Friday, October 17, 2008

Ask Me a Question Part II

First Dr. X was my 9997th visitor. So close to the 10,000th. Wouldn't it have been mystical if he were the 10,000th visitor...yet there he sits three visits away. I wonder what he would ask if he could ask me any one question? Hmmmm?

I want to write, and I'm stuck for a topic, and my 10,000th visitor: Mr/Ms " Minneapolis, Minnesota. [who] started their visit at 12:09:56 pacific time (3:09:56 their time)and got to my blog by Googling "My Therapy Sessions" Did not or has not (yet) asked a question...the offer is still open...ask away.

So I thought I'd try to answer the 3 questions that were asked:

1) On Friday, October 17, 2008 11:08:00 AM Lola Snow from "Marine Snow" asked...

"If you woke up tomorrow and your life was perfect, what would have to change?"

Well...if it was perfect? Nothing! ...Sorry Lola I couldn't resist.

I will assume your question is an existential one, as in "what would I have to change to make my life perfect"? Is that what you are asking?

If so, that is a question to which I have been searching for the answers to for years. Today I said I was going to be honest in my answers. This will be hard, because I know I control some of the things that keep me down, but sometimes it is easier to live with the life you have, than make the changes you need to make.

a) I would have a job that I loved. One that required creativity and caring for others. A job that was stable and I was not alway afraid of losing, that did not change all the time, but that had change within it...i.e. one that required me to to think on my feet, utilized lots of different skills, was interesting in its variety and challenged me intellectually. I would work four days a week.

b) My husband would actively participate in marriage counselling with me. We would both work on completely overhauling how we communicate with each other. I would want to have sex again (I have completely lost my desire) and we would enjoy it at least a few times a week. On top of that I could actually manage to orgasm again. So, both my desire, and my ability to have enjoyable sex, would return. If my husband did not participate in counselling and work to help us change the way we communicate with each other I would divorce him.

c) I would not live in my old, falling down rented place. I would own my own home somewhere in Vancouver or east Richmond....just a small place with a yard. Nothing extravagant. All I want is a small home of my own that is not a a condominium. Unfortunately in this city, that dream is impossibly expensive. Maybe one day I can buy a lane home, or a carriage house. I need my own quiet space. I need a space I know is my own, where no one else (except my husband...who of course has gone to marriage counselling with me) has any power over my living situation.

d) I would swim everyday for at least 30 minutes (my perfect home would have a narrow 25" lap pool in the back yard)

e) I would WANT to live. I would not be plagued by depressive thoughts, or thoughts of suicide. I would no longer have all those thoughts of stabbing myself, or hanging myself, or shooting myself in the head, going through my brain over and over and over. I would give up the stash of medications I have hoarded for when I decide to kill myself.

f) I would not have any depression or anxiety symptoms. I would not have anxiety attacks, or panic attacks. I would not have any mood cycling. My mood would be level most of the time and my depression and anxiety would have disappeared. I would feel good like I did a couple years before this depressive episode and like I did in my last two years of university.

g) I would not stress out around others. I would look forward to going out to see others. It would be easy to go out with others. I'd stop feeling like I was in a bubble, or outside the circle at large social functions, or in stores and other places with lots of people.

h) I would not need a couple drinks every night. I would be able to drink socially like I did before; when I go out, never at home alone.

i) It would feel good and I would have the energy to do my housework. It would be enjoyable to cook dinner etc. It would feel good having a neat and tidy home.

j) I would enjoy gardening again.

k) My sisters and nieces would live closer to me.

l) My puppy would grow up to be well trained, behave like a saint, and be just as cute and cuddly as he is now.

m) I would have less things. No more clutter, or sentimental nic nacs. I would have a warm, yet calming zen like home...without all the accouterments of life I have gathered or been given over the years.

n) My Mom would be alive

o) I would make enough money to not worry about my bills or the things I need. If I made lots of money I would give away the amount I did not need to set up an art therapy foundation to help others with mental illnesses

p) I would spend at least 1 hour everyday creating art.

q) I would have an art studio in my house, where I could leave half done things up, and things I needed to create art were easily accessible at all times.

r) I would feel loved, cared for and wanted by those around me.

s) I would participate and join organizations that helped me feel a strong sense of community both culturally and spiritually with other people.

t) I would volunteer at least once a week

u) I would have season tickets to the Vancouver Symphony (and a companion who I didn't have to drag there to go with me each time)with me.

v) I would eat lots of veggies and take my vitamins. I might even become vegetarian again.

w) All my fatigue would disappear and I would sleep 8 hrs straight every night. I would have the energy I had during periods when I was not depressed.

and finally...
x) I would see Dr X once in a while because I enjoy his company, not because I need to see him. When I met with him we would have joyous discussions about all aspects of a good life, art, literature, intellectual ideas, friends, etc.

2) On Friday, October 17, 2008 11:11:00 AM deepblue from "Out of the Blue" asked:

"how do you afford/pay for your therapy?"

This is easy. I don't. In Canada we have nationalized health care. All doctors visits are covered by my province's medical insurance. I see my Psychiatrist for therapy, so the therapy is covered.

Having said that, before I met him I paid for therapy on my own for two years, once a week as psychologists are not covered. I really shored up how many times I went out for lunch and coffee etc. to save the $100.00 a week it cost. Also, on top of that I worked for a large corporation who allowed 6 free visits a year to a therapist...not great, but it helped. The only problem was I had to see psychologists covered by their plan, and I did not do well with any of them.

3) On Friday, October 17, 2008 11:55:00 AM Hannah from "Becoming Hannah" asked:

"Why you?"

I will answer this with a few different "voices":

a) The voice of reason: Depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety runs in my family. My maternal grandmother took antidepressants for years. My Mom was depressed for at least 10 years I can remember. My cousin has Bipolar Disorder and while undiagnosed, I am certain her Dad, my maternal uncle had bipolar disorder. It explains his bizarre, unpredictable and impulsive behaviour and his poor judgement.

My Dad has had a panic attack and I recently found out my paternal Grandma frequently had anxiety attacks. She also had an intensely hyperthymic temperament, the same way I feel better than most people when well.

My paternal Grandparents were alcoholics. I am pretty certain my Dad is too. Irritability, anger and a propensity towards emotional abuse and violence run in my paternal side as well. I was a worrisome child, and prone to insomnia, anxiety and dark thoughts from a very young age. It appears obvious I have a strong biological/genetic disposition to mental illness and alcoholism.

On top of that environmental factors made things more difficult for me. Our family moved almost every two years when my Dad was transferred with his job. So I was constantly in the mode of trying to please people, or trying to make new friends. As a coping strategy I tended to sever ties with those I left and form instant attachments to people in our new town. I always felt like an outsider.

My father was often away during my younger years as he was a police dog handler and was often called out for weeks at a time to search for people. He was emotionally abusive, distant and at times, a physically abusive father.

My parents divorce and how it proceeded in secret, how my Dad secretly remarried, how my Mom remained depressed for most of her life after my Dad left. This all affected me. I lost many friends to death in high school and was in a car accident where my best friend had a permanent head injury. That affected me.

With all that behind me it seems I was left unprepared and less resilient for all the regular sad and bad things that happen in everyone's lives. My depression and anxiety are not my fault. They are caused by a mix of environmental, genetic and biological factors.

b) The depressed voice: It is my fault I became this way. I had everything; a good job, a good family, (maybe my Dad was a bit harsh), but all in all my family cared for me. I just don't try hard enough. If I tried harder I would get better. I am too dependant on Dr. X. Maybe if I hated him I would get better so I would want to leave. Maybe I chooses to be this way? Maybe I stay this way because I get something out of it. Look I don't have to work, I can do whatever I want all day etc...but that's not true, because I am to depressed to do what I want and I want to work.

Well maybe I am being punished. Maybe I did bad things when I was young and I am paying penance for being a bad person. Maybe I deserve to feel this bad because I am a bad person. I think bad things about people. I hurt people. I don't deserve to be happy.

c) My Husband's voice: It's the medication and the help. If you hadn't tried medication you wouldn't be so sick. If Dr. X just refused to see you, you would get better. You will never get better while you have someone to help you (huh?). The day he cuts you off seeing him and off medication is the day you will start to feel better.

d) My Existential Voice: You continue to be depressed and anxious because you have intense death anxiety. Life is short, limited, it ends. You are not well because you are not living the life you want to live, you are not using what little time you have on this earth wisely. When you discover what it is you want and pursue that dream the depression will subside.

e) Dr. X's Voice (my interpretation): You have an illness that is caused by genetic, biological and environmental factors. Medication can help, but it will not be the only thing you need. You need to work hard to become well. To do all the things you can to feel better. I think he believes, like I do, that there is a strong existential angst component to my depression as well. He knows that finding and creating meaning in my life, and creating a purposeful life for myself are essential to my becoming well. They are not all I need, but they are a huge part of it.

Lola, Deepblue and Hannah:

Thanks for the questions. they really gave me both a lot to write about, but also a huge amount to think about and work on in therapy. Thanks.


Lola Snow said...

Wow, Aqua that was seriously honest and detailed post. Seems you really have a good grasp of the whys and the hows, which seems a brilliant start, because although often its not enough to move on, its closer to closure than stmubling about blindly in the dark.

So much of what you have written struck a chord, its amazing how there are these universal themes which weave through peoples lives. Especially those who suffer from mental illness. Existentialism for one, who isn't slap bang in an existential crisis?

Its like you have listed all the practical things which would have to change for your life to be perfect, but really its just the one thing isn't it? You want to be happy. If we were happy, the other stuff wouldn't seem so monumental, but we quantify happiness by the things we need to change, the things which aren't perfect.

It's so ironic that happiness is the one thing that the harder we try for, the more unlikely we are to find it. You can't be satisfied or happy if you want happiness too much.

I hope you find your happiness and peace Aqua, lord knows you have worked hard enough now. Don't ever become cynical or bitter, because despite your depression, you have a quiet sort of hope in the way you write.

Lola x

Hannah said...

I agree with what Lola has said, it really was a great post and I found myself nodding along as I was reading - so much of what you say here is similar for me especially the list of things that would make your life happy.
What troubles me is, like you, I know what it is I would like to change and the reasons as to why I am unwell, and yet I still remain this way. It's like I have each piece of the puzzle all worked out and laid infront of me ready to go, but I still can't fit them together and produce the answer. So there lies my deepest frustration, I have the tools, the materials and the instructions but no finished product, what am I missing?!

Lola Snow said...

Do you think that its not what you are missing, but more that you don't know what the puzzle is supposed to look like? Or maybe it just doesn't look like you think it should. We are all aiming to make our puzzles resemble the photos on other peoples boxes.

Sorry Aqua for hijacking your post, but I think the jigsaw analogy works pretty well for all of us!
Lola x

Aqua said...

Lola: You asked a great question and thanks for the thoughtful response. If you are interested in existential psychotherapy, Irvin Yalom writes a great textbook called, "Existential Psychotherapy" that really speaks to me. He also writes works of fiction that utilize his theories and make them accesible to everyone.

I agree that if the depression and anxiety disappered other things would fall into place. I know I would get a job. I know I would feel energized and do much more than I do. I know my motivation to do things I enjoy, and be around people would difficulties wth those are symptoms of my depression (I see that today....but tomorrow that insight may disappear, or seem overwhelming.

Also...Please never, ever worry about "hijacking a post". I want my blog to be a place where we can discuss these things. Hijack away...

Hannah: I feel so much the same way. How can I know so much, yet change so little? I think this is whee the biological, genetic, environmental factors that lead to, and keep us depressed or anxious come into play. Those need to be addressed with medication/s that work, therapy that helps and a lot of actions and activities on our part for us to heal enough to work onall the other parts of the puzzle. Thanks for the question and the response.