Look Out Honey, ‘Cause I’m Using Technology by Jamie L. Rotante
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed yet, but I’m a pretty neurotic person. Maybe it’s my proclivity for crying, my obsession with the end times, my fear of being happy, or just my general, unending sense of uneasiness that tipped you off, but overall I’m a pretty off-center person. Here’s another fun fact about me: I currently do not go to nor have I ever been to a therapist. And that’s not because of any sort of aversion to them or to the psychological process it’s… well… it’s like this…
I believe in the positive and remarkably helpful effects of therapy—yet I find myself fear-stricken with the idea of moving forward and actually going to a therapist. It’s like going to a job interview but instead of explaining the boring minutiae of your day-to-day work life and career history and hoping they don’t judge you too harshly on it, it’s the intricate goings-on inside your fucked up head and hoping that they do. Here’s what scares me about therapy—and it’s not the naive notion that I won’t be “fixed” or that the highly qualified person won’t tell me what I want to hear—it’s the same anxiety that drives most of my neurotic thoughts… what if they don’t like me?
I’ve heard some psycho-horror stories: A therapist falling asleep while the patient was explaining their day; doctors who aren’t paying attention or belittle their patient’s problems; others who pay a little too much attention and are too hands-on. What if my doctor thinks my problems are childish and doesn’t take me seriously? What if they joke about what I’ve said with their friends? Sure, that’s legally prohibited, but who really can tell? What if, on the other end of the spectrum, they diagnose me too quickly and try to push me to take medication I don’t want?
I completely believe that the right pills can be incredibly effective and helpful to those who need them, but I’m also frightened about taking anything that can become addictive or change my brain chemistry. If they work, great. But what if they have an adverse effect? Also, swallowing pills gives me anxiety. My throat closes up as soon as they enter my mouth and I end up gagging, spitting them out or—ugh—chewing them. There’s a reason I never take anything larger than seasonal allergy tablets and baby aspirin. But we’ll save that story about my fear of hospitals and the entire medical practice as a whole for another day.
So how do I cope? Well, writing, for one. Putting my thoughts onto paper helps me understand—albeit from a very crude, rudimentary standpoint—what’s going on in my head. Sharing these thoughts with the world (which, for some reason is easier than just sharing them with one person, who knew?) and hearing from people who feel the same helps me lose that sense of isolation that so often triggers my anxious thoughts. What I’ve also noticed is that, because there are so many people out there like me, there’s been a huge movement over the last few years to bring mental health awareness and therapy to our fingertips. Apps, websites, podcasts, and more exist solely to provide tips, guided meditations, and even therapy sessions to people in their own homes.
I’ve tried a few. I’ve downloaded countless apps for guided meditation and daily affirmations. I forget to make the time to meditate. I get the text alerts with my “feel-good” advice in the morning and curse them from disrupting me from over-sleeping. I sign up for the email lists that do the same. I scan the tips: Create a vision board. De-clutter. Organize. I’m trying. I’m trying to do that digitally too, but these new therapeutic email lists are contributing to my mess. I see the emails keep piling up—the stress of an overfilled email inbox sends me into a panic. I filter the messages by sender and start to power my way through them, but they keep coming faster than I can mark them as “read.”
Very recently I took what was probably the biggest step in my attempts to get digital self-help: I actually spoke with a therapist through video chat. It was part of this special intro program that gave users a ten-minute session to chat with a therapist of their choosing. Admittedly, I picked one at random, not entirely understanding what the whole thing was about in my quick read of the website during my lunch break. I assumed I’d watch a video she had pre-recorded or it would be a group chat, sort of like an online lecture or a livestream, with everyone asking questions and her answering what she could. Instead, it was a real therapist giving ten minutes of undivided attention to me.
As soon as I realized what was happening, I almost bailed. Nervously, I hemmed and hawed so our ten minutes wouldn’t involve anything too serious. I asked her about how to approach therapy and coping with generalized anxiety. She was incredibly kind, patient, and promised to send me a link with tips that she actually recommends, as opposed to so many of the emails and websites that offer self-help rituals that may only benefit the person writing them. I have not yet received that link and I’m still too nervous to try and ask her for it, but that chat made me feel like I could do this. Maybe. Even if it’s just by starting out with video chats and taking it from there.
What the therapist I chatted with also gave me was a sense of confidence in my search. She was upfront and honest—yes, there might be some therapists out there who I won’t “jive” with, but there are also many who I will. It’s daunting to put yourself out there in the wild like that, but it doesn’t have to be a hopeless cause. And if just those mere ten minutes of talking made me feel better, I can only imagine what a full hour—or even a half hour—would do. Yet, putting myself out there and open to less-than-savory experiences is still intimidating, though no longer seemingly insurmountable.
Maybe one day, when I’m incredibly rich and famous, I’ll start an app kind of like Tindr or Bumble—maybe I’ll call it Brainr—that lets users swipe through a database of highly rated, effective therapists in your immediate area and you can match with ones you feel can help you the best. Maybe go on a trial therapy run with them; find a bar with a comfy chaise lounge to relax in while you unload all your dreams, fears, and paranoias, and hope that the person on the receiving end treats you with kindness and doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, send you on your way, and send you an inappropriate picture in the morning.
Until that day comes, I’ll keep reading those emails. I’ll keep downloading those apps. I’ll follow other like-minded people on social media and read their stories. Maybe I’ll even make another attempt to video chat with a licensed professional who understands, but take it a little more seriously next time. I’ll start serious research into the most compatible mental health professionals in my area. And, as always, I’ll keep writing.