Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #2
–My goal in writing this book?
My goal has been to answer three questions about therapy:
1) Why did I go to therapy? I explain what is was like to find out I needed therapy and how I found a therapist.
2) What was therapy like? What was it like going to therapy sessions, what is discussed, how long did therapy take, how much did it cost and many other details.
3) How effective was therapy? I document my symptoms that caused me to seek therapy and how those symptoms changed in frequency and intensity over time. I provide this for the time I was in therapy and the four years after my therapy sessions ended.
When I was first aware of needing therapy, these were the questions I had. I believe these are the questions that you want answered as you consider therapy for yourself or someone you care about.
Personally, I also have a fourth goal:
4) To be reviewed by the Economist and dismissed as “a useless bit of ‘piffle’ from ‘over there’.” It’s good to have goals!
–Words have meaning
Words have meaning and sometimes they are used in ways that are very misleading and hurtful. When I went to therapy, I was making use of the medical insurance provided by my employer. From the words used on the web site and on the paperwork from my employer, I was making use of my Employee Mental Health Benefit.
Logically, the following analysis makes sense. I was making use of a Mental Health Benefit. I must have been unhealthy, which means I was ill. Using a benefit that relates to mental health means I was mentally ill. People who are mentally ill are scary and do all sorts of really bad stuff, like shoot lots of people in public places for no reason at all.
This ‘logic’ causes a reasonable person to not want to seek help for anything that might appear to anyone else as a ‘mental health issue’. This is part of the stigma that is still attached to someone receiving therapy as I did. I was concerned when it was time for me to contact my employer’s insurance company and request services available under my Mental Health Benefit.
I want to be clear on this because it is important. I was never diagnosed with any form of any mental illness. I was never treated for a mental illness. I was never medicated for a mental illness. I think a great many persons would benefit from therapy as I did, but don’t consider going because they are afraid they will be seen as ‘mentally ill’.
When my symptoms first appeared I was 50 years old. I have a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering. I have been employed in various technical jobs since I graduated from the University of California, Davis in 1980. I had never been in therapy before. My impression of therapy was poor based on witnessing my mother’s experience. She went many times over the years, but I never saw it have any affect. She did not get better. If anything, she seemed to have more drama when a therapist was involved.
The closest I had been to therapy was marriage counseling. We had two sessions. It was very productive and it radically altered my impression of the whole field of therapy. Unlike what I saw when my mother went to therapy, the marriage counseling identified the issue in one 50 minute session, and a week later, offered a workable resolution during the second 50 minute session. This focus on identifying and resolving the issue as efficiently as possible was very different from what I had seen before. The goal was to get you back to your life as soon as possible, not start a long-term relationship with a therapist. My view of counseling in general was much more positive when the time came for me to go on my own.
At the same time, I’m not someone that has been in and out of all sorts of therapy. I am not a therapy groupie, a person who goes to therapy but never gets done, a person who has always been, and always will be in some form of self-help.
I had heard about the experiences of other people I had known as they needed various forms of therapy. In general, it didn’t seem to help. I also observed that they resisted the therapist’s advice and were frequently medicated, sometimes with drugs that are scary to me. One example: I was once told about someone that was doing better because they were ‘only on Lithium’. If you look up what it takes to have Lithium prescribed it is pretty serious.
I think many people assume that anyone who needs to see a therapist is being medicated. The only medication I was taking was for hypertension. I’ve been taking this for many years and it had nothing to do with my needing therapy. This medication is the only medication I have been taking before, during and after I went to therapy. It is my opinion that alcohol is a drug. To be clear, I have never had any issue with alcohol or any form of recreational drugs. I do enjoy alcohol on occasion, but it has never been a problem.
I have been exercising regularly for years. I think this has had a direct affect on my emotional situation. I think exercise has delayed the onset of symptoms for many years and reduced the severity of my symptoms when they occurred.
In summary: as I entered therapy, I was exercising regularly, I was taking one medication for hypertension, I didn’t have any marital issues, I did not have any alcohol or drug issues, I did not have financial problems and I did not have any issues at work. I also did not have any premeditated desire to attend therapy.
Why is this relevant? There is a lot of prejudice about anyone that gets therapy or any form of counseling. The conventional wisdom is that anyone that needs help has a serious problem and is some form of crazy, i.e. mentally ill. I think this is really fear. People are afraid of therapy and counseling because they are afraid they would be labeled as crazy. A logical extension of this popular perception (fear) of therapy is that people that get treatment are seriously messed up. I want to present my background as clearly as possible to make clear that my life was not messed up in any way. And I benefitted tremendously from therapy.
My message is simple: many people would benefit from therapy that don’t think their life is messed up enough to need it. You don’t have to be seriously messed up to have emotional issues. Resolving these issues will improve your life. This is a theme I will return to over and over. From reviewing my background, would you think I needed therapy? Would you think I would have any issues that would require two years of sessions with a therapist?