The first time I went to therapy was when I was sixteen years old. I was sitting in the social workers office in my High School. The feeling was one of shame and awkwardness. I didn't want people to know I was there to see the school social worker. The last thing I needed was for people to think I was crazy, even though on the inside I felt like I was. My long sleeve shirt covered the thin lines that I had carved into my arms the night before, and the night before that one, and the many nights before that too. I was eager to end my life, but at the same time I knew I needed to be alive, not just needed, I wanted to be alive. I just needed to figure out how to enjoy being alive, which was my problem. I remember how round her eyes were, brown like coffee that matched the tight curls on her head. She was a white woman with a warm smile. Though I always felt shame walking in her room, when I left I was always at ease.
Then High School came to an end.
Three years later I found myself in another loophole of struggling with isolation, constant fatigue, feelings of despondency and hopelessness... and even having urges to self-harm as I once did in the past. I became of aware of my symptoms, and because of what I was taught three years prior, I knew that I was struggling with depression again and I needed to do something about it.
This time things were different. I didn't have a guidance counselor or a school social worker to lean on. That meant that I would have to go about and find myself a therapist and that meant paying fees that I wasn't sure I could afford.
At the time most people asked why didn't I just look for a mentor or somebody like a friend to talk to? And the answer was simple. I knew the extent of my diagnosis, my life was at stake because I felt completely unsatisfied and I was on the verge of being a threat to myself. I needed professional expertise, not friendly advice. I needed to be in the presence of someone who knew how to set aside their biases and listen to everything I shared with them so that I could learn how to go deeper and get to the root of why I constantly felt depressed.
Having a therapist doesn't eliminate the option of having a friend to talk to, but it gave me a greater sense of insight and knowledge that a friend simply couldn't provide. Like informing me that depression can show up in a two week time period, and the symptoms ranged from sadness to anger, to hopelessness and fatigue. I was losing weight often and that came from my lack of eating, which I eventually learned that depression can cause a rift in my eating habits.
So the first thing I did was ask around to see if the people I knew had any recommendations and through word of mouth I found my first therapist. I was excited to have our first consultation together, and when she told me that she didn't accept insurance all that excitement turned into devastation. I immediately thought okay, this isn't going to work, but then she weighed out the pros and cons to me that propelled me into working with her for four years straight while paying out-of-pocket.
So what were these pros and cons about insurance that swayed me away from wanting to utilize it?
1. Fees are covered by insurance
2. Hmmmm, yea that was the only positive aspect
1. Often a deductible has to be met which forces the client to have to pay out of pocket regardless. (my deductible was $5,000.00!!!!!)
2. A diagnosis is required from the insurance company in order for them to cover the fees. ( I honestly did not want a diagnosis to go on my record due the nature of the job that I had at the time)
3. Certain insurance providers only allot a certain amount of sessions. (I wanted long term treatment, not only limited sessions that insurance was trying to offer)
4. Though this is a con for the therapist, insurance companies do not reimburse providers with decent fees at all to cover not only their sessions, but the cost of overhead, and because of this, there is a lot of watered down treatment taking place because providers are not getting paid what they are worth, or what they need to keep their businesses running, therefore some don't give their all in a session with a client. In short, you get what you pay for.
I wanted quality care, and because of that, therapy became a cost that was worth every penny. I began to minimize my spending habits, not because I had to pay my therapist, but because I felt my money was best spent on taking care of my mental health. Shoes, handbags, make-up, etc and etc. ended up being material things that I was racking up so that I could hide behind these tangible items and distract the world from seeing the broken person that I really was. Finally, I removed the mask and started investing in my mental health because I knew my sanity was way more important than a pair of shoes.
But let me talk about mental health, because there is this misconception that some have it and some don't. Just to let you know, everyone has mental health, if you don't, you are most likely dead, but you're reading this, so clearly this applies to you. Mental health is your physical, emotional, and psychological well being. It's how you sustain yourself on every level to live a fruitful life. A mental illness is a condition that affects a person's emotional and psychological wellbeing and can also affect their daily functioning. Understand that when you don't take care of your mental health, it can result in you developing a mental illness like clinical depression, anxiety and more.
So what I am saying is that therapy isn't only for people with severe mental illnesses–it's for anyone who is seeking to change their life for the better. It's not a place designated for weak people, it's not a place where you go to find a new best friend, and it's surely not a waste of time or money.
Therapy is an investment that grants you with a sustainable life, a positive attitude, and tools to equip you as you face the hurdles that life will throw at you.
What are some other benefits?
1. It alleviates symptoms and lessens the chances of having to utilize anti-depressants or other medications
2. It challenges your fixed thoughts and beliefs, and you learn how your thoughts control the behaviors that you’ve been trying to fix
3. It has long-lasting effects: What you gain in three months of therapy can actually be beneficial tools that you use for the rest of your life
4. It’s not all about emotions; therapy can treat physical symptoms too. When our feelings are suppressed not only do they worsen our thought processes but they take a toll on the body as well. (Look at stress for example)
5. When emotions are not fully addressed head on, they consistently resurface. You implode or explored, you become passive-aggressive, you’re always on edge and you’re always haunted by what you keep trying to bury. Therapy will knock all that out the way by helping you to come face-to-face with your troubles, worries, monsters, fears and feelings. It’s a designated place for letting your confined feelings loose.
6. You learn the value of vulnerability by sharing your story. The number one thing I tell my clients is that you cannot hide yourself and expect to be seen. When you open up, you gain a new sense of confidence and courage. You build your self-esteem and you gain a whole new perspective of your inner world.
So did going to therapy end up being a life changer for me, yes indeed! And it is also something that I learned to value because it significant enhanced my mental wellbeing. Therapy might come with a cost, but it's definitely a cost that will be worth not just your money, but your time and you energy.
Minaa B. is a writer, author of the book Rivers Are Coming and a licensed psychotherapist based in NYC. She is a mental health advocate and works with clients who struggle with life transitions, issues around self-esteem as well as career goals and with those who also have mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. Learn more about Minaa and her work at www.minaab.com You can also follow her on instagram @minaa_b where she shares positive and uplifting quotes and spreads the message that hope still exists in the world.