What a pertinent topic now that most of the world is now in quarantine. We all have a lot of time now to sit with no one but ourselves and that can be awkward.
As Americans, our stigmas regarding mental health and seeking help for mental betterment have been slowly melting in recent years. It's quite common for people to talk openly about going to therapy and sometimes openly admit to taking prescribed drugs for whatever ails them.
Finding ways to care for yourself can be difficult at home and especially in a foreign setting. I can only speak to my experiences living in Italy, but it took me a long time to not only find the resources to help myself but pluck up the courage and admit to myself that I could be a lot happier.
The wine here is fantastic, but just like choosing to drink PBR tallboys at home, it can't truly make all of the problems go away. I'm not going to lie though it has taken the edge off as we move into our fourth week of quarantine...
Let's break it down:
What does mental help look like in Italy?
Finding a personal therapist
What does help look like in Italy?
From my collective experiences dealing mental health treatment in Italy, it's been ok.
Seeking therapy to talk through things like depression, anxiety, or grief is not exactly common here. For example, if I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, finding the motivation to do basic things, and being an overly harsh critic to my every action, talk therapy seems warranted in this situation. Although, here I've witnessed instances where one or two sessions were held to address these issues and the patient was sent away, as "cured". Ridiculous, being human is traumatic, how can anyone be cured?
My point is, it's been my impression that seeking therapy is reserved for severe cases and I've even heard of some awful encounters with pharmacists making degrading comments about those filling out prescriptions for depression.
This is what gave me pause when considering finding a therapist to talk to here. The thought of having any negative confrontation concerning something so personal in Italian sends me into a tailspin.
Finding a Therapist
My personal preference was to find a psychologist who was a native English speaker. I can speak Italian but it's useless when I get emotional, my Italian switch gets turned off.
In the public healthcare system my options in psychologists where people who spoke English as a second language. There are a few options for private therapists in Florence that come highly recommended, but I didn't have the money to pay out of pocket for weekly sessions.
A friend, and like a million podcasts, recommended Betterhelp (or Talkspace). She had a positive experience choosing the right therapist and was happy with the platform, and of course, the therapy itself.
I'm about a month in with my current therapist and so far I'm digging it. I'm ready to face my inner demons with an actual person instead of crying over a bad tarot card reading then looking for validation on The Pattern.
My husband and I do have communication issues like most relationships. Yet, I suspect that many of our arguments have been started by errors in translation. We try to stick Italian just to avoid problems, but it's never as simple as one solution.
We see a nice lady who speaks Italian and probably more English than she lets on. Again I got the feeling she was perplexed as to why a young couple with no money problems, kids, or even issues with or in-laws would be seeking a counselor. We were there so we could understand each other at a deeper level and disagree without hurting each other irreparably.
I found her on google, she lived in the city center, and her reviews were good. That part was really simple. The actual communication was a little bit difficult, we didn't accomplish much but we did establish that Florentine sarcasm is counterproductive and men aren't great at processing their emotions. I did not need to pay to hear that.
Funnily enough, all it took for us to find a beautiful equilibrium in our household was a global pandemic. Maybe we're just elated to have another person to hold as the world crumbles around us. I've never related to the people of Pompeii more than I have now.
I have taken Wellbutrin for years. I love it. It takes the edge off my anxiety and it lets me be less sad while leaving just the right amount of melancholy.
The most common way Americans get their prescriptions here is by going to the private practice, English doctor. He's the first hit on google and a freaking rock star for students who ran out of birth control while studying abroad. I went to him before I was covered by Italian insurance so rather than seeing my family doctor for free I had to pay for the visit, and then pay for the prescription. Now that the government as deemed me as officially depressed (my young, Italian psychiatrist is super nice) I don't even have to pay a co-pay. I felt like I was stealing the first time I got a prescription filled here. They gave me the boxes and just say "ciao"- no one tackled me on the way out.
Before I was ensured though I did pay for the appointment and then the full price for the drugs every month. There we definitely months that I just didn't bother paying for it, and I regret the times when I could have enjoyed my life with more ease.
When I officially moved to Italy to took a lot of mental strength to stay. Between learning the language, finding a job, and worrying day in and day out about your legal status is hard and it takes a toll.
I think if there's one thing I could have changed about how I did things, in the beginning, I would have taken more measures to preserve my mental health, maybe the transition would have been easier.
No regrets though, the amazing food and the fantastic wine, really did remind me that my decision to live here was one that made me happy.