This is going to sound crazy…well, crazier than usual, coming from me. I haven’t been in therapy (actual, real therapy with a doctor and insurance copays and everything) since I was nineteen. But there are times when life is really fucking me over, or my mother is especially driving me up the wall, when a glass of wine and a bitch session with my friends just doesn’t cut it. It’s times like these when I think about getting back into therapy, but the visit to my doctor to get a referral so my insurance will pay for it just seems like a lot of work.
It’s times like these that I have conversations with my imaginary therapist.
I’m not delusional. I don’t lay on the couch in my living room and create an entire person in my head sitting before me with a notepad and reading glasses asking, “So how do you feel about that?” It’s more of a metaphor. And about ninety percent of these discussions actually take place when I’m driving, which I’m sure has gotten me more than a few strange looks whilst stuck in traffic.
I simply sit in my car and talk through it—talk out whatever it is that’s bothering me aloud. (Yes, I talk to myself. At least I have the balls to admit it. And no one but me ever answers, so I think I’m good.) There is just something about saying it out loud even when no one else is going to hear it that is so cathartic. And when I get to a point where I’m stuck, where I don’t have the answers and I’m still angry or sad or upset, I ask myself WWTS—What Would a Therapist Say?
Sometimes it’s the old cliché: why do I feel this way? It pisses me off even when I’m the one asking it, but sometimes that’s the question that needs answering. More often, it’s things like, why does this bother me so much? Why does it matter? Why can’t I say this to so-and-so? Do I really need to say this to them; will it do any good or just cause harm to our relationship? And sometimes, it’s not even a question. I think about the things my real-life therapist used to say: that what I feel is valid simply because I feel it. That no one’s opinion on my life is more important than my own. That parents are just as flawed as their children; that it is our flaws that make us human.
It doesn’t always fix anything, but it makes me feel better. It helps me organize my thoughts and feelings a little more clearly. And unlike speaking to a real therapist, I can say the same thing over and over, as many times as I need to, until it makes sense to me, without worrying about how I sound or if I’m boring or coming across as an incredible narcissist.
I’m not saying there’s no need for real therapists; I wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of any of this if it weren’t for my own history in therapy. And there are things I may never be able to resolve on my own, things that keep coming up in these little imaginary therapy sessions over and over again. But I am reminded again of things my real therapist used to say, in regard to whether or not I needed to stay in therapy. He said I was a smart kid, that the tools he’d given me and the strategies he’d taught me would get me through a lot. That if I needed to get back into it, I’d know when it was time.
For now, my imaginary therapist and I are getting through just fine.
P.S. I have decided that if I were going to personify my imaginary therapist, he would TOTALLY be Sir Ian McKellen. Not as Gandalf, just as himself.
P.P.S. Maybe Gandalf on special occasions…If you need me, I’ll be going with these nice gentlemen in the white coats now.