I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was a kid. I first started in second grade when my parents told my sister and I that we were moving from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, and my wee nerves couldn’t handle it. It was a short-lived experience that involved puppets and learning how to deal with the idea of making new friends at a new school. By high school, when my depression really started to kick in, therapy became a fairly consistent component of my life. Since then I haven’t gone more than six months without seeing a therapist.
My relationship with my therapy is one of love and hate. I love that I get to sit there and talk about things in a safe space free of judgement and filtering, but I also hate it because, despite how much it helps, it’s actually narcissistic. You’re paying someone to sit there and listen to your “problems.” What’s more narcissistic than that?
Growing up I was the only one I knew in therapy. Now, as an adult and a New Yorker, I know far more people who are in therapy than those who are not. A lot of us are in it for depression issues, but then there are those who go because they really just enjoy speaking about themselves for a full hour. Granted, everyone’s favorite topic is themselves, but one would think that some quality time talking to yourself in the mirror could pacify that need to be so self-involved. I mean, that’s what I do when I’m not getting enough attention.
When things aren’t going well in my life, I can justify going to therapy but I’m still at odds with it. If you look at my life, I don’t have much over which to be depressed. My depression stems from the chemicals in my brain that are fucked up and not because of some childhood tragedy with which I’ve been forced to face. So even in my darkest moments, as I sit there on my therapist’s couch, I can’t help but feel like an asshole. I easily walk past a dozen or so homeless people in the 33 blocks from my apartment to my therapist’s office, people who are far worse off than I’ll ever be, and there I am pissing and moaning about the trials and tribulations of my upper middle class existence. It really is a struggle for my conscience and one that vocalize to my therapist only so she can tell me that I shouldn’t feel bad.
“Not feel bad?” I’ve often asked. “I just walked past a man sprawled out under some scaffolding on 24th Street with apparent gangrene on his foot and I’m paying you a near-fortune so I can talk about how ‘terrible’ I’m feeling today. When I leave here, he’s still going to be passed out and I’m going to head home to my apartment and probably have champagne and pizza for dinner so I can quit feeling so ‘terrible,’ and nothing about the situation is going to be fair or right!”
Despite my own self-absorption when I’ve hit the bottom emotionally, I can still see just how comical it is for me (and many of us) to be in therapy. Although therapy has, in many cases, saved my life, it still feels like a smug ritual that people with money indulge in just to coddle their neuroses. And it’s when things are going very well in my life that that idea of coddling is even more apparent and I spend my entire session talking about what an asshole I am for even being there.
Earlier this week I sat on my therapist’s leather couch just two days after returning from my fifth trip this calendar year so far. I was talking about the weather in Key West, how my father’s really upset about the Red Sox this season, my one-night stand from last week, the fact that I’ve been throwing up after almost every meal from both work and family related stress and whether or not I should feel bad that my latest piece for Huffington Post needed three edits. I admitted to her that I’m feeling really great at the moment. I’m feeling strong in my brain, I appear to have my emotions and depression in check for the time being, so I didn’t see the need to continue therapy at this present time because I feel extremely guilty for being there when things sailing smoothly.
She assured me that this was a normal and rational feeling, but that depression, like any illness, can have periods where things are great, then shit falls apart. Of course, I know this; I’ve been dealing with this for the majority of my life, but at the same time, I feel as though I have no right to be there. I even offered to give up my time slot to someone who could actually use it more than me, but my therapist wouldn’t have it.
“So, basically, I should continue to come here every week although I’m feeling find and dandy, just in case something happens?” I asked.
Her answer was yes.
I know that feeling good for me is fleeting. I realize that before I know it, I will fall apart again and I will need those sessions so I shouldn’t give them up. But at the same time, whether I’m feeling fantastic or like I want to kill myself, I still can’t help but be consumed by the fact that I have no right to be depressed and especially no right to sit there and talk about bullshit trivialness during the time that I am well in the head.
It’s hard enough trying to understand that one who shouldn’t be depressed is simply depressed because of a flawed brain, but when you throw the good days in there too, it’s practically impossible not to feel like a complete dick when there is so much real suffering in the world and it’s a suffering you’ll never know. My idea of suffering is a walk in the park in comparison to so many. Granted, it’s the only suffering I know, so I shouldn’t be “too hard on myself,” as my therapist says in regards to this conflict I’m having. But hell, sometimes I leave there feeling worse than I arrived. I feel like a goddamn spoiled asshole who’s going to go home and probably have champagne again for dinner.
Does anyone else feel this way about their therapy?