Stage 1: Three of your friends are in therapy and your cousin is starting to see results from CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy.) Every day on your way to work you listen to the podcast where that comedian interviews other comedians about their mental illnesses, then sneak into the office via the rear entrance and try to splash the puffy redness off your face in the basement bathroom. Maybe it’s time to consider some counselling or something.
Stage 2: Whoo boy, you cannot afford therapy at all! More importantly, you can’t fathom doing all the research and ghastly initial phone consultations just to sit in front of a horrible stranger and cry and make a fool of yourself. Anyways, they’d only try to turn you against your mother.
Stage 3: Watching TV, you constantly clutch the remote to mute any kissing or eating noises so you won’t start slapping your face and clawing your arm. You think about getting cancer umpteen times a day when you’re putting on moisturizer, taking vitamin D, having sex (cervical cancer.) At night you play out detailed scenarios involving more cancer, plus Alzheimer’s and the death of all your loved ones. But that’s how everyone feels all the time, so shut up.
Stage 4: You look up “free counselling” and “low-cost therapy” online and pick your nail polish off, then walk away from the computer to eat some margarine on bread and leave the tab open for seven weeks, then save it as a bookmark, then forget you saved it as a bookmark four months later when you enter the same search terms.
Stage 5: How on earth did you land this job with amazing insurance coverage? You add new search terms like “feminist” and “specializes in anxiety disorders.” You gasp at the hourly rates but still pick up the phone.
Stage 6: You get your shit together and book your first appointment, and now your shit feels so incredibly together that it’s like— why do you need therapy again? This stage can be surmounted by writing down a list of your fears at 2 AM.
Stage 7: Your new therapist says something that is SUCH a red flag, except you’ve already invested so many weeks and so much insurance coverage… You tell yourself that therapy is kind of like astrology: you have to ignore the parts that don’t resonate and cling to the parts that do.
Stage 8: Your therapist is clearly a Virgo because this relationship is not working. You’ve wasted half your annual insurance coverage figuring this out. You quit seeing your therapist in a passive-aggressive way that you are too embarrassed and ashamed to divulge to anyone.
[Stage 8A: At least the podcast taught you that it can take a while to find a therapist who fits your needs. You’re actually very lucky to be in a position to try again. It’s so great how many financial and bureaucratic obstacles people with mental illness have to claw through to get help!]
Stage 9: You wear sunglasses to and from your evening sessions with your new therapist because you are snot-crying at every session for what seems like no reason. You feel gross and ashamed of yourself, like a pimple that’s being popped by your therapist. But a hopeful pimple.
Stage 10: Sitting on the small sofa in your therapist’s office, a sentence tumbles out of your mouth that is so… obvious and looming, and your eyes grow wide as though you’d eaten a pot brownie. It feels like you’ve just consulted with a truly divine palm or tarot reader.
Stage 11: The stage immediately afterwards, where it’s literally impossible to think yourself back into your ignorance prior to this revelation. How could you not have seen it? What were you, a Garfield poster with zero cognition? (Note: This stage mirrors the path of the activist who instantly absorbs a new lesson about oppression into their cellular structure, and God help anyone who hasn’t come across that lesson yet because THOSE people are now the scum of the earth.)
Stage 12: Eyes bright with mystical insight, you earnestly tug on the sleeves of your friends and family members. “I really think you should try therapy. Therapy changed my life. You need to find a therapist now. I’ll help you!” Eventually they stop confiding in you.
Stage 13: You give up on telling your friends and family to see a therapist, and instead quietly shrug to your partner/cat and say, “I don’t think he’ll ever give therapy a shot. Not with that borderline personality disorder.”
Stage 14: You try to ease up on diagnosing everyone you know, including yourself, with adult ADHD, borderline personality disorder or sociopathic tendencies. Even though it explains EVERYTHING, you are not a trained professional. You go back to diagnosing them as Sagittarians, Scorpios or Pisces.
Stage 15: One day you find yourself using the assertiveness techniques you’ve learned to explain something to your therapist about her approach that has been bothering you for a long time. Your therapist reacts very kindly and understandingly, and you reward yourself afterwards with a treat and a nice cry.
Stage 16: You’re throwing out “I” statements and referring to “boundaries” in any situation with even the tiniest potential for conflict. The part of you that’s cringing because you sound trite and condescending has shrunk to such wee proportions that you’re able to wave merrily at it as though from high above in a hot air balloon. Congratulations: you are now a therapist.
Stage 17: You’re talking to your best friend about a fight you just had with your mother when suddenly you’re struck with a stunning insight into your own messy patterns. Then you recall your therapist midwifing this exact realization four years ago, on that small sofa. Your friend looks on sympathetically as you begin to scratch your nail polish off.
Quebecer living in Toronto, working in non-profit and trying to write. Former smut peddler. On Twitter being silly.