Therapy is a form of self-care

My oldest has been going to therapy for a few months and has had a great experience with it so far and says everybody needs therapy. He’s paying out of his own pocket to see an out-of-network provider and I can see that it’s already helping him, especially with anxiety.

I haven’t previously had great experiences with therapists, but considering that it’s one of my top two possible future career paths, I still believe in the value of the field.

So now I have to put my money where my mouth is, except not really. We’ve met our maximum out-of-pocket already for the year and everything in-network is covered at 100 percent now. My insurance actually covers therapy; our previous insurances for more than a decade had not. The specific psychologist I want to see is actually in network, which means I have no valid reason not to go.

Since we’ve hit our max out of pocket for the year, I’m also doing something that scares me a lot: going to see a cardiologist again. My mom had her heart attack at just eight years older than I am now and I’m afraid of finding out how much I’m at risk. I’m afraid of having to make changes. But I’m more afraid of having a heart attack, so I’m not running away from it anymore.

The thing that’s weird about seeking therapy now, though, is that this is the first time I will have ever seen a therapist when I wasn’t depressed or in a crisis.

My depression is well-managed by medication. I’ve trained my brain enough that I don’t often feel anxiety or have panic attacks like I once did. I’m already working so much on trying to become a better person and establish boundaries and keep my emotions under control.

In fact, before I called my insurance to find out if the out-of-pocket maximum applied to mental health providers, I had decided maybe I’d be fine without it if it wasn’t covered.

But it is, so I literally have no good reason to avoid it. And I want to keep working on myself. Going to therapy is strictly an act of self-care.

And really, even though I’m not depressed or in crisis and all my relationships are good, I can still come up with things to talk about.

Like the fact that my husband has cancer.

Like the fact that I’m officially disabled and that means I may have to put some of my dreams permanently on the shelf.

Like the fact that my kids are all adults or nearly so and I don’t know how I’ll adjust to the fact that my primary role of the past 21 years is slowing down.

Like the fact that I still miss my friend even though I was right to walk away.

Like the fact that I have a career that keeps me isolated but my health leaves me few alternatives.

Like some issues from my upbringing that are still affecting me even if I’ve acknowledged them.

I’m sure I’ll find things to discuss and I’m sure I’ll benefit from it. Even therapists go to therapy themselves and they know a lot more about how to fix themselves than I do.

Just because I’m not in crisis doesn’t mean I have an excuse to avoid it. In fact, I’m actually looking at it as something I’m doing for self-care. I’ve also been invited by a friend to go to yoga and I think I’m going to do that, too. Self-care isn’t bubble baths and pedicures; it’s doing things that are good for you even if they’re not necessarily easy.

It’s about believing that you have a right to pursue things that better yourself, even if it inconveniences others. Especially as mothers, we’re taught to put ourselves last. Putting myself first feels so selfish, even though I know my family will benefit from me being my best. The fact is that I’m not as needed as much as I think I am, and that’s ultimately a good thing. Surely they can spare me a few hours a week.

It’s all about wanting to be the best version of myself that I can be. Even if it challenges me, even if it pushes me outside my comfort zone, I have to do stuff that’s healthy for me.

Now I just have to keep telling myself I believe that and not look for excuses to opt out. It’s sometimes hard to believe I have a right to do things just for myself. I think that’s another topic for therapy, too.

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