Monday, August 18, 2014

Time for Number Eleven

It was my junior year of college, and I was dealing with some serious stuff. My sister, still in high school, was pregnant. My mom had suffered a heart attack. My first love came out to me as gay. And, as always, in the background, was the perpetual abuse my father laid on anyone unlucky enough to stay in that house with him.

My wonderful college roommate, Katie, could tell something was amiss. She urged me to get help, but like the good, in-denial American I was, I shrugged it off and said I was fine. Despite the fact that I cried nearly all the time.

Then, one day, my phone rang. It was the campus counselor, calling to tell me I had an appointment with her. She said my roommate had made it for me.

And thus began my life in therapy. Seventeen years later, I've rarely gone more than a few months without an appointment.

That on-campus therapist helped me cope with the craziness of that moment. She helped me realize that I couldn't fix what was going on with those I loved. She helped me embrace the moment. It ended up being a great year.

Then, that summer, I used my earnings working at Cracker Barrel to pay for my own therapist. She helped me cope with the fact that I had to live under that insanely dysfunctional roof for one final summer, as well as encouraged me to try dating straight men for the first time ever. It was a great summer.

After I moved to NYC, I found a therapist who guided me through my intense loneliness and feelings of insecurity as I pursued my theatrical ambitions. He also helped me level out after witnessing the twin towers on fire from my apartment.

Then the therapist that served double duty as Dave's and my couple's therapist and my individual therapist - something I've since learned is a no-no in the field. Still, she helped me work through my feelings of jealousy and insecurity and mistrust of men as I learned how to be in the first (and only) long-term relationship of my life.

There was the new-age-energy-healing-but-billed-herself-as-a-typical-social-worker therapist who did little for me after Stella was born and I battled my raging PPD.

A perfectly OK therapist who tried to help me manage my PPD, but then my insurance policy changed and she was no longer covered.

The assigned-to-me and thoroughly bland therapist I had to see after my stint in the mental hospital ER during that raging PPD.

The "I Can't Believe This Woman is a Therapist" therapist who hoarded things and animals in her tiny Brooklyn apartment and spent more time complaining about her neighbors than counseling me about my persistent PPD.

The amazing, incredible, life-changing Louisville therapist who properly diagnosed my myriad of disorders brought on by a cocktail of abuse as a kid and some funky world-view crap by teaching me, step-by-step and in a classroom type setting, how to manage my emotions and accept myself as is. I only left this miracle worker because she had the audacity to retire.

And my latest therapist, a woman with a lot of experience helping trauma survivors, who encouraged me to use writing as a way to process the stuff I'd never before found a way to process.

If you're counting, that's ten. Ten therapists. This doesn't include the many therapists I met with for that initial interview, but ultimately decided I couldn't work with them. (A ton.) I know from therapists, let me tell you.

And now, my latest therapist is closing her practice, and I must find another person with whom to work. I don't think it's an over-statement to say I'm heartbroken to have to do this again.

But I will. Because I know that proper mental health is crucial. I deserve a life worth living, and Dave, Stella, and Sam deserve a good, steady, healthy wife and mom.

I just really, really, really hope that when I find my new therapist, it will be forever. I'm really tired of going through this.

PS - In case you're wondering, I'm willing to put this all out here because I'm trying my damnedest to destroy the stigma that persists around mental health. People everywhere (including me) have deeply mourned the passing of Robin Williams, and many wail and cry, "Why didn't he get help?" Those are also some of the same people who are shocked when they find how outspoken and open I am about my mental health struggles and my reliance on therapy to function. We can't have it both ways. If we want to save people from the black hole of suicide, we have to not act weirded out about therapy. *Steps off her soapbox.*




3 comments:

Shariden said...

Getting help, whether it's with an understanding and insightful talk therapist and/or with proper medication, is always an ongoing process. Losing a good therapist and starting the process of connecting with a new one is an especially tough bump in the road. I'm very proud of you for doing the hard work of working on yourself so you can show up for all the good things and people in your life. Even though we're far apart now, the openness in your writing makes me extremely proud to have known you and to be a witness (even if it's only by reading) to all of your changes. And it helps me understand parts of myself better, too.

You've come so far and yet that spark I first saw back in our old improv class is still there, just shining brighter. Many hugs from Brooklyn. —Margaret

Randi Skaggs said...

Ah, Margaret, that is so sweet! Thank you! I've really enjoyed watching, via Facebook, your artistic transformation as well. I miss our old UCB days, but I'm in awe of how far we've both come. :) Thanks for reading.

FormerlyMMM said...

Good luck in your journey to find a good therapist. I myself have seen four. Two excellent, one fine and one (the most recent) horrible. I hadn't realized what difference therapist quality could make unitl that last one. But it sounds like you're a pro at finding help - and there is strength in that which bodes well for you and yours.