By Dena Landon
$150 an hour. How much is your sanity worth? For those of us who can add up the amount we spent on legal fees and settlements perhaps the answer is “a lot.” Spending more money on a therapist while still dealing with the financial aftermath of divorce may seem irresponsible or a waste. It’s not.
I first started going to therapy when I was in my early twenties. I’d realized that my dysfunctional childhood was causing me problems in my relationships, I didn’t like my job, and it seemed like a good idea. When I told my Aunt that I was in therapy and on antidepressants she treated it like a shameful secret. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone” were her exact words. While society’s perceptions of mental health have changed since then, and I was even asked during our custody mediation if I’d sought therapy to deal with my abusive father, there are still many misconceptions out there about mental health and depression. Which unfortunately feed into how health insurance companies treat it.
It was a hard decision to make but I cut some corners. And I don’t regret it.
After we finalized our divorce I had to switch health insurance. My therapist was no longer in-network and since my deductible options consisted of “sell an organ,” or “get a second mortgage on the house,” I knew that I’d be paying her out-of-pocket. True, I could switch to a therapist in-network but that would mean starting over. Sometimes it can take several tries to find someone that you click with – this was the fourth therapist I’d been to in eight years. Since my insurance company wanted to treat mental health like any other Doctor – just switch, it’ll be fine! – I was stuck. It was a hard decision to make but I cut some corners, worked my single mom hustle, and continued our bi-weekly appointments at the rate of $150/hr. And I don’t regret it.
Even if your husband wasn’t verbally abusive like mine divorce can rock your self-esteem. You may doubt your decision-making skills, berate yourself for signs you may have missed, or realize that some of the reasons your marriage failed have to do with your own issues. And you may worry that therapy will be more of the same – being told all the ways in which you’ve screwed up.
Therapy is not getting beat up again. It is not being told you were wrong, or foolish, for past decisions. Often, it is being told you made the best decision at the time with the information you had available. It is being guided to your own realizations – ah ha! moments that can profoundly shift your life. It is emotional self-care.
A good therapist listens, asks the occasional question, and creates a safe space for you to express every aspect of yourself. Even the ugly stuff. Because even the best of us have probably said something in front of our kids about the divorce that we shouldn’t have. Broken down or vented or lost our temper. Therapy doesn’t just help you identify the why and help you cope, it helps you forgive yourself. The world could use more forgiveness.
Therapy doesn’t just help you identify the why and help you cope, it helps you forgive yourself.
Not going to lie – it’s not always easy and it does require a commitment to both yourself and the process. The first few sessions you may not feel like you’re getting anywhere. You may just talk about your cat peeing on the carpet, or burst into sobs the moment you sit down and spend most the time crying. It’s all part of getting comfortable revealing yourself to another person. Give it a shot. Fork over the $150/hr or investigate the many options for sliding, income-based fees, insurance coverage or cheaper group therapy. Don’t assume you can’t afford it.
It’s not a waste of time. Walking out of my sessions I can feel both drained but also freer and lighter. Each session is a step back to not just “me” but a better, improved version of my old self. It’s given me the courage to walk away from two not-so-great post-divorce relationships despite the voice in the back of my head saying – What if you end up alone?!?! – and feel at peace with my decision. Bubble baths and wine are great for one aspect of self-care, but don’t forget about heart and soul.
About the author
Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, Narrative.ly, Salon, bust.com, and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children’s Publishing in 2005. She blogs at femmefeminism.com, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.