A Quasi-successful Trip Into Online Therapy

I never wrapped up my online therapy experience report because I never wrapped up online therapy. In trying to cancel, both services offered more time with a new therapist. The Better Help one still sucked so I cancelled for real, but with Talkspace I finally felt like I got a real person who could challenge me and have paid for two more months.

Has it all be great? Not at all. In fact I feel like she’s sort of super judgy. And she accuses me of being judgy. But it’s given me some things to think about in terms of my expectations about other people and attempts at reacting with empathy rather than anger. Still, as my subscription is coming to renewal again I’m thinking maybe I won’t. This is the point–in therapy, in dating–where I have to ask is it them or me.

I don’t deal well with criticism. Which is sort of a catch-22 since I’m in therapy to receive observations about myself… But whenever this chick questions me it’s tough not to take that as a criticism hanging in the interwebs until I can hear back from her. And I’ll get all upset and then she might not even address it in the next message. Often she’ll ask 3 or 4 questions or give 3 or 4 items for consideration, and I’ll respond to all, and she’ll focus on one thing. Same thing if I tell a story or describe an event. I might be worried about what a guy said to me and she asks about the food I ordered. This might be most significant flaw of the medium and difference from in-person therapy. The best aspect is just my focus on myself and a time to write down a few things I’m thinking.

Worser and worser

Now online dating is a mindfuck in addition to depressing and overwhelming.

Meet nice guy, a few years younger. Peppy, funny, very attractive.

“What are you looking for here, what kind of guy do you like” etc…

Then:

FullSizeRender

Red flag but I power through.

We’re talking about plans the next night! Woo. Where to go, what to do.

Then:

FullSizeRender(1)FullSizeRender(2)

I have no idea what’s happening here. And I’m sad a) I was obviously wrong about him b) everyone thinks I’m just rolling in messages from A+ guys when I’m desperate enough to ignore this guy’s red flags.

But fine, sleep, ignore. Then, good morning:

img 5351

img 535

I really truly don’t understand. Guys, help me out. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t even suggest I wanted this. I tried to be even tempered and not engage. Why do you all think we want to see this!!!!

Of course when I didn’t respond I got the requisite “What do you think?” I said we weren’t looking for the same things and he responded:

“You aren’t even that hot. You’re one of those overrated girls with an inflated ego from online dating.”

a) If guys think online dating does anything but crush your soul then please take a walk in my shoes.

b) Thanks for the complex about my looks after telling me I’m hot 45 times.

I didn’t respond, but this morning he did see fit to tell me he banged his ex. So that’s good news at least.

An Unsuccessful Trip into Online Therapy

I decided to try out online therapy and I wasn’t even lucky enough to have my foray paid for by a women’s magazine!

As embarrassing as it is to say, an ad popped up on facebook and got me thinking online therapy might be for me. Let’s face it, I need therapy.

Though I haven’t progressed to slumping against a wall in a sterile room, I’m pretty much constantly in emotional turmoil. But since that emotional turmoil makes me stressed about having appointments and tight lipped about my feelings,  in-person therapy is either mildly stressful or fully unsuccessful. I’m better in writing and I’m not in a desperate situation as I usually am when I finally find a therapist, so it seemed like a good time to try it out.

The top companies from my brief research seemed to be Talkspace and BetterHelp so I thought I’d try both! I signed up for BetterHelp right away because it has a 7-day free trial. They asked a bunch of typical questions and I was assigned a therapist in about 24 hours. I went back and forth on Talkspace a little more as they do not offer any sort of trial (the answer was that since a week of Talkspace therapy about equals one session they don’t think a trial could give you a real understanding of the service [this should have been my first warning sign]), but they did offer $25 off. Since $25 is the cost of one week, I figured I could use it as a free trial and then have an excuse to confront a company if they wouldn’t refund me the unused weeks later–I signed up the next day and got a therapist by the end of the day.

TL;DR: these services are therapy in the loosest sense of the word. It’s like sending emails to your really busy friends who responds with inspirational quotes. Which is even worse than talking to my real friends because I’d never have a friend who sent me inspirational quotes. The response times are long and the answers are brief, and it’s pulling teeth to go deeply into authentic cognitive behavioral therapy. Probably great for someone dealing with a breakup but not for someone with a diagnosed mental health condition.

For my specific experience…

I just felt super misled. Maybe my expectations were too high, but the services tout “therapy for how we live today,” with all their therapists’ credentials posted and talk of unlimited messaging from therapists ready to talk with you right now.

Well the therapist are real, but they are in no way available right now and pretty much never will be. I rarely got more than 2 messages a day, and usually only one of the messages would be “long”. Both companies advertise you can “write whenever you want!” “Sessions vary depending on the interaction between you and your counselor.” Whether I wrote a sentence or pages, there was no telling when I would get a response. By the time I heard back I had lost my train of thought and my passion for the issue. Or sometimes I kept sending additional messages as things came to mind and the therapist would write back and address the thing that really wasn’t a big deal. Other times they would misinterpret something and I’d have to (it felt like to me) waste an interaction clearing that up. There is a live chat option, but you have to schedule it, in my experience, at minimum a day ahead of time. I requested 3 live chats with 3 different therapists. One needed 4 days’ notice, one said anytime that day was fine and then never responded to my time, and another scheduled one for the next day, had an emergency, rescheduled, and never showed up. We finally talked 2 days later.

I brought this up with the therapists and customer service.

My BetterHelp therapist told me basically well you’re not writing enough to get anything done–most people treat this as a journal and write a ton and get one or two responses a week. A) That’s absurd. Why am I paying from $20-55 a week to have someone read my journal? B) There’s no B it just sounds better.

I started writing more and still just felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. I told her I really felt like I needed a live chat at least in response to my longer writings so we could dissect them. I didn’t get a response…I wrote back and said my subscription was ending and I hoped to hear from her before that and didn’t for 36 hours, at which point I cancelled and was offered another free week with a new therapist, which I took. Even less responsive.

Like the BetterHelp therapist, my TalkSpace responses were slow to come and for both of them it was glaringly obviously that this was a side job. Both of them said at different points, with a more apologetic tone from TalkSpace than BetterHelp, that they were busy with their jobs and couldn’t always be available to me. Well I understand that but also I’m paying for this service just like others are. When I contacted customer service about what I could expect from responses, BetterHelp did offer more time for my trial but TalkSpace said “your therapist is busy just like you!” If I’m waitressing as a 2nd job, I can’t tell my table their food is cold because I’m busy doing work from my 1st job!

If you really dig into the FAQs for each service you can see the fine print saying this service is in no way a substitute for in-person therapy, which is pretty much directly opposite their statements all over the main pages of the sites. The sites and customer service I talked to also say a week’s worth of chatting = one in-person session and most people need about 6 months to get anywhere.

The lack of responses makes each response seem more precious, so the biggest frustration was that most of the responses just didn’t cut it. I said right away that I’d been in therapy, I’d been medicated, and I have these issues and want to get to the bottom of them because that would make me feel more able to understand my feelings and address them.

Some of the responses I got were [paraphrased]:

can you catch yourself having negative thoughts and tell yourself not to have them?

if you spend time worrying you can’t smell the roses

is there really any point to identifying the source of your anxiety?

you shouldn’t be worried about time going by quickly, most people don’t have as much free time as you do.

I guess a silver lining is that I really got forceful with what I wanted and how wrong these perceptions were. But even so I don’t feel like it was productive to pay for a service that caused more stress than my additional issues. TalkSpace especially infuriated me because when I asked for a new therapist they told my current therapist I wasn’t happy and then I had to speak directly to her about changing, and since she was very nice and one of my main issues is disappointing people I felt so bad I stuck with her. A week later it still wasn’t going anywhere and even after talking to customer service there was no option of changing without involving the current therapist.

Both services were pretty much identical but if I had to choose I’d go with BetterHelp because of their far superior customer service. They checked in 3 days after I signed up, and when I said I wasn’t sure if I was satisfied they extended my subscription by almost a week. When I cancelled the last day, still not thrilled, they gave me another free week to try a new therapist. They are, however, more expensive than TalkSpace for shorter-term plans. I would never go so far as to say these are a scam but they overstate their efficacy and methods for sure.

No Means Yes?

As I’ve said before, I’m girly and not super anti-gender roles, or so I think. I guess I’m just into people doing what they want, more so than being anti feminist. I want a pink couch and doilies on my tables but I’m not taking my husband’s name if I get married.

This Stanford rapist business has really got my blood boiling, as it should everyone’s blood. And whether it’s that or just my own changing expectations in the face of a (legally at least) more accepting world, I’m just continually shocked/infuriated at interactions I have with racist, sexist strangers.

Take, at the library.

I’d like to test drive Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook* because her food looks awesome and she’s enjoyable. I ask the librarian to put it on hold.
She rolls her eyes.

I say “you don’t approve?”

The librarian goes on to explain how John Legend is so classy and articulate (aka safe for white people) and she’s stupid and raunchy and should just keep her mouth shut and look pretty. Repeatedly.
Maybe librarians should read and not talk. And not revile people they saw once on a talk show.
Next, take every guy I’m talking to right now.
Yea, I’m a pain in the ass. I want to hang out with you on my terms. But if we’re meeting for the first time, I think that’s ok, especially if you’re trying to meet me after less than 24 hours of messaging. And if I say no, I don’t need to explain myself and you don’t need to try to analyze me.
Do you want to hang out tomorrow?
I’m working
You can take a break.
Actually I can’t
Is it because I’m younger?
No it’s because I’m working.
I’m promise I’ll be a gentleman! I just want to get to know you.
Listening to my answer would be a good start on knowing me.
I’m sorry. I’ll stop talking to you. I’ve ruined our chances.

And so on…

Another fun one is the “hey add me on snapchat (by the way I’m sending you nudes)”

I’ll say gross and they’ll say why don’t you like it. Having to even explain that much is too much but if I’m feeling generous maybe I say I don’t like sexual talk or pictures. I’m up for hanging out but not that.
Why not? You can trust me. I won’t share them. Is it because you don’t like mine? You won’t send me any?
I know my mailman better than you, dude! What kind of creep prefers talking about sex to getting a drink! And ps if you won’t take my explanation for why I don’t want your dumb pics I certainly won’t trust you to respect me in person.
People are pretty transparent. Give it a second chance after one I’m busy, but two mean get lost. Don’t make us spell it out.
Just stick with the golden rule. Treat others as you’d like to be treated, and keep your dicks and racism to yourself.
*get the cookbook. it’s good. and get it from a library to support sustainability and community resources and making middle aged white women everywhere uncomfortable by bringing up “raunchy” celebrities.

Things That Have Made Me Cry This Week

A couple months ago a guy published a list of things that made his wife cry, and luckily it was adorable and did not come off as critical or insensitive.

So here are some things that have made me cry this week. This does not include things that just made me tear up but full on tears.

  • The Wells Fargo ad where the dad collects rocks for his daughter
  • “Isn’t She Lovely” on the radio
  • iPhone Mother’s Day ad (fuck you Apple)
  • My dog putting his head on lap when I cried at the Mother’s Day ad
  • general love for my dog
    • fear that my dog will die
  • The Goldbergs
  • The beginning of Happy Feet (he’s just so cute and they’re so mean!)
  • thinking about how I would react if one of my friend’s mothers died
  • running out of pretzels

 

 

And the sign of a bff is when you share this info with her and the immediate response is “Was it the baby crying in the beginning or the bridge of Isn’t She Lovely”

Women’s Lib

People credit the development of the birth control pill for giving women freedom to leave the home. I guess that’s true and all, but I’m really grateful to it for helping me plan the gauntlet of PMS week down to the minute.

Monday: Why am I so tired? [Yawn] Holy crap I’m tired. How do people have children and have to deal with them along with their own exhaustion? When can I take a nap? Maybe I can just rest my eyes here at the red light.

Tuesday: That looks disgusting. I don’t want to eat anything. Also I hate you. Stop smiling at me, kid.

Wednesday: Why don’t I have more food in front of me? I never want to stop eating. For dinner I’ll have chicken and vegetables and chex mix and pretzels and m&ms and hot chocolate and I’ll make some cookies so I can eat the cookie dough.

Thursday: [weeping] My dog is just so cute and what if he dies and what about all the stray dogs and the dogs at the dog meat farm in Korea and….

Friday: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Gallery

Creepiness Update

After my post last night, convo with Happn guy continued. He responded to my statement that I didn’t really see where this was going by asserting that there was nothing untoward about his conversation direction.

We must just be too busy for each other! It’s totally commonplace to repeatedly suggest booty calls as a way to get to know each other! And the average guy always wants to know what kind of shoes you’re wearing at 7am, as a way of getting to know you.

Dating has me so messed up I actually started to second guess myself. I’m being too harsh and judgemental. He just wants to get to know me! (Recall this was the guy who thought it wasn’t appropriate to ask for my number, but shoes are totally ok.)

No.

He’s just creepy.

I thought there was a chance he really has no idea and sincerely said “I’m not sure you realize how you’re coming off” but he assured me he does not want my advice. Good luck ladies.

Image

How not to Booty Call

I met my first guy from Happn, the dating app for stalkers and amateur detectives

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/d3/a6/ae/d3a6ae3480316ffc58a552b3a99d1c2b.jpg

We had some enjoyable banter but it died out and he wasn’t making any other moves so, with that plus my only checking the app every few days, meant fizzle in my mind.

Went on a few days later to see a heated message from him about “exchanging a sentence or two every 24 hours doesn’t do it for me so let me know if you want to have an ACTUAL conversation.”

Regulators, mount up.

Here’s a selection of the sentences he was offering up:

  • Hey now
  • What are you doing?
  • Good morning
  • What are you doing?
  • How tall are you?
  • How’s your evening?

The all caps in his message really burned my cookies, so obviously I clapped back about how normally you ask for a phone number or a date or something else after a week of messages.

His response, get this, was “most ladies aren’t too comfortable giving out their number so I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask. Relax.”

So it’s appropriate to get all snarky if I don’t respond to your liking but you can’t man up to ask for a number?

He continues to be dumb but then apologizes and asks to start over. Given he lives in the neighborhood and has a cute dog, I acquiesce.

No good deed goes unpunished because now the boring messages go from the dating app to texts. And extend from boring to creepy. I got another “what are you doing” around 11pm and said going to bed and he responded “stay and play,” which I ignored. (Am I missing a world where people over 21 are dressed to go out at 11pm on a Tuesday just in case?)

When I responded in the morning, this ensued

photoWhat the ever living eff.

I honestly just was baffled and asked his end game. Still apparently just wanting to get to know me…

Out to Pasture

My friends and I made a rare Friday night venturing off the couch (and after 9pm no less!) in honor of Prince last night. This was at a sort of club/hipster dance party spot.

Our first mistake was showing up on time, which was understandably uncool, so at first we gave the dj a pass on the lack of Prince at the Prince dance party. An hour passes, then another. Throughout the night we’ve been asking for the Prince and he says it’s coming. Meanwhile we’re chatting with other dance floor denizens and learning none are over 23. Still no Prince as the clock strikes midnight and our dancing shoes turn into orthopedic slippers. I ask the dj a final time and he tells me to calm down.

We headed back to our respected couches, where we’re appreciated and no one makes us wait for cheese and SVU and the music we want when we want it.

Why is there no happy medium between college dance party and quiet craft beer emporium? Once we turn 25 are we too hideous to be seen moving rhythmically outside the confines of our kitchen after a few glasses of wine?

I don’t want to be cool. I just want to dance in public.

Prince would not stand for this.  Make America great again. Dancing for all!