I try to be honest about my mental health. I have been in therapy, on and off, for over twenty years for depression and anxiety and have taken medication. Is that oversharing? I don’t think so. I can be open about my mental health for two reasons. Middle age has made me increasingly impervious to the opinions and judgements of others. But more importantly, my employment contract protects me from most types of discriminatory nonsense.
It is a position of some privilege.
Working reasonably well-paid jobs without interruption all my adult life means I can pay for my mental health. I don’t mean I could afford a therapist; I can shop around. I have the freedom to decide what I think is best for me, to choose what I prefer, not what will do for now. I’ve never had to accept CBT as a stop-gap. I’ve never had to return to a therapist I didn’t think was a good fit for me. I’ve never had to justify what I mean by not a good fit.
What does that mean?
I’m never stressed about my mental health issues. In the depths of anxiety, it never occurred to me that I might be unable to get this fixed. I stressed about the best way forward and how quickly I could get this shit sorted. Never did I worry I might not be able to access the care I needed. I could just google the available options and begin exploring the various treatments and approaches. If one must have mental health issues, I think they should have them as I do. (Yes, the not too subtle subtext here is that shocking inequalities in incomes can be seen in the appalling disparities in access to quality mental health care.)
I was discussing this recently with my therapist, a person who has profoundly changed my life. And I only know her because I could Google therapists in my area and play the field. I was discussing with her my openness to therapy. Why would a culchie with a mediocre education be so at ease accessing this kind of health care? Even in my early twenties, I was aware that constantly feeling sad was something one went to a therapist to discuss. This awareness was not taught to me in school. I’m shaking my head as I write this, remembering how little my school did to prepare me for being an adult with feelings and concerns. What I did in my school years was watch a lot of American TV shows.
And in my memory of those shows, every second character was in therapy. A place they went to discuss their feelings (or more accurately their sadness) and why they had sadness. This became normal to me. Of course, it isn’t common for people without disposable income. It isn’t expected for people who weren’t taught that feeling sad all of the time is an issue that might need addressing. It isn’t usual for people who have to be very careful about what their employers might know. It isn’t normal for people who didn’t watch the same TV shows I watched in the 80s.
The only frustrating thing about my mental health, which is a doozy of self-indulgent narcissism (if you’ll indulge the tautology), is that I cannot write about why I have mental health issues. I must wait for quite a few people to die before I write my full story. It’s really annoying. It’s why I have been so creatively stunted for so long. I even struggle to blog. Interesting and concerning things are happening in my life and the world, but all I want to do is write about my childhood (and no, it wasn’t that).
Writing to not be read seems unnatural to me. I should be journaling. I should be exploring this momentous shift in my mental health through my writing, but I can’t. I write to be read. I have always been thus. It’s a need I am delving into in therapy. The need to be seen is a significant theme in the work I am doing there. Over the years, with various therapists, I have been concerned with not coming across as trivial. Not whining over things unworthy of that therapeutic space. I remember a session many years ago where I explained my devastation at a team I supported, losing a game on penalties. I saw my therapist’s eye glaze over.
I am reasonably confident wanting to be seen is not a trivial thing. Many of the heaviest weights causing that suffocating pressure in my chest have been addressed and/or ameliorated. Now I am dealing with the bad habits, all that non-living engendered. I want to write stories that people want to read. Everything else amounts to making sure the mortgage is paid.
You see how important writing is to me? The previous paragraph came unbidden through my fingers. I hadn’t realised that my primary ambition remains being a storyteller. I thought I’d moved on. I wanted to blog as a mere hobby. And I don’t know how to square the circle of wanting to write but being blocked by not being able to write the thing I most want to write. It’s a conundrum I cannot blog my way through. I am left thanking a god that doesn’t exist that I have the privilege of disposable income. My therapist is going to have to sort this one out.