You Should Talk About Going To Therapy

I talk about going to therapy. Not in every article. Not every day. Not with every person. But I talk about it freely if the conversation arises. If I’m on my way to an appointment and I run into a friend who asks where I’m headed, I will say, “To therapy.” If my employer casually wants to know where I’m going on my lunch hour, and if I trust them and it seems appropriate, I usually say, “I have a therapy appointment nearby. I’ll be back soon.” If someone wants advice or brings up something relevant about stress, I feel all right saying, “My therapist says…”

Recently, someone in the comments of one of my Thought Catalog articles, got indignant about one paragraph, in a piece about my anxiety surrounding my relationship with my sister, wherein I mentioned what my therapist thought about the issue. I didn’t harp. I just wrote, “My therapist thinks…” The commenter took issue with me talking so openly about seeing a therapist. “Every other article on here mentions therapy. Seems self-indulgent,” they wrote.

I know there’s a stigma around mental health wherein for example, if I’m having a panic attack, most people will tell me it’s all in my mind and that I can control it. And I know that. And I can’t.

Going to therapy or to a psychiatrist is seen as a weakness or an indulgence. You can’t deal with your problems yourself so you need to pay someone to do it for you. You don’t have any real friends you can talk to, a deficiency on your part, so you have to essentially pay for a professional to listen to you whine. You see a therapist? You must be Woody Allen. You must be a navel-gazing lunatic. You must be an unbearable human being.

The mistaken idea is, I think, that you go in, talk about your problems incessantly for an hour and get, I don’t know, patted on the back or something by a therapist who indulges your self-obsession. I don’t think going to therapy makes you self-obsessed and so what if it does? Introspection isn’t the enemy. Sometimes we can only be better to others, in our lives and careers, if we first start unpacking ourselves. But also, that’s not only what therapy is.

If you broke your leg, you’d go to an orthopedist to get it put into a cast. If you needed a root canal, you’d see a dentist. So why if your brain is not doing what it’s supposed to are you chastised for seeking professional help? And for casually talking about doing so?

There’s also the misconception that therapy is for the rich. Sure, some psychiatrists charge a crazy amount per session, but not all. The therapist I see works on a sliding scale based on my income. I pay 30 to 40 dollars a session depending, and some weeks I could choose to pay nothing at all.

My therapist is a student, but they are qualified and smart and I feel they do a great job for what I pay. I found them by Googling, “sliding scale therapy.” It takes an hour out of my week and it helps me feel okay when I do not feel okay. (I shouldn’t even have to explain this or get defensive about it to anyone, but I thought it might help someone who thinks they are too poor to seek help.)

I have anxiety that manifests in physically painful panic attacks. I have issues with food and with growing up the child of an alcoholic. Those are just a few of the things we work on in therapy. The physical pain in my chest will not go away by seeing an MD. It will only go away through therapy. This is not an indulgence. This is medical.

If it helps one other person see that mental health is worth working on, that their problems are treatable, that there is hope — then my talking about going to therapy will have been worth it.

One friend I talked to about this said she thought everyone should have to go to therapy at least once. Her reasoning was that, “…therapy helps you to identify problems and then articulate and communicate them which are skills pretty much anyone could benefit from having in any relationship.”

I liked that phrasing. People have such a hard time understanding each other, that if we all built the skills to better communicate, so many relationships — working relationships, dating relationships, family relationships — would run smoother. Therapy is not self-indulgent whining. It’s eradicating physical pain. It’s acknowledging the importance of your mental health. It’s working on yourself so you can be better to others. You look inward, but the ultimate focus is outward.

The only way the stigma is going to go away is if we talk openly about seeking help — without shame, without criticism — the same way we would talk about seeing a dentist or a hairdresser or any other professional. If you’re on the fence, I hope you’re motivated to get help. Because I’m going to keep talking about seeing a therapist. And I am not sorry or ashamed. TC Mark


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  • Rachel E

    Thank you for this – I agree 100%. Exactly what goes through my mind on a regular basis – I’m glad somebody else has put it into words.

    • STF

      My thoughts exactly! In the past year I have been struggling and started seeing a therapist.

      I know posting links often seems like a scam or something- but this organization is all about erasing the stigma of mental illness and getting people to talk about it. It is amazing

  • jess

    LOVE what your friend says. that it helps you identify problems, and you can apply that to your relationships outside of therapy. useful skills. also, i completely agree with your mentality–there should be no stigma, and it hurts me when my friends think they need to hide the fact that they go to therapy. it doesn’t make them crazy, it makes them responsible.

    • Vanessa Setteducato

      responsible! yes, great word for it!

  • Melissa

    I really, really, really needed to read this right now. Thank you for this.

  • Vanessa Setteducato

    Self-indulgent? No way! Kudos on realizing you needed a boost of help and being brave enough to side-step the stereotypes long enough to actually get on the couch. Calling for my first therapy appointment a few years back was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Actually going to therapy was the best thing I’ve ever done. More people should try it; accepting a little help and outside perspective is nothing to be ashamed of but rather proud! It’s those that stay in their small bubble thinking they have all the answers that are self-indulgent.

    Well written; a great message to send on all fronts. Thanks for sharing.

  • Danielle

    I’m a therapist and I have to say, well put!

  • lifeofafuturechemist

    That’s true! It does help a lot to talk to a professional!

  • Kirsten

    I’m a psychology student and even I make trips to see a therapist. People need to get over the idea that everyone expects them to be perfect.

  • livefreebee

    Thank you. I am a therapist and the stigma, misinformation, and stereotypes about the process of therapy boggle my mind. How is it shameful to acknowledge a deficit or weakness in coping and to then get help? You don’t need to be “crazy” to benefit from connecting with an objective, knowledgeable, trained professional that can help you figure out your strengths and the most adaptive way of coping with life.

    • Mel

      I feel like this is part of the problem, honestly — I’m in the process of starting therapy, and I’ve been in it before, but not because I have a ‘deficit’ or ‘weakness’; I don’t want to be perceived as such because I go to therapy, and of the people I know who are in therapy, they don’t think of themselves as deficit in coping mechanisms or weak. Needing help does not mean you are lacking in your life nor does it mean that you are weak. It means you need help. Period.

      • Bee

        Mel, I meant that your ability to cope with whatever situation is weak, not that you [whomever] is intrinsically weak.

  • Kelly Vriezen

    I am trained as a psychologist and have taught at the college level. I enthusiastically applaud your article! You are one of the people who will benefit from therapy because you want to be the best “you” you can be and are willing to do the (often hard and painful) work to get there. Hats off to both you and your therapist. Wishing you both much health and success.

  • scottastockwell

    Many folk invest in themselves by engaging a personal trainer to help with their physical fitness and to achieve their goals, for me it’s the same with a therapist – that’s a similar investment in mental fitness to achieve relationship goals – either with myself or with others. Results are generally much better when you have a professional helping you develop in any area, be it sports, hobbies, education etc. – I think we’ll all be better off when we get to the same place around mental health – and thanks for helping with that with your blog posting.

    • Vanessa Setteducato

      GREAT point!

    • Rebecca

      Excellent point

  • Only L<3Ve @

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  • Liz

    Beautiful, honest piece. Even “healthy” people should see a therapist … it’s someone who’s always going to be on your side, your advocate, someone who is equipped to help you analyze your situation. Of course you can talk to friends and family, but sometimes there comes a point when you’ve drained them, or they don’t know what to tell you anymore, or the context of your relationship doesn’t allow them to really help you. If we all had someone to talk to once a week for an hour — even just to unload — we would all be happier folks, I think.

    Thanks for speaking out against the stigma. I had to overcome that too before finally seeking help. At first therapy felt like betrayal, because my parents — both immigrants — felt that it was inappropriate to tell anyone else about your problems.

    I’m going to see my therapist today in fact! And I’m excited about it!

    Also, you might appreciate this:

  • Nicole

    When an ex-therapist told me I should tell people I have mono instead of depression, and to be careful who I tell about my anxiety, I found a new therapist. The key to erasing the stigma is definitely to openly talk about it and not be ashamed — awesome article.

  • Marisa Siegel

    This is brilliant, Gaby! I agree 100%.

  • Natasha

    I don’t think anyone should ever feel ashamed for getting help and I wish people could be much more open about it. I have had a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident. In the first couple of years I talked about my problems allot and I soon figured out who my real friends were or how few i had. I am much better now but there are still issues and occasionally they come up, very few can deal with it but that is what I am looking for now. People who don’t feel the need to look to heaven and think here she goes again or brush it aside as if everyone has the same problem, I know they don’t as I didn’t have them before. A good friend should be able to understand those that can’t don’t deserve to be friends with me

    • Rebecca

      Totally agreed. Sometimes I feel so guilty for being open about my problems (which can be somewhat overwhelming) and expecting support from my friends- and then cutting ties when I’m not getting what I need from them. But it’s better to be honest; you find out who’s worth your time.

  • Kate

    That wasn’t my comment at all. I said “every fifth article on here makes reference to a therapist. Seems over the top.” Sorry that you felt you had to write a whole article about it.

    • LT

      It was worth writing a whole article about. I think Gaby’s “misinterpretation” of your comment was for the best.

      • Kate

        Maybe. Maybe not.

    • audreyfaye

      It’s not about you.

      • Kate

        Well actually, this whole article is based around my comment. Well, a false interpretation of my comment.

    • Gaby Dunn

      I write what I know. I don’t think you should nitpick people seeing a therapist. Everyone should see a therapist. And they should talk about as much as they want to.

      • Kate

        Everyone should see a therapist? Why? Some people can do just fine on their own. They don’t need to obsess over and iron out every terrible thing that ever happened to them. Bad shit happens to everyone, some people deal better than others.

      • Gaby Dunn

        That’s not what therapy is, Kate.

    • Gaby Dunn

      Every single article on here could mention seeing a therapist and there should be no problem with that.

      • audreyfaye

        Sure, your comment inspired the article. But Gaby isn’t just defending herself from you – she’s defending every person who seeks therapy against all the other people who talk shit about therapy, and she’s providing advice for the many people who are afraid to seek mental health help because of the stigma placed upon it.

      • Kate

        Because you haven’t actually written the comment as I wrote it. Do whatever makes you feel better about being on your high horse though.

      • Veronica

        It was misquoted, but I don’t think Gaby misinterpreted. You also said “seems a little self-indulgent” and that sentiment is (part of) exactly what she addressed here.

    • Gaby Dunn

      How did I falsely interpret that? That’s what you said. That I shouldn’t mention (even in passing) that my therapist had an opinion on what I was writing about. What is over the top about that?

      • Shraddha Chatterjee (@alexnshades)

        Hi Gaby,

        May I support you on this one? I’m a Clinical Psychologist in training, and proud therapy-goer for a year now. One thing we recognize is that until we reach an optimum level of resolution in our own lives, we cannot be good therapists.

        Until you have sorted out your own self, you cannot be someone who helps other people.

        Also, Kate, by all means, if you don’t like therapy, don’t go to therapy. It’s like saying you don’t like shopping. If other people think they need to go shopping would you feel like saying something about that?

    • Z

      but you did say “Seems a little self-indulgent” in reply to Andrea Lynema’s comment that therapists are wonderful if you can afford it.

      • Kate

        Yeah I did. But the comment quoted in this article wasn’t my actual comment. It’s some botched together thing that makes Ms Dunn feel like she can justify this whinge fest.

      • bb

        given that she didn’t even credit who said it why do you care so much about being mis-quoted. Feel special that you inspired a thought catalog, and if you disagree, cool, don’t read Gaby’s articles then.

      • Kate

        I do actually! Honoured and special. Thanks. When did I say I didn’t like her articles (other than this one)? Jeez, you people are so touchy.

  • Rebecca

    Thank you so much for writing this. Most of my friends think the fact that I see a therapist (for only $20 per week) is “indulgent” or a “waste of money” or fundamentally unnecessary. These are the kinds of people who have no idea how to respond my problems when I’m open about them, because a lot of them have lived Disney-esque lives (just graduated college, so most of my friends are 21-23). I guess they don’t understand that it’s not just a matter of stating your problems out loud; it’s getting feedback and support and advice. I used to feel so ashamed that I had to pay someone to get these things- after reading this article though, not anymore!

  • Eli

    This is excellent, thank you very much! I was just having a similar conversation with a friend of mine who is starting therapy for the first time soon…

  • Estelle

    if anyone has been to a therapist and doesnt see how it could help, FIND A NEW THERAPIST.
    therapists are people too, even if it is their job to help you, you wont find every therapist helpful, just like some people need different medications than other people with the same issue.

    I just say this because I have gone through many therapists and have ranged from really expensive people, to almost free therapists (with insurance) and I finally found one that i find helpful, and she’s actually the cheapest therapist ive had which is a plus for my empty wallet

    great article, thank you, and if anyone thinks they may want to try therapy, dont give up after the first appointment

  • Jake

    I can see why people get tired of hearing about it. It does seem like everybody only ever wants to talk about their problems all of the time. I think therapy should be reserved for serious issues, counselling for eating disorders and such, rather than because you feel didn’t get enough hugs as a child.

    • audreyfaye

      Then don’t go to therapy for anything other than serious issues. But that’s not the only way to look at psychological treatment. My therapist helps me feel more balanced. She has helped me resolve lifelong conflicts with my mom. She has helped me understand and reduce the ways that I contribute the negativity in my relationships as well as how to reject negativity from others. These aren’t catastrophic challenges, but having someone help me find solutions to them makes my life better.

      • Jake

        My point is, everybody deals with those issues. You’re not special because you have issues with your mon or negativity in your relationships. So seeking therapy for it, does seem a little ott.

      • audreyfaye

        I never said I was special. But why is it over the top for me to take a concrete step to improve my quality of life? This time last year, I was unhinged. I hurt myself and others because I didn’t have control over how I felt. Today, I feel great. I feel positive and in control of how I feel and how I present myself to others. I don’t think I would have gotten there without the professional guidance of a caring, no-nonsense therapist. I understand why not every person sees therapy as a solution to the challenges they face. I don’t understand why some of those people are critical of individuals who find that therapy helps them deal with their challenges.

    • Rebecca

      Some people just have more intense emotional responses to events than others. I suggest you read about HSP (highly sensitive people)- could help you understand.

      • Jake

        Highly sensitive people…that was my point. Everyone goes through horrible stuff but some people take it more personally. Then they think everyone should have to listen to how terrible their life is, and take it a an insult if you won’t listen to every single word they have to say.

      • Katie

        There will always be someone else that is in a significantly worse spot than you but arguing that that makes your “problems” irrelevant is unfair. Just because someone else’s problems are more serious than yours does not invalidate what you feel. You are just as entitled to feel your emotions as anyone else. Your “mommy issues” are yours and wanting to work through them will lead to a new perspective on them. If they seem superficial, but they still impact you on some level, then working through them will only make you happier. Is it wrong to want to talk to someone who is not going to judge you, regardless of how miniscule your problems seem? No. Would you want to live with chronic back pain, even if it didn’t really interfere with your daily life? My guess is no. You don’t want to go to a therapist, fine. Don’t go. Nobody is forcing you. My suspicion though is that you secretly want to go, but you are afraid of appearing weak. Otherwise you wouldn’t feel the need to get so defensive about it on a ThoughtCatalog article.

      • Jake

        When did I say that problems were irrelevant? Did I? I don’t have mommy issues, I said that she wasn’t special BECAUSE she had problems with her mom because nearly everyone in the Western world does. I don’t secretly want therapy but thanks for trying to figure me out via a TC comment. I’m not defensive, I made one comment and people went crazy. I’m allowed to respond aren’t I? You’re right about one thing, I would feel weak for seeking therapy for trivial, non life threatening issues.

    • Jessica

      Therapy isn’t just about talking about your problems. It’s about learning how to respond to problems in a more constructive manner. Some people’s brains are predisposed to panic if they are faced with a big problem. That doesn’t mean they are self-indulgent or that they are weak, it just means that they want to improve themselves and the way they interact with the world around them.

    • Rebecca

      Ugh, you clearly don’t even want to try to understand. Btw, highly sensitive is a PSYCHIATRIC TERM, meaning these people’s brains are WIRED DIFFERENTLY. It’s not a matter of taking things “more personally” or getting “insulted” – they just have a much deeper emotional capacity than you seem to. (And btw, therapy helps with this, and helps HSP’s to interact with others and deal with their problems in the most constructive manner.)

      • Jake

        I didn’t say I don’t want to understand it. I was simply saying I can see people’s point of view when they say that therapy is indulgent. Clearly, you don’t want to understand both points of view either. I got that HSP was psychiatric thanks for feeling that you needed to clear that up though!

    • JOSS

      First of all, Jake, what is “serious” is hard to quantify, and doesn’t have to do with taking horrible things “more personally”. Mental illness is real, depression is real, and it is a medical condition. Chemical imbalances in the brain and destructive thought patterns have little to do with getting enough hugs as a child. The idea of “reserving” therapy is troubling. Thanks Audreyfaye and Rebecca for your thoughts; I agree whole-heartedly.

      Also: Jake, did you consider that if everyone had a therapist to talk to, they wouldn’t need to talk about their problems to you all the time? Why do you care if people are working through their issues inside a closed office with a willing professional? People who get therapy don’t feel that they’re “special” or their lives are worse than anyone else’s. They are looking for better ways to deal with their issues so that they won’t be wallowing all the time. Frankly, I go to therapy so I won’t have to lay the stress of my depression on my family and friends. Instead of relying on my friends as a shoulder to cry on, I rely on a therapist. If that’s indulgent, well, I’m sorry you feel that way, but please don’t judge me for trying to be a better friend.

      • Jake

        Seriously, HOW defensive are you all? I wasn’t talking about people like you Joss. I was referring to people who go to therapy and then insist on re counting EVERY single detail to their friends. Good for you that you don’t do that and good for you that you don’t have any friends like that!

      • Jessica

        I completely agree with you. If I didn’t see a therapist, I’d probably drive my friends crazy because I tend to worry about the most ridiculous things. I know that I shouldn’t worry over inane things, but I can’t force my brain to stop it. My therapist has helped me recognize when I’m being irrational and to come up with ways to deal with that worry in a productive manner.

        I take exception to the notion that therapy is self-indulgent, but I can also agree that there are some people out there (who are probably not particularly self-aware) who do use the fact that they are in therapy as an attention seeking device. As someone who finds therapy to be an important, constructive part of her routine, it’s frustrating that people like that give all therapy-seekers a bad rap.

      • Jake

        That’s exactly the kind of people who I was referring to.

    • Rebecca

      LOL. “I think therapy should be reserved for serious issues”; “seeking therapy for it, (sic) does seem a little ott (sic)”; “Everyone goes through horrible stuff but some people take it more personally. Then they think everyone should have to listen to how terrible their life is, and take it a an insult if you won’t listen to every single word they have to say.”

      I understand your point of view perfectly well; I just disagree with it. You keep insisting that people should not go to therapy or talk about their problems. It is scientifically proven that some people (15-20% of the population) have more feelings than others. Often these people seek therapy, sometimes for “serious issues” and sometimes for issues that “everybody deals with.” Either way, I don’t see any reason you should be so peeved about it.

      • Jake

        Great, and I don’t agree with yours. I don’t see why you should be so peeved about that. But you are.

    • Rebecca

      Ok, I think I see what you were getting at with your original comment- you were complaining about people who complain about their problems to their friends rather than a therapist (I think?). Well, that’s not what the article was about, and if you don’t want to be friends with someone who talks about their problems, they’re probably better off without you anyway.

      • Jake

        That was my original point, that almost everyone took out of context. You clearly have never had a “friend” that has completely sucked you dry by turning everything into negativity and talking literally NONE STOP about how terrible they are/their life is. You’re very lucky that you have friends who are in a mutual relationship with you rather than treating you like dirt.

      • audreyfaye

        You didn’t talk about people unloading on their friends in your original comments, though. You specifically said you think it’s over the top for people (like me) to seek therapy for non-critical issues. I go to therapy in part so that I don’t become the kind of friend who sucks people dry and doesn’t treat them well because I’m too trapped in my issues. I wish I were the kind of person who could deal with things internally and on my own, but I’m not, and pretending to be caused me a lot of harm.

      • Jake

        I said “it does seem like everybody only ever wants to talk about their problems all of the time.” Sorry I wasn’t more specific, I had to be after about 5 people attacked my comment. I wasn’t talking about people like you, as I said before, I meant people who go to therapy and then continue to offload onto anyone who comes across their path. And also, as Jessica pointed out, people who use therapy as an attention seeking tool. Which, you can’t deny, happens alot. Which I’m sure, irritates you (as someone who needs therapy) as much as it irritates me.

      • audreyfaye

        Very much agreed. I’m glad we made it onto the same page!

      • Jake

        Took a while, got there in the end! :)

      • V

        Being more specific than “everybody” in the first place probably would’ve helped, imho :)

      • Jake

        Sorry! I’m not perfect, remedied it now!

  • Annabel

    Therapy is a waste of time, and I agree, it is self indulgent. I went once under much duress and frankly it was horrendous. Pointless, boring and unhelpful.

    • Nia

      Just because it didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t help someone else.

    • Pamela

      There are so many different kinds of therapy. If one doesn’t seem effective, perhaps another would be. And even within the same type, every therapist is different. My therapist specializes in body awareness practices and somatic experiencing, which has turned out to be very useful in managing my anxiety.

      • Annabel

        Great for you. Still think it’s a waste of time.

    • Sarah

      That’s a pretty immature way of looking at it – to know some people find it helpful, to know that there are lots of different branches of it that you know little or nothing about, but still to dismiss it as a waste of time…

      • Annabel

        And I’m sure you know everything about every type of therapy.

    • makeupandmirtazapine

      No, I don’t. That’s one of the reasons I’m not making sweeping generalisations about it. Or dismissing the experiences of complete strangers as invalid because they don’t fit in with my own views.

  • Jessica

    Seeing a therapist was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I suffer from really intense anxiety and there are time where I just can’t control it. It’s helpful to go talk about it in a safe environment and work out strategies for dealing with it. My therapist makes me feel like I’m not a freak for having these problems, and talking to her helps me feel more grounded.

    Anyone who has anything negative to say about therapy is either a narrow-minded jerk or was seeing the wrong therapist. My friend likes to say that finding a good therapist is like finding a good boyfriend. You have to find the right fit for it to work well.

  • Sierra

    Thank you for this. I somewhat regularly find that it would be relevant to a conversation to mention something my therapist said (sometimes not even about me – my therapist has some awesome opinions on music that I occasionally want to reference), and I almost always say that this is something a “friend” said rather than admitting the truth. I wish I heard the courage to be honest about it, and articles like this, but more importantly people like you who are brave enough to talk about it in casual conversation and help to normalize it, make that much easier.

  • H

    I probably need therapy but I do see it as a weakness and would sooner boil my head than admit that I need, or ever ask anyone for help. Therefore I tend to look at people who have therapy as weak. Sorry, but I can’t help it.

    • Jess

      I’d say it’s a sign of strength to admit that you have a problem and that you want to work to make it better. You must be a really unpleasant person to be around.

      • H

        Did I, or did I not, just say that I probably need therapy but won’t ask for help? I’d say you’re probably quite unpleasant too darling. Nasty to boot.

    • Veronica

      I’d recommend biting the bullet and going for it (i.e. making an appointment with a therapist). Your critical attitude toward yourself & others about therapy can be one of the first things you talk about, eh?

      • H

        In an ideal world maybe, practicality prevents it though.

    • muffin.

      Mm, I see where you’re coming from, but if you can admit to complete strangers that you “probably need therapy”, aren’t you already there? Like, you say that you “would sooner boil [your] head than admit that [you] need, or ever ask anyone for help”, but aren’t you admitting that need by saying you probably need therapy? Or maybe that’s just me? Just curious :)

      • H

        I see what you’re saying but its a world of difference. It’s the whole “Internet anonymity” thing. In this post, I’m just the letter H. You don’t know my name, gender, age, country of origin, or any of my friends/family. So it’s much easier to just say it. As opposed to my real life, where if I stood up and said (to either my family, or even just one of my friends) “hey, you know what, I’m kind of a mess. I should probably see a therapist” I would either not be taken seriously (as in, hahaha you’re such a funny person) or I’d be met with an awkward silence/it’d be brushed off as “you’re a mess because you’re young/you don’t know what you want blah blah”. But, most importantly, I’d just never do it. Because I pride myself on being the strongest of my friends/family and to say I needed help would, in my own mind, automatically render me weak and unable to cope.

  • Kerri

    Words cannot express my gratitude to you for writing this. I was on the fence about seeing a therapist but you have inspired me to give it a shot. I just made an appointment for tomorrow and am looking forward to it. Thank you so much.

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