I Couldn’t Afford Therapy, So I Started Messaging Celebrities
4 min read | May 2021

I Couldn’t Afford Therapy, So I Started Messaging Celebrities

After living most of my young life in a cult, I struggled adjusting to the real world. Sending notes to famous people helped.

Lola Pennywig / Millennial / Undisclosed / Educator

I was born and raised in a commune. After leaving, I quickly discovered most people would characterize it as a “religious cult.” While life there was normal growing up, it was turned upside down when I left in my mid-20s. It was the most intense uprooting of my life, and I hope never to experience something like it again. I lost my whole support system, my whole world, everything that I’ve known since birth.

After the first cult-free year (and once the initial novelty of my freedom had worn off), the full weight of depression, sadness and loss hit me like a ton of bricks. Those dogmatic beliefs had been beaten into my head since birth, and yet, I was thrown into a whole new way of living, and I had to survive. I felt stuck between two worlds, fitting into neither. I was lost, traumatized and broken—I was pushed immediately into survival mode figuring out how to function in society, and I didn’t have the chance to process the years of emotional oppression. I lost my support system and part of who I was. However, I was determined to find a way to cope.

I was going to get through this.


The Cult Made Me Deny My Depression

The cult didn’t believe in depression; rather, it believed demons caused depression. Even though I inwardly scoffed at that notion, living there for almost three decades indoctrinated me in a lot of unhealthy beliefs. Even today, I’m surprised at the ones still left, waiting to be uncovered.

For this reason, I completely denied my depression. I lived on autopilot, making myself so busy to cover all the pain. I was hesitant to see a therapist, afraid one wouldn’t be able to help me because I’d been told my whole life that “therapy wouldn't cure the demons that caused me to leave.” And I desperately needed a therapist. After seeing it could be hundreds of dollars per hour, I knew that wasn’t an option. I barely had the motivation to work enough to make ends meet, let alone afford half a session per month. 

Not knowing where to turn, I consulted my current, affordable version of therapy: cannabis and watching Hulu—anything to escape my reality. I relied on cannabis to give me an appetite because I lost my hunger drive. I felt unsupported, shunned and abandoned by the same people I dedicated my life to. The anxiety made functioning in “normal” American work-life unbearable. 

One night, as I consulted with my usual edibles and watched Guy’s Grocery Games, I wondered: How can I benefit from therapy and heal my broken soul within my means? Why is it so expensive, and how can I get around that until I’m in a place where I can afford it?

I Reached Out to Artists and Actors Who Inspired Me

After contemplating, the conclusion for therapy’s high price tag is that, by law, therapists are required to keep one’s secrets. They are sworn to confidentiality, so it’s no wonder they are expensive. But how could I get around that? I just wanted someone to talk to and help me process. 

As I zoned out into the world of Flavortown and watched Guy Fieri joke around with his contestants, I was so touched by how great of a dude he seemed to be. I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy that I did something unthinkable—I reached out to him like a trusted friend, and sent him a DM on Instagram saying how much I appreciated him. Almost as a joke, I opened up to him as I would a friend. I didn’t feel rejection or shame, mainly because I was pretty sure he would never see my message. “Who cares?” I thought, “He’s never going to respond anyway.”

And that is when it hit me.

Celebrity therapists. 

I could open up to them. I could be authentic, something I craved so badly. The best part—the DMs would (most likely) never be opened. Plus, it often ended up in humorous territory. So, it was therapy and medicine—if laughter actually is the best medicine.

Sending Messages to Celebrities Became a Cathartic Practice

While I knew my grief and sadness weren’t being heard, the depths I felt were so intense that even these small moments were healing. I know it sounds strange, but at that stage, I didn’t want anyone to tell me, “You're going to be OK,” or “It could always be worse.” I just wanted to release the pain in a private way, a path unique to me.

Explaining my trauma was a challenge in itself. On one hand, I felt liberated. But it’s hard to explain to society how I’m undoing a lifetime of brainwashing—messages warning me against the very life I now lived. I didn’t fit in and felt caught between two worlds, neither of which resonated with my soul.

From then on, a celebrity helped me through many difficult stages in my journey of recovery. I’d send one a message to thank them and open up about what I was going through. All filters stripped away, I would just be myself in those messages. If I was watching a movie, I’d text the actress and tell her “great job” and thank her for helping me through a particular challenge. If I read an article about something, I’d text the author to let them know my thoughts on the issue. If I heard a song that cut to my core, I’d tell the artist how they changed my life for the better. It was a beautiful thing, allowing this slow unveiling of myself, my core, my opinions and thoughts, in safe spaces.


I Finally Had an Outlet to Be Honest

Growing up in a cult, I was never allowed to be myself. If I was caught voicing things that weren't in line with its doctrine, I would be told I was “lost,” had demons and I would be shamed for being too free-spirited. Celebrities, on the other hand, don’t give a flying fuck if I tell them my theory that I think God may be a mushroom and the portal to talking to him is by taking shrooms. Not only will they not tell me I have demons, but they also won’t tell me that I’m wrong. 

It didn’t matter to me that no one ever read my messages. What mattered was that I finally felt I was allowed to be honest about what I was going through. I felt, for the first time in my life, that I had permission to be authentic. And it was great because no one ever responded. 

Well, except once. But that’s a story for another time.

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