I spent the first 12 years of my career on staff at various media/media-related jobs: trade magazines, a consumer magazine, one awful year at a PR firm, and four awesome years doing social media for a fitness media company.
I also got laid off three times. Each time, I became more and more disillusioned with corporate America. When I last got laid off in 2017, I decided to give the freelance life a real try. I’d tried before between other layoffs but ultimately wanted to go back to being in an office. But after losing my mom—and having the flexibility from my job to go out to NJ as often as I needed to—I felt like life was too short to be chained to a desk on someone else’s terms for 40+ hours a week.
My feelings poured out of me and onto the screen in that first year after losing my mom. So thick was the haze of grief and depression that any insecurity that had held me back in the past disappeared, and I wrote and pitched freely.
I racked up bylines in outlets that had only been dreams before, and I started making some real freelance goals. I wanted to have one steady social media client for some income stability, and I wanted to have editors who regularly assigned me stories so I could cut back on the pitching process.
This January, I took a maternity leave fill-in at an agency to help a friend out and make some regular income as a buffer for the more dry months. I was too depressed, though, and the job felt as empty as my soul. (It wasn’t the job, it was me.) I struggled to make it work each day because I struggled to get out of bed each day, and it filled me with great shame to need to cut it short when I needed to be hospitalized.
When I filled out the intake forms, one of the questions on the sheet was: “do you need any further schooling to return to work successfully?”
“Thinking about going back to school to become a therapist,” I wrote timidly. The truth was, I’d been thinking about it for years.
I started regularly seeing a therapist in 2012 for anxiety, and the longer I’ve spent in therapy, the more I’ve been fascinated with reading everything I can about mental health and the mental healthcare field. Partially to help myself, but partially because I just find it fascinating to learn why we humans behave the way we do.
My only regret about treatment was not talking about career more, though there were other issues I needed to tackle to just be a functional human before worrying about career. I came out of treatment still feeling a little rudderless professionally. I told myself I’d give it through the summer (also giving myself time to adjust after my move) before making any changes.
But throughout the summer, that seed I’d planted earlier this year grew and grew until I finally decided I wanted to explore this career change. In August, I told my therapist I was thinking about becoming a therapist. I was TERRIFIED and texted her before our session to tell her I had something I wanted to tell her but had been chickening out for a few weeks.
I was worried that, knowing my mental status well and being in the field for nearly 20 years, she would think I wouldn’t be good at it or could handle it, but a big smile spread across her face. “Theodora, I think you would be a phenomenal therapist.”
I decided to apply for school, and if it didn’t work out, then I’d explore going back to a 9-5 in January. I applied, interviewed, and then it was time to wait. Friends, I am NOT GOOD with waiting, and I checked my email obsessively for those few weeks in between. The call came on a day that was already really emotional for me, and I went from sad to ecstatic on a huge emotional rollercoaster.
I’m going to Antioch University, which is conveniently only 15 minutes from me! I looked into several other programs (UCLA, Pepperdine), but I liked how geared towards adult learners Antioch is and how flexible they are.
I have worked with such amazing therapists in the past who have literally saved my life, and I want to be that person to someone. Who helps them see their own worth, that they deserve to be here, to be happy, and that it is possible. Right now I think I want to do some combination of private practice, something community-based and writing, but it will be interesting to see how all of this evolves over the next four years. (It’s two years of classes and about two years to get your hours to get licensed.)
It’s a hard road ahead, and I’m terrified I won’t be able to do it, but I know that this is the right thing for me, and I can’t wait to help people.