Author Archives: Theodora Blanchfield

Going back to school to become a therapist!

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.

Two Days, Two 5Ks

“You look really content,” my therapist said to me last week. “Or maybe just jet-lagged?”

Jokes aside, she was right. I am feeling really content right now. I live by the beach. I have the sweetest, most perfect little dog. I’m making new friends in my new home. I’m working on another big change that I’m really excited about. My mental health feels really well-managed right now, and headaches I’d been having for six weeks straight finally went away.

Life is good 🙂

And this weekend was really good too—I ran two 5Ks!

Yesterday, I ran the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run. I love running and I’m getting back to loving Christmas, so I had to run this, basically.

Also, it started literally in my backyard. Hi, yes.

The race started in Ocean View Park, ran down the Venice boardwalk, out and back on Venice Boulevard, before ending right by the big Venice sign.

I ran with Meggie the whole time, and finally really accepted myself for running slower than I used to, no beating myself up for it like I used to. Meggie and I caught up and enjoyed watching all the Santas and people dressed up in their best holiday novelty running clothes. (It reminded me of the NYRR Jingle Bell Jog!)

I came home in such a good mood.

I found fall in LA, but I had to drive to Whittier for it.

And today I had my Girls on the Run 5K. I’d always wanted to coach a team, so this fall I finally did it. For those of you not familiar, there’s a curriculum that includes both an educational component and a running component. The educational component includes lessons that basically teach the girls to be better humans and more emotionally aware. It took me until therapy in my 30s to learn a lot of the things we taught them, so I think it’s so invaluable to instill this confidence and emotional intelligence in them.

AND THE RUNNING. We had a practice 5K a few weeks ago, and the girls were so proud of themselves, and I was so proud of them, and it warmed my heart to see the excitement on their faces.

Today, all the GOTR teams in LA had the end-of-the-season 5K in Whittier (clear across the city from me.) I had also always wanted to be a running buddy for this race in NYC, but was too much of a hungover waste of space during the holiday season to ever do it.

I had a really hard time with coaching at first—it brought back a lot of my elementary school insecurities, and frankly some adult ones, too. I wanted all the girls to like me, and I was nervous that they wouldn’t. I wanted to be the cool coach. Plus, there was one girl who looked just like someone I don’t love. And I was nervous about handling the girl drama.

But as the season progressed, we all got comfortable with each other, and I love these little people. It’s been amazing to watch them grow as both people and runners. (Nah, runners aren’t people.)

All of our girls either ran with their moms or with each other, so my co-coach and I ran together. It was only her second 5K, so I was excited to be able to share that with her! I felt good the whole time as we chatted, with a little bit of walking.

I left the race feeling so #endorphinwasted—a feeling that lasted all afternoon. Before I got my depression under better control this fall, that feeling had crashed all too precipitously after runs.

BRB, bottling the endorphins. I have no other races on my calendar right now but LA friends, let me know if there’s another one I should sign up for!