The Cost of Staying Mentally Healthy(ish)

With insurance.

Photo: Marco40134/Flickr

I first started seeing my therapist in January of 2016, an unintentional New Year’s resolution. At the time, I worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the Brooklyn headquarters twelve hours a day, seven days a week, so I was pretty much shaking with stress and frustration and a feeling of pleasepleasepleasewehavetowin all the time. I was simultaneously so depressed that even lying with my head beneath our Christmas tree — my favorite thing! — in my girlfriend’s apartment didn’t make me feel… anything. I tell you this only so you understand: Not seeing a therapist was not an option.

I have since gone faithfully at least twice a month, regardless of how cranky I am or how much rescheduling it’s taken or, yes, how expensive it’s been.

Here’s a rough estimate of how much this has cost me over the past fourteen months:

Paying for sessions before I hit my annual deductible: $2,000

Paying for sessions after I hit my annual deductible: $4,400 upfront, minus the $3,500 that Aetna eventually reimbursed me = $900 out of pocket

Co-pay for the visits I briefly made to a second therapist when one wasn’t enough (circa the New York primary, I believe): $150

Overdraft fees when I forgot to submit my claims for reimbursement before writing my next check to my therapist: $60

Snacks purchased at the Duane Reade as a way of “rewarding” myself and/or apologizing to my coworkers for disappearing: Approximately $200, in mostly Arizona Iced Teas and Sour Patch Kids

Lyft rides to and from my therapist’s office after Election Day, either because I was unfit (read: crying a lot in a very loud manner) to deal with public transportation immediately post-election or because I now work from home and can’t always be offline for the two hour round trip on the bus: $140

The total: a hearty $3,450.

Not everyone has the resources to do this. I understand that I am one of the lucky ones: In addition to being able to write the checks, I’ve had steady health insurance coverage while changing jobs; bosses who not only understand why I need to disappear for an hour every week or so, but have straight-up insisted that I do so; and a therapist who understands that sometimes I need to take a week off because I just can’t afford to come in as often as I really should.

It’s weird to spend so much money on something that I can’t measure or hold in my hands — but the cost is just one of one hundred reasons that I wish I was mentally healthier, so honestly I don’t spend too much time fixated on the money. Plus, I look at it as an investment: That $3,450 got me through Election Day, and the next day, too. It’s the reason I can be a good girlfriend, employee, friend, family member, and neighbor. If that’s the cost of being able to live my life, then it’s worth it — no hesitations.

Liz Zaretsky is “working on a YA novel.”

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