It all started with one missed appointment. In fact, "One Missed Appointment" should be the title of my memoir.
The amount of times my life has unraveled because of ONE missed appointment is impressive. I'm not a gym person, but if I was, I would be the type that has to go every single day BECAUSE IF I MISS ONE DAY I AM NEVER GOING BACK AGAIN. My best friend Ruba is the same way.
"Zara, I HAVE to go to Barry's Bootcamp RIGHT NOW," she'll insist while I'm tugging at her shirtsleeves and trying to get her do something reckless, like day drink wine in Central Park with me instead.
"But whyyyyy?" I'll moan, batting my spider lashes at her, attempting to seduce her into sinful behavior with me.
But I get it. If she doesn't go to Barry's Bootcamp, she'll end up in a dirty, dark dive bar chain-smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey for the next three days. She'll neglect the gym entirely.
Girls like us need TO STICK TO OUR ROUTINES.
This is exactly what happened to me with my therapist recently.
Let me preface: I adore my therapist. I first started seeing her during the great mental breakdown of 2013. I was numbed out on a slew of antidepressants and starting to see some pretty bizarre side-effects (incessant anxiety dreams, a bizarre phobia of tinfoil and perpetual dizziness so dire it made me feel like I was living in a carnival fun house. And that's just scratching the surface).
After a particularly harrowing week, I looked in the mirror and said to myself, It's time to confront the demons, babe. My sunken cheeks were hollow, my hazel eyes were dead and my hair was f*cking blonde. Clearly, I was in crisis.
So I stopped the meds cold turkey (PSA: don't try this at home) and with shaky hands and a racing heart, I called a highly recommended therapist named Sarah*.
I had been meaning to call Sarah for a while, but I knew therapy meant confronting the past and I'm terrified of confrontation, so I kept her business card safely tucked behind my Sephora Beauty Insider Card in the back pocket of my beat-up Prada wallet for a full year before I mustered up the courage to actually call her.
When I finally saw Sarah, I was still pretty numbed out from the meds at first, but after about three sessions she was able to crack through the stone walls of Lexapro, Wellbutrin and God knows what else. Before I knew it, I was spilling secrets like a sorority girl spilling drinks at her first frat party.
I told her the dark secrets. The shameful secrets. The scary secrets. The embarrassing secrets. The secrets that make me feel like I'm the worst person on the planet.
"No wonder you have panic attacks," she told me. "You're traumatized. And it's not your fault."
It was the first time I had confronted, well, anything in my life and I had a groundbreaking revelation. Looking the scary monsters directly in the eye and telling them to f*ck off was exactly what made them go away. And even when they did come back (and they still come back from time to time), I wasn't afraid of them anymore.
But it all came crashing down when I missed that one appointment.
I've started to think I might be ready for a break from therapy. Sarah and I have made some serious progress. I moved back to New York. I have a dream career. I take care of myself. I feel like we've confronted so much that I am able to start life with a blank slate.
But rather than having that conversation with her, I just didn't show up to my appointment. I wrote a brief text (yes, we're on texting terms because we both have boundary issues): "Sorry work was crazy." And then I never rescheduled or called her again.
I ghosted my therapist.
This make sense, because before I met Sarah, I was the reigning queen of avoidance. I was so afraid of feeling anything at all that I just did whatever I could do to run away from my feelings. Sometimes, I drank so much that I blacked out and couldn't feel anything besides a hangover. Sometimes, I obsessively dieted and vomited so my brain could only focus on numbers on a scale. Sometimes, I just threw myself into my job.
Most of the time, I just focused on everyone else's problems so I didn't have time to focus on my own. It was a blast.
But Sarah taught me an amazing lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Running away from the monsters doesn't make them leave you alone. They'll manifest in strange, sneaky ways, like all-consuming panic attacks and bad relationships and an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
And all of that was much scarier than confrontation. I realized that as uncomfortable as all this confrontation was, feeling uncomfortable for awhile isn't going to kill me. The self-destructive effects of stuffing down my feelings, however, might.
But when I ghosted my therapist, it became apparent that I'm still struggling with confrontation. Rather than explain to her that maybe I'm ready to move on from therapy, I avoided the breakup. I hate breakups. I hate looking people in the eye and telling them that I don't need them anymore. Just like I hate telling a friend when they've hurt my feelings or a crush that I have feelings for them. I might not be afraid of confronting myself, but I'm still afraid of confronting others.
But that ends today! I'm done letting my f*ckups fester like an untreated infection that's poisoning my body. Because all that does is give me this awful lingering anxiety that follows me everywhere I go. And I can't live up to my potential when I'm hellbent with anxiety.
So YES, I'm going to call her today. YES, I'm afraid. But she is, after all, the one who taught me that it's OK to feel afraid. You can feel afraid and still do it anyway.
In fact, this whole avoidance thing has made me realize that maybe I still sorta need her. If I'm ghosting my therapist, my work with her isn't over yet. There is something that I'm still avoiding. And my days of running are over. I'm turning the ship AROUND. I'm taking the wheel.
Let's do it together. Let's pick up the phone and HASH IT OUT with someone who hurt us. Let's call our moms back if we've been sending them straight to voicemail. Let's have that uncomfortable conversation. It's going to be hard and it's going to be scary, but we can do it.
Life won't let us get away with avoiding anything anyway. So let's at least take control over it, before it takes control of us.
* Name has been changed.