So I’ve sought out counselling a few times over the course of my life when my depression has gotten to be more than I feel I can handle on my own.
I have a poor memory, so I’m going to do my best to recall some information, but please note that I might be forgetting details that could be important.
My first memory of counselling was when I was with my ex. She panicked at a bad bout of depression and we ended up at the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care in St. Thomas, Ontario. I was able to easily convince them that I wasn’t at immediate risk of self-harm, and we left with a counselling appointment.
Honestly, I feel like it was too easy to convince them that I was okay enough to leave. I know they are limited in what they can do and how many people they could help, but I know that I could have benefited from some more intense treatment during this downturn.
We only had one vehicle, and I only had my learner’s permit at that time so I had to walk to my appointment from our house. It took forty-five minutes each way. The exercise was good for me, and the counselling was okay. We met a few times before I just gave up. It was getting too cold out for me to make the effort of walking to my appointments, and I didn’t really jive with the person I was talking to.
One of the hardest parts about any kind of counselling is that it requires the person needing help to be open to the help. I wasn’t really in the right headspace for the help being offered. I didn’t feel like the counsellor really cared about my wellbeing or helping me get through my depression.
My second time with a counsellor was one I sought out myself while living in Walkerton. The counsellor was in Hanover, and I had my own vehicle. His focus was on trying to get me to see the good points in my life and assess what I wanted to be doing. He was very focused on the idea that my depression was due to extenuating circumstances in my life that could be fixed, and thus my depression would go away. He was a bit new-aged hippy but I enjoyed having someone to talk to.
I was much more open to counselling, this time around, but I had the expectation that through proper medication and counselling my depression would be cured…forever. Unfortunately, that’s not how depression works.
I believe in two types of depression: situational and chemical imbalance.
I don’t believe I suffer from situational depression. I think I get to a normal level of sad when bad things happen in my life. My depression is completely random in nature. It slowly grows in strength, even when my life is, by all accounts, awesome.
This brings me to my most recent bad bout of depression that led to counselling. It was just after getting married to Annie that I sunk into a really bad funk. I knew it was coming and tried my best to use the tactics that I had learned in counselling as well as things I had read online to fight it off. Here and there I dropped hints that after we got married, and Annie’s benefits would cover me, that I wanted to go for some counselling as a mental health check-up. I didn’t think it was going to get so bad, though.
With Annie’s support, I got referred to more counselling in Georgetown at the Halton Hills Family Health Team. My counsellor was a very nice lady and focused on mindfulness. The idea that positive thinking, as well as focusing on interrupting triggers can reduce depression and that much of my depression stems from my anxiety. While I was definitely able to reduce some of the symptoms of my depression through mindfulness on days where it wasn’t extreme, I didn’t find that it was very helpful with my anxiety or on days where my depression was already extreme. There is only so much attempting positive thought can do when you feel helpless.
I stayed with this counsellor for a while, but I quickly ran out of benefit covered sessions and had to go back to dealing with it on my own.
One question I often get during seeking counselling is if I would like to do group counselling, but I quickly turn it down. The idea of sitting in a room, as an introvert and listening to other people struggling would be very draining for me. When my mental energy is low, it is much easier for my depression to take hold. So doing group doesn’t seem like an appropriate treatment method for me, something that counsellors have agreed with in the past, but group counselling is often pushed because it is cheaper or more open to supporting more people in a system that doesn’t seem to have the resources to help everyone suffering.
Typically people I’ve met have a hard time understanding the struggle of depression and anxiety, so I want to take a minute to try to explain a bit.
For depression, imagine your worst day, week, month or year. Now think about your future. Imagine knowing, deep in the core of your being that the worst period you are remembering was going to be the best day you’ll have from here on out. Now imagine knowing that everyone around you feels drained by being around you. They all find you a burden. On top of all of that, you keep sabotaging your life in various ways. Some small, like forgetting your wallet at home, and some large like blocking people from contacting you or not taking care of yourself. Then it becomes this cycle of self-destruction, and you know it will never get any better.
Of course, almost all of this is completely fabricated by my mind, just as it was in yours, but when you are feeling depressed, logic doesn’t hold much weight. The irrational side of depression makes me feel a little crazy sometimes because I feel like I should be able to outsmart it, but the negative side of my mind is just as smart as the positive side.
As for anxiety, I had a great conversation with Annie about that recently. The example I use for anxiety is to take your fear. If it is enclosed spaces, being in the dark, a snake wrapped around you or some other irrational fear, then that’s exactly what I want you to think of. Now imagine knowing that every day you are going to likely have to face that fear and live your day without complaining about it. That’s kind of what living with anxiety is like. Constantly fearing the irrational, and having to choose to avoid it or push through. Typically, I have to push through because it is seen as the grown-up, right thing to do as a productive member of society.
Anyways, this was a rather long-winded post. The point is that going to counselling has been a mixed bag for me. I’ve never done it for longer than around six months at a time. I have learned techniques that have helped me with minor symptoms and I am hoping that the effort I’ve put into combatting those minor symptoms have helped me avoid worse days. I wish there were more and easier options for counselling that didn’t have a giant bill attached to it.
I believe that mental health issues aren’t given enough attention from the medical community, and I hope more people will do something to bring to light the continued suffering that exists and is currently ignored.