So I had the first of six sessions with a clinical psychologist on Monday. Now for those of you that don’t know me, I suffered from clinical depression as a teenager, which came to a head when I was in my first year of University, culminating in some fairly severe self-harm; thanks to some utterly wonderful friends having the guts to tell me I needed help (thank you guys, you know who you are) I ended up on Prozac and having counseling.
Counseling was the best thing I ever did, it saved my life and my sanity, but I think I stopped going sooner than I should have, as I never really quite resolved the issues of my teens properly. However, it gave me the ability to sense when the black dog is at my heel again, and take myself off for more counseling when I need it.
Since moving to NZ and having children, I have resolved a lot of my issues with the support of my wonderful, patient husband, but I know I still have a few things to deal with. I tend to get bogged down in the mire when I am sleep-deprived, so it was this that took me to the doctors recently. She suggested anti-depressants, but I know a lot of my depression is better dealt with by talking to someone, rather than drugs, so I asked if we could hold off on the pills until I had completed the counseling and then take it from there; my doctor was very supportive.
There have been a lot of ad campaigns in NZ recently about mental health, and that it’s OK to admit that you’re not OK, and to seek help, so it was my good fortune that there is a free program through the Primary Health Organisation enabling me to have 6 sessions with a clinical psychologist. This is one step up from counseling and exactly what I need, as I have done a lot of talking and reasoning about my issues, but I am at a stage where I need to learn practical steps for coping when I am in the situations that trigger my depression and anxiety.
At my first session we went over my history, and the reasons that brought me to counseling this time, and my psychologist concluded that I am a master of avoidance. I have to admit she is right, I do everything to avoid the situations that cause me the most stress, but in avoiding confronting them, I end up dreading them and getting more worked up and anxious about what might happen. She has set me a task to do before our next session, in which I need to list the pros and cons of avoidance, in order to show me that, while there are a lot of benefits to avoidance, there are a lot of reasons why avoidance is damaging to me and my relationships.
Rationally I know that avoidance is not good, but I will need a lot of convincing to show me that the benefits of confrontation outweigh the benefits of avoiding it.