Have you ever held a perfectly fine pencil, about to write something down, and thought, “You know what? This pencil is too blunt. I shall sharpen it!”? When you proceed to sharpen the pencil, the graphite keeps breaking and breaking and, honestly, the pencil was not even that blunt when you picked it up. You could have easily used it to mark down whatever was on your mind. But now you have invested time and effort in sharpening the damn pencil and you refuse to give up, even though you have forgotten about why you needed the pencil in the first place.
Do not fix what does not need fixing. If the pencil can be used for writing, do not sharpen it. I forget this sometimes. Or, as my experiment with going to a psychologist showed, deliberately choose to ignore it and then suffer from the consequences.
How I ended up at a psychologist’s
Until about a year ago, I had never been to a psychologist. Sure, the occasional career counselling now and then, but not a psychologist. I suppose I had been lucky to not need one. However, I have always taken interest in psychology and helping people. I even considered becoming a psychologist at one point, but information technology sounded like a safer bet. Perhaps one day I will pursue this path further, as a life coach or some other fancy creature.
In any case, the company I work for, Playtech, has a benefits package where they fund up to five (clinical) psychologist appointments a year. Sounded like a great opportunity to find out what a psychologist’s appointment is like! It was not like I needed one, just plain curiosity. Perhaps I could benefit somehow? I dropped a note to our service provider Confido and described what I was looking for as best as I could (which was still very vague). The next thing I know, I am sitting on a couch trying to formulate my worries and childhood traumas.
The first appointment was a disappointment. I suppose I did not manage to communicate my expectations enough at the beginning of the session. The psychologist talked a bit too much for my preference and I did not feel a good fit. Definitely her, not me, right? RIGHT?!
So at my second appointment with another psychologist (because what is a better solution than switching who you talk to instead of working out the issues…?), I made sure to communicate my expectations loud and clear – I am here to talk and you get to listen and nod. That is all I need right now. If I need more, I will let you know. I am glad to report that this arrangement has worked out well for the past year.
What we discuss
Since I did not have a specific pain for which I sought counsel, I have been talking about whatever is on my mind at that point. There are some topics I feel I cannot discuss with the people close to me. I have either been asked not to or I lack the trust in the listener or they lack the potential for understanding or it simply does not feel right. These are the topics I take with me to the psychologist. I cannot give you an example of one of the more sensitive topics, but amongst others, I have discussed my motorcycle accident to get help with reframing my thoughts and finding the courage to ride again.
During the session, I talk for about 90% of the time. I talk about the situation. I talk about how I could see the situation in another way, perhaps walking in the shoes of others. I discuss what I am already doing to tackle the situation and what could be done instead or in addition. Usually, I have everything in my head already, I just need to get it out and get confirmation from someone else that, yes, this is indeed a healthy way to look at things. And usually, it is. I am good at seeing things from multiple angles.
Sometimes, my psychologist asks me some guiding questions to make me think. Sometimes, it feels like she feels forced to ask them so that I do not blabber 100% of the time while she just sits there quietly. But that is just the way I like it. Talking myself empty. Like I seem to be doing in this blog post.
Before I went to my first psychologist appointment and before I started going semi-regularly, I considered myself a pretty happy person. I consistently tried to look at the bright side of life, noticing the positive and diminishing the negative. I still do, though. My colleagues have commented that I am such a cheerful person and it rubs off on the people around me, too. Even my psychologist said, “It is nice to hear someone say they are doing great for a change.”
However, looking back, I believe I became a more stressed-out person after starting my psychologist experimentation. I started focusing on how I was too little, had too little, or how my partner was not good enough, and just feeling more down in the dumps. I had probably always had these thoughts and feelings, but somehow, they became more prevalent. Admittedly, lots of shit was happening at that time, so it was probably a mix of all these things. Still, I choose to put most of the blame on the appointments.
My theory is that before, I was deliberately focusing on the good things in life. Talking about the negatives at the psychologist’s office caused these massive emotions to leak into my life outside the appointments as well. I had put on the opposite of rose-coloured glasses. I was wearing grey-coloured glasses.
Self-help and resetting
The realisation that perhaps going to a psychologist is NOT helping me, after all, came when I was supposed to have an appointment in August, but due to my psychologist and her child falling ill, it was postponed multiple times for three months. During this time, I implemented some good habits. Just because I had been feeling a bit stressed out and wanted to improve regarding the stress and as a person overall.
I created a morning ritual. Every morning, after waking up, I read a book on the shitter. It used to be mindless browsing of my phone which was fun, but not beneficial, albeit there is some great information on Reddit. I kept the action but replaced the device. I now have an e-reader next to my toilet and read a chapter a day. It is not much, but it is enough to keep me invested in the habit.
Next, I do yoga with the “Yoga with Adriene” YouTube channel. I have gotten so good, my partner commented about me not needing to look at the video at all. I simply follow the instructions and move along, eyes closed. This also ticks my physical activity box for the day. Again, yoga is not as challenging as running, but it is something I enjoy doing and I consider it movement, so I am satisfied with myself. I especially liked the “Dedicate” 30-day yoga challenge, if you are interested in trying it.
My morning ritual includes taking C- and D-vitamin. Another habit I am trying to implement is meditation, but this is still very much a work in progress. I have not found the right existing habit to tie it to. Nothing seems right, but I know I enjoy and need it, so I will find a way.
My evening ritual is simple. Before going to bed, I look back at the day. I mark down any habits I engaged in. I write about what happened today. I allow myself to vent, to get everything out instead of holding it inside. If something is weighing me down, you can probably find it in my journal.
I also practice gratitude. I write down at least three things I am grateful for today. Typically, the list is much longer than three items. They can be simple, such as nice weather or warm socks, or deeper, such as being grateful for having certain people in my life and good things happening to them. Practising gratitude helps me reframe my mind and see all the lovely things around me. It helps me be satisfied and happy with what is, as is. I highly recommend trying it.
Isn’t it weird…
After focusing on creating these rituals and reframing my mind to see the positive again, plus having my psychologist successfully dodge me for three months, I started thinking that perhaps going to a professional is not beneficial to me after all. At least not now.
Do you not find it weird that so many people close to you are struggling with mental health issues and now your psychologist is avoiding you, too?– My partner
I gave it one final go and went to the long-postponed appointment. I talked about some of the challenges I have had at work. Yes, it was somewhat helpful, but not as much as I had hoped for. Plus, the following week, my colleagues started asking probing questions about how I was feeling. Apparently, I appeared to be more distressed and irritable. I mean… The most likely cause is the psychologist, right? Not the fact that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder from the gloomy weather or the throat pain that kept me up throughout the night.
Thus, the only logical solution for me is to stop seeing psychologists for a while. I seem to manage well on my own, better even, so why fix what is not broken?
That being said, there are people out there who could benefit greatly from getting professional help. I urge you to notice it in yourself and those around you. I hope you find the help you deserve, you beautiful little butterfly! And if you want to talk in a non-professional manner, I am willing to listen.
Check out Peaasi for resources on mental health!