The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: The Absurdity of Therapy

May 19, 2009

The Absurdity of Therapy

I'm not anti-therapy. Not at all. I spent a good four years in my early twenties in both one-on-one counselling and group counselling. I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, but those were probably the most fruitful years of my life. I learnt how to accept love, how to express anger, how to fully be who God made me to be. I remember as I was leaving therapy saying that the issues for the season were dealt with, but as I grew and moved into new stages of my life, that at some point, I would probably benefit from going back into counselling.

Well, the time is now. Apparently a major move across country and two dating break-ups in a span of two years counts as "new stages of my life."

So, being the "good girl" that I am, the one that "listens to the healthy advice of others," and being completely lost as to what else to do, I find myself asking around for names of good therapists. Therapists who understand the kind of Christianity I practice (Holy Spirit led, evangelical, if you will), therapists who practice "Christian counselling" and won't ask me to interpret my dreams and incessantly talk about my mother.

I'm slightly wary -- this is, afterall, Los Angeles, where therapy is like drinking a protein shake. I'm sure everyone and their almost-famous brother has gone to see a therapist. The question I find myself pondering is whether I really need said therapy, or I just need a good dose of shopping, spa treatments and a hot, new boyfriend.

But when I wake up the next morning and find myself unable to breathe, I decide that therapy might be needed afterall. At the very least, maybe I can get some drugs out of it.

I make an appointment for a Monday after work. The waiting room has comfy chairs, a small zen water fountain on the end table, and classical music is being piped in through the speakers. The lights are warm and slightly dim. I know it's all set up to make me feel comfortable and at ease. I appreciate it, but it makes me want to laugh. I feel like a damn cliche, getting therapy in LA. Funny how I didn't feel like that when I got therapy in Chicago.

There's another woman in the waiting room with me. She looks at me and I at her, but neither of us attempt to make conversation. This is common etiquette in therapy waiting rooms. We're not waiting for a bus, we're waiting to pour out our deepest, darkest sorrows, fears, and desires. No small talk is needed beforehand.

I find myself strangely nervous, so to distract myself, I go through the basket of magazines. There's Ms. Magazine, People Magazine and Better Homes and Gardens. I wonder at this combination. I know my therapist shares this space with other therapists, which then makes me wonder what kind of therapy is being practiced within this office space. Probably something that deals with women and their issues. Afterall, I am a woman, I have issues, and here I am.

Surprisingly, I find a copy of The New Yorker. I start to relax.

The Therapist is a middle-aged white woman, who by her very presence is comforting. She asks me what brings me to this point. In good therapy speak, I tell her that the last thing that pushed me into getting help was my recent break-up. I'm quick to point out that I understand the break-up is probably not the root issue, and that I'd been surprisingly unhappy with my life in LA for awhile.

Personally, I'm not sure why I'm so quick to have a verbal parenthesis around what brought me to therapy. Maybe I believe that it's weak to let a break-up, knock me out on my ass so much that I have to seek professional help. It has to be something deeper, right?

We end up with a brief overview of my last two years in LA. To her credit, The Therapist winces at the right moments of my story. How the first boyfriend (not the one that just broke up with me), came to visit me in LA after two months of not seeing me, and no longer wanted to touch me, and I come to find later that he's now dating a younger, trashier version of me. And I'm only 31. How this time, like the last time, I didn't quite see the break up coming. And how, I have an abundance of questions that there are really no answers to. We also talk about the rest of my life in Los Angeles, how lonely it's been, and what I've been missing.

50 minutes later (and yes, I am watching every minute), we talk about the question of payment. She names me an hourly rate that makes my heart stop. It's actually not that expensive in the world of Los Angeles, therapy, and general good health. But OMG. Want to add to my anxiety? Figuring out how to pay for professional help is going to add to my anxiety.

My favorite part of the hour was this -- I asked how I could cope with the general anxiety. I can't breathe, I tell her. I wake up and I cry and I can't breathe. I'm told that this is actually the chemistry of depression at work. That for now, this is how it's going to be until it gets better. Get out in the sunshine, exercise, when you can eat, try to eat well. Do some deep breathing, and if it brings up the tears, that's a good thing.

Ok... I'm glad the first session was at no charge. Because if I had to pay for that, I'd have to add anger to the list of struggles I'm dealing with.

None of this to say that The Therapist wasn't great and that therapy won't be helpful. Every time I think about therapy, though, I wonder if I actually need it, or if I'm over dramatizing the problems I'm dealing with. Perhaps all I need is to pray more, read the Bible more, worship more, trust God more, or some other such Christianese solution that won't cost me the price of a small laptop every month.

But on the other hand, I spent yesterday in bed, reading, crying and sleeping. I slept for at least eight hours during the day, not counting the actual sleeping to get me into the morning. It was much easier than getting up, not being able to breathe, and feeling lousy.

What's the Christianese solution for that?

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Ah. What a post. I hate/love getting my updates via a blog.

Sorry to hear :(

I for one am a HUGE advocate for therapy. I went two years ago and think it changed my life. It at least changed the way I relate to my dad....which in turn changed my life. :)

As far as payment, are you on an HMO? My primary sent me to my therapist (who I loved). $20 a session copayment and my world was a better place :)

Miss you.