Get yourself a therapist


In my first post, I shared that I have anxiety and depression. It’s not particularly easy for me to put it out there, but I think it’s important to.

Am I the most anxious or the most depressed person out there? Probably not. I’m just saying I definitely experience anxiety (sometimes about things that make total sense and other times about things that aren’t really logical) and different degrees of depression as well. Sometimes depression is situational and expected, like in the aftermath of my Mom passing away last year, and other times, it hits me for no particular reason at all.

In the same way that I take medication to treat my Crohn’s, I also take it to help with my anxiety and depression. And yet for some reason, I’ll talk about taking prednisone or Stelara for Crohn’s ‘til the cows come home, but I’ll drop my voice to a whisper if I’m sharing that I take shhhhh medicine for <exaggerated mouthing> de pre ssion and an xi e ty.

So the stigma’s still there. I try to fight it, but I feel it. But I figured I would take this opportunity to share a little piece of advice: Get yourself a therapist.

I mean it. I think there are very few people who DON’T need to see a therapist for one reason or another. It is one of the best things I have done for myself. I like to think of it as a spa for the spirit. Of course, there’s the whole insurance and financial piece that can make it difficult to get the ball rolling, but if you are the only thing standing between you and therapy, I’m here to tell you: get out of your own way and go for it.

One of the best “gifts” a close friend gave to me was the gentle push to find a therapist again. She knew I had seen one in college and early adulthood when I lived in the Boston area, and that, when I moved with Rick and Ryan to California for a year, I took a break. After we returned to the east coast, I got together with this friend and she reminded me that, now that I was going to be settled again, it might be a good idea to find a new therapist in New Hampshire.

And I’m so glad she said it. I wasn’t opposed to it, I was just kind of in my not-going-to-therapy groove and it just hadn’t really occurred to me.

Finding a therapist is definitely a task. And even when you find someone on paper, it doesn’t always mean that person is a good “match.” You should really connect with that person – and sometimes that takes a few sessions to figure out if it’s a good fit. If you not “ vibin’ ” as Ariana Grande would say, then you start over with someone else. thank u, next.

It’s kind of like dating. Except when you’re dating you don’t usually frontload all your issues into the first 45 minutes of meeting someone…usually.  That’s a post for another day. And it was three dates in, okay!??!

I’ve stuck with therapy even during “good” and “uneventful” times, and I’m happy I have, because that support was already in place when things got harder. If you’ve been thinking that you would benefit from therapy but you’re feeling pretty good at the moment, it might seem counterintuitive, but this would actually be an excellent time to get going on it.

Sadly, my local community is reeling from a recent middle schooler’s suicide. And this isn’t unique to my town. We all have to start approaching mental health differently.

In an attempt to do so, our school district is having a speaker come to talk to parents about signs of emotional distress, which I think is wonderful, and I’ll take any help I can get. The more information, the better. But wouldn’t it be great if we were tackling mental health before it got to a level of distress? If our mental health was treated as important as our physical health? If check-ins with therapists were considered preventative care like dental cleanings? And if that all started really early on in life, like well-child visits/annual physicals?

I’m also going to propose this: maybe we need to lead by example. Maybe the best gift you can give your child or children is going to therapy yourself. Why? It sends the message that you deserve to take care of yourself. And that mental health is as normal and important as physical health. Secondly, it can help to make your relationships and your home environment healthier, and that’s good for everyone. And third, your child or children will see that if they are struggling with something, if they have things they want to discuss privately with a professional, it’s okay.

Also, this doesn’t just apply to parent/child relationships. You may influence a co-worker, a bestie, a bae, a roommate, a significant other, a frat bro, your hair stylist, a barista, a gym buddy, or dog park friend to seek help, by your example. That doesn’t mean you have to shout it from a rooftop, either. But you might share it with select, trusted friends (like your favorite barista–Shout out to mine, Andrew at the Target Starbucks!–) at the appropriate time.

Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re weak. Or crazy. Or weird. It doesn’t mean you had a bad childhood. Or that you have a troubled marriage. Or that you’re on the brink of suicide.

It does mean that life is hard. Relationships are hard. Not having a relationship is hard. Illness is hard. Parenthood is hard. Work is hard.

Going to therapy has helped me more than I can say. And I hope that, if you’ve ever thought that it might be helpful for you, that you’ll join me. Not in one of my sessions, though. That would be weird.

The Hike

About ten years ago, when I first met Rick, it was pretty clear from the beginning that he was The One.

If you know Rick, that’s not surprising. Handsome, funny, smart, kind—he was the total package. But, of course, everyone has their flaws. And I should have seen this coming. He went to school in Maine. He carried a Nalgene bottle. He had a propensity for all things L.L. Bean. That’s right. Rick was…..outdoorsy. 

Since high school, I prided myself on being an indoor cat. I was not interested in “physical activity” or, you know, “doing healthy things.”

“No one every got hurt reading a good book!” I would proudly exclaim after hearing about a sports injury. I loved movies, and tv, and reading, but it was just not my thing to head outside in my free time. 

Then in waltzes this amazing guy and well, love makes you do crazy things. Before I know it, I’m slated for a Saturday hike. I’ll admit that in an atypical way, I kind of wanted to go. You know, do something novel and crazy. For some people that might mean jumping out of a plane. For me it was walking on a dirt trail, okay?  But then the anxiety popped up. With Crohn’s disease, I would often have to use the bathroom at a moment’s notice. Sometimes multiple times in a row. That’s not exactly desirable dating material, I’ll admit. I didn’t particularly love it myself. And not having access to a bathroom, and then worrying about access to a bathroom, was a recipe for exactly what I didn’t want: having to use a bathroom. 

I once heard a story (a true story about a college friend’s friend from high school, not an urban legend) about a guy who simply thought about his girlfriend having to go #2 and had to break up with her!!! That’s the kind of stuff that haunted my dreams. It’s hard enough to find someone to date. You don’t really want your embarrassing bathroom habits to be what drives him or her away.

But I was hoping that things would turn out for the best, and that maybe I’d be so happy and in so in loooove that my intestines would just be simply twitterpated (Bambi reference) and just take the day off. Basically, I just figured I’d deal with the ensuing embarrassment in the moment, and then wish him well as he finds his perfect, outdoorsy, never-pooping match somewhere else.

So I arrive and, just to set the scene, Rick is packing up a backpack with some water and trail mix…and I’m standing there in flip-flops and oversized sunglasses and wondering if I can stop and get a venti cappuccino on the way. (Also, not going to help with the bathroom situation, but I’m a glutton for punishment.)

‘Oh, one more thing!” he exclaims.  He leaves the room and comes back with a twinkle in his eye. He’s got something behind his back. “We should probably bring this too, just in case, right?” And there, in his hand, rested a gleaming, two-ply roll of “will you marry me.” Okay, he wasn’t proposing, but he was standing there holding a toilet paper roll. Like my gastrointestinal knight in shining armor. 

That was yet another a major sign that Rick was The One for me. From very early on, he accepted who I was and what I was challenged with. He didn’t gloss over it but he didn’t make it a big deal, either. That TP spoke volumes to me. And you know what? It took just enough of the edge off of my anxiety that I never needed to use it on that hike.

So I hope that, whatever you struggle with, I hope you have—or keep looking for!—  someone to bring you TP, whether that’s literal or metaphorical. That person doesn’t have to be a romantic partner, just a friend who accepts you for exactly who you are. Someone who takes your issues or struggles in stride, as part of the overall wonderful package of You. Someone who is willing to tackle things alongside you, to whatever degree you need it.

Actually, first and foremost, I hope you are a step ahead of where I was, and that you are ok with bringing your own damn toilet paper. You know, ok with being exactly who you are, take it or leave it! But I also hope you find the companionship of a person who packs the TP for you, flashes it to you secretly with a knowing grin, and then takes you out for a hike. 

Here we go…


Finding Alice

It was probably two years ago now that I was sitting in church and the particular prayer on my mind was, Ok God, what do you want me to do with the rest of my life?  After all, things hadn’t quite turned out as I’d expected. 

Rick and I are both from big families. Mine includes 5 siblings and 15 nieces and nephews, and now a great-niece and a great-nephew! Rick’s includes a brother, a niece and a nephew, plus a large extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. Naturally, when we got married seven years ago, we assumed we would also be blessed with a large family. Two months before our first anniversary, Ryan was born. We were off to a great start! We even picked our stroller based on how it would work for two kiddos because we were so sure another baby would soon follow. And then, nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, life was good. But from a baby perspective, it wasn’t going according to MY plan. Probably the most frustrating part was that I was so excited to use our name for a girl. (Well, we had a considerable list of girl names, but this was the front runner. And I’ll have you know I am breaking MAJOR Morris Family protocol by sharing a baby name…my sisters are going to be outraged. Sorry Mary, Eileen, and Colleen!) But if we had a baby girl, her name was going to be Alice. My Mom’s name. 

Not long after we moved to New Hampshire, we learned that scar tissue was very likely the reason why I wasn’t getting pregnant. Over 25 years of Crohn’s disease meant a handful of surgeries, and surgeries can lead to scar tissue. Unfortunately when that’s in the lower abdominal area, it can affect the surrounding organs. So basically, it did not look good for more Feeney babies. I was used to, and accepted (not always gracefully), Crohn’s affecting other aspects of my life, but it had never occurred to me that it would impact my dreams of having a big family. 

So back to the pew in St. Michael Church, asking God for guidance. I’m sitting there wondering, If I’m not going to have any more kids (the thing which I had assumed would occupy the better part of at least two decades) what do You want me to do with the rest of my life? At the time, Ryan was going to be starting a longer day of preschool, so I would have more time on my hands. Should I keep freelancing? Should I write something else? Should I go back to school?

Of course, God didn’t whisper in my ear as I was sitting there, and I wasn’t expecting that. I was just formally starting the convo and trying get serious about my own process of self-reflection at the same time. 

When Mass was over, I had coffee on my mind, obviously. As I pulled out of my street parking spot, I was minding my own business, plotting my Dunkin Donuts order, when all of a sudden I noticed the car ahead of me had a vanity plate. The vanity plate read: ALICE. 

Now, COME ON. Right?

So I really felt a sense of hope. Maybe another baby is still in the plan, I thought. I tried to keep the faith. But another year passed without any success. 

Around this time, my Mom’s forgetfulness started to turn into something more. I remember a phone conversation I was having with one of my sisters. I told her the story of the vanity plate. “You know,” she said, “maybe the Alice is Mom. Maybe it has something to do with her.”

That hadn’t even really occurred to me. Of course when I first saw the vanity plate, my Mom wasn’t in any need of help. I’d like to think that in the very quick progression of her illness, until she passed away in December 2017, that I did help her. But I wasn’t her primary caregiver, and I wasn’t even able to contribute in the same ways that my other siblings did, because I was so far away in New Hampshire and my schedule was pretty limited with Ryan being in school. While I tried to help where I could, I just don’t feel like I did enough for her for that to be It.   

I’m still trying to figure it out. And honestly, I haven’t given up hope on another baby. But for now,  I’m starting this blog. I’m a writer. Might as well start with this! I’m calling it, Finding Alice. It’s kind of like my personal metaphor for finding out more about my purpose in life. 

Some days Finding Alice will be a way for me to share how I’m finding my Mom, and her influence, in my day-to-day life.

I’ve been wondering if my purpose in life has something to do with my experiences with Crohn’s disease, depression, and anxiety, so I’ll share about these personal experiences as well. My hope is that this might help someone struggling with one of these things—or struggling with SOME thing. It always helps to know we are not alone. We all have our crosses to bear. 

You’ll probably see a post or two about The Bachelor/Bachelorette, because I need some sort of outlet for all this cerebral stuff I’ve got going on up here in my brain.

Of course this wouldn’t be a blog written by me, if I didn’t share about my faith and how that has played, and continues to play, a role in my life. Will I be able to intertwine this with a Bachelor post? Only time will tell!

Finding Alice will also be a way for me to share and laugh about a smorgasbord of other life experiences. A way for me to fight the Facebook tendency, and I’ll fully admit, MY Facebook tendency, to post a select view of life. I’d prefer to live a little bit more authentically, even though that also means being a bit more vulnerable. I’ll admit, I’m terrified. See above: Anxiety. 

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with it! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed agonizing about writing this. 


I welcome all comments INCLUDING differences of opinion as long as they are expressed with kindness and respect.