When I lived in San Francisco, nobody batted an eyelash at dropping into casual conversation mention of a trip to their therapist. “Oh, I had a really great breakthrough at my therapy session yesterday” was on conversational par with telling someone “I tried a fantastic new recipe for kale smoothies.”
But San Francisco is not the rest of the country. (In fact when I moved to Chicago, I realized that San Francisco is sort of its own country.) Out here in the rest of the world, therapy is often seen as a luxury item or something that crazy people do. There can be a lot of resistance, embarrassment, and silence about seeing a therapist. So where is the middle ground for chronically ill patients who are struggling with the stress of their disease and need some help?
I am dedicating this post to a young adult cancer patient who I have become extremely close with over the past three years. She has been through the wringer with cancer and endless chemotherapy. She is in a funk and it’s totally understandable. 25% of all cancer patients suffer from depression, and the rate is even higher for young adults. But, my friend lives in the deep south where nobody talks about seeing a therapist. In our last conversation, I got the sense that the idea of going to therapy made her feel like a freak. Her oncologist has suggested it many times; I thought it might sit better if she heard the experiences of other patients who are trying to manage their own emotional ups and downs with cancer and chronic illnesses.
Give her your therapy 101: Have you ever seen a therapist because of depression, stress, or anxiety related to your illness? What did you talk about? Was it useful or not? How is it different than talking to a friend or your partner? What other ways have you coped with depression?