Image via blgrssby on Flickr
Therapy is still something I really don’t understand. I get what it is, and what it’s supposed to do, but… How does it achieve those things? If it’s a science, how does it differ so vastly from therapist to therapist?
I’ve gone to a lot of therapists. I have a lot of issues with anger, and I think they stem from childhood abuse and general feelings of helplessness. I often get angry when I read the news because I can’t affect change in a real way where I can see results. I get angry when other people don’t use turn signals or try to police my driving speed by cutting me off constantly. Often, my anger is disproportionate and I make really bad snap decisions that luckily haven’t resulted in me crashing my car and dying, or getting beaten to a pulp after picking a fight. Yet.
I had one therapist who, during our first session, laughed at me when I suggested talking about my childhood. She derisively told me that therapy isn’t about childhoods anymore, it’s all about being in the moment. Then she told me to draw a picture of my anger as a balloon, then to draw a picture of it floating away. So basically, we wasted 20 minutes and a bit of colored pencil. No help in managing anything because by the time I imagine my anger balloon as a dot on the horizon, I’ve already reacted and am dealing with the negative consequences.
I’ve tried CBT and immersion therapies too, which rarely make sense to me either. I can say I’m changing my thinking all I want. I can want it so bad, and repeat mantras over and over, try distractions that are relabeled as coping strategies, but my anxiety and negative thoughts always overcome. If immersion therapy worked, how did I get this way in the first place? Having a job I forced myself to go to every day propelled me even further into Agoraphobia. Every time I go out and do something stupid, it reinforces the idea that I just shouldn’t go out at all. Where in the immersion do I learn to control myself and get around this?
Exercise is another big one people like to throw around. And it really does work, at first. I get a moderate amount of exercise through my hobbies, but sometimes I get into the “working out will fix me!” mentality. For a day or two, an hour of intense exercise makes me feel so good, and I always sleep so well on those first nights. Then, an hour of exercise isn’t enough to make an impact. Then two isn’t enough, then three isn’t enough, and on and on into eternity. Pretty soon, I’m miserable and forcing myself to work out so much that I’m neglecting other things. So then I give it up totally and wait for the idea to seem fresh again.
I know this all sounds like a bitter and pessimistic asshole looking for fault in literally everything, but I can’t convey how excited I was to try each of these out when first presented with the option or idea. I was always so sure this next one was really going to help this time, only to be left disappointed and scouring my insurance’s list of providers for a new therapist.
I’m just really tired of the one size fits all approach to treating mental health disorders. Any time you discuss your problems online, you get a flood of people offering the thing that cured them. And if you already tried that and it didn’t work? You failed somehow. You didn’t commit yourself, believe, or try hard enough.
Sorry but, maybe your thing just doesn’t work for everyone! Maybe you were misdiagnosed, got lucky with your meds, or are deluding yourself into thinking you’re okay. There’s a whole myriad of reasons why treatments may not work, and constantly blaming the patient feels kind of counterproductive.
I really wish I could find a therapist I can simply talk to, and get advice from. But for now, all I can find are anger balloons.