April 21, 2022
Content created for the Bezzy community and sponsored by our partners. Learn More
Ivan Andrianov/Stocksy United
With the help of my therapist, I’ve gotten to a place where I believe that most good things coming my way will be a result of feeling more, rather than less.
“So you really are crazy…” squawked the therapist sitting across from me.
I was 20 years old and sitting in an off-campus office suite in Madison, Wisconsin, that looked like it hadn’t been renovated since the ’70s. This was my second attempt at seeking help. I’d canceled the first appointment because I was too depressed to go. Funny how that works.
After unloading my watered-down woes to this new random man, I was met with both shame and a prescription for quetiapine (Seroquel), an anti-psychotic that’s sometimes prescribed for major depressive disorder. I crumbled up the prescription and threw in the garbage on my way out of the building. The shame, however, I dutifully swallowed. I had my fair share of it, and it was starting to weigh me down, but of course, I didn’t know that yet.
I know that medication is beneficial, even essential, for many. But for me, it felt off the table.
I considered my mental maladies — newfound insomnia, weepiness, what I assumed had been a panic attack, a lack of motivation, and a weird preoccupation with how insignificant I was — to be circumstantial, fixed with the start of a new relationship or the end of a semester. Though, somewhere in me, I knew that I was incredibly privileged, that I possessed more than enough to be happy and I still unequivocally wasn’t. This brought on a spiral of more shame.
It took me another decade to reconcile these feelings. Through the years the boyfriend turned into a fiancé and then a husband and the degree turned into internships and then a career. My salary and titles ticked upward and my friends and family stayed constant. And, OK, maybe I caved on the antidepressants. Things theoretically aligned — I cried less and I thought that was life. To accumulate, to never slow down or go backward.
I was checking all of the boxes, and in order to keep it all together, I decided that if anything made me sad or unsettled, it was best not to think about it. A fraying relationship? Ignore it. That sad ASPCA commercial? Change the damn channel. A nagging feeling that I didn’t know my purpose? Double-down on whatever my boss says it should be.
I kept myself busy and filled my life to the brim. It made me forget that I was human, which, it seemed, was an excellent cure for depression. Until it wasn’t.
As I advanced in my 20s, capital T traumas, unavoidable through hard work or merit, hit in a slurry.
The deaths of my 86-year-old grandmother and my 3-month-old puppy — both unexpected and earth shattering — and a marital implosion too hefty to brush under the rug sent me careening back into a therapist’s office, my desperation outweighing the skepticism I’d clutched for a decade.
At this point, I just wanted someone to fix me, even if that meant I was “crazy.” By the time I realized a year later that no one else could fix me, I was far enough into therapy to be able to handle my disbelief with pseudo-equanimity. As John Green wrote in “A Fault in Our Stars”: “Grief does not change you. It reveals you.”
All that time, weaving through cognitive behavioral therapy and body-based therapy, my therapist held space for me to reveal myself, all parts welcome. To sob, to be an entitled brat, to re-evaluate my values, to tell her things I’d never told anyone, to justify foolish decisions. To be human.
I was never met with “at least you don’t” or “you should” or “so you really are crazy”, but instead with gentle, wandering inquisitions that helped me re-meet myself little by little. I found the sensitive, hilarious, nerdy, animal-obsessed little girl that I’d buried in the armor of Abercrombie and straight A’s.
That little girl felt and loved deeply in a society that often found feeling and loving quite inconvenient. So she adapted. Every step I made away from her had felt like a tiny death to the part of me that knew better.
My therapist held space for me to reveal myself, all parts welcome.
Psychotherapy was integral to helping me unearth and tend to this truth, and I’m not alone in this benefit. The National Alliance on Mental Illness cites talk therapy as having an “excellent track record of helping people with depressive disorder,” for myriad reasons, including its ability to reveal unconscious patterns, build coping strategies, and improve how someone relates to others.
Joanna Taubeneck, LCPC and clinical manager at Head/Heart Therapy in Chicago, understands this first hand.
”The therapeutic relationship is uniquely healing because it allows clients to show up with all their struggles and fears while being witnessed and supported compassionately and nonjudgmentally,” she says. “When a therapist’s empathy meets a client’s shame, the client’s shame begins to dissolve.”
Alongside the relief that therapy can provide, as divinity scholar and author Kate Bowler aptly titled a book, there is “no cure for being human.”
I remind myself this as I wean myself off of my SSRIs for the umpteenth time and experience the dreaded brain zaps that have historically forced relapse. They make me feel like my brain is a snow globe in the hands of a toddler, but nevertheless, I persist. (If you’re taking medications for depression, it’s important to talk with your prescriber before making any big changes or stopping use.)
I’ve gotten to a place where I believe that most good things coming my way will be a result of feeling more, rather than less.
I recognize that there are depressions bigger than mine or that require different interventions. I also acknowledge that the therapists and physicians that have helped me heal are inaccessible for much of our population.
I’d like to have a hand in changing that and have discovered how through (you guessed it) therapy. My dream that I only recently discovered is so obvious in hindsight. The long-abandoned horse girl and English nerd in me want to normalize mental health struggles through writing and caring for horses and humans in equine-based therapeutic settings.
Saint Teresa of Avila described life as a “night spent in an uncomfortable inn.” Some may call this negative or nihilistic, but this resonates with me. I am still prone to melancholia, nostalgia, and wistfulness. The difference is that now I recognize this and I do my best not to bury it.
Looking up at the night sky freaks me out. Endings always get me, especially the Sunday after a long-anticipated gathering. I look at my dog and my parents and think about how I won’t always have them. These moments crack me open, and instead of pathologizing or ruminating, I name what I’m feeling. It usually leads to a “same here” and when it doesn’t, maybe a hug or some quiet time, whatever I know I need in that moment.
And when that’s not enough or I can’t figure out why I’m feeling down, I lean into it further when I’m able. I profess that I am, as my brother and sister-in-law call it, “in a sunken place” and plop myself on the couch in front of movies that will definitely make me cry (“La La Land” and “A Fault in Our Stars” always work). I call the day a wash and go to sleep knowing that tomorrow will be a little bit different. I don’t even put the pressure on it to be “better” anymore.
The accumulation of a thousand of these “little bit differents” has been life changing.
Medically reviewed on April 21, 2022
Have thoughts or suggestions about this article? Email us at email@example.com.
About the author