Columnist Joanna Buoniconti: Don’t give up on getting the help you need

Joanna Buoniconti

Joanna Buoniconti


Published: 04-01-2024 6:01 PM

Modified: 04-02-2024 11:32 AM

To start this column, I would like to take a minute to walk down memory lane with you all, my dear readers. About a year and a half ago, I wrote a column called “Is It OK to Ask for Help,” in which I discussed my discomfiting experiences with gaining access to a reliable mental health therapist. And I have an exciting update for you on this front.

In January of this year, I started seeing a therapist again, and — shockingly — I actually like her.

However, as many of you who read my previous thoughts on this topic can probably predict, the last year and a half of this journey was grueling. At two visits with my primary care physician, I asked to be put in touch with a therapist because my self-diagnosed anxiety was only becoming worse. Being the Type A, goal-oriented person that I am, I have always wanted to be given strategies to manage my anxiety rather than medication to mask it.

Then it was another two months for me to actually be matched with a therapist, followed by another month and a half of waiting to be contacted by the therapist because my primary care physician’s office had forwarded the wrong number.

And let me just say, if putting the eye-roll emoji into this column would be sufficient to describe this situation, I would. But that was not the end of this story.

Finally, I received a letter from my therapist, explaining how she had been trying to contact me — at the wrong number. Next, she told me that I could schedule an appointment the following week. I was shocked that it could really be that simple.

I was also extremely wary about the prospect of trying therapy again, which is understandable given my unhappy history with it. I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea if I was even going to like my therapist, let alone connect with her.

While the idea of seeing yet another therapist was incredibly daunting to me, I pushed that fear aside. After all, I had fought tooth and nail to find someone new, and I owed it to myself to see it through.

While I consider myself to be a shy and very guarded person, I have always been incredibly receptive to the energies that people exude. And if a person exudes a calming energy, it makes it extremely easy for me to open up and feel safe with them. Something in me uncoils and my whole body relaxes.

Upon meeting my therapist for the first time, I experienced that feeling. Now, the reason I liked her so quickly could also be because she’s young, and I noticed her makeup and nails. She looked like someone I could be friends with, which I think made it easy for me to trust her right away.

In addition to anxiety, I have also had severe insomnia at several different points in my life. The first time I remember experiencing anxiety, I was 10 years old. It felt like something had taken over my body, and I knew if I went to bed before 10 p.m., I would sleep beautifully. But if I went to bed after 10 p.m., my body just refused to sleep, and I would be awake until 2 or 3 in the morning. This lasted for a few weeks, but eventually resolved itself.

Several weeks after I started therapy, I experienced another one of those bouts of severe insomnia where I could fall asleep only between 4 and 6 a.m. This lack of sleep only exacerbated my anxiety. Given that how much sleep I get usually determines my ability to manage my secretions and breathe properly, I spent a lot of those nights terrified of how my body would react to the lack of sleep. Fortunately, my body responded surprisingly well.

I don’t know if it was because of the relaxation techniques that my therapist gave me, but I’m extremely thankful to have had a therapist to hear out my anxieties and help me during this time.

I know it can be very challenging to distinguish the forest from the trees when struggling with mental health, but I wanted to encourage those of you who might be struggling to find help.

Don’t give up on asking for it because eventually you will find it.

Gazette columnist Joanna Buoniconti is a freelance writer and editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s at Emerson College. She can be reached at