Last September, just before starting my new job, I had my first therapy session. Okay, it wasn’t my first ever session, but it was my first session since my failed attempts back in 2012. I found a therapist, Dr. Maria, that was covered by my health insurance and saw her for an hour. Her office was close to my apartment and had a welcoming atmosphere to it. Small and humble, tucked away on the first floor of a modest office building. In the waiting area, she had a radio that was always playing to help drown out whoever was currently talking with her. She specialized in family therapy, so she had a few toys on shelves in her office.
I saw her every Thursday in October. Once I was comfortable, we switched to every other week in November. For a while, it was switched to Tuesday’s, but the day of the week didn’t matter as long as I was seeing her consistently. As of my last session , I’ll now only be seeing her once every three weeks. I’ll actually be seeing her today after work. In total, I’ve had 17 appointments in the span of seven months.
This attempt at therapy has definitely been different from my previous attempts. For one thing, I’m much more open to them. For another, I have a lot more emotional maturity than I did six years ago. The majority of the early sessions of course were spent catching Dr. Maria up on my life, my mental health history, and what I was wanting out of therapy. It took a few sessions to finally talk about present day. The environmental factors that pushed me to start therapy in the first place in September were mostly gone at this point: I was no longer working retail, was no longer underemployed and feeling worthless because I had to rely so heavily on Jason financially. I had found a design job and was doing well in it. So, by the time Dr. Maria was up to speed and caught up to present day, a lot of the sessions turned less into talking about depression and job hunting and more into wedding planning ranting. Lots of anxiety about money, getting everything done in time, and a few instances of butting heads with other people involved in the process.
At this point, you’d think there was no point to continuing therapy. If I wasn’t feeling depressed anymore, why keep going? If I was now feeling fulfilled with my design job, feeling better because I was contributing a paycheck, and feeling fine with my relationship, why keep spending the $25 copay for each therapy session? Because I liked it. Therapy doesn’t feel like a chore or something I have to force myself to do. I actually look forward to my sessions with Dr. Maria. She’s attentive and always welcomes me with a warm smile. She offers advice, but most importantly, she listens.
I told Jason once that I thought I’d run out of things to say at the sessions. Somehow, however, at every session, I managed to find something to talk about. Whether it was something bothering me at work, the latest in wedding planning logistics, or health concerns, there was always something. Dr. Maria would do that sort of active listening where she’d nod in agreement or groan when I mention something bad that happened. She’d sometimes add her own personal anecdotes relating to her own life.
Leading up to the wedding in January, the sessions also served as a means to finding out best techniques for a successful and happy marriage. We talked about communication, how best to approach certain subjects, and generally talked about what Jason and I had already been doing to ensure we were both content with our relationship. A big part of keeping us so strong has been going to therapy. As much as Jason is my confidant, I can’t put all of that 100% on him. So, Dr. Maria helps share the load as do my friends and family.
In late February, just one month into marriage, Jason and I had to suddenly go to California for a family emergency. I called to cancel my next therapy session and didn’t reschedule since I didn’t know how long we’d be out there. A few days later, family crisis averted, we came back to Texas only to find out that my family dog Terra, the sweetest little rat terrier, had died. She died Saturday, March 3. Exactly two months ago.
I’ll never forget that night. Jason had just picked me up from the airport. I unpacked, changed into comfy clothes, and was about to have some tea while watching Samurai Champloo when I got a call from my dad. I answered and, well, I don’t feel like going into all the details, but that was the worst call I’ve received to date. Not just the news, but the way it was delivered. I never want to hear my dad sound like that ever again. I can still hear it in my head vividly. The next night, we were going to sit down to the same thing: tea and anime. I was so paranoid that I’d get another call. It’s so strange how your brain makes these connections.
One of the first things Jason said to me after we got the news was that I should schedule an appointment with Dr. Maria. I agreed wholeheartedly and was able to see her the Thursday after Terra’s passing. While I didn’t cry in that session (still a little surprised I didn’t), I was still very much hurting. Dr. Maria was there to help me grieve and understand my grief. I was able to work out a lot of tough emotions in those sessions. While I had been to funerals and wasn’t completely unfamiliar to death, I had never lost someone so close. It was always one step removed. A classmate’s father. An acquaintance. An uncle I had only met a handful of times. I couldn’t honestly say I truly knew them. But I knew Terra. And Dr. Maria understood that and she helped me cope.
Two months later
Two months after losing Terra, it still hurts, though not as frequently. My mind drifts to her whenever I touch the necklace I got that holds some of her ashes. Yesterday, realizing that today would be two months since her passing, I read my post on Facebook from when I announced that she was gone. It still choked me up, but didn’t paralyze me with pain as much as it once did. The biggest pain I feel right now in regards to Terra is losing her future. There will be no more new memories of her. No more new pictures or videos of her. What we have now saved on our phones, computers, and on the internet is all we’ll ever have of her. Realizing that a few weeks ago felt like losing her all over again.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be seeing Dr. Maria today after work. While I may mention the significance of today in regards to Terra, I don’t think I’ll linger on it. As much as it pains me, I know the best thing to help me cope is to continue my life and continue improving it. So, my sessions with Dr. Maria lately have shifted into focusing on my health. She knows I’m doing keto and that I’m trying to work out 3-4 times a week and she supports it. Giving her updates on that helps hold me accountable, which in turn helps stave off depression, since healthy eating and exercise definitely keep those dark feelings at bay. I restarted keto in earnest March 16, and I’m happy to say that I’m down from 138.4 lbs to 135 lbs. My goal is to hit 125 lbs. (Stretch goal is 120.) More impressive (and important) to me is that I’ve gone from 31.8% to 30.9% body fat. I’m okay with the scale not moving much if it means I’m losing fat and gaining muscle. Going to the rock gym twice a week seems to be helping on both of those fronts. (I’ll try to do a Back to Keto blog post soon!)
I can honestly say that I’m better because of therapy. Dr. Maria notices it, too. She says I’m looking much happier and livelier in my most recent sessions. She was the one that suggested we switch to once every three weeks. It was a great moment for me, hearing that from her. Cause while she didn’t outright say it, I saw that switch to less frequent visits as her way of saying that I’m doing okay. I’ve got coping mechanisms in place that help when I’m not with her. Now, compared to September, I’m not just getting by. I feel like I’m thriving now. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to say that just two months after losing the dog that we had for eight years, but I do feel like I’m thriving now. Not just coasting or holding on, but actually looking to the future with optimism.
Talk therapy works for me. It doesn’t work for everyone and it can take a while to find a therapist that works well for you, but it definitely works for me. I’m glad to have found Dr. Maria and I’m proud of myself for seeking help. I don’t even want to know what my life would have looked like had I not made that call and scheduled that first appointment.
If you’re considering therapy but have never done it before, I say—if you’re able— just go for one session. Just one. Give it a shot and see how you feel after. You’ll never know what you’re missing out on until you try. If you don’t like it, you’re just out one hour and whatever cost. But if you do like it, the benefits are endless.