma as I walked along the Seine. These moments combined with the wonder of traveling all made me feel a lot better.
As I boarded my flight back to the states, I felt proud of myself for saying yes to an experience of a lifetime. Paris became the city of self-love to me. Nine days in Paris didn’t completely heal the hurt of my break-up, but being there reminded me of how beautiful the world could be. I felt so loved by my friend and she helped me more than she will ever realize. My unknown future felt scary and full of possibilities as I watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle after sunset from a river boat.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be sure to post my favorite sites and more pictures from my magical trip soon.