I Can’t Do Mondays

Every now and again, I find myself involved in a conversation along the lines of, “We should hang out! When can we meet up?” Almost as long as I’ve lived in Chicago, my answer has been, “Any day but Tuesday.” I’ve played sports or gone to dance on all but a handful of Tuesdays since I moved here, so that evening has always been out of the question.

Over the past month and a half, though, I’ve amended my answer. It’s no longer just Tuesdays — I can’t do Mondays, either.

I haven’t started any new activities. I haven’t joined any dance classes, picked up any sports leagues, or even decided to stop being flexible about what specific days I set aside to run or otherwise exercise.

I can’t do Mondays because I’m in therapy.

Not physical therapy, this time. Real therapy.

I’ve never particularly tried to hide the fact that I have anxiety. It’s not something that embarrasses me. I don’t often go out of my way to tell people about it (“Hi, so nice to meet you for the first time ever! My name’s Bethany, and I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was nine years old.”), but if it’s relevant to the situation (“No, I actually can’t be outside when there’s a thunderstorm, unless you’d like to help me recover from a panic attack,”) I’ll certainly bring it up.

For whatever reason, though, I’ve always been a bit more hesitant to tell people about therapy. I spent the summer between fourth and fifth grade making regular visits to a child psychologist, but I definitely didn’t include that in my “What I Did This Summer” report. I popped into the counseling center at college on a couple of occasions, but I never told any of my friends about it. I’ve even kept my current round of therapy on the down low from nearly everyone, save for two friends and my parents (and, now, the entire Internet), mysteriously disappearing every Monday evening and ambiguously talking about this “thing” I had or an “appointment” I couldn’t miss if anyone happened to ask why I couldn’t do Monday or where I was headed.

Every Monday evening, I spend an hour in a therapist’s office, talking about my week, my relationships, and my stress, anxiety, and the physical symptoms they create. Sometimes my therapist gives me goals for the week–track what you eat and your symptoms, go for a walk, talk to this person about that thing–and sometimes I just talk, taking advantage of the one opportunity I have to be wholly uncensored in regards to my feelings about myself and others to a completely neutral party.

I’ve known since November that I really needed to go back to therapy. After a spat of major self-image issues and some honest talks with friends late last fall, I started looking into therapy, but ultimately settled on self-help books from the library instead. While the various books I read helped tame the self-loathing beast to some degree, by February my stress level had shot up to 11 (as I alluded to a few times in various posts earlier this year). My life and every facet of it it felt like it was spiraling completely out of control. I couldn’t handle the volume of work I had to do. Every commitment, no matter how much I normally looked forward to it, felt like an enormous burden. Every relationship I valued seemed to be falling apart at the seams. My go-to hyperbole, “EVERYTHING IS BAD,” normally used under silly circumstances like getting (another) snowstorm or having to wear too many layers to avoid frostbite, stopped feeling like a joke and started to feel like the truth.

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I needed help. Not self-help. Not Googled help. Not even help from my friends (though it was a friend’s suggestion to look into therapy during that time that got me to send the initial inquiry e-mail to my current therapist). I needed professional help.

My life is hardly daises and sparkly rainbows now that I’ve been in therapy for a bit. I actually just had a panic attack last week (that I’m sure my roommates, who I woke up at 2:30 a.m., convinced there was a fire somewhere in a unit close to ours and we were all going to die [there wasn’t. We didn’t.], would be happy to tell you all about), so clearly I’m not the picture of levelheaded bliss. What I do have, though, is someone I can talk to — someone who will listen to me, someone who will help me, someone who won’t make me feel like an idiot for being afraid of fire (among other things), or being stressed, or for freaking out every time my stomach hurts.

I debated whether I wanted to post about this. Privacy, airing your dirty laundry for all to see, etc. etc. But the more I thought about that, the more I became convinced I should put it up. If I had a chronic physical illness, I wouldn’t be embarrassed about the fact that I routinely met with a medical doctor. But there’s such a disconnect between physical illness and mental illness — having cancer is real and requires professional help, but having anxiety is a copout and only requires that you “settle down” or “get a grip.” It frustrates me that there’s still such a stigma surrounding both mental illness and seeking professional mental health help, which is why I want to stand up and shout it out for all to hear:

“I cannot heal or control my anxiety by my own power of will. I am currently undergoing professional help to help control my anxiety, and I am not ashamed to announce that.”

May is Mental Health Month, and I believe that provides all of us with the ideal opportunity to both asses our own mental health and our attitudes towards mental health in general. Depression is not being sad. Anxiety is not being nervous. These are real, debilitating conditions…but they are also treatable conditions. Depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition may be a part of your story, but they do not have to be your story. If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health or are struggling at the moment, I encourage you to seek out help, even if just on a trial basis.

We make time for friends. We make time for exercise. We make time to prepare wholesome meals. Make time for your mental health.

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20 thoughts on “I Can’t Do Mondays

  1. This is a fantastic post. I am happy you shared it, and happy you are back at therapy and do have that hour on Monday nights! I think therapy is fantastic, and wish more people utilized it. We can’t “fix” everything on our owns, or even by talking through it with friends/family. Sometimes you need professional help. And that is soooooo okay 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing this with us! I agree with a lot of what Kim wrote in her comment, therapy is a great tool that so many people overlook and it can be incredibly helpful. I’m glad you were able to find a therapist that you like and that you are able to meet with him/her weekly.

  3. Amen girl. I’m glad you’re getting the help you need and that you’re open to it, too. Too often I think people don’t because of the stigma and it drives me up a wall. I’m a huge advocate for therapy and usually go every few years just to make sure everything is working right (unless i need it sooner). It doesn’t make everything perfect, but it sure makes it better, and I hope it continues to help you ❤

  4. I love that you shared this. I’ve only been in therapy once, last spring, and I was embarrassed about it for some reason. I felt like there was a stigma about it and I would be less “perfect” by admitting I needed help. I didn’t even tell my parents which was huge for me because I tell them everything. But it did make a huge difference and I was no less of a person for it. I’m really glad to hear that you’re doing what you need to do for your own mental wellbeing. Anxiety is certainly nothing to mess with and if this helps keep it at bay, then it is without a doubt what you should be doing. I think a lot of people, myself included, could benefit from therapy from time to time and not enough people use it. I’m sure someone reading your post today (besides me) found it really reassuring to know that there is nothing wrong with reaching out for help; it’s a good thing.

    • Thanks for this comment, Sarah! I totally feel you on the being afraid of appearing less “perfect” thing — as a perfectionist, few things sound scarier than owning up to the fact that you have flaws. But being able to recognize that there’s help out there when you need it is so, so much better than going through life trying (and failing) to be always perfect all of the time (which will never happen anyway!).

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I truly appreciate your honesty and your openness, as well as how hard it is to put these types of personal things out there. And I couldn’t agree with you more regarding how frustrating it is to see the the stigmas associated with mental health. Some of my family members deal with debilitatingly severe mental health problems. Unfortunately, the reaction that I often get when others hear about it is often very disconcerting. But in the end, mental health issues don’t change who we are as people, by any means.

    I am really glad that you found a therapist that you are comfortable with. Please also let me know if I can ever lend a listening ear, as well.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Emily. It really means a lot to me. It definitely is upsetting to deal with the stigma attached to mental illness, but hopefully with more awareness people will begin to see that there’s so much more to it than “being crazy” (and that, honestly, it’s not about “being crazy” at all).

  6. Hear hear! You are right in saying it’s something we shouldn’t be ashamed of!! I’ve been on anti-anxiety medication for several years now and at first I was afraid to say anything about it. Now, though, I will tell people because it made such a huge difference for me and I’d hate to think that someone out there is suffering when there could be something that makes it easier for them!

    I have yet to find a therapist I really connect with, though,but in the mean time the drugs help tremendously. I no longer have a panic attack at the thought of going to an event where I don’t anyone and I haven’t broken down crying due to the threat of karaoke in awhile. (Yes, those are seriously some of my triggers, weird as it may sound.)

    So I hope your therapist is helping you through your rough spot. And I hope he or she helps you feel less alone.

    • I think it’s great that you’ve found a way to control your anxiety as well. It can be such a debilitating thing that can really impact that quality of your life, and since there ARE so many resources available, there’s no reason why anyone should be forced to live a restricted life due to his or her anxiety.

  7. I’m happy you posted this! I have struggled with panic attacks in the past and I don’t think it’s something to be hidden at all- it helps to put it all out there and help others who may be feeling the same way!

  8. Thank you for being brave enough to share this with us. I sincerely hope that perhaps writing it out helped ease some of the anxiety (at least temporarily). The final point you make is so critical, so important, and so powerful that it needs to be highlighted – there really is a huge disconnect between physical and mental illness, and it makes things that much more difficult for those affected by the latter.

    My best friend suffers from panic attacks and serious anxiety. It’s been a constant battle for her since her college days when she was hit with her first panic attack. While I don’t know the feeling, I can see the impact that such shattering anxiety has on one’s life. Every day can be a serious struggle. I hope your therapist becomes a source of calmness and tranquility for you, good luck dear!

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