Take The Cake: I Signed Up For An Internet Therapist (And I Love Her)

“Therapy for how we live today,” said someone with the voice equivalent of the color “light blue.” Image: Talkspace.

I reflect on how easily I could have talked myself out of getting this mental health support; so many of us don’t feel like we’re good enough, or that we even deserve to receive care.​

Last week, I signed up for TalkSpace. It’s like therapy you can access entirely online. I heard about it from my friend’s podcast, Call Your Girlfriend:

“Therapy for how we live today,” said someone with the voice equivalent of the color “light blue.”

I decided to go with the cheapest tier because it’s me and I have trust issues. For about $130 per month, I have unlimited messaging with my therapist and one 10-minute video chat with her.

This is, in a word, fuckenamazeballs.

Therapy has always been both a desire and an expense I could never swallow. I wanna be self-actualized, but the last time I paid for talk therapy, it was nearly $200 for a 50-minute session in an office in the Castro.

Paying in a month what could be the mortgage on a lovely 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom home with a majestic mountain backdrop in, like, Montana was just too much for me (on every level).

♦♦♦

My last therapy session was in January, and I had planned to sign up for TalkSpace in April. It’s now June 20 and I’m decidedly sans therapeutic assistance.

I guess today’s the day, I decide.

I want you to imagine me, lying on the futon in my “loving room,” pillow under calves in a futile attempt to slow down the varicose-ification of my legs, with the iced-coffee breath I got by putting on my wartime-power-sunglasses and aggressively drinking the cold brew from the cafe down the street, where all the baristos are anarcho-punk misogynists.

I’m feeling this stultifying sense of shame because I fell asleep with my Kat Von D Liquid Eye Tattoo™ eyeliner on, and this is the exact kind of thing that has led to pinkeye in the past. The liner negligence becomes a catastrophe, which becomes a symbol, a metaphor of my emotional failure AT LIFE.

Rather than write any of the 10 articles that are due, I’m checking Facebook on my phone, and each update is filling me with a rotation of rage, jealousy, joy, hopelessness, or schadenfreude. (I try not to be friends with people online or IRL whose suffering brings me pleasure because, hey, that’s anti-feminist, but for as long as there are horrible people doing horrible things and being confused about why someone poop-bombed their house, I’ll be there. Schadenfreud-ing.)

I wrench myself from FB and head to the TalkSpace website.

Immediately a chat box pops up. I see a picture of the woman I’m chatting with.

Honestly, I’m a bit on-edge already, because she looks like someone who pledged at a sorority. “Danger!” My tender heart still remembers that girls who look like her have the potential to cause pain.

She asks me whether I’ve had experience with therapy before and what I found helpful or not helpful in the past so that she can better match me with the mental health professional who will become my therapist. This feels a little bit like setting up a date, except I don’t have to be clever or speak in gentle metaphors.

I answer:

I imagine I'd work well with a feminist (gender doesn't matter) who understands sexism, racism, etc. are a real thing and they mitigate my life. I also am fat and fat positive and I cannot work with someone who wants to pathologize my weight. I have no desire to discuss weight loss.

I type this in the exact way that I would say it: resolute, stiff-lipped, more forceful than is perhaps totally necessary just to ward off any undesired push-back.

To demand space as a fat woman, even when the interaction is happening online, still feels like kind of a big deal.

I’m still wary of health providers; aware that, yes, fatphobia lurks even in mental health environments.


 

I’ve only worked with her for a week, but I love how she mirrors my language. My worldview feels affirmed, rather than questioned.


 

This brings to mind my last therapist. She was really my grief counselor, assigned to me after my grandfather passed away. She was a thin, blond woman with big, sad blue eyes. Whenever we got to talking about the ways that being fat had shaped my romantic experiences, or the ways that racism or xenophobia had shaped my family’s life, she would get this far-off look.

Like, she wanted to believe me, but that she was grappling with this belief that I was choosing to see life this way. I understood that perhaps her life depended on my experiences not being true, y’know?

I always got this sense that she felt like I was uncomfortable, in the way that thin people sometimes see fat people just doing things and project a sense of difficulty or discomfort even when it’s not really there.

I really liked my grief counselor, but I knew that, given the option to voice my preferences, I wanted to be upfront about my expectations. And that’s the thing: I can’t expect people to be on the same page as me, even if they’re a super smart person dedicated to helping people heal. My ability to self-advocate was hard-won, and even after I had the skill I had to gain the confidence to use it.

The first time I was told that I could advocate for myself with healthcare providers was when I was 20 years old.

I was in this peer-led course called Female Sexuality at UC-Berkeley. They gave us an article and a list of lines we could use, primarily with doctors.

They taught me about my rights as a patient, and here I am over a decade later, using that education to get the kind of care I deserve.

♦♦♦

I got matched almost immediately with a woman who had social work experience, hoop earrings, and a double chin. And I was like, YES. She looks like my people.

I wondered if she encountered some of the same bias on the care provider end that I encounter on the patient end.

Probably?

I’ve only worked with her for a week, but I love how she mirrors my language. My worldview feels affirmed, rather than questioned.

I’m lying in bed again as I finish typing the last message I’m going to send her for the day. I reflect on how easily I could have talked myself out of getting this mental health support; so many of us don’t feel like we’re good enough, or that we even deserve to receive care.

I feel lucky that I can afford it, because, honestly, most fat brown women can’t.

I feel grateful for those feminists all those years ago who taught me to make demands.

I close my eyes and think: This is how wellness feels. This is how care feels. This is what I want. This is what I deserve. 

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