Jaclyn Steele

What do we do when paid therapy is out of reach?

The dark night was upon me.  It had descended and was now surrounding me on all four sides.  My normally sunny disposition was out of grasp and I felt a sense of disillusionment in its absence.  I felt betrayed – as though the world of color I had always imagined turned out to be 50 shades of non-sexy gray.

To see the world this way, through the lens of depression, felt desolate.  I had been sad before.  I had even experienced bouts of depression, but this felt wholly different.  This time felt deeper and darker, like I was carrying the sorrow in the very marrow of my bones.  

In the past, I had out-smarted my pain.  I had done therapy and read books and got so busy that I forgot about those pieces of me that had been so damaged – those fractured bits that I put right back into place as if they were task ready.  Operating like this, like a machine with the red lights flashing, finally caught up with me.  And like so many things that aren’t cared for and tended to, my mind and my heart and body said “no more.”

I felt like they went on strike and forgot to tell me.  As though each part of what makes me whole was in another part of the planet altogether.  Pulling them back in felt like it would require a strength that I knew I could not muster – the strength of an army of elephants with the cunning of a herd of cats.

For the first time ever, I felt like recovery was beyond me.  I barely recognized myself.  I didn’t want to admit I was depressed – that I had all the symptoms – yet I knew that depression had come for an extended visit and already unpacked it’s bags and placed it’s toothbrush at the sink.

I needed help – this I did recognize.  I knew I couldn’t keep going on like this without addressing the misalignment in my soul.  I committed to seeing a therapist.  I asked a friend for recommendations.  I researched my local options and read reviews and readied myself to make an appointment.  Then I called my insurance company – the one my husband and I paid $700 a month to as independently employed people, and was told that no therapy would be covered until we met our $7000 deductible for the year toward which we had made zero progress.

I remember hanging up the phone feeling enraged.  How could a system be so backward?  What were people supposed to do when they needed help?  And I am privileged.  Seriously privileged as far as the rest of the world goes and still, I couldn’t afford therapy without putting it on a credit card and going several thousand dollars into debt.  

This had been an extremely difficult year financially for both my husband and me as our businesses were both in the terrible two toddler stage.  Everything was still wobbly and trying to find its footing.  The rage built as I thought about people less privileged than me needing help even more than me and being farther from getting it than I was.  None of this felt right.  It felt fraudulent.  What were we paying $700 a month for?

The train had left the building and ended up right back where it had started.  Each part of me still felt miles away, but I knew I couldn’t sit and wait for their return.  I had to learn to lasso them home on my own… but how?

I racked my brain.  I went back into the depths of my experiences and searched for a time where I felt freedom and joy.  What was I doing when I was in that place?  What actions was I taking to cultivate those feelings?
And I remembered how I felt when I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron for the first time.  I felt seen in a way that I had never felt seen before and huge part of that was through an exercise that Julia calls “Morning Pages” – which are simply 3 pages of your stream of consciousness when you wake up in the morning.

Desperate, I bought myself a cheap journal and started writing.  The words poured out page after page after page.  At one point I wrote 18 pages in one sitting.  I couldn’t stop.  The dam opened and all of these feelings were fighting their way onto the parchment.  As if putting them to ink finally validated them.

The author, Joan Didion, said something like “I have to write so I can figure out how I feel” and that is exactly what I did.  I wrote and wrote and wrote so that I could feel again.  I had been running from and intellectualizing and categorizing my pain and my experiences for so long.  So long.  I thought I had been addressing and dealing with them but I forgot about the most important component of healing… feeling.

I was afraid of the pain, like so many of us are, so I never fully allowed myself to feel it.  Well, I did long ago, at 18, for a short period of time, but the pain hurt so bad I didn’t think I could bear it so I shut off all sense of feeling.  I didn’t cry for a year because I couldn’t.  I was so out of touch.  So far from that priceless and vulnerable part of my humanity that I was willing to trade it for pennies.  

For a life free from pain is not a life but an illusion – a mirage in the desert that will always and forever be out of reach.

Jaclyn Steele

I had progressed since that tender age of 18, but my pain became something I challenged myself with instead of something I held tenderly.  How could I outsmart it?  Self help it?  Understand and categorize it?  Intellectualize it?  I wasn’t yet brave enough to feel it.  And I now understand why… because when you start to feel it, the shadow side, the fear living in us, whispers softly in our ears that “this will be the end of us.”  That this black wave of emotional will take us down and hold us there until there is no breath or life left in our lungs.

But because I was so desperate and so helpless I couldn’t hold the wave back this time.  I was powerless against it and you know what I learned?  That the darkness isn’t so dark after all.  All that pain had clogged the arteries of my life and that dark wave was the medicine that cleared it out.
And the words that I wrote on all those pages were the salve to my psychological wounds.  That pain, that fear, that trauma… it just wanted to be validated.  It wanted someone to finally admit that it was real and that it mattered and that it happened to me.

I didn’t know it then, but that journal was the template for my book and my song, Didn’t Break Me.  I wrote and wrote and wrote and found that there were several common denominators that I kept returning to that made me feel whole again, even if just momentarily.  They were the actions lassoing all those sacred parts of me and placing them tenderly, shined and repaired, back into one place.

And because I know what if feels like to be unable to afford therapy in our broken system, I want to share my story and healing journey with you, in the hope that it will be a loving roadmap that leads you back to yourself.  You’re beautiful, worthy, good-enough-just-as-you-are self.

My sweet little ebook is completely free.  And so is the song that I wrote that goes with it along with several other life-affirming freebies.  

You can get them all right here: https://jaclynsteele.com.pages.ontraport.net/didntbreakmebundle

You are not alone, my dear.  You are not broken.  You are brilliant… even if you don’t know it yet.


Light, Love, & Peace,

JACLYN STEELE

p.s. Disclaimer: I am not a therapist and am not suggesting in any way, shape, or form that therapy is unnecessary.  I simply do not want anyone to feel helpless if they are in a position where they cannot currently afford it.

4 Comments

  • Ashley Jenkins

    I love this so much! As both a fellow advocate for mental health and a professional working for a private mental healthcare practice, this post is 100% accurate. It hurts my heart on such a deep level that our healthcare system is as screwed up as it is. Just yesterday, I had someone ask me what resources there were for people in a similar situation to what you wrote about, and tears welled in my eyes when I couldn’t give them hope because…there really isn’t any good and reasonable answer for many, many people. It’s so awful.

    On a personal level, this year I also tried to take the plunge into therapy for anxiety/depression. I put a couple months of sessions on a credit card and quickly realized that was not a long-term solution. I talked to a friend and found out that I could get an unlimited amount of sessions every month at a fitness studio for the same cost as just ONE 50-minute session of therapy. It blew my mind. Now I’m able to be healthier, I found a new community of friends/motivators, and the endorphin rush after a good workout is always a great feeling. Not saying it’s for everyone or a cure-all, but I’m glad that like you, I was able to find a work-around for such a terrible situation.

    Love and allll the hugs- Ash

    • jsteele

      You are a queen! Not only are you so loving and compassionate toward others, but you’re also do the amazingly hard work of taking care of yourself. I’m SO glad that you found an alternative. I think we have to advocate for ourselves and refuse to give up. Things will change, but for now, we are dealt a difficult hand. I’m proud of us for not giving in and doing something about how we were feeling. I love you friend. I’m so grateful for you. I wish we lived closer! <3

  • Maureen O'Hare

    Jaclyn,

    I read your post with a pain in my heart and a tear in my eye. I also work in the healthcare industry and, when I needed mental health/medical consultation, I had to turn over every stone. A couple of suggestions: contact NAMI (Nat’l Alliance on Mental Illness) and your church – most churches have resources and/or pastors who are equip with counseling skills. Also, are there any universities around you – they have resources. It is difficult and painful but seek a third party. I’m sending my love and extra hugs. Remember, “You are BRILLIANT”!

    • jsteele

      Maureen,

      I hate that you know how all of this feels but I know that you do. I am astounded by your strength and fortitude. You are one bada$$ woman in my book. Thank you so much for sending these resources. I’m glad you sent them publicly on my post because they will be available for everyone to see. You are such a gift and you have a heart the size of Texas. Thank you Maureen. <3 YOU are brilliant!

      I love you and Happy Thanksgiving!
      Jaclyn

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