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Why I Went to Therapy

The Monday after I landed back at JFK airport, floundering in New York City again, I found myself sitting on a therapist's couch looking at someone look at me. Well this is… interesting, I thought. It was a wide, cream-colored faux-leather type couch, not quite the type I thought I'd lie down on like you think of in the movies. The cushion was firm and my feet dangled off of the couch in front of me. If I moved forward, I'd be able to put my feet down but my back wouldn't be able to slouch against the back side. It's always a struggle between having back support or feet support when you're short. I hoped I wouldn't have to sit with my feet like this the entire time.

"Tell me about what brought you in today," she said.

Oh geez.

Before we go there, let's back up and talk about a big part of why I sat there and stayed...

After a whirlwind of phone calls with my sister, the ER doctor, my brother, and my uncle, at last there wasn't much more to talk about. Yet I had had a call scheduled with my best bud Justin the following night. Instead, I texted him and asked if he was free to talk tonight because at the moment I really needed a friend.

I maybe should've primed him that I had just lost my dad, but if I had texted that, it would've meant the words were true. Eventually, we got on the phone and he asked what's up.

"Isn't it kind of late in New York right now?" He asked from the West Coast.

“Um… yeah.”

“So what’s up dude?”

I paused. If I didn’t say it, it wasn’t true right? But then again, what had the marathon of phone calls just before this been about? I blurted out that my dad just died, breaking down into sobs.

"Wait what? What the hell? Are you serious??"

Of course I'm f**king serious. Who the f*** would lie about that? I thought to myself while also thinking, Damn, I really trapped Justin right now on this phone call, and he didn't even know what was coming. Guess that's just best friend duty. Is this all actually real right now anyway?

He listened as I told him everything that had just happened in the past couple hours, stopping to breathe at times between the tears. He said a lot of thoughtful things to soothe me which helped to calm down my on-and-off outbursts of sobbing.

In addition to that, I told him about how that morning I had just been elected to be the Community Engagement Chair for the Graduate Student Association and we were supposed to have a mandatory meeting that Saturday. I didn’t know what I should do. Justin encouraged me to go home as soon as possible to be with my family. There'd be too much going on internally for you to have to deal with all that and meeting all those new people, he messaged me as we texted the next day. When we spoke the night before, he promised to be there for me and for whatever I needed. He might be in a couple meetings the next day, but he would step out if I needed anything, he assured me.

"And the most important thing is to think about your mental health during this time, okay? Make sure to take care of your mental health." What? I mean, I had never cried in front of Justin or gone through anything as traumatic as this until maybe well, now. But I was still surprised to hear him say that simply because that's not at all what was on my mind. "Uh, yeah, okay." We hung up a little bit after that, and I lay in bed trying to find a dry spot amidst my pillow which was splotchy and drenched in tears.

Shortly after, I received a text from my cousin saying that she had just heard the terrible news and that she was so sorry about my dad. The outpour of tears began again. If someone was texting me that, it was a resounding notification that meant the words were true. I cried until I was too tired to keep going.

I would be a different person if I didn't actively work on my mental health after my dad passed away so suddenly. Starting therapy was a step in the right direction, and I couldn't have asked for better support, and at the right time, from my best bud Justin.

Months later, when I thanked Justin for being there for me that night, he responded how I assume he will react to this post in dedication to him for truly helping me more than I could've ever thought possible: "Yeah dude, of course."

I think we all need someone like that in our lives.

Hedda Hiếu Nguyễn

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