Help me, help myself?
January 29, 2014 3:06 PM   Subscribe

How to approach therapy when I'm not really sure what I'm going for but feel depression has a huge part of it. Kicker - the standard tests show I'm not and I don't know how far to push to get some help or what I even need help for.

I've been to therapy three times now, and have never had success with 2/3 of them. Actually 2/3 have been very bad and it took over a year each to reapproach therapy. I was at one time prescribed anti-depressants but weened myself off due to side effects. The 3rd guy is who I'm going to see soon again after a few months break which is a first. I think it's time that I start getting help, the only problem is - I have no idea what I'm seeking help for. The only way to describe it is it's like a splinter always present, always putting pressure on various parts of my brain, just enough to be annoying or depressing but rarely "bad". I don't think I'm suicidal ( I mean I've thought about it, rarely, in passing, but I think that's normal?), I don't feel worthless, I actually have a pretty great life all things considered. But yet, I can't shake the feeling that something is wrong and it's more then the occasional feeling that could be attributed to the weather, tiredness, or any other excuse.

So my question is, how do I get help when I don't know what I need help for? The second part is, how do I continue going even though I feel like a whiny person with no real issues while I'm sure he has some patients with real issues and I'm just complaining over that my life is pretty good?

The most immediate issue I could address is my alcohol use since I still binge drink on weekends 4 years after college and I'm ready to stop but am finding it difficult to. I guess a large portion of this could be attributed to maybe being a functional alcoholic but I rarely drink during the week?
posted by lpcxa0 to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The second part is, how do I continue going even though I feel like a whiny person with no real issues while I'm sure he has some patients with real issues and I'm just complaining over that my life is pretty good?

This is a really, really common thing that people with depression say. You deserve to feel good. And, you going to therapy does not in any way prevent someone who is worse off than you going to therapy. If someone had a broken leg, you wouldn't tell them not to go to the doctor because there are people out there who have heart failure.

Also, I would start by telling your therapist everything that you've written in this post - that you don't feel right, but you don't know what it is or why, and you're in therapy to try and figure out how to feel better.
posted by insectosaurus at 3:18 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


It's OK to go to a therapist to find out what your problem is. Part of his job is to help you figure out what's bugging you. After all, you don't go to your regular doctor saying, doc, i have acute chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, please fix; instead you complain of shortness of breath and he diagnoses you to figure out what's wrong. If something is bothering you enough to make you want to seek help, it's probably real enough to be worth investigating. And it might be related to the binge drinking that you can't seem to stop even though you want to. Alcohol is a depressant, after all. A competent therapist might be able to help you see patterns of which you weren't aware.
posted by ubiquity at 3:19 PM on January 29


The only way to describe it is it's like a splinter always present, always putting pressure on various parts of my brain, just enough to be annoying or depressing but rarely "bad"

This sounds like an excellent start to a conversation with any therapist. One of the things they're trained to do is help you articulate what you feel is wrong.

The most immediate issue I could address is my alcohol use since I still binge drink on weekends 4 years after college and I'm ready to stop but am finding it difficult to. I guess a large portion of this could be attributed to maybe being a functional alcoholic but I rarely drink during the week?

You know what, just print up this page and take it with you to your session.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:45 PM on January 29


how do I continue going even though I feel like a whiny person with no real issues while I'm sure he has some patients with real issues and I'm just complaining

I've felt this too, but you don't need to. People with minor injuries are allowed to go to a doctor just as much as people whose arms have fallen off are.

If it helps, think of the therapist as a coach who is there to help you do better at life. You're paying him, it's his job, and he may well get just as much satisfaction out of helping those with "minor" problems anyway.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:50 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I suspect going to therapy with a solid self-diagnosis ("I'm depressed") is probably the exception rather than the rule, and for people who go in with one, my guess is that lots of them are wrong. In fact, I'd say I still don't know for sure what technically was "wrong" when I started going to therapy, or whether I would have qualified as "depressed," or what. I felt lousy and I wanted to feel better, and it was still really helpful. Therapists aren't necessarily like physicians; they're not necessarily trying to get to a diagnosis, particularly not a single one. So many people are kinda "a little from column A, a little from B, with a splash of this other thing" that I think what you're describing is exactly how therapy starts for most people.

Hang in -- everybody is exactly right that you have the right to feel good, and comparing your unhappiness to other people's isn't your job.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 4:03 PM on January 29


So my question is, how do I get help when I don't know what I need help for?

As others have said, it's the therapist's job to figure out your diagnosis, not you. And each therapist has a slightly different philosophy, but many don't even worry about a big formal diagnosis unless it's needed for insurance reimbursement.

The second part is, how do I continue going even though I feel like a whiny person with no real issues while I'm sure he has some patients with real issues and I'm just complaining over that my life is pretty good?

I'm a therapist. I like working with people who are motivated to change, recognize the resources and strengths (family, friends, job, whatever) that they have going for them, but just need some help figuring out which direction to go. I mean, I like working with other types of clients, too, but it's sometimes nice to feel like a client has options and support systems and such in place, so that we can do some deeper work and I don't have to worry about them falling completely apart.
posted by jaguar at 4:14 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


One possibility is that, yes, the splinter is there in your "foot," and you've mostly learned how to walk without stepping on it, but one day suddenly you'll be on treacherous terrain and needing your whole foot, and it will be nice to have brought a therapist with you on the hike to help you extract it, now that you can feel exactly where it is.

For me, the biggest gains often came from already having an established relationship with a therapist when something happened. Suddenly you'll find yourself unable to sleep because of an upcoming performance review. Or your parent will do something that you don't know how to handle. Etc. What's nebulous and dormant now can become live, specific, and urgent on short notice.
posted by salvia at 6:06 PM on January 29


What you've said is enough to get help in figuring it out, no reason to feel apologetic about it!

Just in case, though - have you had a really thorough physical recently, to exclude other things that could potentially contribute (B12, thyroid, liver, etc. - the shebang)? Might be worth doing that alongside talking to the therapist. I'm not a therapist or doctor but drinking a lot can mess with your B12 absorption, and B12 deficiency can sometimes look like depression. Either way, in fact whatever is causing your sense of wrongness, a therapist and maybe MD can help you work it out.

There's nothing wrong with trying a few people out to see how you like them, either. (Though you may not like what they have to say later, and that might be part of the process.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:16 PM on January 29


Speaking from experience: You'll definitely need to address the alcohol abuse. It's contributing significantly to your malaise, and it will greatly hinder your recovery.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:55 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


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