The Only Gift I Want For My Birthday is Therapy
By Janice Quirt
Photo © Alex.eg/Twenty20
May 6, 2020
A few months ago I mentioned to my partner, with 100 per cent sincerity, that I was really looking forward to my first session of therapy.
He wasn’t sure if I was joking.
And I wasn’t.
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I attended therapy for post-partum depression after the birth of my two children, but that was time-limited and focused more on life with a newborn.
I had also experienced counselling to help with blended family dynamics, and while that was helpful and enriching, keeping every single family member and their goals and feelings in mind was, to be honest, an exhausting juggling act.
To be frank, I’m being selfish here. With therapy, I’m looking for the opportunity to share, vent and unload, and have the problem-solving focus on me for a change — not my kids, step-kids or partner. Me.
Some people count mani-pedis or a luxurious hair cut as their self-care measures. Those are lovely practices, to be sure. It’s nice for the physical body to have a treat. I’ve enjoyed my share of massages over the years.
"I don’t have to worry about the reactions and repercussions resulting from having truthfully aired my opinions."
But it occurs to me some parents are not so loving of their minds and emotions — myself included.
I know I’ve been less prone to pamper my reactions, mental stress levels and happiness quotient. And that’s a shame, because I can’t think of anything that impacts my overall happiness and outlook on life quite as much as my mental health and stress levels.
The Stigma Continues
When most people are suffering physically, they know it’s a good idea to take steps to alleviate the condition. The population seems willing to visit any number of health care practitioners to deal with those physical ailments. But turmoil in the mind and emotions is often ignored, and not discussed. That stigma has deep roots and it’s hard to overcome.
Bye Bye Guilt
With that in mind, let me tell you why I think therapy is the right gift for me.
Seeing a therapist is like talking with your best friend, partner or family member, but with a few key differences. One is that there is an absence of guilt — or, at least, less guilt.
There is less chance of feeling “bad” because of dominating the conversation. And there is no need to exclaim, “But enough about me! What about you?”
"Similar to how muscles sometimes require physiotherapy, our mind and emotions often need some TLC, too."
There’s also less stress about honestly stating how I feel, even if I fear it paints a less-than-perfect picture of our thoughts and reactions. I don’t have to go through life with a therapist as one of the key players. I don’t have to worry about the reactions and repercussions resulting from having truthfully aired my opinions.
And that is freeing.
To be able to throw away the filter for once, just once, and be honest. And then to have someone help you figure out how to navigate through your own life, maximizing the chance for happiness or contentment.
Leave it to the Professionals
Psychology is a big field. Most people in my life are not psychology experts. And that makes sense — a lot of people find it hard to be impartial.
That’s why I have no trouble admitting to myself: It’s OK to get help. It’s fine to lean on someone trained in these matters. It’s OK to be kind to myself. In fact, it’s wonderful.
"When I talk about therapy, I don’t lower my voice, use code words or lie."
While leaning on a partner or friend is a great idea, and I myself confide in mine, there are some matters that I can’t discuss with them right away. There are just some issues that need a bit of workshopping.
I think it’s still great to have honest conversations as a couple, but I also think recovery time can be reduced by talking to a therapist — and then I save clear-headed positivity for my loved ones where possible.
No Code Required
Another benefit of therapy is how portable it is. Yes, you can meet with your therapist face-to-face (assuming this is being read in non-pandemic times), but phone and video sessions are also possible. Benefits, for those fortunate to have them, often cover sessions with registered social workers, psychotherapists and psychologists. Similar to how muscles sometimes require physiotherapy, our mind and emotions often need some TLC, too.
When I talk about therapy, I don’t lower my voice, use code words or lie. I simply discuss attending therapy the way I would any other medical professional —except I enjoy going to therapy much more than I do the dentist.
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Self-care means different things to various people. Some might long for a blowout, while I look forward to a session on the couch (actually, in my case it’s a nice comfy armchair). I like being able to examine my feelings and thoughts in a safe and helpful manner, without editing myself or feeling guilty. We talk a good game every January during the Let’s Talk campaign — let’s make talking about mental health so commonplace that we don’t need a campaign to erase the stigma.
Never tried therapy? Next time you book a mani-pedi, I encourage you to schedule a session with a therapist with whom you click.
It’s the only thing on my birthday list.
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