The Gap Year


— Photos courtesy of

I recently got promoted to full-time in my department at DePaul. This means, as of June 1, I will have health insurance for the first time in more than seven years. It also means that, for the first time in almost a year, I will be returning to therapy.

Most people who deal with some kind of depression or anxiety will experience a gap in therapy, whether for financial or personal reasons. Sometimes there’s a mismatch in personalities between patient and doctor. Sometimes outside circumstances aren’t conducive to an individual setting aside an hour each week or every two weeks for counseling. Sometimes the clinic closes. Sometimes your doctor relocates, falls ill, or dies. The length of the gap and the decision to return to therapy is often facilitated or hindered based on the circumstances of the initial break. I knew someone that lost his first therapist to leukemia and didn’t return for another five years. I’ve had several gaps over the years, returning each time because of some extraordinary, prolonged period of distress that forced my hand.

I was 17 when I first told my parents I wanted to see a therapist. It was a bit like locking the barn after the horse had escaped — life at home had grown very chaotic and I had recently ended relationships with two people whose own neuroses largely served as a distraction from my own. While it lightened the load, I was suffering from insomnia and an eating disorder. I’d had enough and I asked for help.

My first therapist specialized in treatment of adolescents, had a John Lennon lithograph hanging on his wall, and dressed like a mix of Mister Rogers and H.R. Haldeman. He was also my father’s therapist. Whether this was a decision made by the insurance company or a private agreement born out of a session between the two of them, I never did find out. I went to two months of sessions where I listened to him talk about episodes of Law & Order, eventually opting out when he made a homophobic remark about a friend of mine.

My second therapist was a PhD student at the University of Arkansas doing part of her clinical work in the Counseling and Psychological Services office at the school. Mismatched from the get-go, she admitted to being more than a bit at sea when she reviewed my initial case file (scrawled with notes about “grief counseling,” “bulimia,” and “same-sex attraction”) and prescribed superficial therapies unsuited for the gamut of emotions I was dealing with at the time. When she neglected to arrange an appointment for us after the winter break, I refused to return.

This final gap started last September, shortly before I started teaching. I had switched therapists in June when the clinical wing at the center I’d been a patient at for three years closed. I made the switch with an open mind and it didn’t quite work out. Starting a new job and in the middle of the busiest time of the year at the other, I made the decision to go without for a bit and see what happened.

Ultimately, I’ve found therapy to be invaluable in helping me to process and deal with my depression, in chorus with my crafting, blogging, and all the small habits I’ve cultivated to prevent from falling into old, bad coping mechanisms. I’ve got a new referral to a center that’s a ten-minute walk from my home. I’m optimistic and ready to give this another shot. My health is too important not to.


~ by blackmoodcraft on May 21, 2014.

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