Therapy 5/20/20

Recollections by Richard Bleil

There is considerable stigma associated with therapy. I believe I’ve spoken of being in therapy in the past, but it’s been quite some time.

I expect that openly discussing topics that are so highly stigmatized is a very effective way to help tear down those walls. Personally, I believe there should be no stigma associated with therapy, and, in fact, because there is, there is no doubt in my mind that many people who would be much happier if they sought therapy avoid it because of this negative image.

People go to therapy for a variety of reasons, all of them legitimate. One doesn’t seek therapy unless there is an issue, and these issues are medical conditions, short and simple. I, myself, suffer from depression; it’s caused by (I’m told) a chemical imbalance in my brain. How is this my fault? Having depression is no more the fault of the sufferer than having a cold. And no more shameful.

Some people think that seeing a therapist is a sign of weakness. In fact, it takes particular courage to seek therapy, especially in our society. I’ve been accosted by a gang in Boston, had triple bypass surgery, been in a car crash that should have ended me, nearly had an appendix burst, been rolled in New York and the only time I’ve ever been afraid was sitting in the waiting room to see my therapist. But the interesting thing is that the times I was most afraid were the times I most needed to be there. Apparently my subconscious knew.

I’ve been told that therapy works about a third of the time. I have no way to verify this, but about a third of the people improve, a third see no difference and a third get worse. I have a good friend who fell into this third category. She suffered abuse as a child, the memories of which she buried. Unfortunately, therapy brought them to the surface, and they were better buried.

What I learned from therapy was myself. I think the reason that therapy worked for me was because I actually wanted to learn about myself, but I didn’t learn about me. I learned me. I came to understand my behavior, and the reason for it. I’m actually a protector, as it turns out, more worried about other people than myself. It’s hard to describe really; it’s not like taking a course in psychology as it is in taking a course in yourself. This insight helped me to cope and deal with a lot of the things I deal with on a daily basis, and this insight into myself helped me to better understand others as well.

Understand? Or just be more empathetic? Either way, it was very insightful.

This insight, this advantage in coping is kind of like the edge of your favorite kitchen knife, though. You use it quite a bit, but as time goes on the edge wears and it becomes increasingly dull and less effective. That’s kind of where I’m at today. I recognize that I need to get back into therapy, but unfortunately can’t afford to do so. Well, not until my friend becomes certified, but she already knows too much about me already.

It’s fair. I know too much about her, too.

I worked hard to avoid therapy. I started reading different religious philosophies because I was looking for answers, attended self-help seminars, and did a lot of other things to try to dig myself out of the depression I was in. Fortunately for me, the one thing I never tried were drugs, tobacco or alcohol. I always knew I am easily addicted, so I made the conscious decision to keep away from them. Although, to be fair, I also truly disliked the feeling the few times I did get drunk, so that helped as well.

There’s another upside to not drinking on a regular basis. Since I hardly ever drink anyway, I don’t feel the need to save money when I do decide to imbibe.

If you feel as if therapy might help you, I encourage you to seek it out. The hardest part is just making that first call, reaching out and taking the first step. Many employers have wellness programs that include mental help services. If yours doesn’t, I believe most states also have such services. In fact, just today on the radio I heard a commercial for a state-run program to help with relationships, which, honestly, is an important part of a well-balanced, healthy and happy life.

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