One of the hardest struggles I’ve faced in my dealings with anxiety was finding the right therapist. I’m very lucky to not only be able to seek therapy, but also to have a great therapist whom I have worked with for years. But it was a long, discouraging journey to find her. I went through therapists that ranged from not helpful to outright harmful and it took perhaps the darkest period of my life to finally get the help I needed.
This isn’t meant to discourage anybody, there are bad therapists out there, and there are therapists that you just don’t click with. But like anybody else, you deserve the help if you need it and when you finally do find the right one for you it will change your life and make the disappointment worth it.
In high school, I had a therapist I liked and worked very well with. I remember his office vividly. It was the third floor of a large medical building, very sterile and plain, but the moment I walked into his office it felt like stepping into somewhere totally different. Next to his various psychology books sat various action figures of characters from Futurama and Marvel Comics. I always felt relaxed with him, like I could share anything which is what you want from a therapist. When I moved out to go to college though I had to stop seeing him and it would be years before I found that again.
My therapist, while I was in college, was perhaps the worst therapy experience I ever had. He was well-meaning I guess, even helping me out when my insurance decided they weren’t going to cover the last few appointments of the year. But I felt like he didn’t understand me, I would talk and he’d just stare blankly and give me generic advice like “you just need to keep trying”. Eventually, I just started to clam up and the appointments turned into playing cards for candy, which wasn’t helping anyone so I just stopped going.
For a couple years I went without any therapy, the only help I was getting was seeing my psychiatrist every couple of months for 15 minutes to refill and sometimes adjust my medication. I felt like I was being experimented on, every 6 to 8 months he’d adjust something or have me try a new medication (usually to disastrous results), and eventually he just told me that I’d just have to live with my anxiety, that it was my “curse”. I walked out, and never looked back.
What followed was a huge disaster. I stopped taking my medication, and I crashed and burned. First I was too scared to go to work, then I was terrified of going to the store, and finally, I couldn’t even walk to the mailbox. I lost my job, I ignored my friends, and nearly destroyed my relationship. I couldn’t sleep. My mom and girlfriend at the time intervened and got me into a hospital for 2 weeks, and I think that was the best thing that ever happened to me in my mental health journey because that led to me finding my current therapist.
My mom was the one who found her on the suggestion of a coworker. I was very resistant at first, I had mostly poor experiences and the therapist I was working with after getting discharged from the hospital wasn’t terrible so why would I take the chance? But my mom convinced me, in that way only moms can, and what followed was the greatest experience I’ve had since, and perhaps including, the therapist with the action figures.
She truly listens to me, understands my struggles, celebrates my triumphs, and got me from barely being able to function to getting back on my feet and managing my anxiety enough to actually live my life. She helped me get my shit together and come back even better after a particularly tough breakup with the girlfriend I mentioned earlier. Even now through the chaos that has been 2020 she has helped me work through every twist and turn I’ve faced, even if it’s just remote for now. It took me years but I found the help I needed, and it finally gave me hope and made me recognize my own capabilities.
The lesson here is don’t give up, don’t deny yourself the help you need just because you’ve had bad experiences. Keep fighting for yourself, and don’t be afraid to accept help from those who care about you. You are strong, you are capable even if it doesn’t feel like it.