Ashera is a Marriage and Family Therapist with an extensive background in sexual health education. You can ask her stuff anonymously and she won’t get weirded out. Seriously, try her. Send your queries through our anonymous contact form here.
I’m hoping you can help but I know this is a lot to ask for—my life is generally falling apart. My long-term relationship of five years is dwindling into dust, my career is non-existent and I’m scarred from a puzzling childhood. However, I’m not in a position to afford weekly therapy that is clearly much needed. Do you have any tips or know of any resources?
Dear Broke Basket,
Yikes, the phrase “rough patch” doesn’t seem to quite cover the gravitas of this situation. This sounds mega-frustrating and I’m sorry that you have to deal with this right now. If it’s any consolation, though, you’re not in this alone, no matter how lonely you feel.
As far as I can tell from casual observation, each and every person simply has to go through what I like to call “A Life Explosion.” It’s a part of being alive and it hits like a brick to the jaw. Sometimes we can see parts of it coming, like looming clouds that might just turn into a tornado. For other people, it comes out of left field and their house burns down or something equally horrific just *happens.* You might say, “Well, Joe over there hasn’t had one of those,” and he may not have…yet. He likely will, though, and it will suck for him, too (tough break, Joe).
But just because everybody eventually gets shoved through this meat grinder of WTF-ness doesn’t make it any less soul-crushing when it’s happening to you. I’m glad that you’re recognizing that ish is getting whack and acknowledging your feelings. There are a lot of people that will sit in a metaphorical burning house claiming that everything is just dandy when it is plainly not. You definitely do not (and should not) have to go through this alone and there are resources out there for you.
You’re right, traditional therapy can cost a lot of money, but it doesn’t have to. Some practices, like the one where I work, have tiered pricing. Other private practices may offer income-based payment options (it never hurts to ask). Recently, there’s Talkspace, which is an app where you can anonymously text a therapist 24/7. It has its pros and cons, which a helpful blogger has outlined here.
If you have insurance, you may be able to see a therapist for cheap at an agency like Lake Shore Behavioral Health or Horizons. You can always hit up their central intake offices and ask about their programs and pricing. They offer various groups, medication management, and individual therapy, so it can be a one-stop shop for a lot of different resources.
For good measure, here are some more low- to no-cost therapists in the Buffalo area. If you decide to go the therapist route, remember that you are allowed to shop around for a counselor you jive with. If their style isn’t really doing it for you, you can express that and change therapists. Therapy is not useful if you’re not connecting. You also don’t necessarily need to go every week. There are plenty of clients that come biweekly and taper off to monthly to stay on top of their goals. Just show up for your appointments, as we get salty when people no-call no-show. 😉
Finally, there’s always Crisis Services. If you’re ever, ever, EVER feeling completely overwhelmed and really need to talk RIGHT NOW, give them a call. There are wonderful people there ready to answer your call and to help you find the services you need. They’re an excellent resource, whether you’re midway through a panic attack or just really need someone to tell you that it’s going to be okay. Their number is (716) 834-3131.
Some people don’t necessarily want a therapist, but a community. Erie County has a large variety of support groups that are absolutely free. It’s totally cool to go in and see if you’re feeling it. You do not have to go in and tell your life story or unzip completely. Sometimes it’s nice to just go in to a room and know that you’re not the only person that’s going through some stuff. Like therapists, though, if a group isn’t doing it for you then ditch it. There’s no point in feeling stuck in life AND stuck in a room you don’t want to be in.
If you don’t want to go the therapy route, that’s okay, too. There are other things you can do to better your mental health. First and foremost, reach out to people. Let your friends and family members know that you’re having a rough time. Just scheduling a weekly coffee date with a good friend to rant and process can be really helpful. Who knows, maybe one of your friends is going through some stuff, too, and y’all can lift each other out of this together.
It’s also really important for you to externalize your feelings. When people get stressed out, anxiety rises and the same horrible thoughts tend to ricochet around our skulls, coloring reality. Kick those nasty thoughts by putting them out there. Write ‘em down! Scream ‘em out! Journaling can be a great way to spill it and finally move forward. Bullet journaling in particular can help you prioritize your time and make some sense of your life.
Lastly, check out how you take care of you. Are you being nice to yourself? I’ve touched on self-care a bit before, and I’m going to do it again, dammit! Many people will say that they don’t have time for self-care, which generally means that’s when they need it most. While you’re stressed out, it’s important to take care of those basic necessities. Are you eating food, drinking water, and sleeping? Are you making time to do the things you like? It sounds so silly, but making time to validate yourself can keep you even-headed when it feels like the world is turning upside down.
Remember, when life gets strange and it feels like everything is falling straight into the pits of Hell, it can be helpful to reframe the situation. It sounds hokey, but once you’re free from the bits of normalcy that you’ve been clinging to, you have an opportunity to rebuild something greater. Sometimes these shake-ups can end up being a blessing, even though it totally doesn’t feel that way right now.
You’re stronger than you think you are and you can get through this.