I’m at a conference this week in Washington DC, so I’m reposting some old favorites from the beginning of my blog. I’ll be back with fresh content next week and – in the meantime – keep up with me on Instagram to see highlights of my trip.
This post originally appeared on my blog on May 6, 2013.
I am an unashamed therapy dropout. To understand why I found myself in therapy and then quickly back out of therapy, I need to give you a little bit of “here are my issues” background. Try not to hold any of it against me in the future.
I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for a very long time – long before I ever knew what to call it. I think the anxiety came first and then slowly developed into depression when I was an adult as it became tricky to deal with. No real problem though; it was all mild so I dealt with it and moved on.
Then it started to become more of a problem. My anxiety was downright out of control for the last few years and I had to spend a lot of time psyching myself up to do even the most mundane social things. I started making up excuses to miss events and going to great lengths to avoid invitations altogether. [Yeah . . . if I missed one of your important life milestones in the last few years, I probably wasn’t sick or working. Sorry. It sucked.] I always felt like I was on display being judged and didn’t even like to go visit my family – the one group of people who would never judge (well, within reason. We are family, after all).
Then the depression took hold. We had some financial trouble, my husband’s company went through major layoffs leaving us constantly on edge, and we were adjusting to our new life as parents of a disabled child. All things that are very stressful. All things that I was in no way equipped to handle in my current anxiety-ridden state. At first, I didn’t realize how bad the depression was. I knew something wasn’t right of course, but kept pushing it down and going about my life.
Then the binge-eating started and I couldn’t ignore the situation anymore. More background: I am fat. I’m fat for a lot of reasons. I have always struggled with being overweight (the first time I can remember being “fat” was 4th grade. I wasn’t of course, but that is a topic for a different day) – less than stellar eating habits + too little exercise + prone to carrying a little extra around the middle. After I had my daughter, I got a handle on my weight and lost quite a bit. Then I slowly gained some of it back. I developed an irregular heartbeat (runs in the family) and went on a medicine that helped me gain even more. Then I felt bad and gained some more. The binge-eating didn’t first present itself until I was already fat. Because, yeah, that makes sense, “a little self-shaming and guilt with a side of nachos is a great way to lose weight!”
With the new mix of depression and anxiety, my annoying little problem with binge-eating presented itself in a big way. It was time to talk to my doctor. Thankfully, my doctor is awesome. She immediately made some suggestions and got me hooked up with a highly-recommended therapist.
The first day I walked into her office, I knew it wasn’t the right place for me, but I wrote that off to the anxiety. There was a sign behind the desk that said something like “Please do not comment on the appearance of office staff.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point. Your first thought walking into a therapist’s office probably shouldn’t be “Well, these people are crazy.” [I should probably point out that people love this therapist and I never felt uncomfortable talking with her. It just wasn’t right for me.]
Dutifully, I went every two weeks, sat on the couch and bared my soul. Except I just wasn’t very good at it. I could never come up with a deeper reason for anything – in most cases, I just didn’t believe there was one. Why can’t I just be upset about the actual problem? Do we have to try and relate it to something else? I’m apparently shallow and very bad at recall, so I could never answer most of the questions she asked me. At one point, she wondered if I was blocking out something major since there seemed to be a big lapse in my memory. Nope. . I just shut down when I’m on the spot. I really disliked going.
Next thing I knew, the tumor popped up. Not a good thing to help with anxiety! I had a minor panic attack (later I had a major panic attack . . . yeah, I never want to experience that again please). I added some anti-anxiety medication to my daily routine. Suddenly everything started to change. Life got a little bit brighter and I started to realize just how depressed I had been. The anxiety started to be easier to handle on my own. I started to leave the house and happily join social situations. With the help of a little bit of modern medicine, I found myself in a much better position to tackle the issues around my depression.
I stopped seeing my therapist shortly after my tumor-removal surgery. I know this is the right decision for me right now. I’ve gotten more out of writing this blog for a month than I did from a year in therapy. My depression has receded, my binge-eating is mostly under control, and I’m strong enough to deal with my anxiety, albeit slowly.
Will I go back to therapy? Probably. I’d like to get completely off of the medication someday and I know therapy will make that possible. I learned that it is important to find the right therapist, not just a good therapist. For now though, I plan to stay a dropout.