FAMILY & PARENTING

Getting A Therapist Was The Best Gift I Could Have Given Myself As A Grieving Mom With Anxiety

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

I have many memories from back in elementary school — and while most are great, some have proven to me that my issues with mental health started very young.

For example, many times in class, I felt sick. It wasn’t a fever or anything that was visible from the outside. Instead, I felt nervous and scared. It could have stemmed from a classmate saying something I interpreted as being negative, or perhaps we were in the midst of learning something that felt over my head. The school nurse knew me very well.

The school nurse, may I add, puzzled me greatly. At the time, I had no clue that I suffered from anxiety.

But she always called my dad to send me home, whether or not I had a fever. And typically, I didn’t. She may have known I was suffering from something else, but “anxiety” was never thrown out there.

My dad was also puzzled. He assumed that I was faking it all of those times, especially as I quickly nuzzled on the couch back home to turn on the television and relax. By the time I made it home, I was feeling better. It was because I managed to flee from the scene — the math problems I didn’t understand, and the social pressures at the time. I was afraid of being wrong in front of my classmates. I was so terrified of ever looking foolish. “Everyone must feel this way,” I told myself up until I graduated college. I honestly felt everyone else worried as much as I did. I thought I was “normal.”

Talking about mental health with my dad was a struggle. Obviously, he always wanted me to be well. But since mental health holds such a stigma, he felt as if the cure for depression was simply “thinking about how much you’re blessed.” In reality, mental health is so much more than that. It’s one of the most important things to focus on, especially this year when the world has been so shaken up. Especially mine. My father died at the beginning of summer. After months of being unstable and depressed (with no happy thoughts to take me out of it), I decided to try therapy online. And here’s why you should, too.

I'm responsible for myself.

therapy

I don’t think my dad would have ever been upset by the choice I made. I just think it might be have been hard for him to understand at first. My dad was all about people helping people, but I think that he himself may have been too afraid to open up to a stranger in that type of way.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a therapist. And it wasn’t the first time that it was about issues regarding my dad. Years ago, his health was at a rough stage, and decisions about taking that next step really seemed to separate the family. My mom had died years prior, and I also knew that there were still some underlying issues I should have dealt with after that happened.

Without any parents around, suddenly I realized that I was the one who had to advocate for myself. I could no longer call my dad with any of my life issues and expect to hear his words of wisdom in return. Instead, I felt all alone.

Sometimes, you need someone to just unload your feelings to who’s a neutral party. I signed up for TalkSpace to try out the service, and I immediately felt better. The second I sent a message, a weight was already off my shoulders. I felt like I had support.

There's no shame in it.

There's no shame in it.

It’s amazing to see how many people either see a therapist already or want to. The commercials for services like BetterHelp and TalkSpace are all over the place, making many of us wonder, why not give it a try?

I’m here to say that I did, and I’m one of many. Here’s what you need to remember about having a therapist: You’re the boss. If you don’t like your therapist’s approach, you can find someone else. They won’t be mad at you, as these things happen all the time.

“Changing therapists can be a daunting, anxiety-inducing process,” writes PsychCentral. “There is no ‘right’ time to change therapists. You do it when you feel like you’re treading water with your current therapist, or you’re just not seeing the progress you’d like in therapy.”

It's actually kind of fun.

It's actually kind of fun.

One of my biggest issues is putting myself first. My biggest fear is having people be mad at me or disappointed in me. I try to be nice to everyone, and I often get discouraged when people aren’t equally as kind. It’s a good thing but can very easily backfire.

Finding a therapist was something that I did for me. I signed up, I checked out the bios, I selected my therapist, and I sent that first message. Then I eagerly awaited my message back. While I text my responses, my therapist responds back with audio — and it’s actually really soothing to hear her voice from a safe distance. It’s like a pen pal whose goal is to make you feel better about yourself and your situation.

She's helping me process my grief.

She's helping me process my grief.

My dad was one of my best friends. When he died, I lost a lot — my rock, my biggest fan, and the biggest link to my mom. While my mom wasn’t physically around, she still felt very much alive through my dad’s memory. After her death, I got to learn even more about my dad as a person and not just as a father. My mom and I never even got the chance to truly enter the “friendship” stage of our relationship, so in a way, hearing stories about my mom while I was in college helped partially fill a gap.

My therapist reminded me that this isn’t going to be easy. There are so many stages I have to go through, and she’s been wonderful with identifying each one. It’s good to know that I’m processing this the way most people process significant losses. I’m not broken; I’m just getting a little bit of required maintenance.

I feel like I'm making an effort to be the best me.

I feel like I'm making an effort to be the best me.

I have people who depend on me. While my natural inclination is to want to curl up in a ball and cry it out every day, I know it’s not practical with a husband and a 3½-year-old in the house. Sometimes, it can be very hard to get out of bed.

But I’m doing the best I can — and getting a therapist is a step in the right direction. She’s helping me to once again become a complete person for my family. She’s also helping me navigate through those relationships as well. Therapists handle all different types of situations. While she’s still getting to know me, she’s seen others like me before. She understands what I’m going through, to a certain degree.

It's an expense with a wonderful payoff.

It's an expense with a wonderful payoff.

The one bad part about therapy is the expense. Oftentimes, mental health services aren’t covered under insurance. It’s a little ridiculous, as your brain is one of your most vital organs. It needs care just like everything else does.

Many people put off in-person therapy due to the cost. In 2017, HuffPost reported that therapy sessions in New York varied anywhere between $200 to $300 per session — which is ridiculous. For most of us, that’s a significant amount of cash — especially if you have continuous appointments.

Online apps are much more affordable and offer more chances to interact with your therapist whenever you need it. But it’s still a major expense. As someone who’s horrifically frugal, it’s important for me to see this expense as something that will change my life. Buying new clothes may be more fun, but putting that money toward a therapist could actually change my life.

It's the best gift I could give to my younger self.

therapy

Quite often, I’ve thought about how my life would have been different had I sought out help at a younger age. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so nauseous in the nurse’s office so often. Anxiety and depression are very real — and very common. The World Health Organization states that 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. The sooner we can all work on ourselves, the better we’ll be.

I didn’t ask to have either. They just came with my packaging. Like most mental health issues, they were out of my control. But by seeing someone and doing something to better my life, I’m taking that control right back.

Therapy won’t solve all of your problems. A therapist won’t tell you how to live your life. But they can listen to you, guide you, and try their hardest to make you feel like a normal version of yourself again. If you’ve been on the fence, you should give therapy a try.