Monday, 4 November 2013

Why Not Just Go to Counseling?

I often come across people who feel bad in themselves (depressed) yet who are reluctant to go along to sort out their illness (that's what it is) with a specialist.

(I ought to add that there are two kinds of depression. One is purely physical. It has to do with chemical reactions not operating quite as they do in everyone-else and it may be that a medical check-up will suggest you should eat different foods which don't set off your mood, or that you have a physical condition which can be managed with medication. Here I'm talking about depression which is solely caused by underlying mental troubles. Also there is a big difference between counseling and therapy but I'm just going to bundle them together for the purposes of this blogpost.)

Money is frequently cited as the main reason not to seek out counseling. It's true that a counseling session costs the price of a dinner out for two (although therapists will almost always practice a sliding scale, proportionate to the kind of meal you can afford - fry-up at Greasy Joe's or three course Italian with antipasti). One says to oneself: 'Gah! why am I going to pay all this money to someone just to cheer me up? I will pay to take a friend out to a nice meal! that will do the trick.' Unfortunately one is often too miserable to want to go out for a nice meal with a friend, which is a sad state of affairs. Or worse, even if you make it out the door, you spend the evening moaning about trivial things which are going wrong in your life and fearing everyone thinks you are boring, all the while horribly conscious that there is a BIG problem but you can't articulate it properly.

Honey, just cough up the money and go to counseling for six months. Then see if you are in a better frame of mind for going out to dinner. A counselor will find your trivial troubles interesting and probably be able to help you spot the BIG problem lurking in them like a shy animal in the undergrowth.

From Project Linus
supporting kids who need hugs
Money is often just an excuse, I think one actual reason not to go to counseling is that a general feeling of grumpiness with the world can come to be familiar. It's like a comfort blanket that you cling to, cuz it's a bit terrifying to imagine that you could be seeing the world in rainbow colours, skipping along annoying people by bursting into song now and then. Who would you be? What would your life be like, if you were not That Person Who Always Bores Everyone With Their Trivial Troubles at parties.

The BIG problem lurking in the undergrowth has by now reached epic proportions in your mind, too. You glimpse it darting through the shadows. You make fumbling attempts to catch it yourself. You wonder what kind of problem it is. Is it some character flaw so dreadful that the therapist will go: "Jesus H Christ! You are a raving loony! I have never met anyone who is such a danger to society, you must be locked in a tower until your hair grows long enough for a witch to climb up and torture you daily." And you think to yourself: 'D'you know what? Maybe I won't go to therapy with my shy problem this week. I will just sit on it a little bit longer, who knows, it might hatch.' (They usually do, acksherly - into lots more little problems.)

Having been to therapy myself, I know that it is not a magic solution which will melt your Problem away and usher you into the Age of Aquarius and perhaps that's the main reason people don't go to counseling. Yes, the blanket of grey or black mood will lift. You will no longer feel like a bad person to whom good things occasionally happen, you'll realise that you are a good person to whom bad things sometimes happen which you can deal with. You will be able to be happy when there are things to be happy about.

From Quotes Wave
(Unfortunately, you may have 
become fond of those assholes.)
However, if you are depressed, the likelihood is that the people around you are depressed too. You probably collected friends who are not the jolly hockeysticks sort, cuz those kind of energetic people are irritating when you're depressed. Also, your family are likely to be a bit off the yellow brick road. Nobody gets proper clinical depression without assistance. That family whom you think are all so-o-o sorted while you are picking straws out of your hair will probably crumble and burst into tears if you say "How are you?" in a tone that suggests you actually are interested in the answer. I mean, my brother was silent for years and everyone admired him for being the strong silent type, but it turned out he was having a dreadful time at school and hoping that if he never said anything someone would ask him what the matter was.

(NB, it is frequently the case that one person in the family gets the role of ditzy screamer who acts out all the problems, and then everyone-else can go along quietly hugging their grey-black comfort blanket of depression to themselves and doing 'normal' lives.)

So what will happen if you go to counseling or therapy and sort yourself out, becoming someone who doesn't behave in odd ways which feed depression, if you start to get yourself out of the Slough of Despond? Chances are that you will start to think a lot of your friends are boring and that your family are weird. They will say you are weird. You usually end up no longer depressed and no longer burdened by weird and depressed family and friends.

From Wired News and 
c/o Heath Robinson Trust
Well, that sounds like a good thing but it is painful to wave goodbye to people some of whom have been there all your life. There is a large bunch of people now whom I'm not able talk to. I suddenly realised that the beautiful and complex Heath Robinson style modus operandi they had created in order to get along in the world while clinging to their depression-comfort blanket was a waste of time and totally unnecessary. When I pointed this out to them they ran screaming for the undergrowth. I sat in the clearing on my own for quite a while hopefully calling to them to come out into the sunshine before making new and more rational friends. I miss them, although not their weird ways of doing things.

So I do understand why people are not always keen to get on the road to sanity. The warm cosy normal chaos of bonkers family and friends you have lovingly collected around you may be more appealing than the lonely trek to sanity in the cold Spring sunshine of clear thinking. 

If as a society we are to move out into sunny clearings and the Age of Aquarius, though, some of us must sort our heads and hearts out. We will get to meet others on the way, and see them clearly .