Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Sunday
Jun242012

Talk Is Cheap...Unless You're Talking To A Therapist

I am reconsidering taking anti-depressants again. Not because I'm doing poorly, I'm actually feeling better than I have in a long time. I feel peaceful. Okay, maybe peaceful is a stretch, but I'm content and that's really all you can ask from life, yeah?

It's just that, well, I don't know. Now that I'm sitting here pondering the whole thing I don't think I need anti-depressants at all. If I'm being really honest here (and I'm trying to be) I think I need some pretty intense therapy, is what I think. Is what I know.

And by therapy I mean I need someone to help me sort out all my shit, you know? Someone I can talk at who won't judge me and who can help me figure out why I do the things I do. But it ain't cheap. I mean, GOD, I am trying to be a productive citizen of the world over here what with my renter's insurance and my health insurance and I'll be damned if I can swing therapy into the mix as well. And then I get all tough-girl and think, fucking therapy. I can figure my stuff out. Therapy is a luxury that most people can't afford and so why should I go hobnobbing to therapists offices so I can whine about myself, myself, myself. Don't I do that enough here, for hellsakes?

I'll get there. But in the meantime I guess that's why I started contemplating the meds. It seemed like an easier way to chill out (read: reduce anxiety) and quit beating up on myself all the time but I don't feel depressed. I feel sad sometimes, as one can generally feel during life, and I definitely think I was depressed after the house fire but that feeling is rapidly lifting now that we're back home. Mostly I'm just disappointed in myself and the way I react to some things and the way I don't react to others and that's not something anti-depressants will really deal with, I don't think. It's something I need to nut up and deal with properly. Pro-actively. Intellectually. Right?

I want to be unflappable. Cool as a cucumber. Calm. Confident. Receptive to those who love me, Serge specifically. But, for some reason I am unable to let him do his thing. Not that he's on top of his marital game or anything, I mean, let's not get crazy with the compliments but I do think I need to lighten the fuck up when it comes to certain things.

The more I contemplate marriage I realize how ill-equipped both he and I were/are as it pertains to having a successful marriage. This is a good thing, though, the realizing part. At least we know we are bumbling idiots when it comes to successful relationships what with both of us growing up amidst massive turmoil. Parents who fought terrible fights and then boom. No dads around, moms in over their heads. Chaos reigns supreme.

Man oh man I'd love to provide a different example to my kids. So far I have. And I haven't. And that kills me, it fucking kills me. Because if I screw this parenting thing up then it's Game Over for me. It's The Thing. The Only Thing. And DAMMIT I want to do it right.

Reader Comments (32)

I was thinking of anti depressants lately, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that *for me* it wasn't that something that was chemically wrong, it was that I had become so used to doing the same ole things and I didn't know how to break the habit. I still haven't "fixed" it all yet. But I like therapy. Sometimes I need to hear things from an outside source - sometimes she says the exact same things my husband says - yet I can "hear" her when I can't hear him.

I think that it's a good idea to go in with a goal in mind. I know people who go to therapy for years on end, and I'm not sure that they ever get anywhere. But I've gone for brief periods of time over four different stages of my adult life (usually around the time one of our babies were due). I've just finished a six month stint this month where I focused on some bad habits I've fallen into in my marriage. It's still not "fixed" but I feel much better with where we are, and where I'd like us to be.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLori

It sounds like you're on the right track towards health and healing. I think in your case, meds would be a short term solution, but therapy, healing, learning would help long term. And, your man loves you and your children deeply, you are very blessed.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Coffey

Hey! I appreciate your honesty and sharing your self reflection. I work in psychiatry and know that anti-depressants aren't the "cure all miracle drug" people want to believe. I think you could probably benefit from DBT, which is dialectic behavioral therapy. It focuses on emotion regulation, and coping with stress and anger. Look into it! But know medication in treating depression is not a fix... We need to treat the deeper issues and learn why we react the way we do, and how we can change and improve. :) good luck!!!

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I too, appreciate your raw honesty in expressing the need for therapy. I am always astounded at the level of your self-awareness. Yes, therapy is expensive but there are some places that will provide therapy on a sliding scale and with your income level right now it's possible you would qualify. In any event, if you can possibly afford it, consider it a good investment. And if you feel your depression lifting, it sounds like that part may be taking care of itself, so taking meds may not be the answer. I think as always you have great insight into what is needed and I hope that somehow you will find a way to access it. Best wishes to you!

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue

Hey Monica, I wanted to say something really helpful and insightful but I don't know what that would be. I just want to say even without childhood turmoil, marriage and two young kids is hard. Really hard. I always really admire your courage to be so honest here. I'm not always that honest with my husband or myself. I think that courage and your ability to express yourself must go a long way to sorting out your crap. Don't you think? I think you rock. If we're trying the best we can, sometimes that has to be good enough. Be kind and gentle with yourself.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

You don't need to get it right, or even come close everytime.
What makes a Marriage last is NEVER giving up on it.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterUtah L

I relate to all of this. All. I also want to add my thanks for sharing because it makes me feel less alone and screwed up at what has been a screwed up time in my life. And I also am super anxious about protecting my little one from trauma that doesn't belong to her. Therapy is working for me. But you know what? I tried seeing a homeopath and took a one dose remedy and I know this sounds nuts but I woke up the next day feeling better and less of a mess than I had in months. It was on a friend's advice, after doing everything I could to stop feeling so angry, anxious and sad. Daily exercise, melatonin to get enough sleep, therapy, massages, no sugar, no fun, etc etc. And then bawling at this homeopath for two hours, and one little vial of I don't even know what (he said he'd tell me later) down the hatch and poof. I woke up a new woman. Or, me again. It's been a week and I'm still kind of doubtful but it seems to be steady as she goes. Weird, I know. Just thought I'd mention.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

Sometimes, an outside, impartial opinion can be extremely valuable. Look around. See what's in your area. Many different sorts of people are qualified to sit around and talk to you and help you. This could be anyone from a psychiatrist or a psychologist, or a therapist or counsellor or even clergy. If you're venturing into people useing unregulated titles, such as therapist, make sure you do your homework and check what their credentials are... but for the most part, they can be a great choice. Also, are there any training programs in your area that might be less expensive? I know my university has a mental health center where all the clinical students train. These are highly trained individuals with a decade of education - you'd be in good hands.

People think that you know you so well that you should be able to fix you. But sometimes it takes someone who isn't you to really see what's going on. It's why Olympic level athletes still have coaches to pick apart the triple lutz they learned at age thirteen - because they can't see everything for themselves. They can miss things. Or need guidance. Sometimes you just need some help pinpointing issues. Sometimes maybe you need a new technique to deal with an issue - something you wouldn't have thought of on your own.

Or sometimes you just need to talk to someone who will listen. Don't feel bad about investing in this.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I started therapy last year the day before I left my husband. My therapist has been INVALUABLE to me. Yes, it's all about you but isn't that the point? If you can afford it, DO IT. I can't recommend it enough. I know know myself better and what kind of crap I will put up with and what I won't. Her insight has been amazing. Do not walk, RUN. GO GO GO.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlisa

Thanks for being honest. I have been a bit down myself lately and I wonder if its hormones doing my head in. I'm cranky and then I'm depressed and then i keep regretting the things I didn't do when I was younger (live overseas, travel more etc). Hang in there Monica, look after yourself. We've never met but I think you're a great person and you have a good husband and adorable kids :)

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

Therapy is incredibly helpful. I suffered from depression and anxiety for years and took high doses of anti depressants. I tried therapy a few times, but to be honest I wasn't ready for it yet. I felt, like you, that I had a grip on my problems. Eventually my anxiety got so bad in spite of the meds that I just didn't know what else to do, and went back to therapy out of desperation. I was finally ready to face facts.

Therapy is hard. You will have to deal with stuff that you have spent a lifetime trying not to deal with. Quitting will be tempting. But if you stick it out, it is incredible. I was shocked at just how much I didn't realize had been going on. I had a vague idea of my problems, but the complexity of how they came to be was a mystery to me, and uncovering all that was amazing and scary all at once.

I've now been med-free for over six years and my life is amazing. A lot of my social anxiety is gone as well. I have learned so much about how to be kind to myself and I actually have true self confidence now. The difference is fantastic. Of course my life isn't perfect, and I still get sad, or depressed, or stressed, but I can cope with those things now.

Therapy is 100% worth the expense, imo.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermesh

A free idea: If you're up for it, Adult Children of Alcoholics (you can come from a dysfunctional family that didn't abuse substances, too) has meetings and literature that is super helpful for those of us who grew up in dysfunctional households. I learned a lot through therapy and owe my therapist a lot, but holy crap am I learning so much through these meetings. If there aren't meetings close to you, I highly recommend buying the red book - you'll see a lot of yourself in that book and be able to work through some of your crap.

I do second what others have said, though, that therapy is 100% worth it if you can swing it.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKat

May I just say that therapy / counselling is almost certainly less expensive than divorce, what with one thing and another. Clearly it's not always an either/or proposition, and it might not be in your case, but if you are starting to be able to see the wood rather than just the trees, a time to properly sort through the emotions and pain and various personal issues IS more of an investment and less of an expense.

Clearly the meds aren't cheap either, and whilst it may turn out to be the right thing for you to stay on them or some version of them anyway, wouldn't it be a great example to your kids to show them that when mom has a problem, she speaks up, gets proper help and finds solutions? I think so, and I am so glad you are feeling much better, that's worth savouring in and of itself. For you and for Serge, just being mindful of the other, of how you actually LOVE each other, love your family and want to get through this will help so much.

Best of luck with your decision.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Monica, your raw honesty is so inspiring...I have a lot of stuff to work through and at 41 it seems absurd sometimes that I still haven't figured things out. I admire your persistence in getting to the bottom of your troubles and not just skimming the surface. I am the master at stuffing it all down and pretending everything is fine, but in times of stress my true colours come out. The insecurity, the anxiety, being so, so hard on myself and over-reacting to stupid things. Please don't stop writing about your journey...the saying about helping even one person...well it is true. This helps me realize I am not alone, not nearly as crazy as I worry about and it empowers me to always keep trying to do better for myself.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Sounds like maybe you have never had a really great therapist. I went to therapy a few different times before finding someone that I clicked with who was very good and went through intense therapy about ten years ago for about a year and a half, very specifically cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT (sounds similar to DBT mentioned in another comment.) The awareness I gained of my own issues stemming from childhood combined with actual tactics for breaking behavioral patterns have been a gift that I have utilized ever since, and have never gone back to therapy.

That said, dave been on/off meds for four or five periods of deep depresion over the course of my adult life. I also realize that I had at least three other episodes in my teens and early twenties that were undiagnosed. For me, the deep deep depression that lasts several months or a year only comes when there are multiple stress triggers happening all at the same time. And I'm talking the biggies - moving, pregnancy, very small children, major job problems, spouse's own issues flairing up, death of family members, hitting milestone birthdays, etc, One or even two major stress triggers can be happening and I'll be just fine but add too much and my body/brain just shuts down. I am in the midst of one such episode and just went back on meds. This time is not as bad as the last and I resisted meds for a long time. But I was doing all the right things - dealing with my relationship, eating right, sleeping enough, exercising, focusing properly on my daughter, and was still not coming out of it. So trying the meds again.

I associate my depressive tendencies with similar traits that were present in my dad and brother, both alcoholics. I have avoided substance abuse problems, but still have trouble functioning sometimes. What I don't want is to die young and unhappy as they did. So I try to do whatever it takes - therapy, meds, or whatever.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

I agree with everyone else that it is fantastic that you are reflecting on yourself so much and coming up with a plan. When I read this post, I immediately thought of something you said when you first revealed that Serge had moved out for a bit and that the two of you were going to start couples counseling. You said you wondered if maybe the two of you needed some tools. I commented at the time that the upbringing you both had means you almost certainly need to learn some tools because we model what we see growing up. Given what you both saw, your toolboxes have a lot of broken and worthless tools in them. (Okay...enough with the extended metaphor). Therapy can be expensive, I am sure, but you can come up with a therapist who will work with you. The sliding scale of fees sounds great. But maybe you can't afford to go weekly, no matter what. Can you afford every other week? Once/month? It seems to me that something is better than nothing.

And you know this already, but it's worth repeating. Don't just go off the meds. Bad shit happens when people just stop taking them. It may well be possible that you don't need them anymore. But you need to wean yourself off them gradually, under medical guidance.

Best of luck sorting it all out, Monica. The amount of reflection on yourselves and your relationship and your upbringing and your children that you and Serge have been doing is so admirable. Good for you guys!

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

I would encourage you to explore finding a therapist who would work with your budget constraints. In addition, I've often read your posts and thought that finding the right medication could help you with some of your struggles. Anti-Anxiety medication isn't just for depression or depression symptoms- getting the right medication could help with a variety of emotions, reactions and emotional reactions.
I think it is pretty amazing how self aware and committed you and Serge are (or appear to be via what you write online) to making it work when you've had ZERO examples set for you as to how it is supposed to work.
Keep it up- you're doing some f-ing hard self examination work here.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

I play therapist to my best friends all the time and they do the same for me. Do you have a great friend that you can talk to, much cheaper and usually they have a better feel for your situation anyway. If I lived closer I would come over and sit on the patio with cocktails and help you solve all your problems......patios and cocktails seem to help!

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkacy

Monica, depression or anxiety can result from sudden changes, stressful experiences, feeling helpless and heredity (thanks I took Pscyh 101 in college). It sounds like you've experienced some or ALL of those in the last year (new baby, new town, new house, new AT HOME job). GO to a therapist, sometimes HEARING yourself talk aloud, as opposed to writing it down, to a person that knows no one in your life makes things a lot more clear. It's helped me. I don't get sad when I'm depressed... I just get agitated as hell. Everything and everyone annoys me usually for the most irrational things. Then I snap and am a bitch to these innocent (sometimes) bystanders. Try therapy and they'll tell you if you need to be on meds. And if you don't like your first therapist keep trying till you find someone you do feel comfortable with. Also, carve out an event at least once a week or every other week for just you and 'friends'. It can be a book club, a 'meet up' group, a volunteer group, reading to old people whatever. Just something that is YOURS only. Good luck!

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnieLee

Oh Monica, I really hope you can find a way to see someone. It totally changed my life. I actually saw three different people, and the last guy really stuck. My first twso therapists were helpful, but I realized later that when I started to get uncomfortable I'd ask the therapist questios and try to change the focus of the whole sesssion. I knew absolutely nothing about my last therapist in Philly, and he pretty much changed my life. Everytime I tried to ask him a question and redirect the session, he kindly stopped me dead in my tracks. I remember being scared that all this crap would surface and I'd never be able to deal with all the shit but it never happened. I didn't do any drugs the last time because I was trying to get pregnant and it still worked. You know, my dad mentioned the other day that I used to call him and complain about my husband all the time and that changed when I started therapy. I never even realized it. God knows, Jim hasn't changed, but I think I the stuff that used to really bug me about him changed some with therapy. We've been married close to 18 years and it's not perfect but it works. I have an 11 year old boy and a little girl who is 8, and I know I'm a better mom after therapy than I ever would have been if I hadn't sought some help. But unflappable? No freaking way! I still scream on occasion and act like an ass. If at all possible, give it a try. Having someone who has no vested interest in your life help you sort things out does wonders. It's like you hear yourself talking for the first time without all the non-productive wheels spinning in your head. I check in with you and Serge everyday and have so much admiration for both of you. You are both so honest and amazingly talented. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Wow, your readers are so kind... and the comments are very good advice. I am just about to walk out the door for my therapist appointment. What I feel is invaluable from the wonderful, great-grandma who is my sounding board, is that she reminds me every.single.time. that I know how to live a good life, I just get some amnesia affect (my description) and fall, sink, wallow into my old habits. I lived just to survive for so many years, I truly need these reminder sessions that have basically given me my Life.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Most therapists will do a sliding scale, if you ask. Mine took me on as an almost charity case, for $25 every other week. I am guessing you could find someone to do the same. I agree with finding a social worker or family/marriage therapist with a short-term goal in mind. If your perception is that meds will work and therapy is something out of reach for your life, I think a re-examination is in order. Plenty of very low-budge people (like me) who just need help are getting the help they need. It's going and doing it that is the hard part. I hope you find some of that peace you crave.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

My doctor told me that Post Natal Depression can occur up to 30 months after your baby is born.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaffron

From my own experience with meds, even when I thought I wasn't depressed anymore, I still was. Depression is a Bitchwhore.

The thing about leveling the brain chemistry is that a person can become more receptive to the work of therapy. Does that make sense? And antidepressants CAN help with anxiety. They could help your brain chemistry "even out" after such a hugely traumatic experience. Plus, coming right on the heels of post-partum? Your OB might be able to prescribe. It doesn't seem like the role of PTSD has come up in all this, but I would suspect there might be symptoms of that for both of you as well. Hang in there, have compassion for yourself.

I truly hope you are feeling more joy very soon.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuz

I've been married to the same man for 25 years. The trick to staying married is don't get divorced. ;-)

It's hard, yes. There have been times when I really hated my husband, but those feelings pass if you practice forgiveness. I do love my husband, but honestly, it's not like it was when we first fell in love. We have two kids together. They are both in their late teens now. Both my husband and myself have often put our children's needs before our own. Raising emotionally healthy members of society is more important than my, our, personal fulfillment.

If it's important to you, you will make the marriage work.

Serge is cute, btw. He's a keeper. ;-)

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

Bath salts.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTony Toni Tone

Many preachers also have their masters in counseling. You could check out your church. They maybe able to work with you, and study with you at a reduced rate- or even free.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

Hey Monica,
I guess you are aware now how many of us have ventured into therapy and that we give it a thumbs up - I don't need to add the obvious. You just have to be ready for it and it sounds like you are almost there. Your raw honesty is really inspiring to me and I appreciate you writing this post as I was curious how you have been doing since the move. I have also enjoyed your posts re: divorce - I am into my second year of marriage and while I am so committed to it, it has also been the most challenging of our 7 year relationship. I know that the fact that we got married, bought a home and had a child in the last two years has a lot to do with it but...man it has been hard at times. Your posts have reminded me that I will do everything to ensure that we stay in communication with eachother and I will not give up. I am glad you are there too and I hope you are able to find effective and economical counselling if you decide to go there. Love your blog.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstella

You'd be surprised what will be remembered about your parenting. It's not what you think it is now. You'll do ok, in spite of being a hot mess.

I am so grateful for therapy. The therapist doesn't do the work, but they help support you while you work your ass off. The good ones will also help you to see that many of your reactions that you hate, aren't as bad as you think... They'll help you find the compassion and acceptance for yourself.

Good luck!!

July 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Note that this post has been nominated for a Brodie Award for "Best Post Title." You can vote for it here.

January 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterchanson

My name is suat sighn, I live in Philippines. I am happily married with two kids and a beautiful wife,i want to testify the goodness of Therapist Oniha on how he saved my love life,something terrible happened to my family, I lost my job and my wife packed out of my house because I was unable to take care of her and the kids at the time. I manage all through for four years until I cannot cope with the situation again,so I searched on the internet for any help about getting back my family and job. I came across so many testimonies which make me confuse to my frustration,I decided to choose Therapist Oniha of winexbackspell@gmail.com who attended to me and instructed me on things to do,which I did with faith and within 3 days, my office called and gave me back my work on that same day my wife came back home with the kids and apologized for her actions and now we are happily living together again,i am so happy shearing the goodness of Therapist Oniha of the winexbackspell@gmail.com once again. Tell Therapist Oniha i am grateful.

April 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersuat

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