The Benefits of a Good Therapist

Hello, and welcome back to “Tales from Outside Comics!” The idea behind this series of posts is that I’m someone just like you, a wide-eyed hopeful looking to break into the industry, and I’ll be talking about the things I’ve learned so far. I’ve read so many stories from pros looking back on how they broke into comics, and not that those aren’t helpful, but I’m here to share how it looks along the way. So, join me on the journey, learn from my mistakes, and let’s laugh about it as best as we can.

Last time, I wrote a bit about self-motivation, and left off saying that if you’re still struggling with making time to make your art, you should consider finding a therapist to help you along the way. For anyone without insurance, or even just a tight budget, this can sound economically daunting, but there are resources out there. First, there are Community Mental Health Services – basically community centers that focus on mental health issues. They offer non-profit programs for people in their area. If there isn’t one near you, many therapists offer a Sliding Scale pay rate, and meet their clients halfway if insurance doesn’t cover it. There are options, they might just require a little extra legwork.

When I first considered the topic for this post, I thought, hey, therapy has been super helpful for me, maybe I should talk about that a bit. But every time I’ve sat down at the keyboard, I’ve gone back and forth between extremes. Either the sterile, stilted urging to get help (like the paragraph above,) or a solipsistic, primal scream tinged with bad memories and regret. I’d give you an example, but that’s the kind of behavior I’ve been trying to avoid these days.

Not only is going to therapy hard (I love it, partly because it’s not easy,) but talking about therapy is hard. Or at least talking about it in any real sense is. I’ve caught myself in an awful paradox; only talking about my own issues, regurgitating sessions in story form makes it all about me, and how does that help anyone else – but completely removing myself, to the point of becoming a soulless afterschool special, that’s just bad writing.

So why keep going? Why not just change the subject, leave therapy as a footnote, admit defeat, move on to the next topic – what’s wrong with that?

Because that’s not what this series is about, damnit.

It’s about realizing that this journey, breaking in, it’s not instantaneous – it’s a process. And it doesn’t happen through shortcuts. I’m a firm believer that you don’t get where you want to by backing down from a challenge. The more something scares you, really scares you, the more you should follow it.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through therapy, one I do want to share with anyone reading, is that I’ve been afraid of success. I’ve spent so much of my life just coasting, not pushing myself but still getting by, that the idea of trying something with every fiber of my being is both foreign and terrifying. But long term, staying safe, staying comfortable, it’s not enough. It’s not what I want.

The scary truth I’m faced with here is that I’m writing these posts as much for my benefit as anyone else’s. I’m hardly an expert on writing (that’s the conceit of the series, I’m still trying to “make it” in the publishing world,) and I’m hardly in a position to say much about the benefits of therapy beyond simply “it’s been good for me.” So, it’s that lack of cover that starts feeling really unnerving the longer I think about it. Realizing that maybe the only way I can help is by sharing some bit of myself – adding to the collective discussion of the benefits of self-reflection. I might not fix anything, anyone, by myself, but maybe I can be another stone on the path. Within that, I think there’s a piece of where writing and therapy overlap.

Writing and therapy go hand in hand because they’re both introspective, incremental processes. While you might have a great day working on something, or what feels like a breakthrough session, those moments aren’t forever. At the end of the day, when the rush of feeling good about some small, internal battle has faded, you’re ultimately left with just yourself. And dealing with that, working with that, living with that, is what both processes are all about. Learning to keep getting up and doing it again and again.

But here’s another truth I’ve learned in therapy, one that applies tenfold in comics – you’re never really on your own. In the same way that no one person is self-made, solely responsible for the entirety of their experiences – no one project is a singular effort. Even if you write, draw, color, letter, edit, and publish it yourself, you still need the help of promotion, the captivation of an audience. The fully singular experience reaches no-one.

That’s something that’s comforted me about comics, and why it’s the field of creativity I want to work in – because it’s easier for me to think of myself as part of a team. (Well, that and comics are just how my brain works. But more on that eventually.) And with that notion of teamwork driving every step of the collaborative process, you owe it to your teammates to get your shit together. Help the team along, don’t drag others down with you. Work on becoming the best possible version of yourself, and make the best possible versions of your dreams.

I’m OK with that sounding a little schmaltzy – relentless positivity is my depression’s kryptonite. And with a superhero reference, we pivot towards next week’s topic: Know What You’re Really Writing About. Best of luck creating, and keep your chin up out there.

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