Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Fall Within - Last Posting About My Anxiety Story Part VI

Counseling Experience 4: (and Last . . . yeah!)

Finally I decided to go mainstream and forget the Christian psychologists’ approach for getting help. This was a huge paradigm shift for me at the time. I always had considered “secular” psychology or psychiatrist as the bogyman.

As an employee of Mayo Clinic, I made an appointment with one of their Psychiatrists. I have to say that was very difficult with the stigma attached to mental health problems. I was sure that I would be sitting in the lobby with some of my own patients, whom I had referred. So I sat with a Yachting magazine held so high that you could only see the top of my head.

I was called back and went into the oak-paneled office of a nice, but formal man whom I will call him (as I can't remember his real name) Dr. Sevengali. He was polite and formal, looking the spitting image of Elaine's (from Seinfield) psychiatrist. He simply asked me what was going on. I spilled my guts. I told him in graphic detail about, what I considered, my serious state of mental health. To my surprise, and somewhat . . . to my delight, he smiled and said, "You really don't need to see a psychiatrist. You have a very garden variety anxiety disorder. These are very common and are usually easy to get a handle on. Do you mind if I refer you to one of our junior, master's level, psychologists?"

"Do you mean I'm not crazy!!!!!!" I asked.

He chuckled, "Of course not. I see far worse cases than yours every day."

I had told him about all my failures . . . the details of every one. "Don't you think I'm a jerk?"

He chuckled again. "I have no idea if you are a jerk or not as I don't know you that well. But based on what you've told me today, you seem to be a decent man."

"I'm not a wife abuser or bad father?"

He laughed one more time but answered more emphatically, "Of course not!"

I left that day thinking, and feeling God's grace for the first time in a year and . . . oddly . . . it seemed to becoming from the bogyman.

He did set me up to meet with a young lady, about 28 or 30 years old. We met about 5-6 times. I felt very comfortable talking with her about everything that had been haunting me. The most pleasant thing that she understood very well, and, like Dr. Sevengali, she squeezed my problems back down to a manageable size. Then we worked through a book called, Mind over Mood. She took an approach, I guess you would call cognitive restructuring. It seemed to make a lot of sense, and I started to do much better within weeks. I'm not cured as I still struggle with the same issues. I wish I still lived in Rochester and I would return now and then for a "tune up." I also wish I had gone on medications during that horrible year. There is certainly a place for them, where they can help you get your bearings.

This cognitive restructuring approach seems far more Biblical than demon and angels (unless there really were demons and angels causing the problem, which I think is an extreme rarity). It seems far more Biblical than just reading some passages and expecting a zapo . . . you're better. Certainly it is more Biblical than repressed memories or trying to get to know the devil inside you (when you are already suffering from horrible feelings of guilt).

Satan is the father of lies. Cognitive restructuring looks at the lies that you tell your self (they looked at me funny, that means they hate me. If they hate me, that means I'm a horrible person . . . on and on) and replace it with truth. The only thing missing from the sessions with the secular psychologist was focusing on the work of Christ on the cross, taking away the bad stuff . . . once and for all. I had to do that on my own.

Sorry about the typos. I had to type fast as I have to go to bed, get up in just 3 hours (at 1 AM) and catch a plane to Tennessee to see dear ole Mom, then on to Phily for the International Headache Congress (sounds boring doesn't it . . . but it is a joy).

Jaime . . . are you happy now!? You're the one that talked me into this. :>)


Recovering Alumni said...

Thanks for sharing. I too was amazed when I went to see a counselor and they didn't think I was a terrible person. It's amazing what a little grace and patience can do for a person.

Anonymous said...

This series was GREAT. And what good encouragement to keep on looking for a therapist/counselor if the first one (two, three) aren't able to help.

I remember the first person I "told all" to about my own situation. I was SURE that they were going to let me have it...I mean, for so long, everything had been "all my fault," and I 99.99% believed it by the time I finally broke down and had to talk with someone. I was waiting for the ground to open up and swallow me...after all, I'd just talked about my "authority" in ways that "uncovered him" (gotta love that Gothard). I cannot even express how incredible it was...even though I almost couldn't believe hear her say that it was not all my fault and to speak words of grace over me... It still took me much longer to actually *see* fully what was going on, but wow...that moment in time...

As for nouthetic counseling...ERGH. I don't even want to get started...

shallowfrozenwater said...

i was blown away by this series, in fact i linked to it on my own blog. i've struggled with an anxiety disorder during my adult life too so i was glad to hear your story.

Jaimie said...

I am happy! And I'm glad others needed to hear this too. One of the exaggerators of the problem is thinking you are the only one who is dealing with it.

Anonymous said...

Way too good- thanks so much for posting! What a relief to know it's simpler than I realized. I had many similar experiences to yours, both as a child and as an adult, only I went to just one psychologist (secular) and it was a disaster. You've encouraged me more on this subject than anyone else. And now I know how to deal with everyone elses problems- by treating them like they have worth bestowed on them by God, and they are not monsters. I think it works the same way with extreme anger. You think you're worse than you really are, and you think the situation is worse than it really is, so you get even angrier the next time (and since anger is mostly based in fear...).

Good Job!

Anonymous said...

Your blog may have just saved the life of a young, talented Christian man. Thank you for the effort. Thank you, too, Jamie.

jmj said...

Jamie,I don't know what that was about. But I think we all have stories to tell and just hope that we all, some day, can be more honest about them so we all can stop pretending that we have our act together. Thanks for telling us that and I hope he knows he is not alone.

T Zee said...

This series may be quite old but... but I thank God that you wrote it, and that it was here on the vast internet for me to find consolation in.

It's true, the fear and anxiety being greater than the fear of death. It's tearing apart my family, my career, and my [small] social life.

Thank you, for being a conduit of hope.

Much blessing to you,

Philip said...

I too really grew from reading your series. I've never been officially diagnosed with GAD but counselors I've seen have guessed that it's what I deal with. So thank you for sharing your story more in depth! It's both helpful and encouraging.