About three weeks following a move to strange place six hours from home, I sat by myself at a coffee shop on my day off, mulling over life. Moving is an emotional experience for anyone, so I tried to keep myself busy both before and after the relocation. But on that day, I had nowhere to go and nowhere to be. I was lonesome.
The first night in my new apartment was similar. My roommate hadn’t moved in yet, and my parents had yet to arrive with the U-Haul. I slept on the floor with a blanket and watched my favorite movie, Cars. The wifi hadn’t been installed yet, much less the cable box. It was quiet and the sun had set. A sense of emptiness settled in the barren apartment.
Weeks after that lonely night, my belongings had been unloaded into my new home. My roommate had even started bringing company by to visit and help us get situated. But still, my anxiety and this nagging feeling of hopelessness persisted as I struggled to find my footing at home and at my new job.
So that isolated afternoon at the coffee shop, I decided I needed to see a counselor.
For so long I had considered asking for help to be the same as giving up. But later I realized that I had already lost that fight. Once anxiety and depression have affected your relationships, job, and dreams, you see that you’re already past “hitting rock bottom”—you were just waiting for yourself to admit it.
Therapy costs a pretty penny. And if I’m honest, I expected the sessions to fix me—but they didn’t.
I sobbed during the first few; I couldn’t stop. The experience was an odd melancholy release of everything I had been holding inside. And while I have yet to feel “fixed,” I will liken it to someone coming alongside a weary traveler and offering to help carry their bags. It doesn’t make you feel less tired, but it makes your burden more manageable. And it’s the relief of someone else saying, “I care that you make it to your destination.”
I remember when my therapist instructed me to tell her if I was ever feeling suicidal. I laughed and said, “I won’t bother you when you’re off work.”
She said, “No, still call me because I care.”
She wasn’t in it for the paycheck or searching for a quick fix. She wanted me to stay alive.
Even while in therapy, I still called a crisis line following awful days at work. I told them I was having suicidal thoughts, and I just wanted it to stop.
But the truth is, therapists and counselors can’t chase away your demons, not without your help at least. And even then, I’m not sure they will ever really leave. Maybe they wait, quietly in the bushes, hoping you’ll decide to drop your suitcases full of good and bad things, and let them back in.
My suitcase is a little lighter now. After being diagnosed with Moderate Anxiety, Depression, and Adjustment Disorder, I’ve found some clarity. I know my struggles will probably resurface the next time I make a big move or change, but I refuse to stop progressing in life out of fear.
And I don’t think the lack of feeling “fixed” after attending therapy should cause me to consider myself as weak or forever broken. Therapy isn’t about that, it doesn’t leave you feeling brand new. It gives you the tools to better understand yourself, to call your struggles out by name and take away their power.
Before therapy, I tried to avoid anything that would cause me turmoil. But now I know that I can survive it. I am strong, and asking for help doesn’t change that, it emboldens me.