For such a long time, it was an insult.
“You should get therapy.” “Go see a shrink.”
Despite the years of knowing counselors, analysts, and psychologists (or folks on their way to said career paths) most of the time such things were talked about in cruel or self deprecating jokes.
“Yeah, I go to therapy. TOLD YOU I WAS CRAZY”
Therapeutic (heh) nature of such jokes aside, the fact is, for a long time I never thought of going to any sort of therapy as something I would do. The handful of people I knew who were largely spoke of it as if they were confessing to a deep personal failing, quickly covered over with jokes. Therapy was something you did if you’d suffered horrifying trauma, or were in some way “broken.”
It wasn’t until a late night in 2014, I was heart-to-hearting with a friend and she said “You know, Graham, maybe this is something you should talk to a therapist about.” Kindly, firmly, and extremely tiredly (it was reaaal late) she gave me a couple pointers on how, what to look for in my search.
A few months later, I was nervously sitting on a couch beneath a plant I cannot identify saying “So… I’m not sure exactly what I expect out of this…”
BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME
So what I’m saying is: You should get therapy.
No really. You. Nothing wrong with you? Don’t believe you. Also, beside the point.
Not looking for a serious diagnosis? You can find someone who will just let you talk. It’s surprising the things you find in your own brain when you just talk it out.
Not sure your therapist will jive with your worldview? You can find one. I specifically wanted someone who wouldn’t view “making art” or general leftiness as something about me to “fix.” So I found one who knew what I meant when I referred to one part of my life as “a time when I was listening to a loooooot of Replacements, if you know what I mean.” (this was not part of the vetting process, just a nice benefit)
There are therapists who will help you with the stress of your career. There are therapists of every faith available who can speak to those specific emotions and experiences. There are therapists who operate on a sliding scale, or offer discounted rates.
Basically, the only real issue at play (and thanks to the US’s still-dysfunctional health care system) here is finances—there are folks out there who can’t afford therapy. It’s not covered by many insurance plans, and if you don’t have insurance—well, good luck. I lucked out in that while I pay out of pocket, I found someone who offers sliding scale, and occasional installment pay.
That said, I can’t go as often as I’d like, and frequently have to juggle money to maintain a regular brain-work regimen. Still, it’s something I choose to prioritize because it is good for me.
ONE MORE THING BEFORE WE GO
Last thing– you should get therapy especially if you are a cis, het dude. Not because you have it so much harder, quite the opposite. But because we have an annoying habit of 1) being pretty bad at talking about our emotions or processing them in ways that don’t involve breaking things and 2) when we do Talk About It, it tends to be at, not with, our female friends, girlfriends, acquaintances, baristas, bosses, accountants, secretaries, bartenders, stenographers, cartographers, or fellow passengers on the bus.
A few of those examples (see, friends, girlfriends) may be appropriate people to share feelings with. Especially if said feelings-sharing is reciprocal (you don’t just call Leslie when you’re bummed and want to vent about Sheila) and welcome, that’s great. But seeing a therapist will help you become more emotionally articulate, which can’t hurt these conversations either.
I don’t have a miraculous before and after story to tell, or some gnarly tear jerker of a tale. But I do know that I’ve slowly but surely felt more confident, more able to recognize and deal with my emotions as they come up, and become able to identify points in my life I want to work on. It feels good and I’m better for it.
And it sure beats keeping my friends up at night.
Also published on Medium.