You Need a Therapist
It’s funny to me (and not funny “haha” but funny in the “is this actually still a thing” kind of way)… that in this day and age, there’s still social stigma behind seeing a therapist, or counsellor, psychologist, shrink, whatever you want to call them. Did you know that 1 in 5 Canadians feel as though they need help with their mental health? I have seen a number of different therapists in my life for various reasons, but I started seeing one on a regular basis after the end of my first long-term relationship. I was 26 and had dated the same guy since I was 17, so fair to say, I had a lot to absorb and work through when that ended. I mean- what the heck did I know about myself as an adult outside of my relationship with him?
This therapist was wonderful- she was kind, insightful, and gave me the tools I needed to look at the world in a way that didn’t mean I always felt the need to get even or hurt people before they hurt me. Don’t think for one second, though, that this was an easy process; I’m pretty sure that she didn’t really get through to me for about 2 years. I’m incredibly stubborn and also felt that I deserved to feel sorry for myself, which if you’re looking at the circumstances, maybe I did “deserve” to. He had cheated on me numerous times, pretended he wanted to marry me, lied to me regularly about where he was and who he was with, treated me poorly and told me that I was in the way of his happiness. His actions turned me into a crazy person, and made me question every sense of what was normal or acceptable in a relationship- I used to hide behind the planters outside of his building to see who he was coming home with, and called bars he said he was at and ask the poor staff there to try to find him (this was before most people had cell phones...), all sorts of "crazy" things. Codependent, much? But perhaps the absolutely WORST thing that happened is how much I loved his family, and they were torn from me the moment he uttered the words “I’m not going to marry you”, and anecdotally, it felt a lot like this:
Side note about breakups: I believe that mourning the loss of the family can perhaps cause more distress than the loss of your person. One minute you’re part of an amazing, loving family that you rely on and who care for you and take you in as family… and then in an instant, they’re ripped from your life and without warning, you never get to see them again. It’s been a LONG time since the relationship I mentioned ended, and I still miss those people a lot. It’s thankfully something I’ve not really had to go through with the end of my marriage, because through my daughter I have maintained a connection with that family.
Ok, enough of that trip down woe is me memory lane…
This therapist I saw, she wasn’t the first either- so when you begin the process of finding someone to support you toward ceasing to feel sorry for yourself and finding your joy, expect to see a number of therapists before you find someone who really “fits” with you and your personality. Do some research before you go on who specializes in what you’re going through, read reviews, and know what you think might work best for your personality in regards to “style” of therapy. Click here for a link to the different types of therapy and discover what might work best for you.
Don’t expect to walk in the door and instantly be relieved of everything in your life that has brought you there; you’ve been carrying this baggage for a looooong time, so don’t expect your baggage that requires carts and a long line of porters a la Kim and Kanye on vacation to be diminished to a comfortable backpack simply because you’ve talked to a professional once.
She’s not the only therapist I’ve seen since then, either… I stopped seeing her after about 5 years and then found another, someone that had a different technique and could help me address other stuff. And then I saw someone else for about a year. And now I see a different therapist, and she is helping me kick ass and take names and refusing to allow me to feel sorry for myself. She’s teaching me to stand up for myself, and do so with the kindness necessary to maintain my relationships (well, the ones that are healthy enough that they’re worth maintaining, anyhow, but that’s for another day).
This is part of doing the work of reducing your baggage to being something you can carry on your own. Wait, let me rephrase this… it is a HUGE part of this process- perhaps the very first part of doing a lot of the uncomfortable “work”. You need a therapist.
You might say “I don’t need a therapist, I have amazing friends and family who support me”. If you think that your friends and/or family are objective enough to help you through what you’re struggling with, you’re wrong. There are a few problems with using family and friends to dump on: firstly, they love you too much to be genuinely objective and to tell you what you need to hear. Secondly, if they are one of the few types of people who will tell you what you need to hear, you won’t hear it because you’ll be hurt, because they’re supposed to be “on your side” or however you want to phrase the mindset of feeling like uncomfortable honesty from those you love is betrayal.
Also, it’s not fair for you to put your baggage on those you love, it’s just asking to be disappointed, and I’m pretty sure they don’t want to. Sure, they can hold your hand and love you through your journey of unburdening your baggage and finding your joy and identity, but they’re not the ones to give you the tools you need to get there.
To go back to the beginning of this post- of those 1 in 5 (totaling 5.3 million) Canadians mentioned in the first paragraph, most said they weren’t going to therapy (or not going enough) for 3 reasons: 1. Not knowing where to go, 2. Being too busy, or 3. Not being able to afford to pay. There’s no reason to use these excuses since the invention of the internet, so don’t use these excuses. You’re better than that. You’re worth more than making up or using lame excuses to keep yourself down and define yourself with your sorrow or pain.
I know therapy can be expensive and that cost can be prohibitive, but get on the internet and search for something you can afford. When my marriage fell apart, I had NO money. I went to a centre downtown where the fee for therapy was on a sliding scale based on what you could afford, and I paid around $8 a session. Look into it, please. Google it. Find someone.
Don’t know where to go? Ask a friend or family member you trust who is already seeing a therapist and see what they think of theirs (that’s how I found my current awesome one!).
Too busy? No, you’re not. I will likely use this quote a number of times repeatedly throughout my writing: I was around 14 years old, and my Dad said some poignant words that have always stuck with me: “You have exactly enough time for all of the things that are important to you”. You are important enough to do this for yourself.
C’mon friend, let’s do this.
You. Need. A. Therapist.
And- talk to your doctor about options- I'm not a therapist, I have just had one for a very long time.