There is infinite value in a good therapist.
Since losing my position last week my depression has become harder and harder to keep tapped down. Depression isn’t something that ever just goes away. It’s something that you learn to control through changes to your thinking and to your lifestyle (and also the application of some good pharmaceuticals). I’ve made a lot of changes to my thinking and to my lifestyle since last year. Losing my job disrupted nearly all of those changes to one degree or another, leaving me more or less relying on my daily dose of bupropion to keep it at bay. It hasn’t been enough. My defense are exposed and the depression has attacked.
As such, when I walked into Nancy’s office yesterday I was ready to cry. Two minutes into our session I did cry. I couldn’t help it. I was so focused on all the things I lacked and on how I’ve felt like I’ve been spinning my wheels for the last week. There were no good teaching positions out there, and the ones that were out there required me to apply as Him; I’d had to cancel my application for name change, leaving my identity in a legal limbo; and I had no one else to lean on, no one else to curl up next to when the depression hit. All my own self-assurances about how I was ready to tackle this uncertain future had crumbled before the reality of my own failure.
In response, Nancy asked me one question. “If none of these things were a factor — the job experience, the legal stuff, all of it — what do you envision Ali doing? What is your full time job?”
I didn’t need to hesitate before answering. “If nothing else were a factor, I’d be a writer. I’ve always wanted to be a writer.”
“Okay, so tell me about what you’d want to write.”
I have ideas that I am passionate about; ideas that I have toyed with for years, sometimes even tried to write or share but that I’ve never been able to commit to because of jobs and family and my own fears of failure and worthlessness. And so I talked about them — begrudgingly at first, as the depression wanted me to see the whole exercise as futile, but with increasing energy as I fell into it.
And she just sat back and let me do it. I have friends who have sat through this before — I once trapped my friend Andrew in a Subway for over an hour describing some of this stuff — and they can attest to how I get when I’m talking about the stories in my head. I have no idea how much of what I said made sense to her, or how much of it she was even actively hearing, or how bored she was of the whole thing. But she got me talking, and she kept me talking, and I got how I got when I talk about this stuff: energized, excited, eager.
Towards the end, it hit me what the message was. I was depressed because I thought that I had to just go out and find the same damn job all over again, had to put Him on everyday and go through the motions of a career I never truly wanted in the first place. But I didn’t. I talked about opportunities in a prior post, but I wasn’t giving myself permission to follow through on those opportunities. I have a cushion here; I have money, I have benefits, I have time. Not a lot of it, but enough to say “Hey, what if I could do this thing that I’ve always wanted to do? What if I could actually, really do it?”
Nancy is better than good. She’s great.
The depression is still here with me — in a lot of ways it never truly goes away so much as goes dormant for awhile at the best of times, and this still isn’t the best of times. But with some direction and a goal I can at least say that I’ve got a plan, one that, if successful, could mean never having to be Him again. I have hope, and I have big ideas, and I’ve got to give myself permission to use the time I have to do more than just lock myself back into an 8 to 5 teaching position.
Ali is not a teacher; she is a writer, and I think she always has been. So I’m going to let her write.