Caitlin as Client

How I Know I Need Therapy Now

This isn’t the first time I’ve shared about my personal experiences as a therapy client. Going to therapy myself is what gave me the idea to become a therapist in the first place. I often encourage clients to view therapy as one of many mental health tools, and just like literal tools in a literal toolbox, you can’t use all of them at once. Since I’ve used therapy as a mental health tool at various stages of my life, stopping and starting multiple times, I’m not surprised that the time has come once again to pull this specific tool out of my mental health toolbox. Let me share how I know that now is the right time for me to get back into therapy.

I’ve been considering it off and on for a while now.

Over the last six months, I’ve Googled local therapists a handful of times. I even made a phone call and left a message for a therapy practice (when they called back and left me a message, I never followed up). The thought just kept recurring, an instinct telling me it’s time to get back into therapy, that I need help making sense of myself and my life.

It’s been a hard year.

This has been a rough time for the entire world; in general terms, every country, every community, every person has been challenged by the pandemic. While my loved ones have stayed safe and healthy (thank heavens) and even though my husband and I have been able to work throughout the pandemic (praise be), the isolation of quarantine along with the division that has emerged as the pandemic was politicized have combined in difficult ways for me. I’ve felt more anger, confusion, rage, sadness, grief, and hopelessness over the last year than any other time in my life.

Moving tanks my mental health.

I started antidepressants in the fall of 2019 for many reasons, one of which was in anticipation of a move sometime in 2020. The last time I’d moved, from one end of Las Vegas to the other in 2014, I dipped into a depression that didn’t lift for months. I was pretty sure that moving out of state would likely trigger a similar if not worse depressive spell, and I was right. The disorientation of relocating was very unmooring for me; combine that with the loneliness of moving with the isolation of the pandemic with the division of political tensions… I never felt more alone and off-balance.

My medication hasn’t been as effective.

Once I got on Lexapro, it felt like the fog lifted. A year later, after our move in the middle of a pandemic, our plans to host my entire family for Thanksgiving in our new home were cancelled during the second surge. The edge that had been taken off my depression suddenly returned and could not be quelled. The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas was very dark, both figuratively and literally (Northern California is a lot less sunny than Las Vegas).

Suicidality returned.

November 2020 through January 2021, my mind constantly circled back to thoughts of death. I never felt unsafe and never made plans, but the thought of my life ending just kept returning. It was like smoke from a campfire; I could switch seats or turn my back or walk away, but it always found a way in, no matter how much self-care I practiced or how much I distracted myself. It made sense to me; of course I felt hopeless and part of me wanted to die after all the blows to my mental health. Knowing it was situational and circumstantial helped me know it wouldn’t last forever. But when it was active, it felt like a full-time job to just keep the thoughts on the periphery rather than right in my face, constantly clouding my vision.

It’s become harder and harder to open up to loved ones.

This one is hard for me to make sense of, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’ve noticed, with increasing frequency, that I stop myself from telling the truth about how I’m doing to my closest friends and family. It feels like too much effort and too much emotional output. I’ve gotten into the habit now of avoiding any deep conversation about myself (bring on deep conversations with and about clients or really anyone but me), and I’ve gotten frighteningly comfortable “handling” things all on my own.

I’m experiencing social anxiety for the first time ever.

For those of you who followed along during my Make Some Friends March challenge, you heard me share how hard it was to step outside my comfort zone and get to know people in my new hometown. It took so much out of me to just send a text, let alone talk in person or show up for plans. I’ve always been introverted, but this anxiety went above and beyond anything I’d ever experienced before. I see myself as a friendly, warm person, but I haven’t acted very friendly or warm around new people for the last year.

My doctor recommended it.

It may seem like a no-brainer after everything I just outlined, but it took my new doctor recommending I see a therapist for me to actually commit to seeing a therapist. As she put it, “I can’t be my own doctor, and you can’t be your own therapist.” Duh, but also, *forehead smack.* She gave me some referral information and I’m on my way to finding the therapist I need, now.

Tell me; are you in therapy now? How did you know it was time for you to start?

Stay tuned for updates as I shop for a therapist and get started in therapy soon.

For information on working with Caitlin, look no further.

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