Today I had my Mental Health session at the Mental Health Clinic.
It is something that my Wife and Aglaia and my Doctor have requested and I was keen to do it.
I arrived early for the appointment and sat in the large waiting area after giving all of my vital information to the receptionist. Finally a middle-aged and soft-spoken woman came out to greet me and we ventured through the winding halls to her office. Inside there was another woman waiting patiently.
The office was equipped with comfy chairs and soft lighting and woodcuts roughly framed so that they gave the impression that perhaps the Doctor’s husband or son had done them and she was haphazardly displaying them. Maritime themes all of them.
The older lady spoke with a very soft and soothing voice and lulled me, as I expect is the purpose, into a state of security. The other lady simply sat and smiled and watched.
“So… I guess the first question would be: why have you come to us?”
I have been dealing with Depression for some time now. For the past four years at least. Sometimes it has been debilitating and there have been thoughts of suicide. Thoughts that my family and friends would be better off without me. Things are complicated at home but I think I made it worse.
“Depression is a very big word. What does it mean to you?”
Hmmmm…. I have had a feeling of complete futility. Of impending doom. That I am of no value to my family and loved ones. No motivation. I sit and stare most of the time. Hours pass. I feel I have not accomplished anything that I have set out to do. I fell into a deep sense of loss and being out of control and began to drink heavily. It was the only way I could feel somewhat normal and connected. But after too much I guess I got distanced.
“You talk of your family. How has your Depression impacted them?”
My Wife tried very hard for a long time. Others did too. They worked with me and…probably enabled me at times with other distractions. My Wife worked very hard but it tired her out. Our life is… complicated… and there are my kids, well, mostly just one of them as the other one lives with his birth mother. I know she just didn’t feel that I was present for them and for her. That made it worse as I just felt more and more separated from them. She would often say that all I did was drink beer and stare. That was true. I just didn’t know how to get out of that. I worked from home from the end of 2010 until the fall of 2011 and I think I was just coasting and hiding.
“Ok… now suppose that this session went really well and you left and did what you normally do for the rest of the day and then tomorrow you woke up and your Depression was suddenly gone. What would that feel like to you?”
Wow…. I am not sure. It has been so long. I don’t remember what it is like to not feel Depressed. But… if I woke up not being Depressed I suppose I would feel a sense of Hope. A sense that the day would be good and I would feel alive. I was thinking a couple of days ago as I went to bed that tomorrow will consist of waking up, having a shower, having coffee, dragging myself to work that I don’t enjoy, coming home, watching Storage Wars or something and then going to bed. Everyday seems the same. I think that if I wasn’t Depressed I would have some drive to make the day different and fulfilling. I would be motivated. I used to do so many things: like painting, writing, playing music, and now it is mostly staring at the floor. If I wasn’t Depressed I think I would tackle things differently.
“So you do a lot of art and music and writing. Or you did. What sorts of things make you happy or did? Even for a nanosecond”
Lately I have felt good after going to an AA meeting. I feel empowered and stronger. I feel part of something. The Fellowship and the Group. It helps. I feel good when I complete something. I just finished… mostly… a painting of my boys and it felt good to do it. It took longer than it would normally have taken because I took a lot of breaks and had to force myself to get back to it. But it felt good to get it done. It worked. Of course, if it had not turned out right I would not be happy. But it did. It feels good to get compliments at work. That is very hard to come by in this profession. It feels good talking with my sons and my wife. It also feels good being with my maybe-girlfriend.
“So you did get a painting done. How did you do that if you were feeling so unmotivated?”
Force of will. I have been trying very hard over the past couple of weeks to rise up above things: My Depression; my drinking; my mistakes. I am forcing myself. I have to force myself to get out of bed. I have to set ahead of me goals so that I can feel I did something. Of accomplished something or made my life better or someone else’s life better. I just have to force myself. I go to AA meetings about five times a week. I force myself to think that life is better than it is.
“If you were suddenly not Depressed what would someone see in you right off the bat?”
I guess I would appear more alive and strong. My Dad keeps saying that he sees a massive difference in me lately. That I am stronger and thinner and healthier. I don’t see it yet but he says he does. I have to say that I am feeling stronger and healthier. I guess I might have blinders on. I am used to not feeling well. I am trying to get to the gym a few times a week on top of the AA meetings and that hurts but makes me feel better. I think I am trying but right now there are so many hurdles in front of me that I know I have to cross and am wanting to but it seems daunting.
This was just a bit of the exchange between the counsellors and myself over the hour and a half. After, they left the room and went to discuss my case privately. After about 20 minutes they came back.
“What you are doing is hard. It is no wonder that you are tired. Mentally tired. You are working very hard at trying to get out of the Depression and the addictions. But you should be proud of yourself. We were very impressed with your resolve and strength and willingness to understand what is going on and wanting to get through it.
“We would normally, at this point, outline some groups to attend to help but we feel that what you are doing with AA is enough for now. It should offer you the group and therapy you need and with the work you are doing on your own things should improve. There is a group that starts in April on Depression if you feel at that point that it would be good.
“We encourage you to keep forcing yourself and painting and being with the ones you love and taking comfort from that affection. “
After two hours I left the centre feeling somewhat drained but at the same time a bit stronger. I appeared to be on the same path. They did not recommend follow-up sessions but asked that I call them in a month or so to let them know how I was doing. I am not sure how this fits into the conditions set out by my Wife and Aglaia in terms of seeing a counsellor but I have to take the professional advice given.