How Therapy Can Change Your Life

Not What I Expected

I don’t know what I expected, but here they are: the house painters we’d booked weeks ago, large men with friendly faces and a radio that plays the Classic Rock station while they work. What did I expect? What you see on TV or in old cartoons, I guess: a man in overalls and a painting cap, cheerfully swiping a paintbrush and whistling while he works.

What the painters at my home today are doing is not that. There’s a lot of banging and stripping, blasting and wrapping. They’re cheerful enough and still friendly, but bear an uncanny resemblance to what my journey though therapy has been like.

My first impressions of therapy were, again, not unlike something I’d see on TV: sitting on a couch talking about my feelings, cheerfully swiping the paintbrush of the events of my day over the siding of my mind, maybe even while whistling! But what therapy became was the same hard work as my real painters. There was a lot of work involved. A lot of noise, a lot of banging around as old memories came to the surface and hard-weathered problems needed to be stripped away. I confronted (and still do) friendships in my life as broken as the shutters that have fallen off of the front of my house during thunderstorms; and I am still grappling with how ugly the thoughts in my mind are and how much they resemble the peeling flaking ugliness of the old paint that flitters to the base of my driveway like so many chipped snowflakes.

It is a well-known fact to those who go to therapy that it is hard work, indeed.

A song plays on the painters’ radio: Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?

Can I handle the seasons of my life?

I don’t know.

I don’t know if I can either. Actually, that’s not true. I know I can, although the difference between handling them by myself and handling them with a therapist is immense. And so I value the work, as hard as it is. I value therapy the way I am valuing the current havoc that is being wrought on my house for the same reasons: because after all that hard work, there will be something beautiful left behind. My home will look refreshed and bright and welcoming after the painters have done their good work; and I will be able to sail through the changes of my life after mine.

If you’re deciding whether or not therapy is right for you, I highly encourage you to consider the difference it can make. It may be painful at times and it may take a lot of effort in some places, but the reward is something you can look on with pride and love.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Effects of a Prolonged Pandemic on Mental Health

We’ve Never Not Known Together

“It’s like… I think everything’s going to be okay, but I have no idea what’s going to happen next. And like, none of you know either. Like… we’ve all never not known together.” – John Mulaney

The second Summer of Covid-19 and things look…off. On paper, everything is pretty similar to every other summer: pools are open, kids go to camps, traffic is resuming, there are BBQs galore and big fireworks shows for Independence Day. But off-paper, things are different. Take sports for example: the Olympics are happening in this sort of truncated way, with sound effects piped in to make it sound like the vast emptiness of the seats are filled with people, even though they’re not; yet the NBA championships are hosting full-to-capacity stadiums. The Stanley Cup finals were odd in that on the American side, crowds galore could cheer away together while in Canada, only a few in comparison could. Masks are highly suggested in some states, completely an afterthought in others, and rapidly becoming mandatory in places where the Delta variant of the virus is threatening to rage with impunity again. And forget even thinking about the next school year!

How does the ordinary person go through it all? Comedian John Mulaney, in the quote above, wasn’t referring to Covd when he was talking to Stephen Colbert on the Late Show – this was before Covid – but the sentiment, to me, applies exactly. I also think everything is going to be okay, but I have no idea what is going to happen next.

And all of this uncertainty, all of this unknowing… it’s not a great feeling. Sometimes I feel alone when I say that. I certainly do when so many people I know are just taking Covid in stride, declaring it a thing they just need to deal with the way we need to deal with lots of catastrophic things in our lives. And they’re not wrong; there’s a very real possibility that Covid will just be a thing that hangs around forever now, the way extreme weather does, for example. I’m just not there yet.

I don’t know if the precautions I am taking are the correct ones. I don’t know that I’m just delaying an inevitability if this thing really does keep going in its relentlessness. I don’t know when things will return to a normalcy I’m used to. And it’s true that we all don’t know, together. We are all just looking at things one day at a time.

I don’t know that it’s wrong to do that; to make decisions based on the outcome of what we’ve done before. That’s how we learn, isn’t it? We make mistakes and remember (or try, to) for next time. It is also true, however, that the stakes feel higher.

The “new normal” is everything but, but it is a reality. It’s not a reality we asked for, but it’s here anyway, and so the question becomes how we’re going to adapt. Your adaptation may look different than mine, but as we go through our days, let’s keep in mind that what Mulaney said was true: we’ve never not known together. We may indeed not have the right answers. But we’re all trying. And please know you’re not trying alone!

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Four Ways to Improve Your Mood and Find a New Perspective

Navigating Your Life in a Post-Pandemic World

I have no idea if you’re a Millennial, Gen-Z, or a Boomer, but I fall somewhere in what is known as the “Xennial” generation – the tail end of Gen X and the very beginning of the Millennial years. I didn’t grow up with a computer or a phone, and I was well into adulthood when I was able to use Google Maps to get around. Before then, I had to write directions down on a piece of paper – and then later was excited to print out the directions from MapQuest. I would study my odometer to figure out if I had to turn left after 0.8 miles – and to figure out how long 0.8 miles was! Now things are so much quicker with the ability to navigate on my phone, I don’t have to worry about how exactly to get around in my car.

What I do still need to do though, is navigate through my life. There’s no app for that yet (although I wouldn’t really want one if there was!) And it can seem just as difficult to know how to get through one day to the next, especially with the backdrop of the pandemic still affecting us. Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve found helpful, and that may help you, too!

  1. Know Where You’re Going. Like any trip you take, you’ll feel successful once you know where it is that you’re going. You may think, “But I am so anxious/depressed/sad/unstable to know where my life is going!” Fair enough – I think the same thing all the time! But I’m talking about a small trip. If you feel you can’t make it through the day, can your destination be to make it three hours from now? Can you make it to the next ten minutes? Find a destination that is as small as you need it to be. If you can get there, take a deep breath, and realize that you made it.
  1. Pack Your Snacks. No road trip is complete without snacks, and that goes for the days when you’re not physically going anywhere, either. Make sure to eat throughout the day and to drink water, too. No shame intended and I know it’s hard sometimes, but try to make your food as healthy as you can make it for the moment – physical discomfort is not a lot of fun when paired with mental and emotional discomfort.
  1. Keep Good Company. Car trips do go by faster with a friend traveling with you, and that’s true for life, as well. But if you’re unable to see people regularly, what can you fill the journey with? If you’re into listening to podcasts, audiobooks and music, check your local library for new ones to try. Ask friends for some recommendations for new books to read or what show to stream. Keep in touch with more phone calls and Facetimes with family members you haven’t seen in a long time! But remember that there’s a time for much-needed silence, too. If you’re feeling frazzled and overwhelmed by too much screen time, try to carve out some room (seriously, just two or three minutes to start) to sit in silence and enjoy the quiet.
  1. Look around you. On car trips, we can be so focused on the road ahead of us and our directions that we might forget to look around at the landscape a bit. What’s in front of you today that you haven’t noticed? Are there new flowers in your neighborhood now that Spring is here? Have you noticed the days growing longer and the sun taking more time to set? Try to take a look around a few more times during your day – a little thing can help a lot!

These are just a few ideas to help with navigating these next few weeks. I hope they are a help for you, and please feel free to reach out to etalktherapy.com for professionals to talk to!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness in the Wake of Covid

Promoting Change and Self-Care

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and this is a year in which it seems more vital than ever to look at our lives and to check in with ourselves to see how we’re doing. Now that Covid-19 cases in America finally seem to be in a steady decline and the smoke is clearing, so to speak, it seems like good timing to focus on the mental and emotional fallout from it all.

It’s been 14 months since the country started its Covid lockdowns, and I just wanted to invite you to take a moment with me and really think about the past year. Covid-19 was a really big deal (and very much so remains a big deal in many parts of the world). Let’s start with the physical aspect of the illness. Chances are, you knew someone with Covid-19. Maybe that person skated through it was like it was no big deal, or maybe that person was out of commission for a couple of weeks, or maybe they even had to be hospitalized. That person may not have made it through. And if you didn’t know them personally, chances are very good that you know someone who has lost someone – or very nearly lost someone – from this illness. You yourself may even have been struck with it. Maybe it was just a bothersome cough or a sore throat. Maybe you were in the hospital. Maybe you became a “long-hauler.” Maybe you were afraid you weren’t going to be able to pull through.

That’s a lot to carry, isn’t it? And that’s only one aspect of very many. That’s just the physical aspect. There’s the economic aspect. Maybe your business was shut down, and you were forced to put your livelihood on hold. Maybe you lost your job.  Maybe your hours were cut, and you had to pinch pennies in a way that was very frightening to you. Perhaps you would have liked to go to work, but your children had to learn virtually from home and there was no one to take care of them while you worked, so you had to cut your own hours.

There’s the emotional aspect, as well. Or maybe you were incredibly lonely. Maybe you were grateful to have not gotten Covid-19, but you felt a terrible isolation. You were tired of seeing people’s faces on a screen. You missed touching other people, getting hugs. Not being able to see their faces and how they felt as you saw them in person from a distance. Physical isolation is a very real thing, and it is a very valid emotion to feel afraid, sad, and depressed because of it. And there was fear involved – a lot of fear. Who would we become as a society after this? You may wonder if you can trust this person, that news source, the next-door neighbor? What will happen if we get the vaccine? What will happen if we don’t?

No matter how someone was affected by Covid-19, no one can say they were not affected by it. And it can sometimes be very painful to go through a traumatic event like this one – to really feel all of your feelings, to take the time to marvel at this journey: the difficulties of it, the struggle of it, and to look at the person you’ve come to be at this point because of it.

If you are struggling in this very hard time, please reach out to talk to someone. Our website https://etalktherapy.com/ can point you to treatment options that can work best for you.

It can be a cliché to say that “we’re all in this together,” and I don’t know if that saying really applies. Yes, we are all experiencing the same event together, but each in our own way – ways that may be very similar to others, and some that are very different. It is true, however, that we are not alone.

The theme for this year’s awareness month, hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Health, is “You Are Not Alone.” You can visit their site here (https://nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month) for more resources and help if you find your mental health concerns are getting insurmountable and to help you begin the process of unpacking this very difficult year.

Here’s hoping that each day gets better and better!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.