Choosing the Right Outfit for Therapy

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Megan Gahan -Not Alone3

“Does this outfit say ‘mentally stable’ to you?”

My husband turns and stares incredulously. Not at the outfit, mind you. At me.

“What are you talking about?”

“Nothing.”

Sigh.

“Never mind.”

I turn back to the mirror. Olive green khaki pants, a soft long-sleeved waffle shirt, sporty jacket, and my white Adidas shoes. If these clothes were a meal, they would be comfort food all the way. Being comfortable when I’m anxious is very important. So I want to be comfortable today. But, more importantly, I want to feel together. I want to look together.

Today is my very first counselling session. Ever. I have struggled with anxiety my whole life, spent a year and a half under the terrifying spell of postpartum depression, and experienced a fairly sizeable identity crisis in the wake of birthing my two children.

But I never thought to talk to anyone about it. I assumed I just had to get over it, figure it out, not burden anyone with my stuff. When that didn’t work, I thought I needed to pray more; perhaps that would cure it. Eventually I started writing about my struggles, hoping the residual film from the last five years would gradually rinse away with each hit of the “publish” button.

But it didn’t. Anxiety remained my constant shadow, with panic attacks debilitating me every so often. And the effects of my depression had marked me in a way that showed no signs of dissipating, regardless of how much I overshared on the internet.

And so I made the appointment. I tried so hard to be casual about it. But as I watched the clock tick closer to 8pm on The Day, my heart began to thud with such intensity, I wasn’t sure I could go through with it.

I drove to the church I was meeting the counsellor at in silence, gripping the steering wheel as though it were about to fly away. When I arrived, I learned my session happened to fall on the same evening as the church holiday production. As I wove my way through a sea of jubilant families, elegantly dressed seniors and wailing babies, I realized I was completely turned around. I ended up having to explain to three separate strangers that I was there for therapy, not a flashy event, and could they please point me in the right direction?

After being met with more wide-eyed stares than I had been emotionally prepared for, I was finally led to the correct office.

My great worry was that I would have nothing to say. That the appointment would fall on a good day, mentally speaking, and we would spend the session chatting about how unusually chilly this winter has been, as my counsellor wondered why the heck I was wasting her time. What if I wasn’t messed up enough to be there?

The introductions were quick and painless, but before I had the chance to fully explain why I was there, I was in tears. In front of a complete stranger (the worst thing.) Not only that, I spent the entire hour sobbing. It was wildly uncomfortable, and yet I couldn’t have turned it off to save my life.

Somehow, in between wiping snot from my face, I managed to cover a lot of ground. I zigged and zagged around kids and depression and my weird brain with incredible velocity. My timeline may have resembled a spirograph drawing by the end of the hour, but I got it out there.

Afterwards, as I checked the rearview mirror to assess what percentage of my makeup was still in its original location (6%), I realized I felt lighter. I felt relief. I had just handed all of my pain and confusion to another soul, and allowed her to carry it for a while, to sit in the mess with me for an hour. I was by no means cured or healed or any of those silly words. But I was going home with an eased spirit, a clearer mind and a practical list of tools. Such simple, beautiful, life-saving things.

And yet, one thought kept running through my mind: What had taken me so long?

I had suffered through years of isolation, guilt and shame over my anxiety and depression. But, in my mind, getting help was never an option. Talking to a professional wasn’t an option. Looking into medication wasn’t an option. But checking more boxes off my to-do list was. Crying in the bathroom was. Ignoring it was. Overeating was. But not help.

I thought I was too strong to need help. That I wasn’t messed up enough to need help. That I should be able to get over it on my own. If I read enough, prayed enough, willed it enough, I could get there.

Here is something I’m only now learning: Sometimes, I’m not meant to get there alone. Actually, I’m not meant to get there alone most of the time. I am meant to ask for help. I am created for help.

Refusing to seek out help is not a sign of my strength.

It is a sign of my fear.

And so I went to therapy. I have not arrived or finished. But I did the next hard, necessary thing. Looking completely and totally mentally stable. I hope.

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Megan Gahan
After over a decade in the fitness industry, Megan now spends her days chasing two pint-sized tornadoes disguised as little boys. By night, she is a writer and editor for SheLoves. A proper Canadian, Megan can often be found in the woods or at Tim Hortons. She writes at megangahan.com.
Megan Gahan
Megan Gahan

Latest posts by Megan Gahan (see all)

Megan Gahan
  • You are so lovely – I wish I could meet you in person! Funny I read this today as tonight is my last therapy appointment with the counsellor I have seen for a year. I feel a bit afraid of going because I feel so far from having ‘arrived’ meaning there is none of the euphoria of graduation or of having ‘accomplished’ anything momentous. But your words remind me that the real miracle was that I asked for help in the first place, and kept showing up and learning how to let someone else sit with me in the dark – snot and all. That is pretty miraculous. Thank you for sharing so honestly and beautifully and I pray for continued grace in these sessions.

    • Megan Gahan

      That IS pretty miraculous! You should be incredibly proud of yourself Naomi. You showed up and you did this ridiculously hard thing. Thank you for taking the time to share a bit of your story here . . .I have no doubt you are encouraging many (including me!). Much love as you move forward <3

    • fiona lynne

      Um, Naomi, you know you’re soon going to be living a really short distance from Megan, right?! Please hang out lots and make me super jealous!

      • Megan Gahan

        Whaaaaat??????!!!!! Tell me more!!!!!

  • I can’t recall the last time I read something on line that made me want to give the writer a hug.

    • Megan Gahan

      Oh, I wish that were a reality! Thank you Michele. Sending *virtual* hugs!

  • jada lutz

    I love every word of this post. And your honesty is so inviting. Thank you for being vulnerable to share this.

    • Megan Gahan

      What a lovely compliment. Thank you so much Jada <3

  • Helene Burns

    I love you Megan… and I am so blessed by you and proud of you. I know your brave and honest words in here will help many.

    xoxo

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you so very much Helen. Love you dearly <3

  • sandyhay

    Bravo Megan xoxo

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you Sandy . . .what a treat to be able to put a face to you name 🙂

  • Beautiful and brave. Thank you for sharing. This speaks freedom to many of us.

    • Megan Gahan

      I so appreciate that Anne. xx

  • pastordt

    Oh, so hard to begin. Oh, so GOOD to continue. Hang in there, honey. Best investment ever: YOU.

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you for your encouragement Diana! It means so much <3

  • Erin Wilson

    I was the advocate for everyone else, but allowed myself to entirely fall apart before seeing someone. Oy. You’re sure not alone in the journey. xo

    • Megan Gahan

      Goodness, I’m so sorry for your struggle Erin. Thank you for sharing . . .sending you so much love <3

  • “I thought I was too strong to need help.” Ooof that one gets me right in the stomach. I am so glad that you were strong enough to ask for help and I know that other people will be able to borrow a little courage from you from what you’ve written here.

    • Megan Gahan

      Thanks so much my friend. I love that line about other people being able to borrow a little courage. Isn’t that exactly why we do this? I’m going to remind myself of that next time I’m feeling scared (so, you know, next month!).

  • Yeah, I put off the ‘get therapy’ thing for years, too. It’s SO HARD. And then you go and you’re like, “oh, this isn’t so bad, and also I feel better and why did I wait so long?”
    With you sister.

    • Megan Gahan

      Thanks so much Heather <3 xx

  • fiona lynne

    Meg, this is so good and so important. This line jumped out – “What if I wasn’t messed up enough to be there?” Because oh how often do we undermine ourselves even when we are doing exactly the best thing? That “never enough” voice in our heads will hurt us anyway it can. So proud of you for going, so grateful for you sharing x

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you for standing with me Fiona. I just love you darn much. Stop living far away already! xx

      • fiona lynne

        The feeling is entirely mutual! xxx

  • Tracy Nelson

    “That I should be able to get over it on my own….” … wow, I’m not the only one. Thank you. One day soon, perhaps, I shall get brave, too.

    • Megan Gahan

      I totally get it Tracy. Sending love and hugs in the meantime. And *spoiler alert*, you’re already brave <3

  • Kathleen Bertrand

    “What if I wasn’t messed up enough to be there?” O my heart. This was/is me too, friend! Thank you.

    • Megan Gahan

      Our conversations have given me so much more courage, Kathleen. Thank YOU. xx

  • Holly

    Once again, you hold out the candle in the darkness and invite others to join you on the journey. Your storytelling is effortless and real and totally relatable and I love you more and more for the beauty of it all. Thank you for being willing to share what so many others of us are too afraid to whisper.

    • Megan Gahan

      Holly, thank you. Thank you for being so very generous with your words. I tear up reading your comments, let alone your pieces! Gosh, you have such a gift. You give me such buoyancy when I’m feeling low. Wishing I could give you an actual hug . . .like we did two weeks ago *sob*

  • Stephanie Cater

    Oh Megan! Throughout your whole post I was going YES and ME TOO. I can completely relate to the therapy outfit struggle. Often I would wear a lot of eye makeup, essentially as ‘war paint’ because I was so scared of being vulnerable. I would then proceed to snot and cry it all off again, but that still hasn’t helped me make the arguably wiser decision to not wear makeup in potentially emotional situations!! Maybe one day I will learn. Either that, or find the world’s best waterproof mascara.

    Lots of love, precious one. Xx

    • Megan Gahan

      Goodness, there’s still so much I want to know about you Stephanie! You are just the most delightful person. Thank you so much for reading, and for sharing a piece of your story. And if you find the world’s best waterproof mascara, look me up 😉 Sending you so much love today.

  • Love you. Thank you for writing this out and inviting us along. I feel like you are willing to write what we think. Beautifully done, my friend.

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank YOU for pushing me to lean in to the stirring I had for this piece . . .I can’t think of a safer place to share it. <3

  • Natasha Files

    You are brilliant. Thank you for sharing. So much love and gratitude for you ❤️

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you, my dear. That means soooo very much <3

  • Tasha

    Your writing is hospitable. It invites strangers in and makes us feel welcome. Thank you for writing this with such eloquence, bravery and warmth.

    • Megan Gahan

      I honestly cannot think of a compliment I could more humbled and blessed by than you saying my writing invites and welcomes others. Phew. That makes me tear up . . thank you so very much Tasha. <3

  • Created to need help! And offer it to others. YES. Beautiful, important words.

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you so much Beth!