You Can Be Stubborn and Struggle, or You Can Seek Help

Curt Moyer explains how, before he sought therapy, he’d spent a lifetime pushing people away.

For the last six years, I have resisted therapy. This isn’t terribly surprising to me given I resist everything. I have had people, over the course of the last six years, suggest therapy to me; I have read articles online how therapy, talking it out, and staying positive, can help a person get better. I’ve ignored it all. Not because I couldn’t admit I had issues, but because I thought I was intelligent and introspective enough to conquer my problems without any help.

My first experiences with therapy occurred when I was relatively young. I had to see a counselor after my mother went through her first divorce. I’m not sure if this decision was sanctioned by the court or just something my mom thought would be good for me (never bothered to ask). Regardless, this guy was a physically abusive alcoholic—let’s just say I wasn’t broken up about not having to see him again. As far as the therapy went, I just had to talk to the counselor; though it’s surprising to me now, this counselor didn’t pick up on any trouble signs. It’s possible they weren’t present yet, but given my early experiences, I highly doubt it.

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Years later, after prolonged substance abuse, issues began popping up: panic attacks, paranoia, depression. This isn’t to say my relationships with people were very successful either. When the panic attacks started occurring I decided to seek help with the counseling center at my undergraduate university. The counselor was certainly friendly and open, but refused to diagnose me. He suggested medication, but I refused given I couldn’t separate psychiatric medicine from recreational drugs (i.e. if one drug helped put me in this psychosis, how could another break me out of it?). After seeing him for a few months there was little improvement. I was expecting therapy to work like an over-the-counter medication for the common cold; when it didn’t, I quit.

About a year later, I was 21, in a relationship, and still suffering from these same conditions. The relationship alleviated the depression temporarily, but it didn’t take long to feel trapped by my girlfriend, school, and my college town. I took incompletes in my classes, went through an excruciating break up, and decided to finally try therapy and medication.

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I’d like to say everything began turning around, but it didn’t. The medication was a huge help and my parents remarked on my improved mood. I was still able to write poetry and I didn’t feel like a zombie on the meds either (both were potential concerns). However, my therapist didn’t really help. He diagnosed me as a ‘dysthymic depressive’, for ‘insurance purposes’ and never revised this diagnosis. Although he did listen, he spent the majority of the time telling me I was awesome and how I haven’t “met the right people”. And while both of these propositions are completely true, they didn’t help me make strides towards getting better. I wasn’t there because I lacked self-esteem per se; I was there because I cannot trust people. Being an excellent, unique person and being able to function and trust a group of people, are two entirely unrelated issues (at least in my case).

Eventually, I ditched the therapy and upped my medication to get through senior year. It worked. I managed to wean myself off the meds for graduation and couldn’t be happier. I was positive about the future; this allowed my depression to subside. But little did I know I was overlooking obvious flaws I had, preventing me from establishing intimate friendships.

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By graduation, I had alienated most of my friends through performing socially destructive behaviors. As a person, I have always been unable to let people, specifically friends, become too close to me. The closer they get, the less I trust them. It is though I expect the people closest to me to have a legitimate desire to hurt me, or want to hurt me. I know where it comes from: the abusive stepfather, the bullying I received throughout all of my schooling… The drug use only accentuated these issues. Although I understood the source and manifestation of my problems, I didn’t think therapy or medication could alleviate them; even at this point I was naive enough to think I could do it myself.

And I was completely wrong. Very recently, six years after my final therapy session, I lashed out at a friend I’ve become rather close to over the last few months. Luckily, there was a quasi-objective voice calling me out as I was attempting to burn this bridge. This person allowed me to see exactly why I was doing what I was doing. I wouldn’t have seen this because I was so wrapped up in the delusion of the situation. My whole head unraveled. I spent the night lying in bed, and could only sleep for a few hours. I decided my only course of action was to seek counseling and medication, but this time, to actually stick with it.

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I resisted therapy for so long when it has always been the most obvious thing to do. I couldn’t stand the articles I’d read online or the advice from friends for me to seek help. I was stubborn. It was the encounter most recently which allowed me to wake up and make what had been a tough decision. The situation actually required me to strip away my reservations about therapy until it became the only logical solution. In this situation, I was lucky enough to know the right people.

We all cannot have these moments. While articles might exist which talk about the transformative or healing power of therapy, or friends might urge us to pursue assistance, these can function as detractors. Only we have the power to make the decision to get help for ourselves. The best thing you can do if you think you need help is to seek it. Stop putting it off. Cast away any doubts which might be holding you back. These doubts aren’t doing you any favors, they are only preventing you from an opportunity to get better.

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Within these last six years I have missed out on friendships, sexual relationships, engaging and meeting new people, being successful as a poet, and more. I cannot get these years back just like I’ll never be able to fully repair the friendships I single-handedly destroyed by ignoring treatment I missed out on the majority of my 20s. By finally committing to therapy and medication I am finally making a promise to not miss out on life any longer.

 

Photo: Mr.Q ( K+U)/Flickr

 

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About Curt Moyer

Curt Moyer is an MFA student at New Mexico State. Read a poem of his here: linkity text

Comments

  1. Great essay, Curt! I put off dealing with a lot of issues because I felt like I couldn’t trust anybody…but it feels like you are holding your breath under water…sooner or later you will run out of oxygen and you will inhale water and start drowning….

    A health crisis forces you to line your ducks all in a row…meeting others with similar issues with a therapist, even once, can make a huge difference in your life….I feel supported by spouse and family, and what a world of difference that makes! In the hospital, others remarked on how positive I was and I was giggling and making jokes up until I was discharged….when you feel that people have your back, then you can emit your positive support for others…I guess that’s what they mean by “paying it forward”…

    Thanks for writing such an honest account of your struggle…

  2. I know the main reason I don’t go to therapy is I cannot afford it. My insurance is inadequate and the vast majority of psychologists and psychiatrists do not accept insurance. They generally charge about $200 per session, and even with a “sliding scale” I’d be paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 a session. $600 a month on therapy is simply not in the budget. Luckily for me, I AM intelligent enough to deal with it myself. I’m sure it’d be easier if I didn’t have to, but we deal with the situation we have, not the one we want.

    We need a single payer insurance system.

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