So, I’m going to a therapist today.
I’ve been to a therapist at numerous points in my life. Once when I was very young, again during college, and then during grad school at the point where I realized I needed to leave.
My intentions for this time around are quite different from my past visits, so I imagine the experience should be pretty different. My first two therapy experiences were both in response to traumatic events. I suppose the third was in response to a traumatic event too (i.e. graduate school). When I went to therapy during graduate school, I was an unmitigated disaster. I was mostly just flailing about wildly, desperately trying to find anything that would make me less miserable. I have depression in general, was going through a major episode at the time, and was also trying to figure my way out of a variety of situations that weren’t working for me. My intention for therapy then was mostly just the vague hope of making things better.
Now though, I’m not experiencing that sense of misery or flailing that drove me to therapy in grad school for the first time. For the most part, I actually feel pretty good about things. I’m very happy with my first year of married life, which gives me a sense of both emotional and financial security that I have never had before. I feel like I have a non-academic life plan more or less worked out. This is not to say that it is perfect, or won’t change, but I’m already well upon my escape route from academia, so I no longer feel like I’m stuck in a place that has eradicated my options. So going to a therapist today feels very different, because I’m not going in and saying…I am so unhappy and don’t know what to do. I feel much more specific about what I need and want to get.
At this point, I’m recognizing that academia is a very toxic place for me, and no amount of just putting my head down and pushing through it is going to get me across the finish line. I just cannot spend the next few months working on this thing through tears and misery. I’m tired of academia making me feel like crap, and I would like a therapist to help me learn ways to get through the last few months in a way that is not destructive to my psyche. So my intentions here are very specific. Given that I need to finish this thing, how can I manage my emotions to finish it? Academia now makes me feel inadequate, guilty, and unhappy–how can I change my patterns of thought to take control of my emotions and deal with the situation in a different way? And really, I think that learning about this, and talking about it will help me in general. I tend towards depression and anxiety in general, and whereas academia exacerbates those qualities (thus making it a bad fit for me), I certainly will keep experiencing various forms of shittiness throughout my life. If i can learn how to better deal with it here, those strategies will certainly serve me later on.
This time around, I’m also way more open to actually helping myself. During my first graduate school therapy experience, I didn’t have enough value for myself to put real energy into making things better. I wanted to stop being so unhappy, but anything more than that felt impossible. I literally didn’t have enough self-worth to make really working on my issues feel like it was important. But, I can’t make anybody else’s life better if I can barely function myself. And this time around, I feel way more ok with doing that. So I want some helping in finishing this dissertation, and I want to learn how to manage my emotions better, so I am better equipped at both helping myself and others.
The first therapist I saw in grad school didn’t fit at all. We didn’t really mesh, and her approach didn’t feel right. The second therapist I went to was much better. I felt comfortable with her, and it ended up being extremely useful. I know it is really important to find a therapist that works for you, but I’ve never been quite sure how to do that. When I went in grad school before, I just went to my university’s counseling center, where you basically end up with whoever has openings. I found the one I am seeing today rather haphazardly. I looked online for therapists that specialized in women, and from there found a group that focused more on holistic approaches. So . . . we shall see how it goes.
Even though I have seen therapists numerous times in my life, and they have always been really helpful, I retain the general apprehension about them. I feel bad that I can’t just push through my problems and deal with them myself. I feel alot of first world guilt about not having issues severe or problematic enough to “warrant” therapy. I conceptually realize that those ideas aren’t useful, but it is hard to get past. If someone else was in my place now, I would urge them to get some therapy, and yet I feel guilt and shame for doing it myself.
So . . . . that’s what I’m up to today. I’m about to do some paperwork before heading out to my appointment. I’ve got some high hopes for it, so I hope it goes well. We shall see.