Let’s Normalize Anxiety Already

When I was in my twenties, I had a paralyzing fear of confining spaces. This was not at all unreasonable – I also had terribly painful and untreated digestive issues at that time that could sneak up and wallop me at any given moment, making the thought of being unable to leave a place anytime I needed to quite understandably anxiety-producing. 

Anyone who has experienced anxiety, panic, or phobias can tell you how isolated they can make one feel. There’s often a  feeling of shame around one’s anxiety – a fear of embarrassment, looking silly or ridiculous or odd, or being judged as weak or out of control. This leads many of us to try to hide our experience of anxiety from the people around us, in an effort to appear “normal,” poised, in control, etc.

I really wish we would all give this up already. 

In the therapy room, I’ll sometimes talk clients through envisioning themselves in the spaces that prompt their Anxious Parts. An airplane is a great example, and here’s why: about 4 in 10 adults in America have a fear of flying. So, let’s envision that airplane, in which 40 percent of the passengers onboard are feeling some amount of trepidation as the plane takes off. Only we probably don’t know it, as many of them are trying very hard to keep this to themselves – doing breathing exercises while facing the window, wishing their feelings of dread away, trying to distract themselves with books or Sudoku or music or all three – all well there’s a pretty good chance that someone else in their row, someone else right next to them, is having a similar experience, that they’re likely also trying to hide. 

No wonder we’re all so anxious.

What if we tried something else instead? Envision this: what if, as the plane took off, and our Anxious Parts came up to the surface, we welcomed them with compassion and kindness? What if we then normalized that anxiety (we’re flying in the air, here – some anxiety seems warranted) by not trying to get away from it or get rid of it, but just accepted it’s presence? What if we went even further and said to the (potentially equally anxious person next to us) “Hey, I get nervous when planes take off. You might sense me having some anxiety over here – just giving you the heads up.” And THEN, what if THAT person in turn said something like, “Oh, thanks for letting me know! I feel scared on planes, too!”. 

This new vision allows us to step out of our isolation and to normalize our experience of anxiety. In it, the passengers might feel calmer, less isolated and alone, and all-around more regular, just by releasing their shame of being anxious people on a plane (where nearly half of the people around them feel the same way!). 

So much less stressful, right? 

Listen, I’m not suggesting that we lean into our Anxious Parts and let them take over our lives. But! We want to work to take good care of them. And hiding our Anxious Parts, hating them, wishing them away, and keeping them in isolation don’t provide the care that’s needed for us to feel safe, to grow, and to heal. 

So – the next time you are on a plane (or at a party, or about to do a presentation, or in an elevator, or any countless number of scenarios), I encourage you to normalize your human experience of feeling anxious. Let your Anxious Part come up, if it does. Maybe even share your experience with the person next to you. It might be relieving for you, and potentially for them, as well.

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Useful Information

Some frequently asked questions and useful answers.

Online therapy works in the same way as in-office therapy, but is done online, similar to a Skype or FaceTime conversation. Clients are able to have sessions from home, work, or any other convenient location. We meet with clients using a HIPAA-compliant secure platform.

Online therapy allows you to work with us from the comfort of home, or any private location of your choosing. For some, the screen provides an added layer of comfort that makes the challenging work of being vulnerable in therapy a little easier.

Online therapy also creates the unique opportunity for you to work with us without the constraints of proximity! The practice was born in Keene, New Hampshire, but has since grown to service clients anywhere in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Online therapy is a great option for clients that travel for work, for college students that go home during the summertime and do not want a break in their sessions, and for anyone with a challenging or inconsistent day-to-day schedule. It is an excellent choice for clients seeking a therapist with a particular specialty that they are unable to find support for locally. Some of our clients report that online therapy makes the vulnerability element of therapy a bit less intimidating.

No. For some clients with more complex symptoms or safety concerns, having a local therapist that is readily available is important in case of crisis or the need for a higher level of care. Online therapy is also a challenge for clients that do not have access to a private, quiet space to be “in session” for the hour, or for those that do not have adequate internet connectivity.

There are several reasons why we don’t accept insurance. The most important are:

Confidentiality. Insurance companies require that your information be shared with them in order to pay for services. We prefer that clients’ information is kept as confidential as possible.

The pressure to diagnose. Insurance companies require that clients are given a mental health diagnosis in order to pay for therapy. We have found that many clients benefit from therapy, but do not meet criteria for a diagnosis. Not using insurance allows clients to access therapy without being given a mental health diagnosis.

Flexibility and freedom. Insurance companies dictate the length and number of sessions they will authorize, as well as when a client is no longer eligible for the benefits of therapy. Because we do not work with insurance panels, you and we can collaborate to determine your individual needs regarding session length, frequency of sessions, and when to terminate therapy.

While we do not accept insurance, many clients choose to submit receipts to their insurance companies to receive reimbursement via out-of-network benefits. We are happy to provide these receipts for you! Please check with your insurance company for details on your benefits.

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