I’m not someone who has ever been afraid to admit the need for therapy in my life. I’m a compulsive overthinker, and I tend to get stuck inside my own head. I tend to need an unbiased third party to repeat the advice my mother gives me for sorting through the waterfall of thoughts and emotions gushing through my mind. (Mom says I should just listen to her, but has anyone successfully ever given their mother the satisfaction of listening?)
I stopped seeing my most recent therapist, who I loved, about two years ago, because I’d reached a plateau where I felt like I didn’t really need her much anymore. I’d been toying with the idea of going back when I met Colin, an astrologer known across the Internet as QueerCosmos. We’d met in passing when he visited my office, but I felt an instant connection to him. I decided to connect with him for a chart reading which I’d planned to write a story about.
Colin, as it turns out, read me my entire life. He was able to diagnose my relationship with my parents, and then gave me actionable ways to deal with it. Colin also clearly laid out my anxieties surrounding relationships and assured me things would work out if I just relaxed a little. And finally, he addressed my dissatisfaction with my work. “You’re just about to enter your Saturn return,” Colin had said. “You’ll likely be engaged and working for yourself by the end of it.” He suggested a few ways to deal with the changes, including journaling. But I decided to go back to therapy to deal with this seemingly trying time instead.
Unfortunately, things don’t always work out the way you want them to. Ten days after Colin and I met, I was unceremoniously laid off from my job and thrust into the world of freelance writing. Two days after that, Saturn reentered Capricorn, the sign it occupies on my chart. Colin was right. I was working on my own, and my Saturn return had just begun.
My entire life was suddenly in upheaval. Everything changed on a dime — my schedule, my financial situation, and my social life. Another thing that changed? I lost my cushy company health insurance, and had to start shelling out $200 a month for only-really-useful-if-you’re-hit-by-a-bus health insurance. This, of course, doesn’t cover therapy, and I wasn’t in a financial position to be shelling out the cash that most psychoanalysts demand in a city like New York.
The irony, of course, was that I needed therapy more than ever before in my life. So much of my identity was wrapped up in my job, that I had no idea what to do once I didn’t have that thing to define myself anymore. I started retreating within myself, because I didn’t want to talk to people about my lack of work or my stress-inducing financial situation. I cried in hotel lobbies, on the subway, in public bathrooms and in coffee shops. I stopped eating, out of some insane fear that I’d eventually go hungry. I was at the lowest point of my life, and I had no one to talk to about it, because I couldn’t afford the therapist I desperately needed.
By some divine intervention, Colin reached out to me. “There’s a lot of stuff happening for you right now,” he said. “We should have a dinner.” I agreed, and not a moment too soon — the afternoon we were scheduled to meet, I had my biggest breakdown yet in the lobby of the Ace Hotel. A few hours later, after I pulled myself together and snuck into Sephora to “borrow” some of their tester lipstick to make myself feel better, I met Colin for Thai noodles.
And I unloaded on him. I told him everything that was going on, how inadequate I felt, and how isolated I was making myself. “But I don’t know how to stop,” I blubbered into my pad see ew.
“I’m so sad and so stressed and I just don’t know if I can take it anymore.”
Colin patted my hand and assured me everything was going to be okay.
He told me that it was okay to isolate, but that I also needed to be okay with being vulnerable and asking for help. We talked about the next few months, what my goals were, and where I saw myself going. We made a plan together, and I left that dinner feeling much better.
Since then, Colin has become my stand-in for an actual therapist. He’d never call himself one, of course, and I’d never tell people who truly need mental health services to defer to an astrologer instead. But throughout history, people have relied on spiritual folks, like priests and gurus, to guide them through tough times. That’s what Colin has become for me in this increasingly difficult time. I don’t pay him, but we’ve developed a system where we help one another when we can. I tend to help him with work. He happens to help me with my brain.
I’m not here to tell people to turn their backs on therapists. The truth is, if the folks running our government actually cared about mental health, and made it more accessible to people like me who struggle to pay their rent every month, I’d been seeing a shrink with regularity. But since mental health isn’t really on the forefront of the minds of those in power, people like me continue to slip through the cracks.
What I am advocating, though, is finding help where you can. We all go through difficult transitions in our lives, and it’s not shameful to admit that you need help getting through them. In fact, it’s very brave. Some people are able to access mental health professionals, but at the moment, I’m getting my mental health services from the stars.
Last week, I texted Colin ahead of a trip to Paris. It was the first time I’d be traveling on my own. I was scared, and I needed some kind of guidance. “Right now, it’s about moving slowly and appreciating the moment,” he said. “There isn’t a lot of astrological activity happening.”
He suggested I buy a notebook and get some writing done. “And let me know if you need anything,” he said.