Is it resilience – or do you just lack self-compassion?
About understanding that we deserve to feel better
Hi. I’m just coming off an emotional hangover from watching Fleabag for the fifth or sixth time (does anyone know, like from experience, how many times you have to watch the final bus stop scene until it doesn’t completely break you anymore?), and so I’m going to exploit this vulnerable moment to write about something that I haven’t talked to many people about yet.
Therapy. Therapy is something that I have been wanting to do for a few years now. And when I say wanting, I mean that the thought „maybe you should talk to someone and work through some stuff“ had crossed my mind as regularly and painfully as „you really need to sort out your pension scheme“. I just never really thought I felt bad enough to deserve therapy. I just felt like Fleabag in season two, episode four (you know, the confession booth).
Instead of talking to a professional – or a hot priest – though, I kept adding and adding to my battery of #selfcare routines. Until managing my mental health started to feel like a second full time job. Until I realized that while all the yoga and walking and eating enough and journaling would keep my head above water, no combination of it would ever be enough to wash me ashore.
So, about two months ago, this realization linked up with a series of events which kickstarted my quest to finally seek a therapist. Another one of those triggers was that I came across a very personal essay by writer Jami Attenberg. Although she talks about physical pain, her words shifted something in my brain:
“A lot of people spend their lives in pain, often because our upbringing or gender or religion or self-esteem decrees that we deserve to suffer through it, that we aren’t entitled to feel good — perhaps women more than most. […] I hadn’t understood I could just feel better.“
The notion of being able to feel better – no even more than that: deserving to feel good, genuinely felt like a revelation. “Push through” had been my mantra for longer than I dare to remember, whether it concerned physical or emotional pain, or simply stress. I had always felt proud of my resilience and listed it as one of my greatest strengths. I mean, resilience is certainly a strength – when running a marathon or when your computer crashes one minute before you finish editing an hour-long podcast episode and everything’s gone even though you know you saved it and you have to start all over at 8pm.
But I suddenly started to consider that part of what I filed under resilience was nothing but a shocking lack of self-compassion. That I had „imprisoned myself in a narrative of self-punishment“, as therapist Lori Gottlieb phrased it. I had pushed and pushed and endured and told myself “just get through this and then it’ll get better”, not understanding that “this” was: life. This realization scared me even more than the prospect of calling a million therapists, only to hear “sorry, we have closed our waiting list for the foreseeable future”, did.
I don’t know how it works in other countries, but in Germany, finding a therapist is a job in itself. Because while statutory health insurance does cover the cost of psychotherapy – which is an absolute luxury, I’m aware – people seeking therapy outnumber the registered therapists by far. This is a structural problem which is created and deliberately upheld by the insurance companies, which are giving out fewer licenses than recommended by the ministry of health, but that’s a different story.
Anyway. Long story short, the stars aligned and I found a therapist much more quickly than I could have ever dreamed and I already had my first couple of sessions with her. Before I first met her, I entered peak imposter syndrome though: I was still worried that I wasn’t hurting bad enough to justify therapy. That I was stealing the spot from someone who actually deserved it. Seriously, in hindsight, this line of thinking alone is concerning. Luckily, my therapist helped me answer this question in a split second. She simply asked „What if this it? If you stay the same, feel the same for the rest of your life?“ and I burst into tears. So here we are.
I know that I have a tough year ahead of me, but I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I’m ready for change, but I’m also aware that no change comes without loss. I am both incredibly excited for what is about to happen, but also fairly terrified. Finally, I just want to plant this little seed in the back of your mind: You deserve to feel better.
pop culture pleasures
I don’t half-ass anything, so I am very far down the psychology rabbit hole right now. I devoured Lori Gottlieb’s memoir “Maybe you should talk to someone” over the course of last week. It’s a beautiful deep dive into the human condition and gives lots of scientific background on psychotherapy.
🇩🇪 Auf Deutsch möchte ich euch zu diesem Thema “Bin ich schon depressiv, oder ist das noch das Leben” von Till Raether empfehlen. Kann man an einem Nachmittag weg lesen und die meisten werden sich doch an der ein oder anderen Stelle wiederfinden.
I don’t know if ya’ll have watched Feel Good on Netflix yet, but even if you have, you might need to re-watch before season two drops on June 4th. If you haven’t: Mae Martin is a phenomenal comedian, and also: Lisa Kudrow.
More podcast stuff: This American Life is unmatched when it comes to storytelling, and their recent episode “A Mess to Be Reckoned With” is incredibly compelling. It’s a bit true-crimey, but also an intimate portrayal of a Native American family.
Rainesford Stauffer wrote a brilliant piece about what happens when you outgrow the life you thought you wanted. When you tick all the boxes and reach all your goals – but it doesn’t feel like success. “How do we untether ourselves from the people we imagined we’d become?”, she asks.
Another great question is: How do we stop wasting time on things we hate? I’ll give you an example: Scrolling through your insta feed for an hour when you just picked up your phone to check the rain forecast. Arthur C. Brooks contemplated on this question for The Atlantic, worth a read!
Just for kicks: The Washintgton Post collected a list of the worst mansplanations women have received. My favorite: “That childbirth is not painful … since women ‘choose’ to do it.”
“Frauen, die laut lachen, sind vulgär. Frauen, die unkontrolliert lachen, hysterisch. Frauen, die mitlächeln, schwach. Frauen, die nicht lachen, das Wort mit F.[…] Man kann die Situation drehen und wenden, wie man will, am Ende bekommt man doch, Pardon, aufs Maul.”
🇩🇪 Und falls noch jemand den letzten Anstoß braucht, vegan zu leben: Hört gerne in das Interview mit SOKO-Tierschutz-Gründer Friedrich Mülln rein, das mein Kollege Dirk Fisser und ich vor ein paar Wochen geführt haben. Aber Warnung: Ich hatte danach Albträume.
That’s it for today, thank you for spending time with my words. If you’d like to support what I do here, you can do so by subscribing, sharing or treating me to a cup of coffee. Or brighten my day by sending me a picture of your pet, as long as it’s not a reptile.
Until next time,
PS: I will be taking a social media break for the month of June, because I have to manage one too many projects at work over the next four weeks. I’m hoping to continue the newsletter, but I’m not making any promises. If you don’t hear from me in two weeks, don’t worry – I’ll be back in July.