I started off at the mental health services at my university in 2006. There, I met with a clinical psychology student. I think it’s great that universities run these programs to give mental health sufferers free services and give the students some clinical experience, but I wouldn’t recommend it for your first talk session. It was so awkward! She had to record the session to go over later with her supervisor. She was really nice, but I didn’t know what to say and she didn’t know how to get me talking. There was a lot of awkward silence.
The next one I saw was a psychologist. She was a bubbly dose of sunshine, which was nice most of the time, but hard to take on some days. She knew how to get me talking. I appreciated having those 50 minutes with her each week to talk about what was on my mind. I didn’t want to burden friends with my dark thoughts, so having that time to talk about myself was great. I didn’t feel guilty unloading on her, I was paying her to listen after all. I saw Ms. Sunshine for several years. Eventually I stopped seeing her because I turned 25 and was no longer covered by my father’s insurance. Ms. Sunshine was expensive!
Ms. Sunshine was very focused. Since it appears that I’ve had depression since childhood, she was convinced the answer was in my past. We went over and over it, but nothing. So Ms. Sunshine moved on to my relationships. She made it clear she didn’t think my current relationship was good for me. I was dating my husband back then. She thought we had too much in common, that he didn’t bring me out of my comfort zone enough (socially). She often compared us to a Venn Diagram. You know, each circle is a person in the relationship and they should only overlap so much. She thought we overlapped too much. I didn’t see my relationship as a problem. I was fine with having things in common and he didn’t need to be really outgoing, he brought me out of my comfort zone in different ways; hiking and travel for example. In the end, as much as I liked her, it was probably good that I stopped seeing her. Her fixation on my relationship wasn’t really getting me anywhere.
The next person I started talking to was a social worker. I was on a waiting list for over a year before I was able to see him. He was convinced that it was my Ph.D. that was making me depressed. He actually told me he didn’t think it was the right thing for me and that I should try something different. That was a big blow, I was heart broken, but I knew it was what I wanted to be doing. These people are smart and they are here to listen and to help us learn to live with our depression, but it doesn’t mean they have all the answers. Had I seen him when I was diagnosed back in 2006, he probably would have succeeded in changing my career path, but not now. I didn’t let him talk me out of the Ph.D. I asked to be transferred to someone else.
The next psychologist was great. We worked on my anxiety, perfectionist tendencies and self-esteem. She didn’t once tell me that my relationship or my career were wrong for me. She listened to me and what I wanted for myself and helped me figure out how to work with what I had to get where I wanted to go. I learned a lot from her and I am still practising what I learned from her today. Unfortunately, the health care system here only allows you a limited number of sessions, so I had to stop seeing her.
Currently I see a psychiatrist, Dr. Dreamy I call him, whom I have mixed feelings about. I’ve only seen him a few times and there has been long wait times between appointments. There might be some potential there, we’ll see.
I’ve had ups and downs with talk therapy. I think it is important to have time to talk about yourself. Saying things out loud and having a neutral party ask questions can make you see perspectives that maybe you weren’t able to acknowledge on your own. These people are caring and intelligent and trying to be objective, but they are only human too. They don’t have all the answers and they may sometimes express their personal opinions which can be right, or wrong. Listen to what they say, learn from them, but in the end, you are in control of your own path and you can choose to incorporate what they recommend or not.