Why I Started — And Quit — Online Therapy
Recently after a therapist asked me, “What are your hobbies?” — after I’d just confided that I’ve been so consumed by work, that even the thought of picking my clothes up off the floor seemed so exhausting and insurmountable, that I ended up crying instead — I went to my account settings and deleted the service.
I had only been using teletherapy for about two months but in those two months, I felt no less stressed, anxious, or perpetually sad. Maybe therapy wasn’t for me — or maybe what I needed was in-person therapy (which is hard to come across these days, due to the safety precautions surrounding COVID-19.) I just knew in my gut that this service felt wrong for me, and the $260/month I was paying made me feel even guiltier and more stressed out. I know I’ve written about the self-investments that you need to make for yourself (therapy included), but this investment didn’t feel like it was panning out well. It was time to call it, and so I did.
Let’s rewind. I am a big proponent of therapy. I encourage friends and readers to seek therapy, and I praise coworkers who tell me they finally found the perfect counselor for them. But up until I had tried teletherapy, I had never actually made an appointment for myself in-person. I knew I had anxiety and depression, but I always felt like I was capable of self-managing.
However, after I was laid off due to COVID-19 back in March, my already anxious brain went into hyperspeed mode, and every worry amplified by a thousand. My husband also lost his job soon after me, and I was taking on as many freelancing gigs as I could find to support the both of us until he could find work. I accepted the first full-time job I could find, even though I knew that the salary wasn’t high enough to support two people and an always-hungry dog, so I decided to take the job and continue to freelance (not that that’s super unheard of in my industry). Besides, these days, many millennials moonlight in order to pay the bills in the expensive cities in which we live, because truthfully – what choice do we have?
But I was tired all the time, and when I wasn’t tired, I was crying, feeling resentful, and felt completely out of control. So I signed up for an online mental health service a good friend of mine recommended, forked over the $260 monthly payment, and hoped for the best.
All I can say is that it didn’t work for me, personally. One therapist seemed rushed all the time and would often cut our sessions short by 20 minutes. The other told me I “deserve a vacation.” The $260 payment weighed on me until one day, I felt like it wasn’t worth it anymore, or at least, at the time. Maybe one day I’ll try it again, or maybe when the world is in a better place, I can find a therapist to see in person.
Until then, here’s how I plan on keeping my mental health in check, in the meantime.
1. Understanding my limits
Technically, I have enough work on my plate to keep plugging away 24 hours, 7 days a week. In most industries, we could probably keep working until we drop dead, but for freelancers, iy can be especially rough, considering our payment is aligned with how many projects we complete. But at what cost?
I’ve realized I can’t keep justifying an additional one, two, or three more hours of working into the night just because it means I can pocket another hundred bucks. So, I created limits for myself. Some days, 6 p.m. was when I’d force myself to close my laptop. Other days, when I had more going on, it was 10 p.m. What mattered was that I was giving myself a “clock out” time, and I’ve done my best to adhere to it. If I don’t finish an assignment, I can finish it tomorrow — most likely with a clearer, more caffeinated head. And this new mindset and process has helped me tremendously already.
2. Knowing I have every right to feel stressed out and that my worries are valid
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic with no end in sight, social unrest that has us a nation questioning our government more than we ever have before, and a nerve-racking, messy election coming up. Of course we feel stressed out, of course we feel hopeless. I know I do. We have a lot to take on, and that bandwidth (both physical and psychological), looks different for everyone. I know some days will be worse than others, and it’s the “sometimes” that I’ve learned to accept versus tried to fight against.
3. Allowing others to help — and not feel guilty about it
My husband has taken on most of the workload around the house as he looks for a new job. He’s been cleaning and making dinners while I work and take care of the dog. It’s an understanding between us and we’ve talked through the arrangements so that I don’t feel bad about everything on his plate, and he feels like he’s supporting me in ways that are impactful and meaningful.
4. Giving myself time to rest, even if it means being honest with my editors that I need to push back deadlines
If I need a full day off, yet I know I have a deadline the next day, I’ll be fully transparent with my editors about it — and never once have they pushed back. It seems like almost every single person understands that everyone is going through something right now, and are being extra compassionate.
5. Walking the dog every single day and dedicating time to exercise as a form of true self-care
Unless I have back-to-back calls earlier in the day, I always make sure to take the dog on an hour-long brisk walk in the morning. It’s good for me, it’s good for her, and I almost always come back to the house feeling refreshed and energized and ready to tackle my to-do list.
6. Talking to friends – because sometimes, just talking about my frustrations helps me work out my problems through a different lens
I know I’m not the only one who is out of their mind during this insane time. Talking to friends about my situation and asking about theirs helps unload a lot of frustrations in a healthier way, and puts things into a different perspective.
PS: If you do have amazing friends who are there for you and want to listen, be sure to know that they can talk to you right back. A healthy friendship is never one-sided.
7. Being grateful for what I do have, on a daily basis
I make sure to journal a few times a week and list out the things I appreciate, while also acknowledging my privilege and luck. My house, my healthy parents, my brother and his family who only live an hour away from me, a husband who does anything to make sure our life together is as comfortable as possible, our savings account which has truly been a lifesaver during this time, and all the editors and writers who helped me find work have made this life change truly doable. And I’m thankful for all of it, and I don’t ever allow myself to forget that.
Gina Vaynshteyn is an editor and writer who lives in LA. You can find more of her words on Refinery29, Apartment Therapy, HelloGiggles, Distractify, and others. If you wanna, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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