I’ve struggled with my body image for my entire life. It’s easy to zone in on the things I don’t like about my body and ignore all the beautiful parts that make me who I am.Read More
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.
Please note that any of my tips are just suggestions and not professional, legal, or medical help. If you are struggling with mental health, trauma, abuse, or any other difficult situation, I strongly encourage you to seek help. Check out this page for some mental health resources. Reaching out for help can feel scary, but it is one of the most important acts of self-love you can do.
Seeking out the help of a therapist for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Have depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can make it difficult to reach out to anyone, let alone a therapist.
I’ve totally been there. Throughout college, I did my best to ignore my anxiety. My friends encouraged me to consider therapy, but I didn’t listen to them. The notion of talking about my thoughts and feelings to someone terrified me, and going to therapy felt like admitting defeat. I didn’t want to believe I needed help, so I bottled it up as best I could. I was also extremely focused on losing weight at the time instead of treating my body with love. By the time I was a senior, symptoms of depression were added to the mix. It was a painful existence that was hidden with a plastered smile.
My depression-anxiety combination was at its’ worst when I graduated in 2015. By this point, I was crying every day. Even a month-long trip through Europe, a dream abroad experience I had planned as a graduation gift to myself, wasn’t as amazing (or distracting) as I had hoped. When I returned stateside, I finally admitted to my parents that I was struggling and needed help.
I visited a psychiatrist first and was given a prescription, but she told me to quickly find a therapist as well. While Lexapro could alleviate some of my symptoms, I still needed to truly figure out my issues and learn coping mechanisms. Taking a pill wouldn’t heal me like therapy could.
So I embarked on my mission to find my first therapist. How did I end up finding one? My aunt, who is an administrator at a psychological hospital, sent me a few suggestions. I ended up picking Hannah Starobin, LCSW from her list. Hannah was an excellent match for me: she was LGBTQ+ friendly, experienced with food issues, and had a great understanding of the theatre industry (I was fully committed to my theatrical career at the time.) I booked my first session and began my first dive into therapy.
Three years later, I’m thankfully in a much better place. I can manage my symptoms more effectively using the tools I learned in therapy (meditation, grounding, paying attention to my thoughts, for example). I now talk to a therapist from BetterHelp.com semi-regularly and still find my sessions to be quite helpful.
I was lucky enough to find my first therapist with the help of my aunt, but there are other ways to find a therapist if you’re seeking one for the first time:
Use an Online Directory
The internet is your friend in terms of finding a therapist. There are numerous online directories that can help. Here are a few I’ve explored before:
- Psychology Today – a HUGE resource to help you find a therapist in the US or Canada, also lists psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups
- GoodTherapy.org – another large directory that also explores types of therapy on their blog. This article about warning signs of bad therapy is awesome!
- National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Treatment Search – A great reference for finding therapists experienced with eating disorders, also lists treatment centers
- Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) Provider Directory – Helpful if you’re looking for an LGBTQ+ friendly professional
Once you find a couple that pique your interest, visit their websites (or profiles) and try to get a better feel for them. Let your intuition guide you through the search. If someone looks friendly or their writing just clicks with you, then reach out. Just make sure to find a few possible options: some therapists book up quickly.
Use Available Community Resources
If I could change one thing about my college experience, it would be to actually use the mental health resources that were provided. Why didn’t I go to therapy when it was freely available to me?? Hindsight is a drag.
If you’re a student, I suggest looking into the services your school offers before looking off campus. I can’t promise that all campuses provide the best mental health support, but you may be surprised to find a counselor you really like.
Some companies also provide mental health support for their employees (though not nearly enough businesses do.) Even if they don’t, check in with your human resources department. They may prove helpful in your search.
There are also community, city, and state resources that could help you find a local therapist. I’ve visited the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in NYC in the past and know they have great information and numerous support groups running. Your local community center may also host support groups.
Try Online Therapy
I honestly doubted that online therapy could be helpful, but I’ve had a great experience with it this year.
This could be an option for anyone who would prefer email/messaging/text-based therapy rather than talking face-to-face with someone, but there are also video chat options. Another benefit is that some of these services offer instant, 24/7 therapy. No more waiting for next week’s session! Online therapy can also be more affordable than in-person sessions.
My friends have used the following online counseling tools and recommend them:
- BetterHelp – Offering messaged-based and video chat therapy that I’m currently using. They’ll match you with a counselor based on your needs, and you’re able to switch counselors at any time. Services start at $35/week, but they do offer financial aid to those in need!
- TalkSpace – This service focuses on 24/7 text therapy, but audio and video options can be added at an additional cost. They also offer couples therapy
- Doctor On Demand – Video chat with any type of doctor through this site and app, including mental health care professionals. More expensive than the services above, but your insurance may be applicable depending on the professional
- Lantern – Based in cognitive behavioral therapy, this app matches you with a professional life coach who sends you exercises related to your personal needs. The most affordable option on this list
Searching for your first therapist can be intimidating, but taking that first step will be so worth it!
Please seek help if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. Check out this page for hotline resources.