I put on my headphones and logged on to the platform my therapist’s practice uses for tele-therapy. Soon, I saw the face of the therapist I hadn’t seen — hadn’t needed to see — in almost a year.
I’d been putting off making the appointment for a week or two, but after two meltdowns and a few almost-meltdowns, it was time. Encouraged by my fiancé and my mother, I contacted my therapist and asked for a virtual appointment.
The reason for the virtual appointment is, of course, the same as the reason for the appointment itself — the same as the reason that many people are seeking help from therapists right now and that many, many more should be.
The coronavirus is raging across the United States after wreaking havoc on China, Italy, and other countries. Many of us, including in my home state of North Carolina, have been ordered to stay home. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do so are working from home and continuing to make money. But we don’t know what’s going to happen next, we don’t know how long the danger will last, and we don’t know who it’s going to hit — or how hard.
When my tele-therapy call was over, I felt a mixture of relief, resolve, and anxiety. Mostly, I felt like I had a plan, or at least as much of a plan as I could have, given the uncertainty. I had a list of strategies I could use the next time I felt panic, and I had a better understanding of what I was feeling and why. It might sound simple, but it made a huge difference.
I started seeing my therapist once weekly in 2016 for social anxiety disorder. It was the first time that I’d been fully committed to therapy, the first time I’d fully accepted that I needed some help, the first time that I cut myself some slack for needing that help, and the first time I’d seen a therapist I really connected with. All four of those factors made therapy, this time, a success. Eventually, I moved to biweekly appointments, then monthly appointments, then “appointments as needed.”
It took a lot of work. I can’t emphasize enough how hard therapy is, both in sessions and on your own between sessions. But I also can’t emphasize enough how much therapy changed my life. I am happier, I am more open to connecting with other people, I am more able to manage when my anxiety hits hard, and I understand myself (and other people) so much better.
I share my own experience with therapy neither to pity myself nor to congratulate myself. Rather, I share because while I always believe that most people could benefit from talking to a licensed therapist, I believe it’s true now more than ever.
You don’t have to go into an office and expose yourself to the virus; there are many, many therapists who are doing virtual sessions now. I found my therapist through the Psychology Today directory, but you could even start by googling “therapist” and your city. If you don’t connect well with a particular therapist, don’t give up; look for another one. Sometimes it takes a while to find someone you mesh well with.
If you’re feeling particularly stressed, anxious, tired, worried, or depressed during this pandemic, you are far from alone. And you don’t have to deal with it on your own, either. Make that phone call. Send that email.
It’ll be hard.
But it’ll be worth it.