I’m trying to imagine what life was like before I started therapy. As I look back on life before treatment, I shudder, because of all I endured without any coping skills. I had suffered a traumatic brain injury, losing a parent at a very young age, two failed engagements, many life-threatening health issues, abuse, watching a sibling endure a wheelchair-bounding spinal cord injury, and battling two different eating disorders all before turning 28. Talk about damaged. Talk about broken. I felt like I was the poster child for a hot mess. I was a walking advertisement for the broken, damaged girl that nobody would ever want or could love.
Two years ago this month, I chose to begin the journey toward a new normal. I’ll never forget the day I made this life-altering change.
I was sitting on the subway train trying to stay calm as another panic attack crept in and started to consume me. New to New York City from a small town in Michigan, I was trying to navigate a new job, new neighborhood, a new life, and navigate the MTA all with trying to manage my anxiety disorder, PTSD, and many stress-induced health issues. I was not a stranger to anxiety; I had suffered from it for years before my big move, but these daily panic attacks on the train were a monster all on their own.
My phone chirped as I looked down at my phone at my text notifications.
He had a specific ringtone when he texted. And every time I heard it, my stomach dropped, and my heart raced. This wasn’t the feeling of butterflies and new love. No, it was a feeling I have felt for far too long. For over a decade I had been in a toxic relationship on and off. That, no matter how hard we both tried, we couldn’t seem to sever the cord that tied us together through all of a young adult’s significant milestones. It was an unhealthy, codependent crutch that I wanted desperately to be rid of once and for all, but I did not have the tools to do so.
I sat back and tried to brace myself as I felt the panic attack make its way throughout my body — heart racing, tight stomach, lightheadedness, cold, clammy hands. I stared up at the ads alongside the top of the subway car, trying to distract myself waiting for the anxiety to pass. Seamless, plastic surgery, Talkspace. The latter caught my eye. Therapy, on my phone? I snapped a photo of the ad and reminded myself to look it up when I got home.
I ended up signing up for Talkspace Online Therapy that next day. Promising myself, I would give it a chance; I began the journey towards better mental health immediately. I had to write out my story, summary of where I felt I needed help, and also had the opportunity to list qualities or qualifications I felt were important for my therapist.
I always tell people to “date” their therapist, and I still believe that wholeheartedly. My original Talkspace therapist was wonderful, but after two weeks I did not feel the “connection” I intuitively felt I was supposed to have with my therapist. I felt bad asking for a new therapist (classic Hope Alcocer and her people pleasing issues that would later be worked through), but in talking to Talkspace Support, they assured me it happened all the time and that there would be zero hard feelings.
I anxiously waited for about a day or so as the Talkspace matching therapist began looking for a new professional to take my case. I began to talk myself into just forgetting this whole therapy thing altogether and decided that once I got home from work that evening, I would cancel it all together.
I got home from work that evening and had several messages from my new therapist, Megan. In her first message, she apologized for all I had been through — I could sense the sincerity in her words and they touched me deeply. She said was inspired by my strength and couldn’t believe I had been through so much in my short life. She spoke such encouragement and comfort within just the first couple lines of her message, and I was ugly crying by the end of it all.
Megan gave me hope. Megan knew almost instantaneously what I needed and how to say it to me in a way that resonated with me. For those of you who are not familiar with Talkspace, you have the option of messaging your therapist as much as you like and they’ll reply twice a day, five days per week. You can record up to five-minute voice or video memos, or schedule video calls with your therapists as many times a week as you need for an additional nominal fee. You can send across photos, videos, attachments — anything that you feel the need to share with your therapist. You can use the Talkspace app for your device, or use your web browser. This was perfect for my lifestyle with all of my travel, running around for work, and transitioning into such a busy life in New York City.
We spent the first two or three weeks just getting to know one another. Each time we uncovered a layer of my story and life scars, she would comfort me and give me the affirmation I needed. She balanced it with a good, hard dose of sarcasm and humor…a method of coping that nobody else in my life ever understood but that I thrived on. She would remind me daily that I was stronger than I gave myself credit for as she taught me coping skills and uncovered baggage I didn’t even know I had. This unknown baggage was seeping into other areas of my life, which was crippling me. And it was as we revealed this hidden ‘superhero strength’ I had within me, my life began to change.
One of the first things I did in my work with Megan was work to cut the cord with my ex, a relationship that had been suffocating me since I was fifteen years old. An unhealthy friendship turned to a toxic romance, with Megan’s encouragement and my treatment, I was finally rid of the binding spell he had, somehow, cast over me since high school. Life got brighter and better the moment I freed myself of that. I had been a serial dater and incapable of standing on my own two feet without a love interest nearby. Through my work with my therapist, I was challenged to learn the art of being alone, loving myself, and falling in love with myself. This included setting aside days of the week that were spent just being by myself, processing things worked on that week, or sometimes it included a manicure or taking myself to dinner. Through this part of our work I got to know the new me, what I wanted, and that I could be alone without needing to be co-dependent on a man.
In our therapy work together, we worked for over a year on the notion that “healthy attracts healthy” — Megan assured me that as I worked on myself as an individual, I would become a healthier version of myself, which would attract a healthy relationship down the line. She was right.
My boundaries with others changed, allowing me to have more energy and vigor to do the things I loved. When you have unhealthy boundaries with people around you, your passion and mental bandwidth are quickly exhausted and depleted. Megan taught me the art of self-care, self-love, and establishing healthy boundaries.
In learning about self-care and self-love, I was able to finally rid myself of the demons inside my head that told me I was not beautiful or skinny enough. Through my work with Megan on Talkspace, my need and dependency for laxatives and diuretics diminished, and I began to love the skin I was in. Incorporating healthy exercise and eating in moderation led me to be a size and body shape I am content with, and I happy to say that my eating disorder issues are a thing of the past. I am embracing my body, the number on the scale, and the skin I am in.
Megan encouraged me to go for my dreams and to step outside my comfort zone. I had written a novel four years prior and was petrified to release it, for fear of it failing and not doing well. “Are you scared of success?” Megan challenged me one day. That statement set my soul on fire and served as the motivation for me stepping outside of several comfort zones within my career. I released the novel on International Woman’s Day on March 8th, 2017. It sold out within two days and propelled me to gain national exposure and uncovered life-changing opportunities. Since then, I have released a second book, this one a self-help motivational guide for millenial women struggling with typical issues our society and generation face. My book speaks to my success with Talkspace as well as the necessity of optimal mental health — it seeps into every single avenue of your life, even if you don’t realize it.
In working through all of my trauma, mental illnesses, and challenges my life has given me, I have a new outlook on life and those in it. People see and notice a difference, a glow, a bright smile spread across my face. My depression and anxiety are minimal, my “life” scars are fading, and I am content in my own skin.
Somewhere along the line, the world told us that asking for professional help makes us weak or “crazy.” I’m so happy to see the world finally begin to accept mental health being as important as physical health. I plan to continue to see Megan through the Talkspace app and hope to continue to work with her as I enter into new stages of my life, my current relationship, and my future. I owe my life to Talkspace and the people behind it, especially my therapist.
Today, nearly two years later, my life has done a 180. I find myself in a healthy, happy relationship. I have friends in my life who build me up and know and understand proper boundaries. I have left my jobs to relaunch my own marketing and publicity firm where I can work from anywhere in the world. My relationship with my family members is the best it’s ever been, and after nearly thirty years, my health is finally improving. My anxiety and depression are under control, and each day is met with a smile on my face and a zest for life.