Hello, friends! This is a really neat Q&A where I tackle two very different, but super important questions relating to contact with your therapist between sessions, and choosing not to have kids. Hope you find it useful!
What to do when I’m having a hard time between therapy sessions and decide to hold back or not reach out to my therapist because I don’t want to worry him or feel like a burden?
Great question! It depends on the severity of your situation and the boundaries that you have established with your therapist. It’s totally common to have issues between therapy sessions. In fact, most people have a boost of mood, productivity, and other positive outcomes immediately follow a therapy session. Following that, people often taper off throughout the week. But as I said, there are a few things to take into account here.
For one, if you are having a really significant spike in symptoms, if you are in crisis, or if you are at risk of harming yourself – these are all good reasons to reach out to your therapist. You should have a plan in place for crisis and your therapist should explain to you what should be done in case of a crisis. For instance, they may have the policy that you can call them in crisis, but to call 911 after hours. Everyone is different. If they haven’t spoken with you about this, ask to review their policies during your next session.
Talk to your therapist about it
Actually, I think that overall this is a great topic to bring up with your therapist during the next session. You could say something like, “I’ve been having a really hard time in between therapy sessions and I feel like I need to do something to hold me over. I was wondering if we can talk about it. I’ve had the urge to contact you in the middle of the week, but I want to be respectful of your time. What could I do about this?” The options are going to depend on your therapist, the relationship that you have, and the intensity of what you are dealing with. I will sometimes offer my therapy patients the option to email me in the middle of the week if they need a question answered or a quick word of inspiration, but I only do this with clients that I am reasonably sure will not abuse the privilege and try to lure me into a whole therapy session.
In some cases, you may be able to increase the frequency of sessions for a period of time. It’s not unheard of to have twice-weekly sessions, but this will again come down to factors like your therapist, how much you are paying for sessions, insurance etc. You can also focus on channeling that energy toward other forms of self-help. For instance, when you get the urge to call your therapist, you could instead write out what you would say to them if you did call them or even simply speak the words out loud. Knowing that you have a pattern is powerful because that means you can anticipate and adapt to it. You know that you have a tendency to slump in the middle of the week, so maybe you can use that information.
What helps is going to be individual to you, but you might either increase or decrease the activities on these harder days. If having more to keep you busy keeps your mind off the negative thoughts, then you would plan more activities or work on those harder days. If you get too overwhelmed and stressed on the harder days, you might want to make those lighter days. The same sort of strategy can be used to decide when you might hang out with other people vs stay by yourself. As always, journaling is a great way to keep track of your patterns here. If you can identify some consistently difficult times, try to experiment with what you might do differently during these days to make things a little easier or more bearable for you.
Do what works…
Overall, we want to use a “doing what works” strategy. You know that you need something to get you through better to the next session, so it’s time to experiment with different options. Off the top of my head, I can think of increasing exercise later in the week, planning social engagements, reducing the workload that you have by working more effectively at the beginning of the week, using peer support platforms like 7cups, indulging in entertainment that you reserve for the harder days of the week… I could go on and on. The trick is to see how these strategies work out. If they help, keep doing them. If they don’t, try something else.
You also may be recognizing that you need a higher level of help. This is always important to consider if you are putting in the work, trying hard, and still really struggling. There are multiple options that you could explore. Medication, adding group therapy onto your individual therapy, or even enrolling in an intensive outpatient program are all options.
So, my mom passed away 12 years ago. I was 16 years old. I had a very hard time with it and put my dad and siblings in the middle of it. After 2 years, I did get a great mentor at school, started going to church twice a week and working out regularly. I got out of the deep dark hole I was hiding in. Eventually, I’d say 8 years later, I got to the point that I don’t cry everyday anymore. I’d say I’m pretty happy. I have my bad days like anyone else but I’m living life and looking forward to the future. But…some people don’t seem to agree with me. Mostly because I’ve decided to not have children since losing my mom. I think the emotional and mental strain would be too much for me and send me down the deep depression I was in before. I don’t see a problem with it, but my friends and family don’t think I should give up on it. Could I still be grieving? Should I look for help?
This is a great question. Losing a parent is often really hard and it can take a very long time to get back to some semblance of normal. I wouldn’t use the term “get over it” because you never get over it, but you do learn to live in the context of a world without them and you aren’t constantly opening back up that wound every time you see something that reminds you of them. I’m very proud of you for recognizing the significant trouble that your mom’s death caused you. It’s absolutely understandable, especially at 16 years old when you are in such an important stage of personal and social development anyway. But you were able to use the resources available to you by finding someone to talk to, taking care of yourself, and engaging with a community that meant a lot to you. That’s amazing and you saw the results of that with your healing.
You’re the expert
I think it’s important to remember that you are the expert on you. Nobody else. Sure, people from the outside might have observations and opinions, but if you are saying that you are pretty happy overall, I’m inclined to agree with you. Since you mentioned church in your answer, I wonder if religion plays a role here. I am far from a religious person. But I do understand that in many religions, having children is expected and is considered a duty or something to aspire to. Could this be influencing the way that your friends and family view the situation?
Really, what this comes down to is figuring out what you want. You are allowed to not want kids. Not everybody needs to have children. And even if you do decide to have children at some point, they also don’t need to be biological. There are plenty of kids out there that would love to be adopted into a loving home. But that’s your choice. Nobody else gets to tell you what you want.
Now that said, there is a difference between not wanting to have kids and feeling you can’t have kids because of what you’ve been through. Doing a little math, it sounds like you are 28? I would say that you don’t really need to worry about your biological clock ticking for a while still. I don’t know what your relationship situation is either. So are you in a position to even consider having kids? Or is this sort of just a nebulous judgment that others are placing on you because this is how you feel right now?
I’ll reiterate that it’s your body and your life.
After having kids, I would never blame somebody for not wanting them. Kids fundamentally change your life. In a lot of amazing ways, but also in hard and inconvenient ways. That’s just the reality of it. I know plenty of people who feel like they took care of others for so much of their life that they don’t want to be on the hook to care for children. Or there are people who just simply love the idea of interacting with kids in the family but don’t feel connected to the concept of being a parent themselves and wouldn’t be happy with raising children of their own.
I think that you’ll need to continue doing some soul searching to determine what your feelings are about this. Do you feel disappointed in yourself for not wanting kids or would you be content with this decision in a vacuum without the opinions of others? These feelings can also change over time. There are certainly people who don’t want to be parents and plan on never having kids but eventually meet someone and fall in love with them in a way that kids just simply feel right. If you want to have kids, but don’t feel like you can, you could certainly work to remove those barriers by working on them in therapy. If you legitimately don’t want to have kids and that’s just the way that you feel, then the work would be in getting those around you to respect your decision and your boundaries.
Honestly, it’s the sort of thing that you don’t need to set in stone. Put some work into understanding where you are at and exploring your feelings about having children. Then understand that this is your current stance. It may change in the future and it may not. Either way, it’s okay. You don’t owe anyone else anything.
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