Volume 2, Issue 9: Adventures in Mental Health

Hi friends! Before we leap into this week’s newsletter, I wanted to share some snail mail I received recently from one of you (hi Yang!) that left me absolutely speechless. There were a few items in the envelope, including this piece of artwork of me based on this photo:

I cried. I’ve already been feeling very high-strung lately (more on that in a moment) and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. My heart grew three times that day.

Last summer, I wrote a really large therapy resource post that had a few articles on why someone might want to go to therapy and many resources on finding affordable therapy options.

Today I’m going to talk a bit more about therapy from a more personal place. While there are tons of reasons why someone might start talking to a therapist (like these or these or these or these), I hope that by having a bit of a personal share I can maybe ease some fears or hesitance or even just supply some food for thought. Therapy can help with processing particular things or just a general “I’m overwhelmed!” or to help unstick you if you’re feeling stuck.

As I mentioned last week, I’d taken the first step in getting myself a therapist via our health coverage. I’d been doing fine enough for years, but the past couple of months have been hard. I was like, “I’m good, I can deal, I got it. I got it. I got it,” until suddenly “I DON’T GOT IT.” My self-care and coping mechanisms stopped working. I haven’t felt motivated to write mail in weeks. I get super anxious about going out of the apartment building by myself. The anxiety has started to creep in to making driving a terrifying ordeal. Note: I love to drive. LOVE IT. But now I am super nervous while driving because I don’t want to get murdered by a cop for not signaling a turn or something. I will lay in bed and it will take me 3+ hours to fall asleep then it will be near impossible for me to get out of bed in the morning. My motivation is shit.

The worst part? My focus is shit. I get paid to talk about and write about the books I read. I fucking love to read and reading has become difficult. I think that’s where I finally drew the line. You can mess with my sleep, you can mess with my appetite, but don’t fuck with my reading.

I’ve always been very pro-therapy and at the same time I’ve always been the “I’ll-do-it-myself” kid. I am also still trying to shake the Catholic martyrdom/selflessness complex ingrained in me where I’m like, “But there are so many people who really could benefit from therapy and I don’t want to take up space.” Like, what? Therapy isn’t pie. Just because I talk to one person one hour a week doesn’t mean that suddenly there are no longer any therapists available for anyone else.

At the same time, I very much don’t want to demand this much emotional labor from my wife or others in my inner circle when I can (and should) call in a professional. It’s time for me to listen to myself when I said, “we might be more useful in tackling the big problems if we also have our own shit together.” I haven’t felt like my best me and I want to be my best me. For you. For my wife. And especially for me.

So, when I first went to therapy years ago I was with Kaiser Permanente. It was not the best experience and I tried multiple things like groups, individual therapy, and psychiatry. This is not necessarily everyone’s experience but like I said, I’m sharing mine. A friend recently shared this potentially helpful resource on How to Get Kaiser to Give You an Outside Therapist Referral. I have had better mental health experience outside of Kaiser (my meds are now fantastic) however, my current health coverage right now, is again, Kaiser.

So first I had to call the psychiatry department (the entire mental health department is called the “psychiatry department,” even if you don’t want psychiatry i.e., medication). I gave them my info and told them I was seeking to be set up with a therapist. They said that someone would call me within 48 hours. Someone DID call me the next day, and they are the triage person. The triage person spoke with me for about 15 minutes to get a bit more detail about what I was looking for and that’s where I had the conversation I mentioned last week. They then scheduled me to have a longer conversation with someone else this week, an intake therapist but not the therapist I’ll be working with.

So, I had that appointment this week. It was 40 minutes and we discussed in detail why I was reaching out now, how long have I been feeling like garbage, etc. etc. They want to make sure that they can find a good match for my needs. If you don’t know this, you can speak up for yourself and ask for what you need. I made it clear that I want a therapist who is a queer, Black woman. I’ve had a therapist who was a cisgender white heterosexual man. He wasn’t super helpful but I was in my 20s and didn’t know that I could ask for someone else. I’ve also had a heterosexual Black woman therapist. She was also not super helpful. So I put my requirements up front and reminded myself it’s okay if I have to try a few different people to get the right fit.

The first available appointment was in July. I laughed. The intake person laughed. The FBI agent monitoring me through my webcam laughed. Then the intake person was like, “I’m definitely giving you an outside referral because July is way too far.”

In the meantime, I’m going to check out a group for Black people trying to cope with <gestures broadly>. I never imagined I’d be going to a group again, but since it’s via video, I figured I’d give it a try. Who knows? I might even learn some skills to pass on to you. Speaking of which, the intake person did share a couple of resources with me that I’m totally going to share with you here.

Therapy in a Nutshell is a YouTube channel by Emma McAdam, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her mission is to make mental health resources easier to access by putting bite-sized portions of exercises and education on YouTube. It’s a little too influencer-y and internet-ty for me to connect with, but I’m sharing in case you or someone you know might get something out of it.

The Anxiety Coaches Podcast is another resource I was given. I haven’t listened to it yet and honestly, I don’t think I’m in the right place to hear the value that may be in it. My anxiety is currently primarily because of white supremacy and racialized violence. If I could breathe my way through this or journal it out, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. That being said, not everything is for me. But maybe it’s for you! I’m actually interested in hearing what you think about it if you give it a listen.

That’s it for the big stuff this week! A few days ago I got my first haircut and color in over 14 months. I was feeling like Mrs. Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock but had no idea how much that was bumming me out.

So, I got a bunch of hair cut off and dyed it purple. NATURE IS HEALING.

You can shop any books I’ve ever mentioned in this newsletter at my affiliate shop, The Infophile’s Bookshop, and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you want me to send you some happy mail, feel free to give me your address.

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