I should have written about therapists going on vacation at the beginning of the summer so this post could be more helpful, but my therapist’s vacation is starting today and so it only crossed my mind to write about now.
It’s fair to say that I always have a hard time when my therapist goes away on vacation. It used to bring me to tears – and still sometimes does – but I’ve figured out a few tips to keep my head above water for my few weeks without a life jacket.
1. Make it Your Vacation Too
Sure, we can’t exactly take a vacation from our mental health issues, but we can look at the therapy break as a good thing. When was the last time you were bored and said, “Oh, I know what would be fun: THERAPY!” Yeah, it isn’t a walk in the park and although it can be comforting and reassuring, therapy is not fun. There is a board game called “Therapy” though, and somehow it sells. Anyway, if you miss therapy THAT much, play the board game. Otherwise, focus on giving yourself a treatment break and have some fun. Fun can be a foreign word to those with depression but it’s just as important as anything else in life, if not more important. If you’re stuck for ideas, hang out with a little kid for a while. They don’t know how not to have fun!
2. Connect with other Supports
I remember three or four summers ago my mom came to my bedroom and saw that I’d been crying. She asked me what was wrong and I told her the truth: I was worried about getting by without my therapist for a few weeks. She got me to come upstairs with her and along with my dad we devised a plan so that I could feel supported and safe by the other caring people in my life. It can be hard to reach out to people we love when we are in pain because we don’t want to hurt them, but that’s what friends and family are for. Remember, the more supports you have, the stronger you will be. Even saying something like, “I’m okay for now, but I wanted to let you know that without my therapist around for a few weeks, I might need to lean on you more than usual. I’ll come to you if I need to,” can go a long way.
3. See it as Practice
A metaphor I used in my second paragraph touched on how therapy can feel like a life jacket. It can also be seen as a safety net, there to catch you when you fall, if you fall. Like with anything else in life, eventually the training wheels come off and we have to balance on our own. We’ll never learn to swim if we’re always wearing a life jacket, so a few weeks without therapy can be a test run for when we no longer need therapy one day. You are stronger than you think!
4. Stay Busy
Have you ever worried about something so much that you were paralyzed to do anything about it? I remember being in school and being so stressed out about studying for my exams that I wasn’t getting any studying done. Worrying does not help pass the time, it makes time stretch out even longer. Pick a project to work on while your therapist is away, whether it’s cleaning out your room or starting a fun art piece. Treat yourself to some new clothes or ice cream or something. Watch the classic movie about a patient tracking down his psychiatrist while he’s on vacation: What About Bob?
5. Remember that “Out of Sight” Isn’t “Out of Mind”
I used to have a hard time believing that my therapist thought of me outside of session times, but I began to believe it after my therapist told me, “Erin, I don’t think it’s even possible for two people who spend so much time together to not care about each other.” I wasn’t ready to trust that she truly cared yet, but I realized that it would be pretty impossible for her to forget about my existence after seeing me up to three hours a week for so long. So, remember that your therapist is remembering you and that just because you aren’t seeing him or her, it doesn’t mean that your connection is broken.
We’ll see how I do for the next few weeks without my therapist around but I’m sure I’ll be fine, especially considering I have to see my shrink-wrap (psychiatrist) once during that time. I need to do a major clean-out of my apartment and I’m spending lots of time with Milo while my parents go on vacation. Party!