I’ve always been pro therapy. “Yeah therapy’s great, everyone should do it” is something I’ve said for years. The reality though is that, up until recently, I hadn’t been for almost a decade. I felt like I had it together, and yeah I got anxious about some stuff, but I always powered through. Anxiety’s always been there for me — hello I was closeted for 18 years — but I’m an adult now right? Everything’s fine, I have friends, I have a good job, I’m fine.
What I had noticed recently though was that I was straight up avoiding certain scenarios that would trigger my anxiety. It’s no secret I want to move up in my career, and the feedback I’ve gotten time and time again is to speak up more, make myself more visible, do a talk, get closer to customers, have more impact, that kind of thing. There’s other feedback sprinkled in there sure, but a big element was doing the things that make me shut down. All the things that honestly, I could avoid if I wanted to and still do my job pretty well. Just not as well as I would like.
I also noticed that in my personal life I was leaning hard into my friends to sort of vent and be my personal therapists. They’re more than happy to be there for me, but it felt like I was asking more of them than I should be and that I needed something I didn’t realize at the time they couldn’t give me.
So I finally bit the bullet and just did the damn thing, and I’m so glad I did.
I’ve been going to therapy for about 3 months now. That’s not a very long time, but it has truly transformed my day to day. It’s wild. I still can’t even really process it. It sounds corny but it is like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I had lived so long in a low-level anxious state that I didn’t even realize it was there.
A revelatory moment
There was a moment in therapy. I was talking about the different sides of myself and where my anxiety comes from. I was closeted until the end of high school. I talked about how my anxiety was almost a survival mechanism because I had to analyze every situation, every person and adjust to be some edited version of myself. I always had to process and adapt. It was stressful as hell, but I was kind of thankful for it because I sincerely think it helped me survive. My therapist waited for me to finish and asked very directly (she’s good at that) “Do you think you still need that side of yourself today?”. I paused and thought to myself for a moment. And it just clicked. “No.”
It was shortly after that that I had to give a presentation about a customer visit I did as a part of the Empathy Project (an initiative HubSpot has taken on to increase empathy with our customers by visiting them on-site). It was during the UX all-hands, a meeting where the majority of the UX org would be present (> 50 people!). I remember Libby Maurer (the director of UX) giving a presentation before it was my turn to get up there. I remember having trouble focusing because I was stressed out. In therapy, my therapist and I discussed the physical reactions that happen when I start feeling anxious. I felt my neck closing up as Libby talked, and I thought to myself “Oh okay, I know what this is.” It didn’t go away completely, but just having that awareness made me feel better. I wringed my hands and thought to myself what my therapist had said “Is this a situation where I need this?”. When it was my turn to get up I said awkwardly “Oh wow there’s so many of you huh”, my throat tightening, but I remembered “No I don’t need that side of myself right now” and somehow it worked. And it went great.
It’s only been three months, but I feel like the mental tools I’ve been able to accrue in that time have really changed my life. I’m sure it’s not always this quick. I’m sure I’m not completely over my anxiety. But I’ll ride this good feeling for now, and continue to have the internal dialogue with myself when I feel anxiety coming.
So I wrote this post because I feel I have to tell people about it. A big part of why I decided to go was because my long time bff (Chelsea Bathurst) has been so vocal about her own experiences with therapy, and I feel the need to do the same. I wanna pay it forward. I gave a presentation and am looking forward to my next one (crazy right?). I ran a bunch of user calls this month. These are the things I used to completely avoid or would stress out about the entire day leading up to it. And now I’m just … doing the damn thing. So f*ck it! Therapy’s great.
If anything above resonated but you’re still not sure, I get it. It’s hard to take that step. The barrier to entry feels high. So I’ve assembled a quick Q&A.
***Disclaimer, this is my experience, with my insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO) through HubSpot***
How do I find a therapist?
Go here https://www.psychologytoday.com/us and type your zip code in. Then browse. It’s like really awkward window shopping. Does this person look nice? You can also filter based on specific issues you may be facing or are concerned about. For me, it was important that my therapist had experience working with LGBTQ individuals.
I emailed two people that looked friendly. After that I did an initial call to talk some basics (why therapy, what they specialize in, what I’m hoping to get out of it, etc.) Then I went in for my first appointment and I’ve been going once a week ever since.
Do I need a referral?
If you have PPO this isn’t a concern, but I have Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO so for a brief moment of panic I wondered about this. After a little googling though, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield’s site, behavioral therapy doesn’t require a referral. It’s been months and this hasn’t been a problem yet, so I’m assuming I’m all good.
Aren’t my friends/my parents/my dog/my manager/my hairdresser enough?
Maybe. But if you’re struggling with something a little more serious I’d argue probably not. All the people in your life, they have their own perspective on you, and they usually don’t want to make your life hard. They wanna keep you happy. They’re not trained professionals trying to dig into the ways you tick. They also have their own lives that interweave with yours that gives them their own skew on situations. A therapist does not. I know almost nothing about my therapist, and it’s great. She’s a completely neutral party to help me unpack my own sh*t. I can tell her things and feelings in detail I’ve never told any of my friends. I’ve cried in therapy more than I ever have in front of anyone. And I’ve unpacked some serious sh*t I didn’t even realize I had.
When do I find the time?
I go to therapy every Monday morning at 9am. It lasts just short of an hour and I’m still able to get to work before 10:30am. It’s a good time for me to go because the week hasn’t really started and I’m able to get in right before my team’s weekly coordination meeting. If you’re remote, or the timing just doesn’t work out that cleanly for you, there’s also some therapists who offer video chat as part of their services.
A note on accessibility
I’m fortunate enough to work in tech, an industry that is generally pretty flexible. I also work at HubSpot, a company that is pretty friggin’ awesome. Though I can’t discredit the work it took to get to where I am today, I have to acknowledge the amount of privilege that comes with it.
I’m able to be my true self at work. I’m able to talk openly about my life as a gay man. I’m able to book therapy on my calendar and no one questions it. I’m able to post this openly without fear of consequence (heck I posted this on our internal wiki and it got liked by the two founders and YES I SCREENSHOTTED IT).
This isn’t always the case for every person, and I totally get that. Therapy isn’t always as accessible. Workplaces aren’t always as open. I don’t have a magic pill solution to that. I can only speak from my own experiences and say that for some of us, therapy can be more accessible than we may think.
I can also say HubSpot’s hiring. It’s a great place to be, and I work with amazing people.