How I Learned to Start Worrying About My Worrying and Love the Idea of Not Worrying
A Kind of Blend Between a Humor Post and an Update
|David Iscoe||Feb 11, 2019|| 2|
Today I had my first session with a therapist. Now I’m finally able to join the ranks people who say “my therapist” all the time and are insufferable. Wth a little help from my therapist I may even learn not to be insufferable and not say “my therapist” all the time.
For a lot of my life, it was hard to separate the idea of going to therapy from the idea being a pretentious shit. Some people needed it, I knew, but a lot of the people who talked about it the most seemed to be comfortable, cloying, and kind of shitty. They’d say things like “$40,000 worth of therapy later…” with a little laugh. “Cool,” I’d think, “so if I can avoid therapy I’ll have $40,000 and not end up like you!”
Unfortunately, everything that made people pretentious pieces of shit was all around me, therapy or not. It was very clear to my mind, which was not very clear, that allowing people to tell me that I had problems was a gateway to convincing me that the culture around me was healthy, and probably become a lawyer or something. That’s probably because it was the same people telling me to do both, often in the same sentence. They weren’t helping either of those cases.
After college (during which I think I got the reputation as an apparently crazy person who was actually harmless, but who knows what people say about us?) I lived with two friends, whom I’ll call Mr. Skeleton and Mr. Wheel, who were dealing with their own mental health issues. “I’ve got brain problems, Discoe,” Mr. Wheel would say, and I was afraid that people would discover that I, too, had brain problems, and would medicalize them, which would be very expensive because health care was unaffordable, as well as being unpleasant. Meanwhile Mr. Skeleton decided, with the help of his therapist, to go to med school, which did nothing to alleviate my fears that the whole industry was a recruitment wing of the professional classes.
Over the next few years, I began collecting my own list of diagnoses that I was trying to avoid getting written up for, catching a charge. Autism spectrum? Social anxiety? Narcissism? Depression? GERD? Cancer? Generalized anxiety? Aromantic spectrum? Gallbladder disease? Hypochondria? Mortality? Hypergraphia? At one point I wondered if I was a sociopath, until I read a YA book about the Holocaust that a friend gave me and they talked about how sociopaths don’t feel “guilt, shame, and empathy.” This was a relief to me because I spent a lot of my time feeling those things. “Not a sociopath, then,” I decided. “Maybe I’m just an asshole.”
I also began doing a lot of work to take care of my mental health - meditating, exercising, writing in journals - and a lot of things that I found therapeutic like basketball, comedy, and personal writing that people told me “aren’t therapy.” This worried me, because I liked using these things to work out feelings, and I didn’t like the idea of not being allowed to do so, so my resentment of therapy only grew.
Then, gradually, a bunch of shit changed. Mostly I failed at a lot of things and learned a lot more about the world and how people work. I also had good conversations with a wide range of good people who went to therapy and didn’t turn out to be pieces of shit, and read stuff by other people going through the same shit. I also came to the gradual realization that the idea of a “self-made” person was kind of bullshit and we’re all a bunch of weird animals figuring shit out with the support of others. Structurally, I started to see the ways society was supporting me, not just trying to kill my spirit and conscript me into amoral busy work and social-nicety hell. And then, I think partly my mind got less hardened. One thing I really valued in my mind was the “edge” – the feeling that I was fully locked into an idea, focused, energetic, firing on all cylinders. I’d always been afraid that therapy would dull this edge, but as I’m getting older it seems like there are a lot of factors in life that can dull that edge anyway, and maybe therapy is more defense against those forces than threat against the mind.
Ten years later, here I am, going to generalized therapy that is half-affordable with the help of my quarter-affordable ObamaCare insurance that my parents are helping out with most of the cost of. The therapist doesn’t seem to be keen on converting me to any particular way of life, and since a huge portion of what I’m trying to do is basically taking care of my mental health and figuring shit out, maybe a dedicated time to take care of my mental health and figure shit out will not be antithetical to this overall goal.
A big problem in this world, that therapy will not solve, is that shit costs too much money and most of the ways to get it suck. That won’t be solved in some dingy little room with a little heater-fan, a small couch and a nice chair, a couple psych books, and no furnishings. It either will be solved outside that room with collective action, or it won’t. But experiencing waves of anxiety that double me over from my stomach doesn’t seem to be any useful kind of work anyway. No fun, neither.
Pbbbbttthhh. It is what is. I feel better right afterwards, but I still gotta do all the stuff, and while a weekly reminder helps, it isn’t everything. One thing that I didn’t expect is how long it takes to tell people your shit. As scared as I was that a psychiatrist was going to break me down, slap me with a stack of diagnoses, and order me drawn, quartered, and confined to four different looney bins, it takes fucking forever to even tell the basics of what you’re going through. I thought it it was gonna be some kind of “okay, I’m ready for your judgment,” like the universe could just read all 150,000 words or whatever that I’ve written privately or in emails about my mind, and it’s like, nah, you gotta answer just a few questions in slow motion to one person over a variety of sessions, unless you have millions of dollars and can hire a whole research team or spend all day taking care of your mental health.
Maybe someday, if we hook up enough solar panels and turbines and move off the coasts and engineer some crops that can grow okay with the air and water partly poisoned, we can build some robots that’ll do work for us and we’ll all be rich and most jobs will be in frivolous entertainment and excessive, indulgent therapy that feels good for both parties, instead of in various forms of service where emotional labor (the link is a wiki article, interesting because the term isn’t what I first thought it was) pushes people to the breaking point. I dunno. Maybe I’ll be a therapist because I think minds are fascinating and ultimately good, or actually make it as a comedian or writer, which can kind of be the same thing, domain-dependence hardliners be damned. Or maybe none of those things, who knows? Not my damn therapist. They’re not as omniscient as I was afraid of or hoping. Okay time to do more other work.