Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #4
What if therapy doesn’t help? A significant amount of time and money (blood and treasure) was going into the therapy process. This was time not spent with my loved ones, not spent helping my children grow up, time not spent advancing my career. This was money not spent on my wife and children, not saved for college, not saved for retirement.
What if the symptoms get worse? If my symptoms get worse, where does it end? I wondered if I would end up unable to hold a job, unable to remain married and perhaps my children would not want to be around me.
If my symptoms get worse, I won’t be able to focus on work. This would cause me to lose my job and that would make me feel really guilty. Would I be able to get another job with these symptoms? If I can’t work ever again, now that is something to be afraid of.
Why couldn’t I figure this all out on my own? I shouldn’t need anyone to help me. I should be able to deal with this on my own. I’ve accomplished many things over many years. Therefore, I must have failed to work hard enough or smart enough or else I would have overcome this without help.
These are all reasons why we can’t expect our loved ones or our friends to help us resolve these issues. If I had told my wife about my nightmare, I think she would ask me ‘why?’ which is very reasonable. But, her asking would just make me feel bad because I didn’t know why, and I would have no answer for her, which would make me feel bad. I would worry that she would think I was crazy. And the cycle continues. We don’t tell anyone because we can’t explain these things to ourselves and we don’t want to worry those we care about. We don’t want them to think we are broken. But not telling anyone perpetuates the symptoms and can make them worse. When we hide our symptoms we can do things that actually make those around us worry as much or more than if they knew exactly what we were experiencing.
This is why going to a therapist is so powerful. You can tell them things without worrying about what the reaction will be. You don’t have to worry that you will upset them. I’m confident they’ve heard it all before. You don’t have to worry that anything will be repeated to anyone else. This means all your concerns about fear, shame and guilt are gone. When these concerns are taken away, a whole lot of ‘stuff’ comes flowing out. Stuff that I would not have told anyone, for fear they would think I was crazy.
For example, when the therapist heard my description of my nightmare, they didn’t ask me to explain it. I believe, if I had told anyone else about my nightmare, they would immediately ask me to explain it. I think any reasonable person would. And this is why I was afraid to tell anyone. This is the cycle the prevents people getting help. If you don’t tell anyone, you can’t be accused of having a problem.
I have a family history of depression. I saw it in my mother all the time, and in my siblings from time to time. Depression is hard to define. I can tell you what I’ve experienced. I have known people outside my family that were described as depressed. They couldn’t work, they couldn’t help their family, they couldn’t get out of bed most days. I also noticed that these same persons could shop and gamble and drink and do other things that they wanted to. It seems to me, many people I’ve known have used the generic phrase ‘depression’ as an excuse for a range of selfish behaviors.
I don’t think what I have experienced is full-on clinical depression. Over the years I got used to it. Every so often I would feel this way. It always came on slowly, gently. I became sad and quiet. It was like watching the tide come in, or the fog coming in over hills in the afternoon. If you watched carefully you could see it happening, but it you were focused on anything else, it was just suddenly there. I never felt mad, nothing hurt. If someone needed anything I was fully capable of handling it. I was fully functional at work. But I was affected. I didn’t want to do anything and nothing seemed exciting.
When this depression comes on, I can sit for hours just watching the sun move across the sky, the clouds moving over the house. I’m always very relaxed when it happens. I don’t want to feel this way, but I’ve become used to it. I used to tell my wife that I was having a ‘therapeutic’ depression. This was my way of explaining why, occasionally, I would go through a period of being sad and quiet for no specific reason. I worried that I would wind up like those around me that were depressed. If I was depressed and they were depressed then I had to end up like them. So I didn’t want to be ‘depressed’. When my doctor offered depression as a diagnosis for the symptoms I was experiencing, it became real. Perhaps I hadn’t been able to prevent being like them.