How do I not wimp out of therapy?
November 6, 2017 12:45 PM   Subscribe

I (early 40s) have been dealing with depression since HS. I tried therapy once in college, but couldn't really bring myself to go into anything because it all just seems so dumb compared to people who really have problems. I have my first therapy appointment since then booked for this week. Any advice for pushing through that reluctance?
posted by bigdamnnerd to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You are allowed to have the problems you have; the fact that others have other problems is not really relevant to you addressing yours.

Your therapist believes you to be worth therapy, at least enough to entertain your appointment.
posted by Fraxas at 12:49 PM on November 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Sometimes I think of depression as a separate entity that has it's own self-preservation instincts. Depression is sneaky and lies so it gets to keep on living inside of your brain. In this case, the depression is telling you that it's not worth treating it as a way to make sure that you don't extinguish it.

Would it help to say to yourself "Nope, I'm not listening to you Depression. You lie to me and it's time to experience life without you."?
posted by mcduff at 12:50 PM on November 6, 2017 [10 favorites]

It's not about comparing yourself to other people, it's about the tools and techniques to help you become what you want to become. Don't compare yourself to other people, don't look for baselines or normal or whatever: This is you, working on you, so that you can become the person that you want to be.
posted by straw at 12:50 PM on November 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Just go. Worst case you are out a few bucks. Call it an experiment.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:53 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

it all just seems so dumb compared to people who really have problems

Consider a professional tennis player. The thing she wants to do more than anything is win the Big Tournament. She has a dozen people tending to the proper training and functioning and recovery of her physical being. She has a high-end eye practice that fine-tunes her contact lens prescriptions for time of day and weather conditions. She has a therapist who helps her learn to bring her entire sport-focus onto the ball and her body and the game, and how to manage her personal issues and relationship issues and stress and anxiety the rest of the time so it doesn't interfere with the game.

She's not a rocket surgeon, she's not curing pediatric cancer, she's playing tennis. Maybe she'll give some of her winnings to cancer kids, or maybe she'll spend it all on raising exotic frogs, nobody knows, it's not a thing that gives her any more value than you. If that tennis player can have a therapist to make them whang a ball with a big spoon the best, you can use a therapist for improving your performance in life too.

It's not a competition. In fact, in a truly fair world, everybody would be taught these techniques and receive this kind of 1:1 coaching and assistance when they need it. If you have access to it, take advantage of that, take what you learn out into the world, help make at least the airspace immediately around you a slightly better place. You deserve the assist, it's not about the size of the issue, it's just about everybody really needing some help with this stuff and unfortunately you still have to pursue it specially instead of having it just be a part of your life curriculum.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:14 PM on November 6, 2017 [15 favorites]

This is actually a a great place to start with your therapist. Addressing your reluctance might seem pointless to you now, but it's great information about your journey, feelings, and perspective.... for both your therapist and you.

Remember that therapy is all about starting where you are, not getting it right before you get there. A good therapist will be interested in your reluctance and explore that with you as a starting point.

Just show up, and print this question if it helps. You'd be surprised where it takes you.

God luck!
posted by onecircleaday at 1:18 PM on November 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

You are not taking away resources from the "people who really have problems." That argument is sort of like someone saying he won't visit the doctor for his flu because there are people with cancer. And depression is certainly important enough to warrant treatment. You don't have to worry that the therapist, or anyone else for that matter, will laugh at you.

Good therapy can be a game-changer. That said, it's doubtful that it will be an immediate game-changer. But you have to start.
posted by ubiquity at 1:28 PM on November 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

Let your therapist know about your ambivalence during your first session so you guys can start exploring it.
posted by Smearcase at 1:32 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have noticed in my own therapy that the more reluctant I feel about going to a particular session, the more I actually really need to go.

My natural urge to minimize/rationalize becomes realllly strong when faced with a session where I won't be able to avoid or suppress my feelings. Therapy can be scary and difficult and it's natural to feel reluctance; observe your feelings of avoidance, and make yourself go anyways. And on preview, yes, tell your therapist; they can help you with some self-talk to overcome your feelings that you aren't worthy of help and care, which is what "other people have bigger problems" is usually about.
posted by stellaluna at 1:37 PM on November 6, 2017 [10 favorites]

Are you worthy?

Imagine that someone you loved with all your heart - maybe even a kid - came up to you and said "I'm so sad. All the time. For almost as long as I can remember. But I'm not worthwhile enough to get help."

Would you agree with that statement? Or would you pull out every bit of love you have in your heart to convince them that they *are* worthwhile, and that they *deserve* to be helped.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you treated yourself as someone who is worthy of that kind of love?
posted by jasper411 at 1:39 PM on November 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

but couldn't really bring myself to go into anything because it all just seems so dumb compared to people who really have problems.

I'm 48 and I've had my share of problems in life but the very worst problem I ever had, by far, was when I had to deal with depression. Therapy and some time on meds fixed it. Had I not gone, who knows what would have happened to me.

Depression is a real problem.
posted by bondcliff at 1:52 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I went to the doctor today and spent $100 to see someone for 15 minutes and get literally $2 worth of steroids because I have bronchitis. Bronchitis! I've been coughing for weeks. Yeah, I'm miserable, but I mean, look, some people have cancer. A lot of people have really serious health problems and can't get to see doctors, and I'm spending $102 on a cough? I could survive a cough. I've been surviving a cough. I could just... keep not doing anything. Sure. And that would help who?

I get where that kind of thing comes from, but you have to remember: You not going to see a therapist is not going to actually increase access to mental health services for people who have more severe mental health problems than you do. You have access--go. It doesn't have to be about to destroy your life before you're allowed to see a professional. If you feel bad for having access that other people don't have, see a professional and then use that experience and your tuned-up brain to advocate for other people's access to mental health services. You can do more good by being well than you can by being unwell, and that holds just as true for depression as for bronchitis. I'm not doing anybody any favors if I insist on hacking my lungs out for another six months. Go.
posted by Sequence at 2:05 PM on November 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm a therapist, and I can't tell you how many times a client has come to me and said something like "I feel guilty for being here - there are people out there with real problems compared to me." This is what I tell them: "You are here with me now, and whatever is causing you distress is the most important thing to me. Other people might have their own issues and they can go for their own therapy, but this time belongs to you and no one else." I mean that sincerely, and I'm certain your therapist will feel the same way. You have every right to be there, and it takes courage to seek help so you deserve to give yourself the chance to go and see what happens. Good luck.
posted by billiebee at 2:13 PM on November 6, 2017 [9 favorites]

I've had that feeling. I've had lots of them. I've compared myself to people that have "real" problems, I've compared myself to people that are more successful than me. I've beat myself up for being weak and unable to cope. I've felt bad, done nothing and felt bad for doing nothing. The amount of different ways I can beat myself would amaze you, and also sound very familiar. I've been out of therapy because of money issues and I want to get back because it definitely helped.

Your problems are real and you are a worthwhile person. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
posted by O9scar at 2:22 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think I start 25% of my sessions saying that I'm not sure I should be there today. My problems are dumb and I'm just being a whiny brat.

And the alternative is that my problems are real, and my emotions are natural. So just keep on trucking and get to the other side.

Depression never wants you to get help.
posted by politikitty at 2:23 PM on November 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

It might help to set some goals for therapy, and/or for life. The therapist should be able to provide some guidance if goals do not come to mind. Depression can steal joy, time, energy, your sense of self. You deserve a full life.
posted by theora55 at 3:24 PM on November 6, 2017

You don't wait until you have a cavity to see the dentist.
You don't wait until you have pneumonia to have a booster shot.
Mental hygiene is at least as important as physical hygiene.

And think about it... if you are the most mentally and emotionally healthy person your therapist sees that day, you are giving this person a well-deserved break from harder cases. Enjoy the time together. Doctors of all types appreciate patients who are proactive.
You are worth it.
posted by TrishaU at 3:50 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I’m exactly where you are, bigdamnnerd.

People can tell you all day long that you deserve help, and we objectively know that we do. But part of the whole stupid thing is that your (and my) brain tells us that it’s different for us. We can struggle on; other people have it much worse; as long as we’re not actually suicidal then maybe we should leave the scant resources for those who need them more.

These thoughts are the ones that prevent us seeking help.

Don’t wimp out. Do it. You getting help isn’t going to prevent someone else from getting the help they need.
posted by Samarium at 5:10 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Like you, it took me awhile to get into therapy. I knew I had my troubles but felt I was managing things OK. I had a few tries that weren't that great but a year and a half ago I got serious about it. I found someone who had what I wanted and was recommended by friends and took the plunge. After about a year, I had grown a lot and was ready for a different type of therapy. Since then I've been seeing a different therapist to address trauma from my childhood and teen years, and it's been both mindblowing. Did I mention that I get increasingly anxious days beforehand, hate it when I'm there, and sometimes feel beyond awful afterwards? Well, it's all those things but so worth it because the improvements to my life have been wonderful. It's hard to quantity but I feel it and others have noticed it, too. My first therapist got me opening my mind to the hard stuff, and the second one has been helping me work through it. One of the biggest a-ha moments was in one of the first few sessions with my current therapist at the end after a particularly emotionally trying exercise: I broke down crying because I felt, for one of the first times in my life, someone was truly understanding what I experience, putting words to it, and validating how difficult it's been. One of the shitty things about depression is doubting our own importance and self-worth. You've been doing a good job managing it so far in your life but can you imagine a life where you are truly happier or even just a little less happy. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that when we're so used to going through life with a foggy lense: you can still see out very well but it's slightly off.

I also had tried therapy in college but didn't have a good match. I tried someone else a few years ago: it was a better match but still not quite there yet. I had a few sessions with a therapist who was god-awful and then needed a few more years off. While I wished I had found someone sooner, the wait paid off: it really does take a LOT of shopping around at times. My first therapist did a form of CBT-influenced therapy based on relationships; my current therapist does EMDR. I think the latter technique is excellent but a lot of it is just that my therapist is so smart and insightful. A smart, straight-talking, critical-thinking therapist is a must for me: I want someone who is kind but also someone who isn't afraid to be real. There are many types of therapy and it can take meeting even five people to find a good match. I always start with an interview asking about their training, their philosophies, their experiences: a good professional will welcome the questions and appreciate how much you care. If someone questions you for asking, then you know to avoid them; the one I only saw a few times did but that is so rare. When you meet a therapist who is a good match, you just know: you probably won't feel fully comfortable but you know you're ready to give them a try. Rarely do you jump into the heavy stuff right away -- instead you first start on building a relationship.

This may be way more than what you wanted or not helpful but hopefully it gave you a bit more background and encouragement. For all of the people out there saying "try therapy!" there aren't a ton of testimonials listing specific experiences, at least not ones that I found helpful. Just try it! I always follow up with fast food for dinner (treat yourself!) I also call my partner to check in and talk about it a bit: she's had very good experiences with therapy over the years and is in a very good place, and being able to talk to her about the process has been really positive. Is there a friend or family member you could talk to about this? So many people see therapists but not as many share this; however, once you open up, they open up, too, and it's helpful and a nice connection.
posted by smorgasbord at 5:38 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a therapist. I had a client come in to me today for her first session. She was having suicidal ideation several times a week, with a fairly detailed plan of how she was going to kill herself. She told me that she really didn't think she needed therapy until basically today. She was so depressed and suicidal that I was on the verge of putting her on an involuntary psychiatric hold, because I was worried about her ability to to keep herself alive.

I say this not to contrast whatever you are dealing with with this woman's situation, but to illustrate that, as other have said, depression lies. Depression tells you you are not worthy of help, that other people have it worse and you're just whining, that your problems are not that big but your inability to solve them means that you should just stop trying. Those are lies.

You deserve help. I don't care if your main problem is that your nail polish color is a shade too dark. If it's causing you distress, you deserve someone to help you walk through it. That's what therapy is for.
posted by lazuli at 9:08 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm going for my very first therapy appointment Monday to deal with a general depression brought on by the frustration of chronic illness. Me-Mail me if you want to compare notes. :)
posted by DrAstroZoom at 12:23 PM on November 7, 2017

Another mental framework which might help you: This appointment gives me a set safe area in my life to discuss anything.
When I started with my current therapist, 17 years ago, I viewed most of the people in my life as waiting to pounce on any mistake I made, so It was never safe to talk with anyone honestly. (This viewpoint mis-aligned with reality in several cases, but that took years for me to internalize.) As much as I didn't want to start therapy, it quickly became THE place I could safely talk about whatever parts of my life had driven me into vicious wrath THAT week.
So, maybe if you look at it as a non-judgmehtal block of time to bounce your thoughts off of someone who won't personally hold anything against you, that could help you.
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 7:30 PM on November 11, 2017

Thanks for the words of advice and encouragement, everyone. I did go, and even though it was just an initial intake appointment/consultation it went ok. First real appointment is this Friday.
posted by bigdamnnerd at 1:21 PM on November 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

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