I thought about writing a really click-bait-y title (like Why I decided to skip therapy), but it felt so false and like I was trying too hard. So, picked a different one. Maybe I should have gone click-bait? Anyway, doesn’t really matter.
Let’s get down to the real stuff.
Two weeks ago, I briefly shared that I had opted out of talking to a therapist and getting therapy, and now I want to dig more into that.
I’ve been to counseling before. I’ve seen probably half a dozen of them. And I can’t bring to my mind any way that it has been useful to my life. I’ve never had a successful therapy experience.
What does that say about me?
It might mean that I’m a bad patient. It might mean that I’ve only ever seen bad counselors (but I’ve seen a college campus counselor (actually 2), a psychologist, psychiatrist, master’s degree therapist, a pastor… pretty much the WHOLE range of pros). It might mean that my anxiety, which I didn’t really ever know I had before now, blocked me so much that I couldn’t engage. Maybe I have some trust issues.
Maybe I’m just not screwed up enough.
Or, maybe, what I need is to build actual supports around me rather seeking paid support. I’m not saying that no one should ever seek counseling or that everything would be better if our support network was stronger – please don’t hear that. I’m saying for me specifically, I think that I need to build the relationships I have around me. I need to build trust and intimacy with those who already exist in my life.
Ever since I’ve started talking about my anxiety, talking about it makes me more anxious.
In fact, several weeks ago, we went to our first house church meeting. They’re friends of ours and we were invited and the ENTIRE time—from the initial invite to the day we showed up—I couldn’t shake the feeling that they didn’t really want me there. That I was invited out of pity or something. I’m not sure what, but I couldn’t shake it. As we dropped the kids off with my in-laws and then drove to this friend’s house, I started getting more and more and more anxious and by the time we walked in the door, I was on the verge of a legit anxiety attack.
I had NO IDEA how to calm down from there, so I sat there, jacked on anxiety, and tried to just be normal.
The group ended up breaking into two and my mind was zipping around at a thousand miles an hour and I ended up blurting out my faith crisis. That I didn’t know what I believed. That I was struggling with doubt. That it felt like everything was falling apart.
And I IMMEDIATELY regretted opening my mouth, but it was out. There was nothing I could do about it. I’d already said it and then I had to try to engage in a conversation that no one expected. And my anxiety went up again. I sat there, with my hand over my mouth, trying to keep myself from saying anything else.
I managed to survive the ordeal, but when I got home, I realized that this anxiety was really a problem. I had ZERO control over myself, it felt like, with the train of anxiety running through me.
So I talked to my doctor and she referred me to their integrated therapist. I just wanted to talk public coping strategies. How do I handle being out in public and coping with my anxiety when it starts to run away with me.
The therapist called me and talked about how she needed to refer me out because I’d have to pay out of pocket and I’d need a diagnostic assessment just so she could bill it and the longer she talked and the more the complications arose, the less I wanted to go.
I didn’t want a diagnostic assessment.
I just wanted to talk about one thing.
That isn’t how our mental health system works, though, is it? It’s as though there’s no real room for the not-so-sick, at least that’s what I, as an individual, feel like. I don’t feel out of control enough to warrant a number of therapy sessions working through whatever anxiety I’m feeling with a person who I’m pretty sure doesn’t care about me anyway (and maybe that’s just the anxiety talking again).
It always makes me thing of Moulin Rouge where Satine tells Christian that she’s paid to make men believe whatever they want.
Therapists are paid to care, or at least to pretend that they do. I don’t doubt for a second that a great many therapists really do care about their patients and want to help them better their lives. I firmly believe that, and I think it’s worth seeking out therapy if you think it might benefit you. I especially recommend it if you’ve never gone before. Therapy DOES work.
Is this where I play my awkward “But I’m the exception” card? Sure.
I actually don’t think I’m the exception. I think I have a couple things working against me that is more work than I feel is worth overcoming.
- I have a psych degree. That pretty makes me the WORST mental health patient ever. It’s like my doctor said – nurses make the worst patients for a doctor. I think people in the mental health field probably also make the worst mental health patients.
- I don’t have any good counseling experience to draw from. I have a BUNCH of waste-of-my-time counseling experiences to draw from. Again, probably my own fault, but that’s huge to overcome.
- CBT is in and I hate it. CBT makes me feel manipulated. CBT is cognitive behavioral therapy – essentially you work on changing how you think so that how you act changes. It is SUPER effective and highly evidence-based, but I just feel manipulated the entire time. So, not great for therapy.
So, as the barriers to me getting my one question answered rose, I decided no. I decided I didn’t want to do it. I was completely open to it before that, but I’m one of those people who fell through the cracks of the system. I’m not sick enough to need therapy but not well enough to not need anything.
It’s a strange line to walk, a strange balance to strike, but slowly, we’re working on one.
I did some “therapy” with my husband where we talked about it. We came up with a plan. I was honest with him about things he does that help me to exist better.
And if this doesn’t work and I have another major anxiety attack and our plan doesn’t help, I suppose I’ll have to reconsider. Or maybe I need to spend a few days on Google assembling a new plan. But for now, we have a plan in place and it doesn’t involve therapy or a mental health professional.
I was a mental health professional for a couple years before staying home with my kids – I worked in the field, not as a counselor, though. I wanted to go into counseling. I wanted a Master’s degree in counseling. I really wanted to do that.
Part of me thinks I really wanted it to help fix myself, which is a terrible reason to go into ridiculous debt. A lot of people go into this field to help themselves. In the end, I haven’t gotten any further education, but I almost feel more equipped to survive now than I did before.
I opened up. A lot. And it helped.
I think the most surprising thing is that I found the most help and support in the Church, where it seems if you ask around, people tend to find the LEAST amount of support. Crazy how that works, huh?
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