Graphic: Ashely Molesso
Unless you live under a rock on this lovely round sphere we call home, you’ve heard of or felt the gut punch that is The Sunday Scaries. The day before Monday when you regret how you acquiesced to bottomless mimosas rather than tackling that need-to-do project. You know you shouldn’t blame yourself, mimosas are seductive that way, but the gut punch Sunday Scaries blame you and that’s enough to bring on that pre-Monday panic.
But Pre-Therapy Scaries? More ambiguous. Felt, but rarely discussed. Pre-Therapy Scaries happen on that big, vague jump across the pond before you tip toe into your first session. “Is therapy for me?” “Do I have to lay down on a chaise?” “I’m totally fine, I just cancelled on my best friend for the umpteenth time I so I can sleep/hide/binge watch Netflix. It’s normal ask the internet.” “I don’t see how talking about my problems is going to help.”
Listen, we’ve been there. Lots of questions, stigmas and so little answers.
Alas, never fear! Mad Girls Mag is here for you and we interviewed a wild therapist, Kati Gilmore, in her natural habitat to help ease your Pre-Therapy Scaries.
What led you to this career path?
I believe all therapists intuitively have something within them that make them helpers so we’re all drawn to this path naturally. I actually wanted to do school counseling and got to undergrad and decided that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, so I course corrected. When you’re in high school picking your career you really don’t know. I didn’t know all of the nuances, all the ins and outs, of the psychotherapy world. You can be a social worker, a counselor, or a psychologist. You can be a life coach! There are so many different paths.
Different people I’ve spoken with have voiced that they don’t seek services because they don’t think their problems or their situation is “severe” enough to warrant help. When should people start seeking out services for themselves?
To anyone who is unsure I would first say this: don’t compare yourself to anyone. It’s your journey. It’s your personal experience. So when something starts to impact your life and the things you do on a daily basis, that’s when I tell people they should start to seek help in some type of fashion. That help may be a therapist or it may be a doctor. It might be both. Each person is unique.
That’s important for people to hear because I believe that they can realize that this mental health issue, whatever it may be, is impacting them but they don’t know when they need to ask someone for help to work through it. It’s a very real barrier.
What about for those who feel afraid to sit down with someone and talk about their mental health or who feel that they don’t have the time to go through therapy?
The good thing about therapy is we’re making strides in reducing stigma enough so that people feel more comfortable. The field itself is making breakthroughs in technology that make it easier for people to seek help. They realize that some people aren’t suited for traditional therapy and now we know maybe email is more appropriate. Maybe Skype is appropriate. I have 17 year olds who won’t talk to me in person, but in an email session they open up to me. I’m able to talk to them and assess things I never would have been able to in person. It makes some people more comfortable. There are options for everyone in therapy. You don’t have to fit into some type of mold.
What about the naysayers? Ya know, those who think therapy isn’t useful for working through an issue, that it’s just talking.
The therapist you see is established in a set of techniques that they are going to use to help you. This isn’t your neighbor. This is an educated professional that’s been trained to understand these illnesses, the symptomology and about what works to combat the symptomology.
So it’s not just blowing off steam…
No, honey! If you just want to vent, you do that with a friend for free. Your therapist has the skills and education to help guide you through whatever it is you’re struggling with. Your therapist will have feedback, they are more than just a a good sounding board. Because it’s more than that. They will be present with you to help you get back to your ideal operating level. The goal for therapy isn’t, “you come, you stay forever”. You come and get the tools you need so that you can go out and do things on your own.
… and it’s more than these tips and tricks anyone can find on the internet?
Exercising and deep breathing… that’s really basic stuff. It can be done as a preventative measure for some or a coping mechanism for others but it’s still pretty basic self care. Therapy is much more involved. Therapy is thought reconstruction. It’s challenging the negative thinking and the distorted thinking.
While there’s been a lot of work to break down mental health stigmas, in talking to the people around me they still seem to have a very loose grasp of what those mental health issues look like in real life, in real people. When talking about a friend or loved one who has been struggling, people typically say they just don’t see it. It doesn’t seem to fit their preconceived idea of what depression or anxiety looks like.
It’s usually really difficult for people to see that their friendships are deteriorating because of a struggle with mental health. If your friend is the one struggling then to you it’s usually going to look like they are in a bad mood or that they have an attitude problem. A lot of times people are not that in tune to what’s going on. They just see the symptoms of the bigger issue.
As a friend, how do you support someone who probably needs services but still believes it “isn’t for them”?
It’s never recommended to push someone into therapy. If they aren’t ready they are going to have a bad experience.
If someone is help rejecting, the best route may be to watch and make sure it’s not getting worse. Sometimes people really do just need space to work it out and all you need to do is be present. Someone who is struggling doesn’t want to put on a show or act a certain way, so allowing them to be themselves is really helpful. Meeting the expectations of everyone around you is really difficult with anxiety and depression. As a friend, you need to demonstrate that you don’t have any expectations right now. That where they are right now and what they want right now is okay. It allows them to be who they are in that moment. It’s freeing.
To anyone struggling with their mental health, isolating themselves, and who is not seeking support: we need a support system. If you shut people out and you want to be alone it can be very difficult for you to get better. Having a support system can be the difference in whether you get well or not. Forming a network of people that can be positive and be there for you is an important part of the process. The people that you trust are obviously going to be the most helpful so know when to ask for their help. It makes you vulnerable, but these should be people that love you and want you to be your best. They won’t use it against you.
For those that are ready, what’s a great first step to get involved in therapy services?
Come in for a consultation! There’s no commitment and there’s no expectation. After the consultation, I make a recommendation and then they have the information they need to make an informed decision about how to move forward. We can also assess for technology therapy if they are too anxious to come in for a consultation. Sometimes a technology session is not appropriate or it’s not the best fit, but it’s all case by case. I always try to work with people.
A note from Kati to the lovely women of Mad Girls: Depression is the most common women’s mental health issue. Things like women’s reproductive health, low blood sugar, thyroid issues, menopause, pre baby, post baby… things that are specific to (or more specific to) women have a dramatic effect on your mental health. 1 in 5 experience mental health issues and are 40% more likely to develop depression.
If you’re located in the NWA area and think you might be interested in therapy services, contact Kati Gilmore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are your Pre-Therapy Scaries? What’s your experience with therapy? Talk to us in the comments!